Tested Podcast

  

Tested is a hard look at how North Carolina and its neighbors face the day's challenges. Hosted by journalists Dave DeWitt and Leoneda Inge. Produced at North Carolina Public Radio, WUNC.

Available now on Apple Podcasts, StitcherGoogle PodcastsNPR One, Spotify, and the WUNC App.

When Lanisha Jones went to vote in the 2016 election, she didn’t think she was doing anything wrong. She thought she was simply exercising her right to vote. But in 2019, the district attorney in Hoke County charged her with voting illegally because at the time she was still on probation from a felony conviction.

Since then, Jones has been fighting the charges, and says she was unfairly targeted for unknowingly committing a crime when she voted.

Host Leoneda Inge joins Jeff Tiberii, host of WUNC’s Politics Podcast, to talk with Jones about the charges and how her experience fits into a larger history of disenfranchisement in North Carolina. Leoneda also speaks with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) about his North Carolina roots, the upcoming election and working to strengthen people’s right to vote.
 


North Carolina has been in some version of a statewide shutdown for nearly six months. Throughout that time, COVID-19 has demanded a never-ending list of challenges and risks, especially for communities of color. Since the beginning of the pandemic, African Americans have accounted for a disproportionate number of coronavirus-related deaths due to long-standing systemic racial health disparities.

Host Dave DeWitt talks with Whitney Robinson, an associate professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Public Health, about ways the virus could have been more mitigated, and the efforts communities of color are making to keep themselves safe.

Dave also discusses how the North Carolina Forest Service is providing aid to western states as raging wildfires continue to burn millions of acres.
 


With Election Day less than two months away, candidates are in full force on the campaign trail trying to woo voters. But what message are they crafting to appeal to their constituents? When it comes to talking about race, politicians have used coded language to conjure racist stereotypes for decades. The technique is called “dog whistle politics.” 

Guest host Charlie Shelton-Ormond talks about the influence of dog-whistle politics with Ian Haney Lopez, the Chief Justice Earl Warren professor of public law at the University of California-Berkeley. 

Charlie also shares a statement from WUNC about Black lives and racial equity with colleagues Kamaya Truitt and Naomi Prioleau.


As COVID-19 cases climb at many colleges and universities in North Carolina, schools are maintaining dashboards to track and present different data and terminology. But are the dashboards enough of a resource to keep students and faculty informed about the virus on their campus?

Host Dave DeWitt talks with WUNC education reporter Liz Schlemmer about the role of dashboards in tracking COVID-19 cases at colleges and universities.
 


Tourism in North Carolina has been hit hard by COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, the state has suffered an estimated loss of $6.8 billion in travel spending revenue, according to a report by Visit NC. With lower visitation numbers and limited capacities in public spaces, tourist destinations across the state have had to adjust to the challenging circumstance.

Host Leoneda Inge talks with Michelle Lanier, director of the North Carolina Division of State Historic Sites and Properties, about the significance of historic sites during the pandemic. She also speaks with Wit Tuttell, executive director of Visit NC, about the financial hit in the tourism industry and ways the state is bouncing back.

Finally, Leoneda recognizes the life and legacy of North Carolina writer Randall Kenan, who passed away last week, and highlights his essay, “Visible Yam.”
 


As universities wrestle with a semester upended by COVID-19, college athletes in the ACC are being asked to stay on campus and get ready for their upcoming seasons.

Host Dave DeWitt talks with Andrew Carter, reporter for the News & Observer and Charlotte Observer, about the fall football season and what it signals for the rest of college athletics.

We also hear about a weekly newscast called "John News," hosted by seven-year-old John Wartmore of Chapel Hill, NC.
 


Hundreds of thousands of North Carolina renters are at risk of being forced out of their homes now that government moratoriums on evictions have expired. Earlier this week, Gov. Roy Cooper announced new grant programs to help people pay their rent and utilities, but many will need to see relief sooner than later as housing payments continue to pile up.

Host Leoneda Inge talks with Kathryn Sabbeth, associate professor of law and head of the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, about how a rise in evictions will affect families and communities during the pandemic.

Leoneda also reflects on Republican Party reactions to recent protests in the wake of a police officer shooting Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back in Kenosha, WI.


Some of North Carolina’s key COVID-19 metrics are trending slightly downward, but that doesn’t mean the pandemic is close to being over.

Host Dave DeWitt talks with Rose Hoban, editor of North Carolina Health News, about the latest COVID numbers and the state of rural hospitals and vaccine trials in North Carolina.

We also hear producer Charlie Shelton-Ormond discuss ethics during the pandemic with Jim Thomas, associate professor of epidemiology and a fellow at the Parr Center for Ethics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 


Names of Confederates, segregationists, and white supremacists on campus and government buildings have captured most of the public’s attention when it comes to how institutions are reckoning with structural racismHowever, several prisons across the South also bear the names of problematic figures, or former plantations.

Host Leoneda Inge talks with Keri Blakinger, investigative reporter for The Marshall Project, about contextualizing the names of prisons in the South.

Leoneda also recaps the just-wrapped Democratic National Convention, and highlights the significance of the event’s roll call of delegates.
 


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced Monday that it will be moving all undergraduate classes online after the university reported 130 new positive COVID-19 cases among students and multiple clusters of cases. 

Host Dave DeWitt examines how some students are responding to the change of plans by the university after a stressful first week of the fall semester.

We also hear about the efforts of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in western North Carolina in combating the spread of COVID-19, and how their tradition of collective responsibility has helped keep the virus at bay.
 


Sen. Kamala Harris’s historic nomination as Joe Biden’s pick for vice president is a clear marker of Black women’s longstanding political influence. Black women have been a backbone in politics for decades, from helping organize campaigns to upholding democratic ideals, to now achieving a spot on a national party’s ticket.

