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Winston-Salem may soon require masks, Mayor Allen Joines says

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said Monday he will likely impose a requirement that people wear face masks in public if Gov. Roy Cooper does not do so today, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joines said the requirement would likely be similar to one put into effect in Greensboro on Monday by Mayor Nancy Vaughan.

The requirement in Greensboro goes into effect at 5 p.m. today, but Joines said any rule imposed here would allow a short period of time for people to get ready.

Joines said he would prefer that any rules on face coverings be statewide, so that everyone is following the same rules.

But Joines said he is prepared to act alone under his emergency powers if need be.

“It is a pretty effective way to protect the public,” Joines said, adding that studies show masks decrease the chances of passing on the coronavirus.

Joines said enforcement would rely on persuasion, and he doesn’t foresee police issuing many tickets.

“Enforcement is the tough part of this,” Joines said. “We are asking folks to be mindful of other people. The police strategy would be to remind people that there is a requirement to wear a mask.

In Greensboro, face coverings will be required anytime someone is in contact with other people in public and many private spaces where it is not possible to maintain social distancing.

Those places include grocery stores, drug stores, businesses, parking lots, sidewalks and on public transit.

People won’t have to wear face masks while they are with family or members of the same household, Greensboro officials said.

They are also not required for children under 12, people at restaurants while they are eating, or in private, individual offices.

The Greensboro requirements for face coverings also does not apply for people who can’t wear masks for health or religious reasons, or in settings where masks are not practical or feasible, such as while swimming or getting dental care.

The Greensboro rules also require face coverings for people working in restaurants and retail, or in businesses that provide personal services.

Greensboro is not the only North Carolina place that has put in masking requirements.

Durham County put masking requirements into effect on April 20. The city of Raleigh imposed masks in public last Friday. Boone has a requirement to wear masks in public that went into effect last Saturday. Dare County put in masking requirements on Sunday.

Protesters shut down University Parkway in Winston-Salem

About 150 protesters shut down three major roads Monday as they marched through northwestern Winston-Salem, demanding an end to deadly police violence against black people and calling for White city residents to join their cause.

The demonstrators forced Winston-Salem police to block University Parkway near Joel Coliseum, as well as Coliseum Drive and Reynolda Road as they walked 5½ miles along those streets. Monday’s event was the 15th day of protests in the city.

Before they started their march, the demonstrators stood along University Parkway, holding signs that said, “Black Lives Matter,” “White Silence=Violence,” “Honk 4 Justice,” “End Mass Incarceration,” “Justice for George Floyd,” “Dump Trump,” “Defund the Police” and “Justice for Rayshard Brooks.”

Many drivers honked their horns as they traveled by the protesters. Black Lives Matter of Winston-Salem helped organize the demonstration.

They also chanted, “No justice, no peace — no racist police,” “Say his name, George Floyd,” “Say her name, Breonna Taylor” and “I can’t breathe.” Most of the protesters wore masks amid the coronavirus pandemic, and many of them socially distanced themselves.

Floyd, 46, died May 25 when a Minneapolis police officer put his knee on his neck for nearly 9 minutes. Derek Chauvin, who was fired, has been charged with second-degree murder, among other offenses. Three other police officers at the scene, who also were fired, have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Taylor, 26, and her boyfriend were in bed in Louisville, Ky., when three armed police detectives broke through their front door three months ago. Gunfire erupted, killing Taylor, a black woman.

Brooks, 27, died June 12 in Atlanta after he was shot in the back by Officer Garrett Rolfe after they struggled in a parking lot at a Wendy’s restaurant. Rolfe, who was fired, has been charged with felony murder and other offenses in connection with Brooks’ death. Another officer, Devin Brosnan, also was charged with several offenses in connection with Brooks’ death.

Brittany Battle of Winston-Salem, a protest organizer, said that the city’s continuing protests have become a movement.

“This is necessary for sustained pressure on the city, the state and nationally,” Battle said. “Thank you for showing up in the middle of a pandemic. It’s hot out here.”

The demonstrators marched under sunny skies with temperatures reaching the high 80s on the second day of summer. Organizers distributed water and snacks to the protesters.

Eric Ellison, a Winston-Salem attorney, told the demonstrators they will get justice in Minnesota for Floyd’s death.

Ellison said that his brother, Keith Ellison, is Minnesota’s attorney general who is prosecuting the White police officer who killed Floyd.

“Keith has always been a righteous man,” Eric Ellison said of his brother. “He’s not scared of the police. We will get justice in Minnesota.”

The Winston-Salem Police Department should not acquire surplus military equipment from the U.S. Department of Defense, Ellison said. Local police officers are supposed to protect and serve and not wage war on local residents, he added.

Local officers are not killing innocent people, but “the police department needs to be closely examined to make sure that they are not violating people’s constitutional rights,” Ellison said.

When protesters reached the intersection of Coliseum Drive and Reynolda Road, they lay down in the street with hands behind their backs to demonstrate how Floyd died. Sara Hines of Winston-Salem, a demonstrator, said, “I can’t breathe. You’re killing me. Please officer, let me up.”

