Dave DeWitt

Feature News Editor/ Host, "Tested" Podcast

Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Feature News Editor. As an editor, reporter, and producer he's covered politics, environment, education, sports, and a wide range of other topics.

He has filed stories for NPR’s news magazines as well as Marketplace and Only A Game. He formerly worked in college athletics, college admissions, and with the Tar Heel Sports Network. In 2001, he wrote the non-fiction book "True Blue".

 

Ways to Connect

Once North Carolina’s gradual reopening shifts into Phase 2 Friday afternoon, more places like restaurants, salons, and pools will be given the green light to open up again.

While some business owners are anxious to reopen as fast as possible, others are more cautious. How customers will balance feeling safe and resuming their pre-pandemic lives remains an open question.

We check back in with Christina Pelech, owner of the Fuss & Bother hair salon in Durham, about her next steps as a small business owner, and how she anticipates life in her shop to look during Phase 2.


As people return to North Carolina's stores and parks during Phase 1 of the gradual reopening, there are growing concerns about the health and safety of workers at meat and poultry processing plants across the state.

Last month, President Donald Trump deemed meat processing plants essential infrastructure, and ordered them to stay open for the sake of the country's food supply chain. But working shoulder-to-shoulder on an assembly line poses serious risks for workers, as health experts have repeatedly urged people to keep at least 6 feet apart.

We talk with WUNC's Celeste Gracia and Laura Pellicer about the conditions at two specific plants in North Carolina, and how workers are coping with the decision to go to work despite possible risks to their health.


Changes

May 8, 2020

Phase 1 begins today in North Carolina. Retail stores and state parks can resume operations, with some changes to try to ensure public health.

Another thing that many health experts say has to change: North Carolina needs to do more testing.

North Carolina's testing capacity has grown, and we are 15th in the country in total tests conducted, but we have still tested fewer people per capita than all but a handful of states.

Rose Hoban, editor of North Carolina Health News, weighs in on testing and the state's Phase One re-opening.


Immunity

May 7, 2020

In making the decision on when to reopen North Carolina's economy, Gov. Roy Cooper says he is being guided by one thing: Data. 

One data point the state is not focused on: The number of people who have recovered from COVID-19. An even more unknowable number right now is how many people have had it, and, because they were asymptomatic, never knew it.

Those are two groups that could be vitally important, because their blood may contain antibodies that could provide some immunity.

We talk to Dr. Alena Markmann and Dr. Luther Bartelt about immunity, and the treatments they are utilizing now to treat COVID-19 patients.


It's National Nurses' Day. And this year, nurses - and all medical professionals - have certainly earned a little extra recognition. 

We talk with Rose Hoban, the editor of North Carolina Health News and a registered nurse, about what nurses are experiencing.

Also, we hear from a high-school senior who missed out on his final baseball season.

 

Phased Reopening

May 5, 2020

Governor Roy Cooper's Phase One Reopening plan begins Friday. The announcement came after Dr. Mandy Cohen, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said the COVID-19 data trends in North Carolina are "stable."

Phase One doesn't throw things wide open. Salons, gyms, and dining areas, for example, cannot open. But other businesses can reopen, if they practice certain social distancing measures.

Host Dave DeWitt and Reporter/Producer Will Michaels explain and analyze what people and businesses can do now, that they couldn't do before.


Governor Roy Cooper is eyeing next weekend for a move into the first phase of re-opening the North Carolina economy, even as the key metrics and trends on COVID-19 in the state offer mixed messages.

We talk with Rose Hoban, the editor of North Carolina Health News, about the trends and numbers, the crisis in meat-processing plants, and what kind of help hospitals can expect from the General Assembly.


Holden Thorp
Washington University in St Louis

Recent polls have shown that a strong majority of Americans trust the most prominent scientists during this pandemic, like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx.

Their ability to communicate complicated scientific topics has helped them gain the public trust, for the most part. But that doesn't mean there's not a lot of misinformation put out every day; some of it extremely harmful.

