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Supreme Court Upholds California's Religious Gathering Restrictions

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 16:29

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The Supreme Court ruled that California can enforce its restrictions on religious gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a rare late-night ruling released Friday, the Court ruled 5-4 that California Gov. Gavin Newsom has the power to limit in-person church attendance to curb the spread of COVID-19. Many churches defied his order, claiming it violated constitutional freedoms.

Chief Justice John Roberts said in his opinion calling Newsom's rules "indisputably" unconstitutional "seems quite improbable," adding it was broadly applied to all religions in the interest of public safety. The liberal wing of the court — Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — all voted in favor of the restrictions but didn't join Roberts' opinion.

However, in a dissenting opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the restrictions discriminated against places of worship. He argued that the limitations exceed those of secular business and violate the First Amendment. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas co-signed Kavanaugh's opinion. Justice Samuel Alito voted against the limitations but didn't join in the opinion.

Additionally, the court denied a similar challenge in Illinois.

U.S. To End Special Treatment For Hong Kong

Sat, 05/30/2020 - 01:06

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President Donald Trump announced Friday the U.S. will end a slew of special considerations for Hong Kong.

"We will take action to revoke Hong Kong's preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China," President Trump said. "The United States will also take necessary steps to sanction PRC and Hong Kong officials directly or indirectly involved in eroding Hong Kong's autonomy."

The Chinese government recently approved national security legislation that some critics have said is China's attempt to curtail civil rights guaranteed to Hong Kong under the "one country, two systems" model. The move prompted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to certify to Congress that the U.S. can no longer consider Hong Kong autonomous from mainland China.

News of the national security law sparked a wave of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

President Trump Cuts Ties With World Health Organization

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 23:52

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President Donald Trump announced the U.S. will cut its relationship with the World Health Organization, blaming China for the spread of the coronavirus.

The president has repeatedly criticized the agency's response to the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, he said China has "total control" over the WHO despite China giving it less funding than the U.S. 

"China's cover up of the Wuhan virus allowed the disease to spread all over the world, instigating a global pandemic that has cost more than 100,000 American lives and over a million lives worldwide," President Trump said. "Chinese officials ignored their reporting obligations to the World Health Organization and pressured the World Health Organization to mislead the world when the virus was first discovered by Chinese authorities." 

The WHO, on the other hand, has said it gave world leaders a heads up early on and defended its response to the pandemic. It has also defended China's response. 

It's unclear exactly how President Trump plans to pull funding from the WHO since most of the funding is approved by Congress. 

Campaign 2020 Remains Virtual — For Now

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 23:00

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As coronavirus lockdowns are lifted across the country, President Trump is itching to get out on the trail, “I hope we can do rallies,” he said in his daily briefing on April 17. "For me it's a tremendous way of getting the word out."

The president's apparent goal: returning to the signature campaign rallies that have become hallmarks of his candidacy and his time in office. 

"I can't imagine a rally where you have every fourth seat full," Pres. Trump told business leaders in a White House roundtable on April 29th. 

"I don't think anything compares to actual live, in-person rallies for either side," said Ron Bonjean, a former spokesman for congressional republicans, who has also worked for the Trump White House and presidential transition team. "It is a measure of enthusiasm that we, as Americans, have grown accustomed to."

"I think you are going to see a number of rallies, and a large number of Americans are going to attend those as the country starts opening up and the closer we get to the election," added Bonjean, who is also a partner at public affairs firm ROKK Solutions in Washington. 

But a quick return to campaign events looks unlikely. 

"[Coronavirus] spreads very easily, by droplet, which is why [wearing a mask] is so important," Neysa Ernst, the nurse manager for Johns Hopkins' biocontainment unit told Newsy. 

Ernst said she thinks big rallies could restart, but only with appropriate social distancing and attendees wearing face masks. "I do think it's the obligation of the organization to say, 'If you're going to come to our event, this is how we're going to protect you.'"