Host Leoneda Inge talks with Kara Hollingsworth, a partner with the political consulting firm Three Point Strategies, and social justice advocate Omisade Burney-Scott about Harris’s nomination and the role of Black women in politics.

Leoneda also speaks with NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe about the Trump campaign’s efforts to appeal to Black voters.

Plus, we hear from Trei Oliver, head coach of the football team at North Carolina Central University, about a fall without football.


There are now more than 130,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina, as a result of more than 2 million conducted tests. But testing is not the only method to determine the prevalence of the virus in a community.

Researchers are also analyzing the wastewater in sewage systems to determine levels of COVID-19 in several towns and cities across the state.

Host Dave DeWitt talks with Dr. Rachel Noble, professor of marine sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, about her team’s wastewater research and how it can improve efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

We also hear about a new study that asked people across the country how they have experienced pandemic-related stress.
 


While most historically Black colleges and universities in North Carolina are welcoming students back to campus this month, some small, private institutions are offering only virtual instruction this fall.

Host Leoneda Inge talks with Suzanne Walsh, president of Bennett College in Greensboro, about the college’s decision to go online this semester.  

We also hear Durham-based jazz musician Brian Horton perform a unique rendition of the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often called the Black national anthem.


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.
 


For many white people who are recognizing their privilege and complacency around systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd's death, turning acknowledgement into an action plan to dismantle racism remains a challenge.

Host Leoneda Inge has seen how paralyzing and disorienting "white guilt" can be, and she recounts a trip she took from Durham, NC to Montgomery, AL on a bus of predominantly white people to see several Civil Rights museums and memorial sites. She also speaks with Desiree Adaway, founder of The Adaway Group, about Adaway’s experience organizing conversations with white people about systemic racism.

We also hear from Ronda Taylor Bullock, co-founder of the Durham-based nonprofit “we are,” about dealing with racism as a family in a candid conversation with her 9-year-old son Zion.
 


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.


For workers across the country, the pandemic has brought to the surface longstanding issues around lack of stability and support in the workplace. Earlier this week, demonstrators gathered in downtown Durham, North Carolina to advocate for a $15 minimum wage as a part of the national rally called “Strike for Black Lives.” The event was just one example of how employees across multiple industries have felt underpaid and undervalued by their employers.

Host Leoneda Inge hears from people about their experiences in the workforce during the pandemic, and she speaks with attorney Carena Lemons about workers’ rights related to COVID-19.

Inge also remembers the life and legacy of civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, who died last week at 80 years old.
 


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.

 


The World Health Organization reports there are more than 150 vaccines for COVID-19 in various stages of development. But how do you ensure that everybody is fairly represented in clinical research trials, especially when people of color are dying at higher rates from the virus?

Host Leoneda Inge talks with Kent Thoelke, chief scientific officer and executive vice president of PRA Health Sciences, about the clinical research organization’s efforts to connect with diverse populations for COVID-19 treatment and vaccine trials.

Inge also discusses a recent measure passed by Asheville city council that will provide reparations for the city’s Black community. The resolution calls on the city to create a commission and designate funds to strengthen Black home and business ownership, and close gaps in healthcare, education and employment.


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.

The personal loss of a loved one leads host Leoneda Inge to reflect deeply on the recent experience of saying goodbye during the pandemic.

Despite social distancing and stay-at-home orders preventing large groups from gathering together, Black communities have still found ways to mourn the loss of family and friends.  Whether it’s live streaming a service, mandating face masks, limiting attendance or offering creative kinds of support to relatives, people are adapting to the current challenges of organizing funerals and memorials.

Inge also talks with Nina Jones Mason, manager of Ellis D. Jones & Sons Funeral Directors, about grieving during this unique time.


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.


Confederate monuments, memorials, and names on buildings are coming down across the South. In the last month, many of the region's long standing symbols have been stripped, from the Mississippi state flag to a statue of Stonewall Jackson in Richmond, Virginia.

Host Leoneda Inge visits the city of Quincy, Florida, after officials swiftly removed their Confederate landmark, and she speaks with Mitch Colvin, mayor of Fayetteville, North Carolina, about recent protests against the legacy of Confederate symbolism in his city. Leoneda also reflects on the significance of recent changes to capitalize “Black” in newsrooms.

Our thanks to WRAL for supplying some of this episode's audio.

 


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 Black, Latinx, and Indigenous populations continue to endure a disproportionate number of COVID-19-related deaths, state and local health departments are working to increase access to testing and other health care services for communities of color.

Host Leoneda Inge travels to a free testing site in a predominantly Black community in Tallahassee, FL, and talks with Dr. Cardra Burns, senior deputy director of the North Carolina Division of Public Health, about our state’s efforts to bolster testing and break down systemic barriers to health care.

We also make a big announcement about the podcast and hear from musician Shana Tucker about her experience performing “America the Beautiful” on the cello as a Confederate monument was recently disassembled in Raleigh.

Our thanks to the News & Observer for supplying some of this episode’s audio.

Correction: a previous version of this story misidentified Dr. Cardra Burns as the senior deputy secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

The state Department of Health and Human Services reports three clusters of COVID-19 at childcare centers across North Carolina. A “cluster” is defined as five or more cases, with links between cases, at a licensed or regulated childcare facility.

As state health officials try to mitigate these clusters, parents and childcare directors must grapple with what’s best for kids’ safety. About a third of all childcare centers in the state have remained closed since March, while advocates predict around a third of facilities could close permanently.

We talk with WUNC education reporter Liz Schlemmer about the obstacles childcare owners and parents are facing. We also hear about a camp that’s adjusting to a different kind of summer.

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.


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.
 


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