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Amid pandemic, Allies still find way to commemorate end of WWII in Europe

With the world in the grips of a pandemic, Allies pause to commemorate 75th anniversary of their WWII victory in Europe ââ A6

Cooper: Virus threat remains 'lethal' as stay-home order eased

RALEIGH — COVID-19 remains a “lethal threat” to North Carolina residents who don’t take it seriously, Gov. Roy Cooper said as rules he issued allowing more businesses to open took effect Friday night.

Cooper offered sobering comments Friday even while defending his decision this week to initiate the first part of his three-phase plan to ease restrictions that began in March. He said it’s still preferable that people to stay at home, but he urged social distancing and wearing of face masks in public.

“Phase One is a careful, modest step to reigniting our economy while keeping important safety rules in place,” Cooper said at a news briefing in which he told stories about some of the North Carolina residents who have died after catching the coronavirus.

As of Friday morning, 527 people in the state have died from the respiratory disease, including 20 on Thursday, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Each number represents the death of a real person,” Cooper said. “COVID-19 is a lethal threat. It is a cruel virus, causing grave harm in sometimes otherwise healthy people, separating people from their loved ones at the darkest of hours.”

Still, the Democratic governor and N.C. Secretary of Health Mandy Cohen said testing, tracing and supply trends support easing the order.

Most businesses can open as long as they limit customer occupancy, usually to 50% of what the fire code allows. Patrons and workers also must remain at least 6 feet apart and are encouraged to wear masks.

All but one state park will be open starting today.

Despite a 10-person limit on mass assemblies, church services can be held outdoors if congregants remain 6 feet apart.

Restaurants are still barred from offering dine-in options, while barber shops, gyms and movie theaters will remain closed. Those could be reopened, at least partially, in two weeks should statistics continue to improve.

Business groups, some Republican politicians and conservative activists want the state’s reopening accelerated.

Nursing homes residents now account for about half of the state’s coronavirus-related deaths, with 11 such facilities reporting 10 or more deaths, according to DHHS data.

A fifth state prison inmate who contracted COVID-19 — and the third at Neuse Correctional Center in Goldsboro — has now died, according to the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

A coalition of union leaders and worker activists have written to Cooper and other state officials asking them to do more to protect workers at meat and poultry plants.

Nearly 1,100 virus cases have been now been confirmed in 22 outbreaks and plants in 14 counties, the DHHS said Friday. It has declined to release the names of the plants, citing a law that protects the release of personal health information.

Officials at Smithfield, Mountaire Farms and Butterball have confirmed positive cases at North Carolina plants.

Thank you, educators

Teachers at The Middle College at N.C. A&T were honored Friday with a drive-by parade. Principal Travis Seegars gave out gifts and his administrative team welcomed the educators with air horns, signs and pompoms.

Find more photos at greensboro.com.

An interesting article in today's newspaper

Mark the date: The NFL schedule is out and it’s not looking good for the Carolina Panthers. Page B1

Service providers still wrestling with how to provide shelter for the homeless during pandemic as they decide when to change focus

GREENSBORO — How do you stay at home when you have no home?

Local agencies that help the homeless have struggled with solutions to that problem during the coronavirus pandemic and are continuing to work through the challenges.

So far, they say they’ve been fortunate. None of their clientele has tested positive for COVID-19, a highly contagious respiratory disease.

But as the restrictions of a state-mandated quarantine are eased — the initial phase started Friday night — these groups wonder how they will care for a vulnerable population that not only needs shelter but now the added task of protection against the coronavirus.

Complicating matters are social-distancing requirements, which limit the number of people shelters can take and may be in effect for weeks, if not months, to come.

One coalition has been able to circumvent that by working with the city of Greensboro and the United Way to provide housing for 150 homeless people in two hotels.

Still, leaders of that group worry that the next phase of easing restrictions, which is expected to come in two to three weeks, will end a stay-at-home order that has been in effect since late March.

If that happens, they may be forced to send the homeless back to the streets where they could become infected — and infect others.

For now, at least, the hotel program will continue through June 1, said Michelle Kennedy, whose Interactive Resource Center is spearheading the effort.

That agency and others are providing staffing and daily medical checks for those in the hotels.

The cost of the rooms is $145,000 a month, Kennedy said. The money comes from a COVID-19 relief fund the United Way operates in partnership with the city.

Kennedy said about 200 people have been housed in the hotel program. Some have been fortunate enough to find permanent housing. In the coming weeks, as the state returns to normal, others will likely need another place to stay as well.

“We’re just gonna keep doing what we’re doing until we can secure permanent housing or more permanent locations for them to be because there is no other option,” said Kennedy, a City Council member and the IRC’s executive director.

Meanwhile, the Continuum of Care, an umbrella group that coordinates Guilford County’s 12 homeless shelters, is wrestling with a different kind of problem.

Brian Hahne, the executive director of Partners Ending Homelessness, which manages the Continuum of Care, says those shelters are roughly at half their capacity — and that’s for a reason. The lower percentage allows for additional space between beds making it more difficult for the virus to spread from person to person.

But the lower occupancy raises a new problem: When the quarantine ends, how will shelters deal with the city’s constant influx of homeless who need temporary housing?

“The days of maybe having 100 beds packed into one room are probably over,” Hahne said.

Like the IRC, nonprofits Hahne works with are trying to find a permanent solution. That may include hotels — something Hahne’s group believes is expensive and difficult to staff.

With time running out before the second phase, agencies in his group will discuss their options next week.

“Everything’s on the table,” he said.