With no campaign rallies on the schedule, the president has made a series of official trips to battleground states like Pennsylvania and Michigan. 

The Trump reelection team is also hosting a lineup of livestreams every night of the week. 

Newsy reached out to the Trump campaign, which declined to comment on future events.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, meanwhile, made his first public appearance in months on Memorial Day. 

His campaign has said it's listening to health care experts before returning to the campaign trail.

"I'm following the rules," Biden told ABC's "Good Morning America" on May 12. 

"The president should follow the rules instead of showing up at places without masks and the whole thing," Biden added.

After More Violent Protests, Minnesota Officials Ask For Calm

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 22:49

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After three nights of protests in Minneapolis, the fired police officer accused of killing George Floyd is in custody. 

"Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged by the Hennepin County Attorney's Office with murder and with manslaughter," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said.

The complaint alleges that Chauvin “caused the death of George Floyd by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.”

Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck for more than seven minutes while Floyd was handcuffed. 

In a statement, Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said the charge of third-degree murder — which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years and applies to cases where there is no clear intent to kill — is not enough:

“We expected a first-degree murder charge. We want a first-degree murder charge.” 

And Crump said that the three other fired officers involved should also face charges. The investigation into their actions is ongoing. 

This arrest comes after the governor of Minnesota tried to walk the line between the urgent need to restore order and empathy for the protesters.

“The very tools that we need to use to get control, to make sure that buildings aren’t burned and the rule of law collapses, are those very institutional tools that led to that grief and pain. I understand very clearly there is no trust in many of our communities,” said Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

Thursday night, demonstrators set fire to the Minneapolis Police Department's 3rd Precinct building, which officers had evacuated. The four police officers who were fired over Floyd's death had all worked at the 3rd Precinct.

Minnesota officials made very clear the same kind of violent protesting won't be tolerated moving forward. 

"We have to restore order to our society before we can start addressing the issues, before we turn back to where we should be spending our energy: making sure that justice is served," said Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

"They believe, essentially, that peaceful protesting is not getting the job done. And so this is their way to buck up against the system," author and Michigan State University professor Jennifer Cobbina said.

Jennifer Cobbina conducted nearly 200 interviews with protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore following the historic unrest after the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray. She says an arrest without a conviction may not be enough for angry community members

"We will see people feeling some semblance of justice occurring. However, the key will be in whether or not these individuals will actually be convicted and sentenced. Because if they are not, what we will see happening, at least what we saw happen in Ferguson, is you will see another uprising," said Cobbina.

Convictions in these cases are extremely rare. Between 2005 and March 2019, only 35 officers were convicted of a crime related to an on-duty fatal shooting, while on average between 900 and 1,000 people are killed by police officers per year. 

"Yes, they are protesting the death of George Floyd. They are also protesting a broader pattern of marginalization and criminalization of Black people," said Cobbina.

Gov. Walz acknowledged the need for systemic change and pledged to deliver. 

“This is the moment where we start. But every time we get to this place, we never start the process to make sure it never happens again,” said Walz.

Contains footage from CNN

Minneapolis Mayor Issues Weekend Curfew

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 22:46

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Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has issued a curfew amid citywide protests over the death of George Floyd. 

The order says travel isn't allowed between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. starting Friday and ending Sunday morning. Law enforcement, fire and medical professionals, and people "seeking exempt care, fleeing dangerous circumstances, or experiencing homelessness" can still travel. 

More than 500 Minnesota National Guard soldiers arrived in the Twin Cities region late Thursday as protests over the death of Floyd continued. 

Demonstrators entered and set fires to the Minneapolis Police Department's 3rd Precinct building, which officers had evacuated. The four police officers who were fired over Floyd's death had worked at the 3rd Precinct.

Police officers attempted to disperse crowds of protesters near the station by firing pepper spray and using batons. Some protesters responded by throwing projectiles.

