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Coronavirus Crisis

Cooper: Utilities can’t shut off service for nonpayment

Unemployment claims skyrocket as COVID-19 cases mount

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RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order Tuesday that prohibits utilities from shutting off service to people who are unable to pay.

“Today’s action orders that electric, gas, water and wastewater services can’t shut off for the next 60 days. Telecommunication companies that provide phone, cable and internet services are strongly urged to follow these same rules,” Cooper said. “This order encourages banks not to charge customers for overdraft fees, late fees and other penalties.”

North Carolina has more than 1,857 positive cases of COVID-19 across 83 counties as of Thursday morning. There have been 16 deaths across the state and 184 people are currently hospitalized. The median age of people who tested positive is 47 years old.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 40% of hospital beds and 25% of intensive care beds are empty, according to Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Those numbers are based on reports from 84% of state hospitals.

Wake County has 229 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no deaths as of Thursday morning. In Wake County, the average age of people with COVID-19 is 46 years old with 54% identifying as female.

Franklin County had 12 confirmed cases and zero deaths as of Thursday morning.

Unemployment

More than 6.6 million people across the country sought unemployment aid last week. That doubled the previous record of 3.3 million from the week before. This means around 3% of the U.S. population has registered for unemployment benefits in two weeks due to job losses related to COVID-19.

The last highest unemployment record in U.S. history was 695,000 in 1982.

In North Carolina, jobless claims reached 170,881 March 28, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That is almost double from around 94,000 claims the week before. The state Commerce Department says more than 353,000 initial claims were filed between March 16 and April 1 with more than 308,000 being related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Education

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors voted to change admission requirements to all UNC System schools at its Monday meeting.

The change allows students to meet either a GPA of 2.5 or a minimum ACT score of 19 to apply. The change takes effect Fall 2020. The intent is to help students who were not able to take or retake a standardized test this spring due to COVID-19.

The Wake County Public School System changed the calendar for all year-round schools effective April 13. These schools will follow a traditional school calendar for as long as schools remain closed due to the pandemic.

The district made the change to keep as many students as possible engaged in learning while school buildings are closed.

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