Talking Science

Apr 30, 2020

There's perhaps never been a time where effective and accurate science communication has been more crucial. It's become, quite frankly, life and death for tens of thousands of people.

We talk with Holden Thorp, the editor-in-chief of Science, one of the leading scientific journals in the world.

Before taking that role, he was a chemist, the provost at Washington University in St Louis, and the chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill.


Paying for the Pandemic

Apr 29, 2020

It's been another busy day in Raleigh as state lawmakers try to shape and support North Carolina's recovery from COVID-19, and decide how much money they will have and where to spend it.

There's some evidence that Medicaid expansion might have bipartisan support, at least during the pandemic.

We speak with WUNC's Capitol Bureau Chief Jeff Tiberii about the competing budget proposals, and what differences might need to be reconciled before the state can get financial relief.


Here And There

Apr 28, 2020

As they did last week, several hundred protestors marched in Raleigh today, calling for the state to be "re-opened" immediately.

At about the same time, the General Assembly began its short session, looking to allocate about $1.5 billion, and Governor Roy Cooper gave his latest update.

But instead of what's going on in the city, it's the rural and suburban nature of North Carolina that might be helping protect us from the worst of the pandemic.

We talk to Keith Debbage, a professor of geography at UNC-Greensboro, about why some states with similar sized populations are experiencing much worse Covid-19 outcomes.


Learning Interrupted

Apr 27, 2020

Our state's educational institutions have been turned upside down by the pandemic. School buildings are empty, and resources are evaporating.

The upheaval is being felt by the more than 1.5 million public-school students, and the 1 million students in public, private, and community colleges, as well as tens of thousands of teachers, faculty members, principals, food-service employees, bus drivers, etc.

We talk to WUNC education reporters Liz Schlemmer and Cole del Charco about the many changes students, parents, and others are facing.


School's Out

Apr 24, 2020

Governor Roy Cooper today announced that public school facilities in North Carolina would stay closed through the end of the academic year. It came a day after he announced a three-stage plan to re-open the state, when specific benchmarks are reached.

Republican leaders pushed back against his stay-at-home order, even as the two parties have worked in a more bipartisan fashion behind the scenes in legislative committees.

We speak with Rose Hoban, the editor of North Carolina Health News, about what came out of those committees, and the ongoing challenges of getting information on the meat processing plant outbreaks in the state.


Today, Governor Roy Cooper extended his stay-at-home order until May 8. He also laid out a more specific, three-phase plan for re-opening North Carolina's economy.

In very simple terms, Cooper wants to see decreases or sustained leveling in four trends, twice as many tests conducted per day and twice as many people who can trace cases, and a larger supply of N-95 masks and gowns.

As benchmarks are hit, restrictions will be lifted. It's part of an effort to get the 700,000 or so North Carolinians who have filed for unemployment back to work.

Behind every number, of course, is a difficult or traumatic story. We talk with WUNC's Jeff Tiberii about how unemployed workers are getting by and how the state is trying to help.


Racial Disparities

Apr 22, 2020

About 21% of the people who live in North Carolina are African-American, but black people make up 39% of COVID-19 cases in the state - and 37% of the deaths.

These disparities did not begin with this pandemic. The racial differences in health care are well-documented by all manner of researchers, including those in the Department of Health and Human Services.

We speak with Benjamin Money, the Deputy Secretary for Health Services at DHHS about how COVID-19 has put a new focus on the longstanding problem of racial health disparities.


The South

Apr 21, 2020

Governor Roy Cooper says he is still weighing goals and will make a plan about what needs to happen before re-opening areas of the state.

Cooper's gubernatorial colleagues in the south are moving ahead, however, without similar considerations. Yesterday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said he was lifting restrictions across state within the next week on businesses from restaurants to hair salons to bowling alleys. Other governors in South Carolina and Tennessee are following suit.