Thursday night's protests came after prosecutors announced they were still investigating Floyd's death. One of the officers has since been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. 

Contains footage from CNN

Hawaii To Extend 2-Week Traveler Quarantine Past The End Of June

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 22:27

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Hawaii Gov. David Ige said Thursday he will extend the state's mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers arriving in the state past the end of June.

The governor made the announcement during an online press conference with Hawaii's four mayors but didn't provide any more details on the extension. Ige said a decision on lifting a separate two-week quarantine requirement for inter-island travel would be made "in the next few days."

The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent safety restrictions have had a huge effect on Hawaii's tourism industry. According to the state's tourism authority, fewer than 5,000 people traveled to Hawaii in April, compared to more than 850,000 during the same time in 2019. That's a 99.5% drop.

The state's unemployment rate also jumped to over 22% in April, making it among the highest rates in the country.

Twitter Flags President Trump's Tweet For Glorifying Violence

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 21:01

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Twitter restricted access to a Donald Trump tweet early Friday, saying the president violated the platform’s rules about glorifying violence.

The tweet was in response to ongoing protests in Minneapolis. In it, President Trump said "the Military is with" Minnesota's governor and that “any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

According to Twitter’s official communications account, the platform applied the label “in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts.” But it said it would leave the tweet up because the public should “still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance.”

In order to see the tweet, users have to click through an explanation about why it was flagged. The notice also limits engagements with the tweet, meaning people won't be able to like, reply or retweet it. They can retweet with comment.

Twitter’s response is notable because it's a slight deviation from how it's handled past threats of violence made by the president. Historically, Twitter hasn’t reprimanded President Trump for breaking those rules. 

SEE MORE: Trump Signs Order That Targets Legal Protections for Social Media

For instance, in 2017, he made a threat toward North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un, saying “they won't be around much longer!” While Twitter recognized the tweet broke rules against promoting violence, it decided that it should stay up because of its “newsworthiness.”

Since then, he’s made similar threats toward Iran. In early 2020, President Trump published a series of tweets saying that if Iran retaliated against the U.S. for killing one of its top ambassadors, it would face U.S. attacks on “52 Iranian sites.” Twitter did not apply warning labels to those tweets.

Regardless, the move will likely escalate ongoing tensions between Twitter and the president. Earlier this week, the company fact-checked two of President Trump’s tweets for containing misleading information about voting. 

President Trump responded by signing an executive order intended to scale back Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — a law that protects social media companies from being sued over content posted to their platform and allows them to decide how they’ll moderate that content. 

Reporter's Arrest During Protest On Police Brutality 'Inexcusable'

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 20:47

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"If you’re just tuning in, you’re watching our correspondent Omar Jimenez being arrested by state police in Minnesota. We’re not sure why."

A CNN crew in Minneapolis was arrested early Friday morning on live TV. They were covering protests over the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed when an officer knelt for minutes on his neck. 

"I believe we’re all about to be arrested. That’s our producer," a CNN journalist announced on live TV.

"The camera is being walked away now."

The reporter, producer and photojournalist were released about an hour later, around 7 a.m., according to CNN. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz says he takes full responsibility for the incident: 

"The idea that a reporter would have been taken while another police action was in play is inexcusable," Walz said.

Minnesota State Patrol announced the crew's release came “once they were confirmed to be members of the media.” The agency did not respond to Newsy’s request for comment. 

"I was just as confused as you. We had been showing our credentials throughout this entire week and especially in the moments leading up to that," Jimenez said.

"Put us back where you want us. We were getting out of your way," could be heard in the video.

Media advocates are calling it a bad day for journalism.

"There is no reason that police should be arresting journalists who are covering a very newsworthy protest," says Courtney Radsch, Advocacy Director at the Committee to Protect Journalists. "We saw this live on television, we saw their calm demeanor. We saw the handcuffs nonetheless being put on practicing members of the press while they were reporting. There is no way to dispute the facts there. And, you know, in this era of fake news, that can be a very important attribute."