Hines then rose to her knees and led the demonstrators in singing the song, “Amazing Grace.”

Battle told the protesters that they marched through the Reynolda neighborhood to spread their message across the city.

“We will be back,” said Tony Ndage, a protest organizer. “We will head to another neighborhood in this direction. Black and brown lives matter.”

Winston-Salem man convicted in 2013 of hitting a 7-year-old girl now faces charges of ramming police cars with his vehicle.

A Winston-Salem man convicted in 2013 of hitting a 7-year-old girl with his car is now accused of ramming two police cars with his vehicle when officers tried to arrest him.

Edward Rashad Lee Fulks, 25, of Lexwin Avenue in Winston-Salem, was indicted Monday on numerous charges, including two counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a government official. He was also indicted on felony flee or elude arrest with a motor vehicle, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, carrying a concealed weapon, being a habitual felon and various other drug charges.

The charges stem from an incident that happened on March 9. Officer J.P. Anderson of the Winston-Salem Police Department was investigating a report of stolen property and had attempted to detain Fulks on the 1000 block of Charles Street. Fulks was accused of having an iPhone, valued at $1,000, that had been reported stolen, the indictments said.

Fulks was driving a 2018 Dodge Charger, and according to the indictments, he rammed his car into two police cars. One was driven by Anderson and another was driven by Officer R.C. Burns.

In November 2013, Fulks pleaded guilty to felony hit-and-run with injury, felony passing a stopped school bus and misdemeanor driving without a license. He was given a suspended sentence of 6 months to 17 months and placed on supervised probation for two years.

Patrick Weede, who was then a Forsyth County prosecutor, said in court that on Jan. 7, 2013, Kelly Seannee Smith, a second-grader at Gibson Elementary School, was crossing North Cherry Street to get on the bus. Fulks went around a car in front of him and hit Kelly with the passenger-side mirror. The bus’ cross arm was down and the lights were flashing, Weede said in court.

Kelly was struck in the face and the neck, and the mirror was knocked off Fulks’ vehicle. Kelly was not seriously injured. At the time of the incident, Fulks was 17 and attended North Forsyth High School. Fulks was driving to school.

Kerry Smith, Kelly’s father, talked to the Winston-Salem Journal in 2013 as part of a series about cars passing stopped school buses. He told the Journal that he had complained several times that the school bus stop near his house was dangerous.

Kerry Smith later filed a lawsuit against Fulks and the owner of the car that Fulks was driving, Deborah Fryer. The lawsuit was eventually settled for $81,000.

According to the latest indictments, Fulks’ driver’s license had been revoked at the time of the March 9 incident.

He also had been previously convicted of felony elude arrest with a motor vehicle.

State unemployment insurance benefit payments reach $1 billion threshold

North Carolina has surpassed the $1 billion mark in state unemployment insurance benefit payments, the state Division of Employment Security reported Monday.

Altogether, $4.37 billion has been paid in state and federal UI benefits between March 15 and 10:30 a.m. Monday.

The state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund was at close to $3.85 billion before the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic began. Since then, $1.006 billion has been paid out, 26.1% of fund total.

The remaining UI payment breakdown is: $2.35 billion from the federal pandemic unemployment-compensation package; $981.5 million in the federal pandemic unemployment-assistance package; and $39.2 million in pandemic-emergency unemployment compensation.

That means that 73.9% of UI payments to North Carolinians have coming from federal sources, mostly the $600 weekly benefit.

There have been 1.07 million individual claims and 1.6 million claims overall.

Some individuals have been required to file a second claim — after being determined to be ineligible for initial state benefits — in order to qualify for federal benefits that often include extended state benefits.

Currently 26.4% of the 4.06 million North Carolinians considered as part of the state’s workforce as of mid-May have filed a state or federal unemployment claim.

Over the weekend, 24,089 new claimants filed for benefits. The daily filing peak was 34,706 on March 30.

DES said 719,204 claimants have received state and/or federal benefits, or about 66.9% of the state’s UI benefit claimants.

The division said it has determined eligibility status for 93% of claimants, while there are 68,737 state UI claims awaiting a decision.

About 67% of claimants were approved and are receiving benefits. Another 20% have been determined to not be eligible, whether they lacked a sufficient wage history, have not filed a weekly certification or earned excessive wages in a benefit week. About 6% were not approved for state benefits and are awaiting a determination on federal benefits.

Economists and workers’ advocates stress the importance of Congress passing an extended round of benefits before the current round expires in late July.

“Making sure that unemployment insurance provides wage replacement to jobless workers is a first step to ensuring a recovery and minimizing the harm of this recession,” said Alexandra Sirota, director of the left-leaning N.C. Budget & Tax Center.

“That is why it is critical that the federal UI program is extended ... and why fixing the state UI program before then should be a top priority of all policymakers.”

North Carolina’s unemployment rate has tripled from 4.3% in March to 12.9% in May — a stark reflection of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the state’s economy.

Individuals without jobs and not actively looking for work are not counted as part of the labor force.