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

A screengrab of a video released on Aug. 5, 2020 that shows the events that led up to the December death of John Neville, an inmate in the Forsyth County Jail.
Forsyth County Sheriff

Officials released videos today that show the events that led up to the December death of John Neville, an inmate in the Forsyth County Jail. According to an autopsy report, he died by positional and compressional asphyxia during face-down restraint.

After pivoting to virtual instruction in the spring, colleges and universities are now taking different approaches to try to keep students and faculty safe as a new semester gets underway.

Some smaller private institutions are keeping things remote, and offering all-online classes. Meanwhile, the 17 schools within the UNC system are welcoming students back into dorms and offering a mix of in-person and virtual classes. 

Host Dave DeWitt talks with Randy Woodson, chancellor of North Carolina State University, about the school’s preparations for an unprecedented semester. 

DeWitt also reflects on his experience as a parent sending his oldest child off to college, and adjusting expectations during the pandemic.
 


This GOES-16 GeoColor satellite image taken Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, at 9:40 a.m. EDT., and provided by NOAA, shows Hurricane Isaias over the Bahamas
NOAA via AP

Updated at 7:45 p.m. on Aug. 2

A state of emergency is in effect for much of North Carolina as Tropical Storm Isiais approaches. The brunt of the storm is expected to hit the piedmont and coastal plane late Monday and into Tuesday.

The pandemic hasn’t halted much traffic for summer vacationers in some areas of the North Carolina coast. In June, Cape Hatteras National Seashore in Dare County saw its largest number of visitors in nearly 20 years. But even as people come from states with higher COVID numbers, Dare County’s health department has mostly been able to keep COVID under control. 

Host Dave DeWitt talks with Sheila Davies, director of the department of health and human services in Dare County, about the role of residents and visitors in combating the virus in the coastal county. We also hear about a new app that aims to help healthcare workers better understand their mental health.


The pandemic has infiltrated and affected every aspect of human life, across the globe. The devastating health and economic impacts have been undeniable, and ever-present.

But there’s something else happening that’s not as noticeable: the animals. Creatures with fur, feathers and paws have been spotted in some unexpected places since there haven't been as many humans getting in their way.

WUNC’s Laura Pellicer and Elizabeth Friend were curious about the effect a drastic decrease in human activity might have on wildlife. So they decided to look at one animal in particular, and see if it’s behavior has changed since North Carolina shut down from COVID-19.

On this episode, we’re featuring "CREEP," an audio special about our relationship with wildlife during the pandemic.

 


What will happen in the fall? It’s a question that’s burning in the minds of parents, teachers and students since schools were closed in March. On Tuesday, Governor Roy Cooper announced schools will be allowed to reopen for both in-person and remote learning with safety protocols in place. Meanwhile, parents are faced with the difficulty of determining what will be best for their child’s health and education in the upcoming semester.

We hear from Dr. Charlene Wong, assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke University, about the impact of in-person and remote learning on families and students.

We also talk with Dr. Brian Burrows, medical director and chair of the emergency department at Duke Regional Hospital, about life as a medical professional during a pandemic, and how to manage personal well-being as a doctor on the frontlines.

After months of socially distant play dates, remote learning and unplanned Fortnite marathons, families have done their very best to find a “new normal” during the pandemic. Throughout all the stress and uncertainty, families are staying resilient, creative and connected.

We talk with Dr. Christine Murray, director of the Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships at UNC-Greensboro, about shifting family dynamics and how households have adjusted to different routines in quarantine.

We also talk with Dr. Anita Blanchard, associate professor of psychological and organization science at UNC-Charlotte, about the influence of video conferencing platforms like Zoom on people’s sense of community.


North Carolina residents have lived under various rules and policies throughout the gradual reopening, and last week Governor Roy Cooper added a new one to the list: a statewide mandate to wear face coverings.

Growing evidence shows that face masks can help reduce the spread of the virus. Yet some people, like President Donald Trump, are still reluctant to wear one.

We talk with Dr. Julia Marcus, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, about the rhetoric tied to wearing a face mask and how public health messaging can adapt. We also hear from a hygiene expert about a possible future for sports fans.


As state officials continue to heed the call for social distancing and face coverings, researchers and health experts have been busy examining the trends and forecasting possible scenarios for the pandemic’s future.

We talk with Kim Powers, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, about her work modeling the projection of COVID-19 in North Carolina.

We also hear about the work of a historic site to celebrate Juneteenth, while social distancing.

