Charlotte, NC

Queen City Roundup 1/20: NC truck flip kills 2 Marines, GOP votes to delay primaries, state hits 20K COVID deaths

Collin Cunningham

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The NC State HIghway Patrol said 19-year-old Louis Barrera was driving a 7-ton truck like this when it flipped, killing 2 Marines Wednesday(Patrick Smith/Flickr Gallery per Wikipedia)

By Collin Cunningham

(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) Good morning, Charlotteans. It is Thursday, Jan. 20, and Weather.com puts temperatures at a high of 48 today and 28 tonight. There's still snow word on a storm tomorrow, with showers this evening and possible accumulation in the morning, when temperatures will be in the 30s, but meteorologists are mum on how many inches Charlotte might see.

Before that, we have news for today. A U.S. Marine is facing charges of death by motor vehicle after the transport vehicle he was driving flipped over near Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, killing two military passengers and injuring 17 others on Wednesday.

That same day, Republicans in the NC General Assembly voted to delay the state's primary elections until June. We'll tell you what's next for the bill, and share the latest COVID-19 data in the Old North State, which recently passed 20,000 resident deaths due to the coronavirus.

1. Marine charged in vehicle death of 2 other Marines, injuring 17 others near NC base

What happened: The North Carolina State Highway Patrol charged a 19-year-old member of the U.S. Marine Corps after 19 Marines fell out of the back of the military vehicle he was allegedly driving on Wednesday, killing two and injuring the others. Tennessee resident Louis Barrera now faces two counts of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle and one of exceeding a safe speed.

The NCSCHP said Barrera was attempting to make a right turn in a 7-ton truck while exiting Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina around 1 p.m. At the intersection of U.S. Route 17 and Highway 210, the vehicle hit a median and flipped over, causing over a dozen members of the 2nd Marines Logistics Group to spill out of the truck.

Why it matters: Highway Patrol said another military vehicle in convoy behind the transport truck then struck one of the ejected Marine Corps members. Two Marines died at the scene, crews airlifted another pair to a hospital in Wilmington and the remaining 15 went to Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune for their injuries.

“We’re conducting a thorough investigation involving our reconstruction unit along with our district troopers,” NCSHP Sgt. Devin Rich said after the rollover.

2. NC General Assembly votes to delay primaries to June 7, bill heads to Gov. Cooper

What happened: On Wednesday, Republican legislators in North Carolina devised and approved a bill that would postpone the statewide primary elections from May 17 to June 7. Approvals came along party lines, with a 26-17 Senate vote sending House Bill 605 back to the State House, where Republicans OK'd it 69-50.

Why it matters: The bill now heads to Gov. Roy Cooper's desk, where he will have the final say. If he vetoes it, First teased Monday, the move is intended to give the state's Legislature more time to redraw North Carolina's redistricting maps if the NC Supreme Court decides to reject them.

The high court is set to hear arguments from the maps' opponents on Feb. 2, and GOP members say that won't give them enough time to create new charts. The State Board of Elections said it would need the new districts between Feb. 14 and 18 to give candidates a large enough window to meet the primaries' filing deadline.

The delayed election would allow candidates to file between March 24 and April 1, instead of the current period of Feb. 24 to March 4. Learn what lawmakers in North Carolina have to say about HB605 Below the Fold.

3. NC reports 20K total COVID-19 deaths, 17K new cases as new testing sites settle into Charlotte

North Carolina surpassed a threshold of 20,000 deaths due to COVID-19 and the state's health department reported 17,734 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday. The new cases were a sharp decrease over Tuesday's uptick of 31,902 infections but the state is at an all-time high of hospitalizations, with 4,689 North Carolina inpatients reporting COVID-19 symptoms.

As of Wednesday, 74% of North Carolinians aged 18 and over have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, 70% are fully vaccinated with two shots and 48% of vaccinated residents have gotten a booster.

Where to get tested and vaccinated: The Roundup reported Tuesday that two new testing sites had opened in the Charlotte area, at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and Carowinds amusement park. The Carowinds site, operated by the Raleigh-based Mako Medical, has been testing between 3,000 and 5,000 people per day but will be closed Friday and Saturday due to inclement weather. Readers can sign up to get tested at the site here between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

The site at the Charlotte Motor Speedway's zMAX Dragway, meanwhile, opened on Wednesday in Concord. StarMed Healthcare initially intended to begin testing at the racetrack on Monday but delayed its opening, citing the snow. Readers can sign up to get PCR and rapid antigen testing at the Speedway via StarMed's website. Testing takes place from 12 to 4 p.m. today and Saturday, as well as Jan. 24, 25, 29, 31 and Feb. 1 to 3.

Or readers can skip the lines and order up to four at-home test kits through the federal government's new distribution website, covidtests.gov, for free.

North Carolina residents over the age of five can register to get a vaccine on the NCDHHS website. A list of providers offering the shot in Mecklenburg County can be found here.

Below the Fold

Winter storm rumblings: Gov. Cooper issued a state of emergency warning on Wednesday for the second week in a row. While it's still early to determine weather patterns, Cooper's declaration warned of dangerous conditions in the central and eastern areas of North Carolina. The Governor said the following in a press release announcing the emergency status:

This state of emergency will waive some transportation regulations to allow for quicker storm preparation and response and power restoration. North Carolinians should prepare today for this storm and make sure they have any medications, food and emergency equipment they may need over the next few days.

Primaries, continued: Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Morgantown) said "The bill will alleviate voter confusion," according to The News & Observer. Meanwhile, Senator Natasha Marcus of Charlotte, a Democrat, accused the bill of "jumping the gun" in delaying elections.

A spokesperson for Gov. Cooper said the redistricting maps' constitutionality is up to the NC Supreme Court, adding that "legislators should avoid additional attempts to undermine the voting process."

COVID-19, continued: It is unclear whether the backlog of over 8,000 positive test results mentioned on the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' COVID-19 dashboard are still impacting the agency's data.

Between Dec. 31 and Jan. 14, computing errors at Premier Medical Laboratory Services in South Carolina prevented the diagnoses from reaching the state, leading to Tuesday's high total, per the Winston-Salem Journal.

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I cover the city of Charlotte, North Carolina for NewsBreak's Creator Program. Check back often for daily headline roundups to learn what's happening in the Queen City!

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