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Rep. Ray Russell’s July 14th Newsletter on Coronavirus Updates, Announcements and Info

Since the NC Legislature’s short session is paused for now. These newsletter will be published as events demand, but at least every two weeks.
Facebook Live Town Hall
Representative Russell will conduct a Facebook Live Town Hall event Thursday, July 16 at 7 PM. The event will be available to everyone (whether you have a Facebook account or not) from this link:
Spread of Coronavirus
Across the United States, as of Monday afternoon, July 13, the number of people who are confirmed to have coronavirus is 3,444,083. Of late, an average of over 60,000 new cases are being reported every day–the most than at any time during the pandemic crisis. Sadly, 137,948 people have died from coronavirus.
In North Carolina the number of people who are “laboratory-confirmed” to have coronavirus is 87,528. Sunday, 2,462 people tested positive–that’s a record number of people for a single day in NC. Currently, 1040 people are hospitalized with coronavirus. To date, 1,533 North Carolinians have died from coronavirus. 67,124 are presumed to have recovered. The number of new cases and the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 continue to climb.
Much more data is available at the NC DHHS “Dashboard”. See https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard.
Locally, the number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus in Ashe County is 65. The number of Watauga County residents who have tested positive is 132. Eighty-three of these cases are currently active. Nine people in the district are currently hospitalized. One person has died in Ashe County from coronavirus. In Ashe and Watauga Counties, 165 residents are currently being monitored as possibly having Covid-19.
You can get more local data from the AppHealth Care Dashboard at https://www.apphealthcare.com/covid-19-information/covid-19-data-dashboard/.
Our prayers are with all these people affected by coronavirus along with their families.
Please follow public health officials’ guidance… Wear a face mask in public settings. Wait 6 feet apart. Wash your hands frequently.
Vetoes Sustained
Last week, the NC House and Senate sustained all of Governor Cooper’s vetoes. Here’s a summary.
  • Senate Bill 599: Open Skating Rinks/Bowling Alleys
  • Senate Bill 105: Clarify Emergency Powers
  • House Bill 806: Open Exercise & Fitness Facilities
  • House Bill 258: Open Amusement Parks/Arcades/Venues
  • House Bill 686: Freedom to Celebrate the Fourth of July
I have repeatedly stated that we do not need to politicize the state’s plan for dealing with the Covid-19 Pandemic. I have opposed every attempt in the legislature to: 1) circumvent public health professionals and scientific data on bills related to relaxing physical distancing rules or 2) take the decision-making authority from the Governor’s Covid-19 Task Force.
The Senate sustained the veto for SB 599. The House sustained HB 806 and HB 686. No votes were taken to override HB 258 or SB 105. I voted to sustain in the House votes.
I believe these bills put public health at risk for partisan purposes. The wrong-headedness of these bills (and the ones that preceded them) is being made more and more clear as many southern states who attempted more aggressive approaches to relaxing restrictions set new infection records almost daily and their medical facilities are overwhelmed with very sick patients.
The House voted to sustain the Governor’s veto of House Bill 652:
2nd Amendment Protection Act.
The two provisions in this bill would have changed to concealed carry laws. One section allows EMT workers to be able to have concealed carry because they are often on the scene of threatening situations before law enforcement arrives. I was for this section. A second part of the bill would have allowed concealed carry during church services when the church is meeting on public school property. I opposed this part of the bill, and believe there are better ways to protect churches. (I attend a church that meets at a school. We hire an off-duty police officer.) I voted to override the veto, but the veto was sustained in the House vote.
No votes were made to override the following vetoes. If votes had been taken, the vetoes would all have been sustained.
  • House Bill 612: DSS Review of Procedures/Criminal History/OAH
HB 612 limits the ability of the Department of Health and Human Services to implement, adapt to and oversee programs of public assistance and child welfare and is likely unconstitutional.
  • House Bill 918: Expedite Permanency/DHHS Report SNAP/TANF
House Bill 918 would have the effect of discouraging pregnant women with substance use disorders from seeking treatment and prenatal care, risking their health and the health of newborns.
Over the course of the entire session, Governor Cooper vetoed 25 bills. All of these vetoes have held up in the legislature.
‘Death Records’ Bill Vetoed, Corrected
During a recent late-night legislative session, a bill passed that included a provision that may have made death records confidential. The language attracted widespread opposition from advocates for heightened scrutiny of death cases involving law enforcement and from advocates for more openness and transparency in government. Others argued that the language did not make the records private.
Governor Cooper vetoed the controversial bill, blocking it from becoming law. Additionally, I supported a new bill that made it crystal clear that death records need to be public.
Other Bills Passed by the House Last Week
House Bill 1224: Confirm Governor’s Appts to Mining Commission. https://www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2019/Bills/House/PDF/H1234v1.pdf
House Bill 1225: Modifications to2020 Appointments. https://www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2019/Bills/House/PDF/H1235v4.pdf
House Bill 1236: Confirm Governor’s Appt to Board of Review. https://www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2019/Bills/House/PDF/H1236v2.pdf
House Bill 226: Delay Certain ABC Permit Renewal Payments. https://www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2019/Bills/Senate/PDF/S226v4.pdf
Senate Bill 374: Covid-19/2020-2021 School Calendar Start. https://www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2019/Bills/Senate/PDF/S374v6.pdf
What’s Next? Federal Relief for State & a Special Session?
The legislature isn’t scheduled to return to Raleigh until after Labor Day, but the actions of Congress might change those plans — and perhaps interrupt some summer vacations to address urgent state budget shortfalls.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Roy Cooper confirmed that he might call a special session if there’s a need to allocate new federal coronavirus relief money or make budget adjustments before Sept. 2.
Help During the Pandemic
DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced last week the launch of a website that will assist those in need of things like help navigating the unemployment landscape, food assistance, or housing and shelter, among other things.
The NCCARE360.org website is now interactive for all 100 counties. A test program was created in 2019 for four NC counties, and it was thought it would take until December 2020 for the program to go live for the whole state, but teams rollled up their sleeves and worked overtime to make it available during this critical time for the state. Go to the website to request assistance from agencies in your area: https://nccare360.org/
If You have Coronavirus Symptoms…
If you believe you have symptoms of coronavirus and live in Watauga County:
1) Call AppHealthCare at 828-264-4995 or (828) 795-1970 during regular business hours,
2) Visit https://apprhs.org/covid19-screening/ online and follow screening instructions, or
3) Call your primary care doctor.
If you believe you have symptoms of coronavirus and live in Ashe County call AppHealthCare at 336-246-9449 or call your primary care doctor.
More Information
Our public heath office, AppHealthCare, is the primary local source of information about coronavirus. See https://www.apphealthcare.com/covid-19-information/
For more information from our hospitals, see Appalachian Regional’s website at https://apprhs.org/COVID19/ or Ashe Memorial Hospital’s website at https://www.ashememorial.org/ for their updates.
For information specific to North Carolina, the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) provides the latest information on COVID-19 at https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/. Also, North Carolina coronavirus updates are available by calling 888.892.1162 or by texting COVIDNC to 898211