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Local
Forsyth County has 50 new COVID-19 cases and one additional death. Outbreaks have been reported at six care facilities so far.

One more Forsyth resident has died from COVID-19 and 50 new cases were reported by public health officials Wednesday.

There have now been at least 2,333 COVID-19 cases recorded in Forsyth County. The number of deaths is now at 26. The Forsyth County Health Department did not provide the age, race or gender of the person who died. According to the health department, 1,411 people have recovered, leaving 896 active cases.

Tony Lo Giudice, the county’s assistant public health director, said the person was in their late 50s and had underlying health conditions. He said he would not have other information about the person, such as race and gender, until next week’s more detailed report.

According to new data, there are outbreaks in what the state calls congregate living settings, which includes nursing homes. Silas Creek Rehabilitation Center has the largest outbreak in Forsyth County, with a total of 20 COVID-19 cases and one death. Nine staff members and 11 residents tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. A resident died.

The Citadel is the only other facility in Forsyth County that reported a death of a resident. The facility had six residents and six staffers test positive for COVID-19. Outbreaks were also reported at at Oak Forest Health and Rehabilitation, Piney Grove Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, the Oaks and Trinity Glen.

North Carolina reported 1,002 new cases Wednesday, pushing the total to 46,855. Statewide, 1,168 people have died. The state also set a new record for hospitalizations — 846 people are in the hospital because of COVID-19, according to the state’s health department. But Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s health director, told a General Assembly committee that the number of hospitalizations was 849.

It isn’t clear how many of those hospitalized patients are from Forsyth County.

Forsyth County has reported that 44 people were hospitalized since Saturday. That’s slightly down from its highest number — 49 — on June 11.

Joshua Swift, the county’s health director, will provide a detailed briefing at 2 p.m. today at the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners’ meeting. The public can watch the meeting on WSTV 13 or by clicking on this link: www.cityofws.org/493/WSTV-13.


Z-no-digital
Owners of hair salons, nail salons and barbershops wear masks as they have reopened amid the coronavirus pandemic. They also require their customers also to wear masks.

Erin Blakley, the owner of The Glass Door Salon and Spa, says she has exceeded the state requirements for reopening her personal-care business amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I took it further than we what were supposed to do,” Blakley said. “That was the right action to protect myself, my staff and my guests.”

Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order on May 20 that eased the restrictions on nonessential businesses in Phase Two of his plan to reopen the state’s economy. These businesses were allowed to reopen on May 22.

Cooper’s order contained six measures that personal-care business must follow, including limiting their customers to 50% of their capacity, limiting the number of people in businesses so patrons can stay 6 feet apart and requiring employees and customers to wear masks.

The furniture inside these businesses must be cleaned and disinfected between each customer, according to the state requirements.

The N.C. Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners has the same requirements for personal-care businesses. The board licenses cosmetologists, manicurists, estheticians and natural hair-care stylists

Blakley said she has implemented other measures as well at her salon on West Fourth Street.

Customers must wait in their vehicles rather than in the salon, and she and her four other employees serve one customer at a time, Blakley said. The customers maintain social distancing of 8 feet rather than 6 feet.

Customers are provided disposable masks and hand sanitizer, she said. The masks are attached with surgical tape to the customers’ cheeks and noses to help the stylists work on their hair.

Customers also sign a waiver stating they haven’t been exposed to the virus and they don’t have any symptoms, Blakley said. Those symptoms include coughing, colds, fevers and sore throats.

“We ask customers if they are sick, don’t come in,” Blakley said. “It’s a risk to yourself and my staff.”

Monique Parks, the owner of Monique Michelle The Studio, reopened her business June 2 on Trade Street.

Parks has faced many challenges since her business closed in mid-March amid the pandemic, she said.

Parks, who has a daughter, has limited money to buy supplies to reopen her business as she has just recently started receiving her unemployment benefits, she said.

Parks owes $1,700 in back rent for two months for her salon, but her home mortgage payments have been deferred for three months, Parks said.

“There are lot of clients who want to come in, but at the end of the day, you already know that you will not have 100% of your clients returning,” Parks said.

Many local hair salons are dealing with additional expenses in adhering to the state requirements for reopening, Parks said.

“We can’t control how the virus will be taken care of,” Parks said. “It’s frustrating. It’s overwhelming.

“I have to figure out if I can take care of my home or my business,” Parks said. “It’s scary.”

Nancy Nguyen, the owner of the Nail Cafe on Jonestown Road, said she is following the state requirements at her business.

“We try the best we can,” Nguyen said. “And it worked out very good.”

Customers must call her business before they arrive, and they must wear masks before they are treated by her manicurists, Nguyen said.

“If the salon’s employees see a customer not wearing a mask, we give them one before they enter the nail salon,” she said.

The Nail Cafe and the Oval Office Barber Shop on West Fourth Street also check their customers’ temperatures, said Nguyen and Carlos Carvana, the owner of the barbershop.

“No mask, no service,” Carvana said. “I wear an N95 mask. It’s kind of tough to breathe, but it protects me.”

Carvana has multiple sclerosis, and he’s concerned that the coronavirus could harm him, he said.

“I have to be very careful,” Carvana said.

