Charlotte, NC

Rainy hump day in Charlotte: NC's unreported COVID deaths, Roe v. Wade decision looms and more

Collin Cunningham

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Visitors to Carowinds, Charlotte's largest amusement park, got more vertigo than requested when the Flying Cobras coaster paused on Friday.(Courtesy of Carowinds)

By Collin Cunningham

(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) Happy Wednesday, Charlotte! It is May 4 and readers should get ready for rain this afternoon as droplets are set to descend starting at 3 p.m. and continuing through 5 p.m., though less than an inch is expected. Accompanying that will be a high of 89 and low of 61.

With that weather as a backdrop, today's Roundup explains how a change in COVID-19 data reporting led to North Carolina health officials discovering over 1,000 previously unreported deaths linked to the virus. We also discuss how a Supreme Court decision to drop Roe v. Wade would affect the Tar Heel State, recount the story of a father abducting his son from Lancaster at gunpoint and a coaster conundrum after a Carowinds ride paused for 45 minutes with passengers on board.

1. Unreported deaths: Change in NC COVID data reporting reveals 1,146 unlisted fatalities

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Despite the influx in deaths, North Carolina's COVID-19 figures remained relatively low. The state switched to weekly reporting in March.(North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services)

What happened: We reported extensively on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths during the earlier months of 2022 amid the omicron-led surge of the pandemic, but missing from our Roundups were 1,146 deaths related to the coronavirus. Between Jan. 1 and March 31 of 2022, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' COVID-19 data dashboard only accounted for deaths that were reported electronically.

Prior to Jan. 1, North Carolina counted itself as one of two states that still accepted paper death certificates, which can take several months to process and contributed to the delay in data, per a health department press release. The NCDHHS stopped accepting the physical certificates on May 1 and now the North Carolina Medical Board directs all health officials to report deaths digitally through the NC Database Application for Vital Events.

Why it matters: The newly filed data pushes the Old North State's death total past 24,000 but metrics won't reflect it on the dashboard until Wednesday's weekly update takes place. The unaccounted-for deaths comprised roughly 4.6% of all COVID-19 fatalities in the state.

2. Reversing Roe v. Wade: How would overturning of landmark decision play out in NC and where can residents get abortions?

As the Supreme Court mulls whether or not to overturn Roe v. Wade, thus putting abortion rights in the hands of local and state politicians, abortion advocates in North Carolina reacted to a draft opinion from high court judges. Leaked by Politico on Monday, the tentative choice states that "We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled" as "the Constitution makes no reference to abortion."

A final ruling on the landmark 1973 case is not expected until summer. Even if Roe is overturned, however, laws in North Carolina would keep abortion legal unless state lawmakers intervene. Gov. Roy Cooper has spoken out in support of reproductive rights, though his term ends in January of 2025.

As of June 2021, North Carolina had 15 clinics offering abortion services, per NC Health News. Three are located in Charlotte: A Preferred Women's Health Center, A Woman's Choice of Charlotte and Planned Parenthood Charlotte.

What supporters say: Hoisting signs reading "I am a woman not a womb" and "We won't go back we will fight back!" protestors gathered downtown in Asheville, home of a Planned Parenthood South Atlantic facility, to voice their opposition to the justices' outline on Tuesday, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

How critics handled it: Reacting to the potential ruling, Kristi Brown, executive director of the Asheville-based Mountain Area Pregnancy Services, described her outlook as "cautiously optimistic" if the decision were to be terminated, according to WLOS.

3. Abducted infant: 9-month-old found safe after being kidnapped by father at gunpoint

A 9-month-old infant was found safe, but police in Lancaster, South Carolina, are still searching for the child's father, who is accused of kidnapping her while aiming a gun at the child's mother. Derrick Lamont Nelson, 38, allegedly approached the home where his daughter, Alijah Nelson, resided around 8 a.m. on Tuesday.

He pointed a pistol at the baby's mother while attempting to take one of Alijah's siblings but failed before entering another room and grabbing the 9-month-old before fleeing in a gray Lincoln sedan.

Roughly an hour after first reporting it via Facebook, the Lancaster Police Department posted an update that Alijah had been recovered safely but officers are still searching for her father, who does not have custody of the infant. Described as six feet, two inches tall and weighing 190 pounds, police consider Nelson to be missing and endangered and described him as wearing a black jacket and jeans at the time of the attempted abduction.

4. Carowinds coaster controversy: Riders describe being stuck for 45 minutes after ride failure

Three-quarters of an hour may feel like a long time to wait to board a ride, but a group of adrenaline junkies learned what it feels like to be stuck on an attraction for 45 minutes the hard way after their coaster cars paused in midair on Friday. Telling WNCT that he "personally watched [his] tears fall from the sky," Brandon Allen described the experience of being stuck on the Charlotte amusement park's Flying Cobras "backward roller coaster" for most of an hour as "terrifying."

Calling the malfunction an "unexpected ride function" on the 360-degree coaster's lift, Carowinds management testified that none of the guests cavorting with the Cobras were in danger and were all safely returned to the station with two fast pass vouchers to skip lines at subsequent rides.

In another attraction accident also described as "terrifying" by Carowinds visitors, the park's revolving Electro-Spin ride paused mid-operation in mid-April, according to Queen CIty News. Prior to that, a third-party contractor initiated a lawsuit against Carowinds owner Cedar Fair after losing his hand during a 2019 inspection of Carowinds' swinging WindSeeker attraction.

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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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