Critics also say it’s yet another example of injustice at the hands of law enforcement. Omar Jimenez, a Black Latino reporter, was arrested, while a White CNN reporter working nearby was not. 

The National Association of Black Journalists condemned the arrest as, quote, “structural racism in real time.” 

"You're reporting on some racism and then you become victim of what appears to be hostile or racial activity against you. And all you're doing is reporting what's going on," says Drew Berry, Executive Director of the National Association of Black Journalists. "We don't want it to be the norm. But unfortunately, it probably is pretty close to being the norm."

Sasha Ingber, Newsy, Washington.

Commission Rules Missouri's Only Abortion Clinic Can Stay Open

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 20:23

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Missouri's only abortion clinic can continue providing abortion services after an administrative commission ruled the state wrongfully withheld the clinic's license.  

Missouri was on the verge of becoming the only state without an abortion clinic after its health department refused to renew the St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic's license last June. Just a few days before, Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation banning abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy without exceptions for rape or incest. 

The state said then that an inspection had found four instances of "failed abortions." Planned Parenthood then sued the state, saying the licensing holdup was part of a plan to end abortions in Missouri. 

The state's inspection found that for one woman, it took five attempts to complete an abortion. During an administrative hearing in October, an official from Missouri's health department said the clinic had failed to provide a complication report. The state's health director also revealed his agency had tracked the menstrual cycles of Planned Parenthood patients to find women who needed multiple procedures to complete an abortion. 

On Friday, the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission renewed the clinic's abortion license. A commissioner wrote "Planned Parenthood has demonstrated that it provides safe and legal abortion care."

Alexis McGill Johnson, the acting president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement: "During a worldwide pandemic, every public health care provider including Planned Parenthood should have all the resources they need to care for the complex needs of their communities, including abortion." 

It's unclear if the state will appeal. 

Additional reporting by Jim Salter of the Associated Press. 

AG Announces Civil Rights Investigation Into George Floyd's Death

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 20:14

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U.S. Attorney General William Barr has announced an independent investigation into whether any federal civil rights laws were violated in the death of Minnesota man George Floyd. 

Barr called video of Floyd's death "harrowing to watch and deeply disturbing." 

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee had previously called on the Justice Department to investigate how police handled the deaths of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.

The recent deaths of the three Black Americans have sparked outrage across the country. Floyd died this week after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. Taylor was shot in her apartment during a Louisville Metro Police Department raid in March. And Arbery was killed in February by a former police officer in Georgia, but an arrest wasn't made until last month. 

In a letter sent to the DOJ Thursday, lawmakers said they wanted an investigation into whether police actions in Floyd and Taylor's deaths were part of a "pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct" by the respective police departments; and whether local prosecutors "conspired to deprive Mr. Arbery of his constitutional rights."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said the committee would consider legislation to address police racial profiling and excessive use of force, as well as the "lost trust" between law enforcement and their communities. 

Contains footage from CNN

Hunger, Poverty Surge In Latin America As Impacts Of Pandemic Deepen

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 19:50

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In the bustling Los Alamos settlement outside Lima, Peru, this sign screams out. "Necesitamos ayuda," it says. "We need help."

That's because this community, and much of Latin America, is suffering from dual impacts of the coronavirus pandemic: sickness and hunger.

The U.N. World Food Program warns that more people like these, lining up for emergency food distribution in Lima, will be plunged deeper into poverty. These are the scenes as the economy collapses and jobs — and incomes — vanish.

The U.N. says at least 14 million people across Latin America could face food shortages due to the pandemic, and 30 million more could become impoverished.

The World Health Organization says the worst crisis of the pandemic is currently centered in the Americas. Brazil ranks second in the world after the U.S., with more than 338,000 COVID-19 cases and 27,000 deaths. And Peru is now 12th, with more than 141,000 infections and 4,000 fatalities.