Carvana manipulates the masks that his customers wear when he is cutting their hair around their ears, he said.

“If I’m doing a beard, it’s impossible for a client to have a mask,” Carvana said. “That’s why we check their temperature to make sure everything is OK.”

Dominique Walker, the owner and barber at Touch of Art Hair Studio on West Fifth Street, said he also is following the state requirements as he operates his business. Customers make appointments for haircuts, and they wear masks inside of his shop, Walker said.

Walker also wears a mask. He expects his business to return to normal by early July.

“People are still scared to go outside,” Walker said.


Local
WSTA employee tests positive for COVID-19

An employee of the Winston-Salem Transit Authority has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, Winston-Salem officials said, adding that co-workers of the employee who may have come into contact with the employee are being required to wear facial coverings.

The job that the employee holds was not identified because of privacy regulations. City officials noted that WSTA has been following federal, state and local guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the virus since the pandemic started, including cleaning and sanitizing buses.

As well, the city instituted fare-free rides as a way of further insulating passengers from contact with drivers. Fixed-route buses have a 15-passenger limit, while Trans-Aid buses, which serve the elderly and people with disabilities, have a nine-passenger limit.

In most cases, passengers get onto a bus using the rear door and leave by the same door, which maximizes the passenger’s distance from the driver.

Damon Dequenne, the assistant city manager, said that “right now, we don’t believe there was any close contact by that employee with employees or passengers.”

“The employee did the right thing and notified the supervisor immediately,” Dequenne said. “They followed all the proper protocols. We wish the employee well and we are glad it appears that the measures we are taking have been effective.”

WSTA buses are running a modified schedule that provides time for disinfecting buses. To make travel more convenient for people shopping for necessities, WSTA also relaxed the two-bag rule that was formerly in place.


Columnists
NC Senator Burr is left alone in the crosshairs of investigations over stock sales ahead of economic crash

A conga line of U.S. senators has now skimmed through a series of investigations by the Senate Ethics Committee and the U.S. Justice Department into allegations of insider stock trades made just before outbreaks of coronavirus caused global markets to tank.

One by one by one, their names — if not their reputations — were restored.

Probes into trades involving Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jim Inhofe, R-Okla, were dropped quietly in May. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., was cleared by the Ethics Committee on Tuesday.

And just like that, there was but one senator left holding the bag for what’s come to be known as Pandemic Profiteering — the honorable Sen. Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina and favored son of Winston-Salem.

No doubt a bumpy road lies ahead for Burr. But don’t hold your breath expecting a different outcome.

Alone

Loeffler, you might have heard, raised more of a ruckus about the dust-up than her colleagues from Oklahoma and California. Of course, that could be because she’s facing a tight re-election this year.

Her actions were examined by the U.S. Justice Department and the Ethics Committee. And like the others, she was cleared. The committee wrote that it had found “no evidence” that she had violated either the law or Senate rules.

That leaves poor Sen. Burr all by his lonesome in the dual crosshairs of the Justice Department and the Ethics Committee.

His swampiness, as far as this particular episode is concerned, emerged in March following the release of a recording in which he can be heard warning donor/check writers about the coronavirus while reassuring the rest of us schlubs that all is well.

“There’s one thing I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything we have seen in recent history,” Burr said to a private gathering. “It’s probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”

Of course, as the then-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr would have had the most up-to-date information on the spread of the coronavirus from China and elsewhere in the world.

No doubt it’s a bad look to tell one story to fat cats and another to regular folk. But it was compounded by the fact that he also decided to dump personal stocks in bunches — worth up to $1.72 million, in 33 separate transactions, a week before the markets tanked.

Oops.

Worse still, Burr almost certainly knew that the suckers back home, otherwise known as his constituents, were bound to find out.

Congress passed in 2012 a little thing called the STOCK Act, which banned insider trading among lawmakers and required them for the first time to publicly disclose their trades online.

Anybody surprised that Burr voted against it?

Pending peer review

For years, the senator was trading stocks in companies that were subject to regulation by committees of which he was a member.

It’s all perfectly legal for members of Congress, provided they can prove they weren’t acting on insider information.

But legal and, say, moral and ethical are worlds apart. Such trades reek of conflicts of interest. Some might even call it “swampy.”

All of which brings us back to the Pandemic Profiteering. FBI agents last month did seize his cellphone after serving a search warrant

Burr, nobody’s fool, all along has had little to say and in fact, requested himself a review by his peers.

“I relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision regarding the sale of stocks on February 13,” Burr said in a statement published on Twitter.

“Understanding the assumption many could make in hindsight however, I spoke this morning with the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and asked him to open a complete review of the matter with full transparency.”

The fun part is, he knows damn well that proving he acted on classified information will be next to impossible and the Senate won’t eat one of its own. Maybe he gets a stern letter in the mail.

The most likely outcome is that he’ll leave office with nothing more than a vague stench of forgotten scandal wafting behind him. It’s not like he got caught with a freezer full of bribe money.

But here’s the thing, and it’s really hard to ignore — especially now.

A U.S. senator, the very definition of privilege, will almost certainly be allowed to slink off to his beach house following a federal insider trading investigation.

The system is rigged. Is it any wonder that people are seething?