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Our roundup of the week's top stories in the Charlotte area and across North Carolina. Sign up here to get it sent straight to your inbox.

The Day Everything Changed — And New Hope: The Week In Review From WFAE

Erin Keever
In this March 2020 file photo, a sign on Interstate 277 in Charlotte reminds people that a stay-at-home order was in effect for Mecklenburg County due to the coronavirus.

The Day Everything Changed — And New Hope

A year ago, March 3 marked the anniversary of the first reported case of COVID-19 in North Carolina. But for most of us, it was a year ago this past week when the coronavirus truly altered all our lives.

NPR calls March 11, 2020, "the day everything changed." That's when the NBA shut down, Tom Hanks announced he had COVID-19 and former President Trump announced a 30-day travel ban on those coming from Europe. It was the day the virus began to alter everyone's life.

Closer to home, we remembered some local markers from a year ago this past week, too. A Providence High theater student shared how he learned in his final dress rehearsal of "Mary Poppins" that the performance would be canceled -- and his entire junior year in the classroom was, too.

Clifton Freshwater stands inside his restaurant, Freshwaters, in uptown Charlotte. It was a struggle at first, but the restaurant has made it through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marshall Terry
Clifton Freshwater stands inside his restaurant, Freshwaters, in uptown Charlotte. It was a struggle at first, but the restaurant has made it through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The owner of Freshwaters in uptown shared how he managed to make it through the past year by pivoting to takeout -- but not without a lot of anxiety. Turns out that isn't unique. WFAE's Gwendolyn Glenn spoke with the CEO of HopeWay, a Charlotte mental and behavioral health clinic, about the lasting toll the pandemic has had on the mental health of many of us. In hard numbers: 41% of people say they experienced anxiety or depression in the past year, compared to 11% a year earlier.

But this past week this year provided some hope: President Biden said in a national address that all American adults will be able to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, and North Carolina health officials said the state is on track to meet that goal. In fact, people with high-risk medical conditions in North Carolina will be able to sign up for vaccinations March 17, a week earlier than expected.

It's easy to understand why getting vaccinated is important. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released some guidance this week that helped spell it out more precisely: Those who have been vaccinated can safely gather together indoors without face masks or social distancing.

And the more that people feel safer to gather together indoors, the more comfortable we'll all feel with schools returning to in-class instruction -- even though this week, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said it would bring elementary students back for four days a week beginning March 22.

A day later, North Carolina Republican leadership announced a compromise with Gov. Roy Cooper on an education bill that also requires in-person instruction. Both sides made concessions: Cooper is allowed to close schools in a health emergency, but middle and high schools can also open without the 6-foot distancing requirement the CDC advises.

Students return to in-person classes at Charlotte-Mecklenburg's Hough High School.
Nancy Pierce
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Students return to in-person classes at Charlotte-Mecklenburg's Hough High School.

CMS has not announced any revisions to its plan, but Cabarrus County Schools already says it will bring grades 6-12 back four days a week beginning April 13.

There's still a lot to process from the last year, and it's going to take a long time to recover. In our Rebuilding Charlotte series, David Boraks looked at the local My Brother's Keeper group, and what it's doing to have a "collective impact" on young men of color. That's important because they're more likely to be suspended from school or drop out and to be either victims or perpetrators of crime.


A Day With An Immigration Attorney In One Of The Toughest Courts

Immigration cases are lengthy and complex. The backlog of cases climbed during former President Trump’s time in office. WFAE’s Laura Brache recently spent a day in court with a Charlotte immigration attorney.

'Lost A Lifetime Of Work': Some CPCC Systems Still Not Recovered

Central Piedmont Community College is still reeling after a ransomware attack. Some key systems have been restored, but others weren't backed up or backups were compromised. That has led to lost course plans, grades and assignments.

Businesses Rethinking Air Travel Post Pandemic

As more people get vaccinated and the end of the pandemic gets closer, companies are now weighing whether employees still need to travel or if online meetings will suffice as they have the past year.

Heavy Hitters Hired To Get Legislative Approval For Transit Tax

The Charlotte Regional Business Alliance has hired two prominent North Carolina political consultants to lobby the General Assembly to place a penny sales tax increase on the ballot in Mecklenburg County.

As Tests Continue, CATS Says Streetcar Will Reopen In Late Spring

Testing continues on Charlotte Area Transit System's $150 million Gold Line streetcar extension. CATS says service could begin in late spring. The extension would take the service from Johnson C. Smith University to Elizabeth.

Charlotte Area Transit System workers and contractors walked along with a streetcar during initial testing that started in February.
Charlotte Area Transit System
Charlotte Area Transit System workers and contractors walked along with a streetcar during initial testing that started in February.


Years of delays due to unexpected environmental problems and the COVID-In North Carolina, the overall FAFSA completion rate is down 8.7%, according to the National College Attainment Network. For Title I and high-minority schools, the rate is down by 12%.


Former Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis retired this week. WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson, in his On My Mind commentary, remembers how Davis’ career was almost cut short – and what it took for him to make it back.


One year after the pandemic arrived in North Carolina, many aspects of our lives remain profoundly changed by COVID-19. Public radio stations from the mountains to the coast worked together to reflect on how our state has adapted since the pandemic first arrived. Listen to “One Year of COVID-19: A Statewide Special.”


Girls Rock Charlotte music director Krystle Baller talks about finding her voice through rock and inspiring the next generation of women and gender-diverse artists in the latest Amplifier.


A listener asked us what the longest-serving restaurant was in Charlotte. The answer is Green's Lunch in uptown, which has been firing up the grills since 1926. In this episode of the FAQ City podcast, we learn about the story of Green's and hear about how Greek immigrants helped shape the Queen City's restaurant scene.

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Jodie Valade has been a Digital News and Engagement Editor for WFAE since 2019. Since moving to Charlotte in 2015, she has worked as a digital content producer for NASCAR.com and a freelance writer for publications ranging from Charlotte magazine to The Athletic to The Washington Post and New York Times. Before that, Jodie was an award-winning sports features and enterprise reporter at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. She also worked at The Dallas Morning News covering the Dallas Mavericks — where she became Mark Cuban's lifelong email pen pal — and at The Kansas City Star. She has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University and a Master of Education from John Carroll University. She is originally from Rochester Hills, Michigan.