By Collin Cunningham
(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) Good morning, Charlotte, and happy Monday!
The second full week of 2022 brings bus delays and staff scarcity to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools after a woman interrupted a school bus fight with a gun on Thursday. COVID-19 data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Friday showed another record-breaking uptick in the Old North State, with over 28,000 new cases.
The Buccaneers blasted the Panthers in Tampa Bay on Sunday, winning 41-17 and setting Carolina coach Matt Rhule and his team up for the sixth slot in the 2022 NFL Draft. And over 15,000 west Charlotte residents lost power on Sunday so crews could remove a man who had climbed atop an 85-foot electrical tower.
It is Monday, Jan. 10, and here's what every resident of the Queen City needs to know until tomorrow.
What happened: Duke Energy cut electricity to over 15,000 customers on Sunday afternoon so Charlotte police could retrieve a man who had reached the summit of an 85-foot transmission tower on the 1300 block of Nations Corner Road, near the intersection of East Woodlawn Road.
Officers arrived at the scene around 2 p.m. to find a man who they said appeared to be "impaired." After four hours of communication, he agreed to come down. The man, whose name was not released, did not sustain any injuries during his climb.
Why it matters: "That tower was energized with six lines, each carrying about 115,000 volts," CMPD Major Brian Foley told CBS17, adding that the man appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The summit scramble cost 15-20,000 Charlotteans power from after Duke de-energized the transmission tower to protect the climber from injury. Crews resolved the outages by 6:15 p.m.
2. 28,000 new COVID cases: NC breaks third consecutive daily record as Meck. Co. distributes 35,000 tests
What happened: The NCDHHS' most recent COVID-19 data dump came Friday, reporting a record-setting 28,474 new cases, 2,322 of which were in Mecklenburg County. And 3,474 people in North Carolina are hospitalized due to COVID-19, nearing the state's pandemic record of 3,992 in January of 2021, per CBS17. The statewide caseload represents a 16% increase over Thursday's 24,492 cases, the most seen at that point.
Why it matters: The numbers do not reflect positive cases reported on at-home testing kits, including the 35,000 tests Mecklenburg County employees administered to Charlotte residents on Saturday, per WCNC.
The county hosted mass test distributions at Bojangles Coliseum on Independence Boulevard and the Philip O. Berry Academy of Technology on Allegheny Street in Charlotte. County officials say they expect to receive additional tests this week, and the roundup will let readers know where to find them.
3. Woman interrupts fight at CMS bus stop with gun as district experiences staffing, transportation absences
What happened: Police in Charlotte say a woman approached a school bus stop near the corner of Buckvalley and Pleasant Dale drives with a gun on Thursday to put an end to a fight between students on a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bus. The incident occurred around 6 p.m. as students prepared to disembark a bus from Whitewater Middle School, about three miles from the stop.
Two students had apparently gotten into a fight on the bus, which was about half full. Few details are available, but the police report stated nobody was injured and no arrests were made.
Why it matters: The fight comes as CMS faces disparities and absences in bus drivers, teachers and substitutes. WFAE reports that some CMS buses have arrived 15-30 minutes late to stops after nearly 150 transportation staffers called off on Friday.
That same day, 1,029 of the district's roughly 9,000 teachers were also absent. CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston said the school system's 400 substitutes were able to fill in for many of the teachers. The district said last week that it is considering transitioning some classes to remote learning to account for the shortages.
4. Bucs blast Panthers 41-17, seeding Carolina for sixth overall draft pick
The Cardiac Cats walked out of Tampa Bay with their cardiac tails between their cardiac legs on Sunday after the Buccaneers blasted the team 41-17. Sam Darnold hit the field before Cam Newton, completing 29 of 42 attempts for 2019 yards and throwing the Panthers' only two touchdowns, in the first and fourth quarters.
When Newton touched the turf for the first and last time on Sunday for a first and goal during the initial quarter, fans responded by booing. Darnold ended up coming back out to finish the play.
But things really heated up in overcast Tampa during the fourth quarter, when the Bucs saw a gangbuster 24 points after entering the half nearing a 24-10 lead. A last-minute, 19-yard touchdown pass from Darnold looked to make the game competitive with 10:34 left, but Buccaneers QB Tom Brady showed a 28-yard pass to Tampa Bay tight end Rob Gronkowski.
A 20-yard pass brought the Bucs to 31, and the team's defense responded by forcing Darnold to fumble and then running Carolina through four downs. Both maneuvers gave Tampa time to add two touchdowns to their score for the final.
Season footnotes: Matt Rhule ended his second Panthers season with a 5-12 record, going 10-23 overall since starting with the team in 2020. Rhule will stay on for a third year due to his seven-year, $62 million contract, per Sports Illustrated, but Newton's contract is a mystery. Some have criticized Rhule's usage of Newton after a one-year $10 million contract brought Newton back to the team in November.
The team may find a QB to replace Newton in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft on April 28. Newton and 24 other Panthers are on the team's list of free agents heading into the selection process.
Below the Fold
Woman interrupts fight, continued: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is no stranger to recent reports of guns, though those were mainly found on students. Since the start of the 2021-22 school year in August, police or school officials have confiscated 23 guns from campuses at Charlotte's largest school district.