The next phase of North Carolina’s gradual reopening is in jeopardy as many of the state’s health trends continue to move in the wrong direction. Hospitalizations on average are on the rise, while 1,154 people have died from the virus.

We talk with Rose Hoban, editor and founder of North Carolina Health News and a registered nurse, about the positive test rate in the state and other alarming trends that could influence the next steps.  Host Dave DeWitt also reflects on the special experience of his son’s high school graduation.


StockSnap / Pixabay Creative Commons


Colleges and universities across North Carolina – and across the country – are developing plans and backup plans for how to conduct classes this fall during the coronavirus pandemic. All are weighing safety and health risks with financial realities, and the realities of college life. 

There have been more than 700 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than a dozen outbreaks at state correctional facilities. Five inmates at state prisons and one person on prison staff have died from the virus.

State officials say they’ve been following CDC guidelines for testing and treatment, but some argue officials aren’t doing enough for inmates. On Monday, a state judge sided with civil rights groups, and ruled that state prisons must come up with a plan to test every inmate for COVID-19.

We hear from Elaine White about her experience being incarcerated during the pandemic, and why she is concerned for the health of people at correctional facilities. And we check in with WUNC data reporter Jason deBruyn about testing at state prisons.


Since the start of Phase 2, some of the state’s key COVID-19 metrics haven’t been trending in the ways North Carolina’s leaders had hoped. On Tuesday the number of hospitalizations hit a new high, with the state Department of Health and Human Services reporting 774 people in the hospital with COVID-19. This peak comes after North Carolina also saw its single highest day of new cases reported over the weekend.

We talk with Dr. David Wohl, infectious disease physician at UNC School of Medicine, about the upticks in hospitalizations and what it means for the road ahead. We also hear about a memorial for George Floyd this past weekend in Raeford, North Carolina.
 


The demographic breakdown of COVID-19 cases remains a grim reminder of rampant racial health disparities in our nation. For black and Latinx communities especially, the consequences of longstanding gaps in healthcare have been intensified by the pandemic.

Hispanics account for 39% of confirmed COVID-19 cases, but only comprise about 10% of the total population. But there are several barriers prohibiting Latinx folks from getting adequate testing and treatment during the pandemic. We talk with Eliazar Posada, community engagement and advocacy director for El Centro Hispano, and Paola Jaramillo, cofounder of Enlace Latino NC, about outreach within the Latinx community.


In the past week, protests have taken place throughout North Carolina, and across the country, in response to the death of George Floyd. Floyd, who was born in North Carolina, was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis last week. In a video, Floyd can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” while the officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

The ongoing protests are also fueled by historic and longstanding violence and institutional inequalities perpetrated against black Americans- inequalities that have been illuminated by the pandemic’s death toll.

We talk with William Darity, director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center for Social Equity at Duke University, and the co-author of the new book “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century.” We also hear from Brianna Baker, a public health analyst with RTI International, about attending a protest in Raleigh on Saturday and why she feels an urgency to organize despite a pandemic.


Two heads of state clashed this week after President Trump put Governor Roy Cooper in the crosshairs of his active, and now partially fact-checked, Twitter account. Trump threatened to pull the Republican National Convention out of North Carolina if Cooper couldn’t guarantee full capacity for the event in August.

On Thursday, the Republican National Committee sent Cooper a set of guidelines on safety at the convention, but Cooper has asked for more details on the vague game plan.

Meanwhile, the General Assembly is already looking toward November and voters' safety at the polls. A bill is moving through the state legislature that would grant easier access to voting by mail in the upcoming elections.

We talk with WUNC politics reporter Rusty Jacobs about the bill and how it might influence the way people in North Carolina vote this fall.


The main objective of the all the stay-at-home orders was to flatten the curve and make sure hospitals across the state didn’t become overrun. That has so far been successful in North Carolina. But, as "stay-at-home" becomes "safer-at-home," there’s been a spike in cases, percentage of positive tests and hospitalizations. Meanwhile, hospitals and health care workers in other states have seen a greater surge, and are now seeing a greater decline.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, health care employees have worked tirelessly to treat COVID-19 patients — and in many cases save those patients’ lives — while risking their own life in the process. The emotional and mental stress doctors, nurses and others in the medical field experience inside the hospital will likely stay with them after the pandemic subsides.

We check back in with Bevin Strickland, a nurse and doctoral student at UNC Greensboro who recently returned home after working on a contract at Mount Sinai Hospital in Queens, New York. WUNC reporter Liz Schlemmer talked with Strickland about the transition back to North Carolina and the psychological toll of working in critical care during the pandemic.


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.


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