"South America has become a new epicenter for the disease. We've seen many South American countries with increasing numbers of cases, and clearly there's a concern across many of those countries,” said Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Program.

As jobs have vanished and food has grown scarce in Lima's Los Alamos settlement, residents are sharing staples in this outdoor kitchen. People like unemployed waitress Maria Estrella plead for help and volunteer to help others.

"We had nothing to feed our children and we had to organize ourselves in this way so we could put at least some food on our table for our children,” Estrella said.

Miguel Barreto, the World Food Program's Latin America regional director, offers this understatement for the crisis: "We're entering a very complicated stage." He says there is no precedent for what is happening.

With reporting from The Associated Press.

Former Minneapolis Officer Who Knelt On George Floyd Arrested

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 19:43

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The former Minneapolis police officer who was seen on video kneeling on the neck of George Floyd was arrested Friday.

Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said Derek Chauvin has been taken into custody by state investigators. Hennepin County Prosecutor Mike Freeman later announced Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Floyd died Monday after Chauvin pinned him to the ground and held his knee on Floyd's neck for more than seven minutes, as Floyd repeatedly said, "I can't breathe." The incident sparked nationwide protests.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar tweeted the news of Chauvin's arrest, calling the move, "the first step towards justice."

Virus Spike Leads Some South Korean Schools, Businesses To Close Again

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 19:22

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South Korea shut down some schools and businesses again as coronavirus resurged in its capitol.

On Friday, the government shut down parts of the Seoul metropolitan area, where nearly half of its 52 million people live. More than 500 schools as well as parks, theatres and museums were ordered to close.

Schools had reopened Wednesday as part of a plan to ease virus restrictions. However, 79 new COVID-19 cases were recorded the next day, many linked to a distribution center that wasn't heavily enforcing virus prevention measures, according to the BBC.

South Korea's health minister has asked citizens to again avoid large gatherings and added previously scheduled public events would be postponed or canceled.

South Korea, which has been lauded for its efforts to combat the virus without a full lockdown, ordered the affected schools and businesses to remain closed for two weeks.

Asian Americans Are More Represented In The Media Than Ever Before

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 18:24

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As Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month comes to a close, a new report from Nielsen highlights major wins for representation.

"We are now a community that I really think has galvanized," said Mariko Carpenter, Nielsen's vice president of strategic community alliances.

Nielsen researchers found that from 2007-2018, the percentage of Asian characters in U.S. films with spoken lines doubled.

While the report acknowledges that "there is a lot more work to be done in the area of inclusion," Carpenter says that the portrayals of Asian Americans are also more authentic than ever before. 

"I think in the past, we might have played very much sort of the stereotypical Asian characters, whereas we're seeing now that Asian American faces are playing these characters with a lot of moral intersectionality, which is, I think, what appeals to audiences of any background," said Carpenter.

This past year, streaming dominated the demand for more diverse programming. And critics lauded titles like Netflix's "Never Have I Ever," "The Half Of It" and Hulu's "Pen15" for their nuanced and genuine portrayals of Asian American families, romances and childhoods.

"I think the more authentic it is, the more it appeals to a broader audience, right? And I think it's the humans, or the humanness, that comes out," said Carpenter.

As the streaming wars continue, Nielsen researchers and other entertainment experts agree that the influx of original programming will advance representation not just for Asian Americans, but minorities in general.

RNC Sends Safety Proposal To North Carolina For National Convention

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 18:21

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The Republican National Committee sent a letter to North Carolina's governor outlining health and safety guidelines for its national convention.

The proposal calls for a pre-travel survey, daily health screenings, widely available hand sanitizer and extra cleaning and sanitation. The letter does not mention recommendations from the CDC about social distancing or face masks. The RNC is giving Gov. Roy Cooper until June 3 to respond.

