NC Coronavirus News Collaborative

As COVID-19 Spikes In Some ZIP Codes, Causes Aren't Always Clear

Aug 13, 2020
Vehicles drive through a crossroads near the unincorporated community of Dudley, NC on Monday August 10, 2020. The majority minority 28333 zip code, which includes Dudley, had a coronavirus infection rate higher than the Wayne county average and has one o
Travis Long / The News and Observer

A few miles south of Goldsboro, in a county with thousands of acres of sweet potato and tobacco fields and speckled with hog farms, lies a ZIP code with one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in North Carolina.

A large brick industrial building with a Tyson sign on the side
Jacob Biba / Carolina Public Press

Nursing homes, schools, correctional facilities and childcare centers are required to report information about coronavirus outbreaks to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The state agency then shares that information publicly in its regularly-updated COVID-19 dashboard, which includes details about the specific facilities in which the outbreaks are happening and how many people have tested positive for the virus.

But the agency does not publish similar data about meat processing facilities, even though they have been a hot spot for the virus. 

Marisela Martinez stands for a portrait after an interview about working conditions as a housekeeper at Mountaire Farms, a poultry processing plant, on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, in Siler City, N.C.
Casey Toth / The News and Observer

On the first day of April, when confirmed cases of COVID-19 had barely broken 1,500 in North Carolina, Marisela Martínez started a housekeeping job through a subcontractor at the Mountaire Farms poultry plant in Siler City.

The chief judge for the Enka/Candler Library polling place in Buncombe County, Beth Aldecoa, works during the June 23 Republican runoff election in the 11th Congressional District.
Colby Rabon / Carolina Public Press

The dynamics of the global pandemic are driving up the need for more poll workers while simultaneously making people willing to work the polls harder to find.

As COVID-19 Spread In Meatpacking Plants, Workplace Complaints Piled Up

Jul 28, 2020
Tyson Farms meat processing plant in Wilkesboro was temporarily closed for cleaning after workers tested positive for COVID-19
Jacob Biba / Carolina Public Press

In April, a worker at Pilgrim's Pride poultry processing plant in Sanford called workplace safety regulators to complain that the plant wasn't notifying employees when other staffers tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Protesters sit outside the N.C. Executive Mansion in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday morning, June 30, 2020. They camped out overnight Monday to protest a new bill that further limits public access to death investigation records.
Ethan Hyman / News and Observer

Days after the North Carolina legislature's passage of a bill that includes a measure to further restrict death investigation records from public access, some lawmakers say they plan to walk back the provision.

NC Legislative Building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

While North Carolinians were sleeping early Friday morning, the General Assembly swiftly passed a bill that would shield death-investigation records from the public.

As COVID-19 Patients Increase, Hospitals Prepare For Surge

Jun 25, 2020
The COVID-19 triage tent next to the UNC Rex Hospital emergency department.
Jason deBruyn / WUNC

Leaders at health systems around the state say a combination of better medical care and larger stockpiles of protective gear mean they can handle surges in COVID-19 patients more effectively today than they could three months ago.

NC Kept Moving Inmates During Pandemic. Experts Say That Increased Risks.

Jun 18, 2020
Inmates at Neuse Correctional Institution, in Goldsboro, move between buildings on Sunday.
Scott Sharpe / News and Observer

A day after North Carolina prison leaders reported their first case of COVID-19, about 200 inmates at Neuse Correctional Institution refused to go back to their dorms. 

In the prison's recreation yard on April 2, they staged a protest over new restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the disease at the Goldsboro facility, where two inmates had already tested positive.

Some of the inmates, said state prisons commissioner Todd Ishee, threatened violence.

How Do Police Use Force In NC? Most Agencies Won't Say

Jun 16, 2020
Police disperse tear gas in downtown Raleigh during a protest on May 30, 2020 to call for justice in the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis earlier in the week.
Peyton Sickles / For WUNC

Law enforcement agencies across the state refuse to tell the public how they use force when policing their communities, citing provisions in state law they say shield such records from public view.

That's according to a survey of more than a dozen state and local police departments and sheriff's offices in North Carolina conducted over the past two weeks by a network of journalists from across the state.

Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons, answers a question during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic at the North Carolina Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, Thursday, May 28, 2020.
N.C. Department of Public Safety

The email sent to staff at Piedmont Correctional Institution in Salisbury on Friday, June 5, had a sense of urgency.

"ALL HANDS ON DECK!" it began, in capital letters.

Caswell Correctional Institute in Caswell County.

North Carolina prison officials announced Friday that they will test all inmates at Caswell Correctional Center for COVID-19, with results expected next week.

The announcement comes a little more than a week after a network of journalists across the state revealed that a nurse who worked at the prison died of the virus. Officials also announced the extension of a voluntary testing program for prison staff earlier this week.

Media Coalition Sues Cooper, Cabinet Agencies For COVID-19 Records

May 29, 2020
N.C. Governor Roy Cooper and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.
N.C. Department of Public Safety

A coalition of more than two dozen media outlets – including North Carolina Public Radio – filed a lawsuit on Thursday seeking the release of a list of records related to COVID-19 that the state had, so far, refused to provide.

The lawsuit names as defendants Gov. Roy Cooper and two of his Cabinet secretaries, Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Erik Hooks, secretary of the Department of Public Safety.

Tyson Farms meat processing plant in Wilkesboro was temporarily closed for cleaning after workers tested positive for COVID-19
Jacob Biba / Carolina Public Press

Meatpacking plants are breeding grounds for COVID-19 among workers.

Plant employees typically stand shoulder-to-shoulder on their feet for hours at a time, shoving and cutting carcasses. The work causes them to breathe heavily, and if they have COVID-19, they are spreading virus into the air, said Dr. Lisa Gralinski, an assistant professor at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

State Senator Phil Berger
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

State Senate leader Phil Berger is demanding answers from the North Carolina prison system following a news report Thursday that revealed the death of a Caswell Correctional Center nurse diagnosed with COVID-19.

Nurse's COVID-19 Death Raises Questions About Delayed Testing At NC Prison

May 22, 2020

Barbara Anne Stewart died at a hospital in Danville, Va., on May 7 at age 57.

Five weeks earlier, she had come home from her job as a nurse at the Caswell Correctional Center complaining she didn't feel well.