Cooper is pointing specifically to testing; that we need to be able to do more than we can right now. Rose Hoban, the editor of North Carolina Health News, gives us an update on where North Carolina is with testing.
And we hear from a small-business owner who doesn't want to expose her customers to COVID-19, but she can’t stay closed much longer without help.


Critical Care

Apr 20, 2020

Bevin Strickland is a nurse and doctoral student a UNC Greensboro. She's 47 years old, and a single mother of three.

When the COVID-19 outbreak hit New York, Strickland immediately explored ways she could help. After looking to volunteer, her friend Eric suggested that she sign a two-month contract to work as a nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in Queens.

WUNC reporter Liz Schlemmer has been talking to Strickland by video calls since she landed in New York City two weeks ago.

In this episode, Strickland explains what she's seeing and feeling, and she and Liz explore the importance of critical care in both of their lives.


To this point in the pandemic response, political partisanship hasn't been a major issue in North Carolina.

But that fight is likely to come. Soon.

Governor Roy Cooper is, of course, a Democrat. The state House and Senate are majority Republican. This is not news. It led, last summer, to a stalemate over the state budget.

While factions are developing over when to re-open the state's economy, the next big fight ahead will likely be over money. North Carolina has received about $2 billion in federal funds to deal with the pandemic, and another $2 billion is expected.

We speak with Rose Hoban, editor of North Carolina Health News, about how the General Assembly may choose to spend that money, and the role partisan politics may play in the weeks ahead. And we also take a virtual visit to the North Carolina Zoo.


The Peak

Apr 16, 2020

It's been the subject of intense research and modeling by renowned experts, and a favorite parlor game for the rest of us: When will we hit "The Peak?"

Even the best models disagree about when, where and how we’ll get there, or even how many "peaks" there might be, but the models are all we have as we start to think and plan for how to dial back social distancing.

We speak with Aaron McKethan, a senior fellow in the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, and one of the researchers working on models in North Carolina.


The Youngest Generation

Apr 15, 2020

Years from now, our kids will likely write essays about this pandemic. Right now, some of those future high school and college kids are busy learning their ABCs at home. But if their parents are essential workers, they might still need to rely on their local child care facility - that is, if it's still open.

We talk with Donna White, the interim president of Smart Start, about how the child care system is trying to adapt to the pandemic, and how the structure of the program she runs made it susceptible to a global crisis.

Also, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, one of the leading National Institutes of Health scientists working to come up with a COVID-19 vaccination, has strong ties to the Triangle.


Vulnerability

Apr 14, 2020

The pandemic is exposing weaknesses and inequities throughout our society and systems. Some are simply annoying, like hackers jumping into our Zoom calls, but others have serious consequences, like employer-based health-care, when so many are losing jobs and need coverage more than ever.

When it comes to public health, the most vulnerable people are at the highest risk. But so are the systems that serve them.

Rose Hoban, editor of North Carolina Health News, explains why rural hospitals are at particular financial risk, and what that means for people living in those communities. Also, Duke professor Sandy Darity lays out the potential catastrophic level of African American unemployment.


The Week Ahead

Apr 13, 2020

The numbers for today are in, and they are both grim, and a little hopeful. As of Monday, 86 people have now died in North Carolina, but the number of hospitalizations has dropped by about 15% since Saturday.

Concerns are growing over COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes across the state, as facilities in Franklin, Chatham, and Orange counties report dramatic rises in cases.

In Dare County, they have a different problem: A burgeoning economic catastrophe related to the potential loss of tourist season. WUNC's Jay Price speaks with a county commissioner/restaurant owner about the current situation and preparations for the near future.

Also, student journalists at Riverside High School go to extraordinary efforts to publish the school paper in the midst of the pandemic.


Reporting

Apr 10, 2020

Today: Reporting.

Earlier this month, when Governor Roy Cooper issued his executive order that people stay-at-home, he listed out some essential businesses and operations that could continue.