The letter to Cooper came after he told CNN decisions to allow large gatherings — such as the Republican National Convention — will be based on health experts' opinions and data, not politics. President Donald Trump then threatened to pull the event from North Carolina.

Newsy Investigation Tracks COVID-19 Outbreaks In NC From Meat Plants

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 17:40

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Last week, the number of positive COVID-19 cases tied to meat processing in North Carolina surpassed 2,000, making up about 9 percent of the state’s total number of cases. That makes meat processing plants nearly as big a problem for North Carolina as nursing homes.

But unlike nursing homes, state health officials are not required to disclose the names of the 28 plants with outbreaks or the number of cases at each plant.

"And again, these are businesses that are not regulated by DHHS," said North Carolina Secretary of Health Dr. Mandy Cohen.

A Newsy investigation has identified 19 plants by name in the state with outbreaks, and found they impact multiple counties, not just the county where the plant is located.

Take the Smithfield Tar Heel plant, located in Bladen County. Dr. Terri Duncan, the health director there, will only confirm two positive cases tied to the plant, telling Newsy “additional information is not available.”

But data from five nearby counties now brings the number of positive cases to at least 110 employees at the Tar Heel plant, showing how the virus can spread from just one site.

"If I were looking for a way to disseminate the virus throughout the state, this would be a good plan, to bring together people in closed spaces, putting them very close together. And then, so there's an opportunity for spread. And then once it is spread, send them home to wherever and further disseminate. That's a pretty good dissemination plan right there," said Jim Thomas, professor of epidemiology and ethics at UNC Chapel Hill.

Newsy reached out to every county health director in North Carolina and asked them for the number of positive residents tied to meat processing plants.

Eighty-one out of 100 counties responded, and here is what we found: 12 of the 19 plants we identified with outbreaks have cases in at least one surrounding county. And three of those counties don’t have any meat processing plants at all. 

Meat processing plants are mostly located in very rural areas, so the workforce is often scattered across counties.

Take the Tyson Foods plant in Wilkes County, North Carolina. Last week, Tyson announced 570 out of 2,244 employees tested positive for COVID-19 after the company provided on-site testing in early May.

Newsy learned at least 40 employees who tested positive reside in neighboring Yadkin, Caldwell, Alexander and Catawba counties.

Health directors in 20 out of the 81 counties that responded declined our request for information, most citing health privacy laws.

But the majority of the counties in North Carolina did give Newsy data, like Nash County. As of May 22, it has 160 positive cases. Nine of them are tied to meat processing plants in neighboring counties. 

"I think transparency is extremely important. I realize we've got HIPAA restrictions and we certainly do want to protect individuals. But I think the more people know about issues the less fearful they are, yet the more vigilant they can be," said Bill Hill, health director of Nash County. 

The 235 meat processing plants in North Carolina are not required to report the number of positive cases to state or local health departments. The data is either disclosed voluntarily by the plants or is collected by local health officials through contact tracing. 

"You have an epidemic of virus. And because of the lack of transparency, you're getting a parallel epidemic of rumor. I think that the overall impact is going to be suspicion," said Thomas.

At the Smithfield plant in Tar Heel, workers are so desperate for information they created a Facebook group to share their test results. The plant is now conducting on-site tests, but some employees, like this one who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, are skeptical.

“I don't think they'd tell us honestly if someone was positive, and that's the predominant opinion of everyone that tested. No one at this point trusts anyone or anything Smithfield says or does anymore,” said the Smithfield Tar Heel employee. 

A Smithfield Foods spokesperson told us the company reports all COVID-19 cases to the CDC, state and local health officials. 

Tyson leads the industry on public transparency, issuing press releases announcing the number of positive cases at its plants around the country. A Butterball spokesperson told Newsy any time an employee tests positive, the information is shared with the entire facility. 

Newsy also found the number of workers testing positive now makes up almost 6 percent of the 35,000 meat processing employees in the state. To put this in perspective, at the time of this report, Northeast Bronx, the worst-hit neighborhood of New York City, has about a 4 percent infection rate.

"That's just sad. We need to protect these people," said Thomas.

Mark Fahey and Rosie Cima contributed to this report.  

Renault To Cut Nearly 15,000 Jobs

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 17:30

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French auto manufacturer Renault announced it will be cutting close to 15,000 jobs as the company struggles financially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press release issued Friday, the company says the cuts are part of a plan to save more than $2.2 billion dollars over three years and "to lay the foundations for a new competitiveness."

In addition the company says it aims to reduce its global production capacity of vehicles from 4 million to 3.3 million by 2024.

The BBC reports that the cuts and reductions follow a 25 percent drop in sales during the first three months of 2020. According to the outlet, the company is currently working to negotiate an emergency loan package with the French government.

Renault isn't the only auto manufacturer making changes amid the coronavirus outbreak. On Thursday, Renault's partner Nissan announced it would be closing auto plants in Spain and Indonesia in an effort to correct its declining financial situation.

Contains footage from CNN

Community Colleges Prepare For Fall Semester Amid Coronavirus

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 17:00

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Online learning is nothing new for many of the country’s 1,050 community colleges.

“We at Montgomery College have been doing distance learning for years," said Marcus Rosano, director of media and public relations at the Maryland school. "So we've been experts at it before this new world came.” 

And leaders say they’re used to being nimble. 

“Community colleges have an advantage during this pandemic because we are structured, to a large extent, to be a commuter school," said Oakland Community College chancellor Peter Provenzano, Jr. "We have the ability to adjust, I think, a little bit quicker.”

But schools still face economic uncertainty as they figure out what the fall semester could look like in light of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Provenzano says his nearly 30,000 students will continue to rely heavily on online classes in the fall. Some will come to the school’s five campuses for labs or hands-on courses, vital for trades these institutions specialize in, including the culinary industry. 

“We're beginning to create an environment where students are coming in learning to cook, essentially, during a pandemic, no different than if they were at a restaurant," he said. "They're using the proper PPE, they're doing social distancing. They're even delivering food to the cars instead of a traditional dining room experience.”

Despite, or perhaps because of, the reliance on online courses, OCC's current summer session saw a 6% bump in enrollment compared to the same time in 2019.   

That trend could continue to the fall, as unemployed adults potentially seek more job training, graduating high school students look for remote learning at a reduced price tag, or current high schoolers take part in dual enrollment programs. 

Enrollment at community colleges nationwide saw a brief spike at the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008. But costs saw an uptick, too. 

"Tuition and fees, like the cost, was passed along to students," said John Fink, senior research associate at the Community College Research Center. "We don't know if that's really reasonable this go-round, because people are really struggling. So it just raises a lot of questions around just funding, you know, will there be adequate funding? I mean, there hasn't ever really been adequate funding, but this is even more of a challenging circumstance.”

Proposed funding cuts to community colleges and other public institutions across the country are already being discussed as leaders consider potentially costly changes to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

Like many traditional four-year institutions, some campuses are considering adjusting schedules, providing face masks, and conducting contact tracing when students eventually return to campus, which could be challenging.

“Somebody may come on for one class, you know, or they may have five classes spread out," said Adam Reid, interim director of public safety at Montgomery College. "So it's a lot more to try to keep track of, and it's a lot more to be mindful of, you know, with having a huge footprint and a huge county, as opposed to a small campus in a small area.” 

And educators will need to rely more heavily on technology, too. Some say a digital divide has already been exposed for people attending community colleges, where the average age is 28, 64% are enrolled part time, and nearly a third are first-generation college students, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

“They don’t have laptops, WiFi, a quiet place to study," Bunker Hill Community College President Pam Eddinger said at a recent panel discussion in Boston. "They’re taking care of kids at home, they’re being teachers to those children, and all the while suffering all of the same basic needs, the lack of enough food and nutrition, housing, all of those things have come to a point.”