The list included the obvious, like grocery stores and pharmacies. But the "essential" list also included car mechanics, hardware stores, and news media outlets. No one believes for a second that reporters are on-par with health-care workers or pharmacists on the list of most essential. But, access to verified, accurate information is important.

We speak about the essential nature of news with Rose Hoban, editor of North Carolina Health News, and we hear from WUNC's Jay Price about how a reporter manages risk, and how this pandemic is different from the war-zone reporting he has done in the past. 


Congregate Living

Apr 9, 2020

Even if the term is unfamiliar, the situation probably isn't. If you've ever lived in a college dormitory, you've been in a congregate living situation… where you live side-by-side with other people, maybe sharing bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and various public spaces.

That term has taken on new importance now, especially in places like nursing homes. It's led Governor Roy Cooper to issue new rules.

As the numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to climb, so do the number of survivors. The Department of Health and Human Services is not providing statewide data on the number of people who have been treated and released from hospitals, but Dale Folwell is one of them. He's North Carolina's State Treasurer. Now in recovery, Folwell talks to WUNC's Jeff Tiberii.
 


State Vs Federal

Apr 8, 2020

In a conference call on March 16, President Donald Trump told governors it should try to get ventilators and other life-saving equipment on their own.

Three-and-a-half weeks later, states are competing against each other and against other countries for a limited supply of PPE, ventilators, and other vital tools in combating COVID-19.

We talk to Rose Hoban, editor of North Carolina Health News, about how that dynamic between the federal and state government is playing out in hospitals.


Predicting The Curve

Apr 7, 2020

Predicting how the COVID-19 pandemic will play out in North Carolina is a difficult task. Yesterday, some of the state's best minds from Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, and RTI crunched the data and offered up their best prediction for what hospitals could expect.

Their message: We need to stay home for a longer period of time.

We talk with WUNC's Will Michaels. He spends most of his waking hours watching the numbers and the various models, and he explains the importance of yesterday's prediction.


Protection

Apr 6, 2020

Hospital administrators across North Carolina are planning for every scenario they might face during the COVID-19 outbreak. According to UNC Health officials, one of those contingency plans is what to do if half of their providers get sick with COVID-19.

A large-scale survey released today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General is clear: The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) that might keep that from happening is frightening.

We talk with Rose Hoban, the editor of North Carolina Health News, about the type of work health care providers administer in the pandemic, and how that puts them – and their families – at a unique level of risk.


Charlotte

Apr 3, 2020

North Carolina's largest city is also the first serious outbreak of COVID-19 in the state. Hospitalizations there are increasing rapidly, and officials are preparing to be overrun.

On Friday afternoon, Governor Roy Cooper made it clear that North Carolina, like every other state, is pretty much on its own, as the federal government has only fulfilled 33 percent of the requests for supplies and equipment, and told state officials not to expect anything more.

We take a look at what's happening in Charlotte and what it means for the rest of the state with Rose Hoban, the editor and founder of North Carolina Health News.


Stress

Apr 2, 2020

We all have a role to play in this pandemic. For the majority of us, it's to stay home, stay away from others, and do our best to manage our lives through the next few weeks of social distancing.

For some, unanswered questions are a cause of stress, but for others, the stress is more acute and focused - people who have loved ones who are sick, or those fighting the disease on the front lines, in hospitals across North Carolina.

We talk today with Shevaun Neupert. She's a professor of psychology at N.C. State University and researches stress. Neupert explains the difference between regular, everyday stress, and the chronic variety we are feeling now.


Models

Apr 1, 2020

It's hard to know what, exactly, to expect here. Is North Carolina going to be like New York? Or New Orleans? Will we see our hospitals overrun?

Or might we get to where the Bay Area is? Early and decisive actions seem to have made a difference there. As of now, hospitals in northern California are not overrun, and the curve there might just be flattening.

Today on Tested, we talk to Rose Hoban from North Carolina Health News about which states might serve as a bellwether for what North Carolina can expect, and she shines a light on some of the unsung heroes of the health care community.


Pages