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Summer art camps amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Although many local arts camps have gone virtual this summer, the Center for Visual Artists opted for an in-person camp at the Greensboro Cultural Center. Camp operators say they’ve made changes to keep children and staff as safe as possible, including daily temperature checks and limiting both the number of participants and classes.

“We’ve been trying really hard to make it a place that we would feel safe sending our own children,” Matthew Little said.

The one-week camp sessions, which run through mid-August, are geared toward children in pre-K through ninth grade. Parents can still register for some sessions:

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N.C. students who have battled COVID-19 reflect on what they experienced and what lies ahead

COVID-19 has debilitated or killed many older adults in North Carolina , but young people, while less likely to die of the respiratory disease, haven’t gone unaffected.

In early July, cases among people ages 18 to 49 began to spike, accounting for the largest growth in COVID-19 cases in the state.

Of the nearly 109,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state as of Friday morning, 18- to 24-year-olds account for 14% of the total, but only two have died as a result of the disease, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

While most of the young people who contract COVID-19 recover, the disease affects each of them differently.

Ashley Duncan, a Charlotte resident and incoming junior at the University of South Carolina, contracted the coronavirus in March, a couple of weeks before N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper announced a statewide stay-at-home-order.

Duncan was about to come home from a spring break trip to Barcelona, Spain, when she first noticed that she had a sore throat. Then came the fatigue. And finally, the loss of taste and a brain fog.

She couldn’t get proof at the time because of test scarcity, but her out-of-state friends on the trip came up positive for COVID-19.

She didn’t have to go to a hospital, and the disease lasted less than a week, but she did spread the novel coronavirus, the cause of COVID-19, to her father.

Duncan said that before she got sick she hadn’t worried about the coronavirus drastically affecting her life.

“At the time, we only had the point of view that it affected older people,” she said. “There had been no reports of younger people really being affected, other than just like a cold, so I wasn’t worried at the time.”

Months later, Duncan said she occasionally feels short of breath, which may or may not be attributed to her illness, but besides that, she feels no lingering symptoms. In fact, there’s a bittersweet upside to having already contracted the coronavirus, she said.

“I think it actually kind of makes me feel better now knowing that I’ve already gone through it and I’ve gotten over it pretty easily,” she said.

The odds of contracting the coronavirus twice are low, according to researchers, but Duncan is still taking precautions to avoid getting sick again, such as wearing a mask and social distancing.

Some young people aren’t doing that, and Duncan said they are a big part of why the U.S. and North Carolina continue to see high case counts.

“Even if it doesn’t affect you, it still affects other people, and you need to be cognizant of that, and just respectful,” she said.

Even today, Duncan said she thinks about how she might have spread the coronavirus to other people besides her dad.

“I think about when I was in the airport,” she said. “Who could I have infected, you know, how are they doing now, are they OK?”

When Ian Chalmers contracted COVID-19, North Carolina was a week into Phase Two of its three-part plan to reopen the state’s economy, which allowed gatherings of 10 or fewer people indoors.

The 17-year-old, then a junior at Heritage High School in Wake Forest, was looking forward to meeting up with friends he hadn’t seen during the stay-at-home order, when his mother, a nurse, tested positive for the coronavirus.

“My first thought was, damn, I really cannot go out anymore,” Chalmers said.

His mom most likely contracted the coronavirus while working a shift in the COVID-19 ward one night and spread it to his entire family, including his 8-year-old sister.

He was aware of the country’s rising death toll, and contracting the coronavirus caught him off guard.

“It’s kind of hard; it’s kind of shocking to hear the fact that you have a virus that’s killed a lot of people,” he said.

The worst symptom he ended up experiencing was a loss of taste, while his 46-year-old mother lost her sense of smell for a week. Overall, he said, his family appears to have fully recovered from the disease.

For three weeks, Chalmers quarantined, binge watching the sitcoms “How I Met Your Mother” and “Community,” as well as learning how to cook Mexican and Indian dishes.

Though he kept himself busy, Chalmers said it was tough not being able to see his friends during his last summer as a high school student.

Though he doesn’t believe he will catch the coronavirus again, Chalmers said he still plans to start his senior year with a semester of online classes through the Wake County Public School Virtual Academy.

“I much prefer the physical experience, but I’m not going to risk it,” he said. “I’m not going to go to a crowded area, and have a terrible experience wearing a mask, separated from everyone else.”

Incoming UNC-Chapel Hill junior Valerie Nguyen thought catching COVID-19 would prevent her from getting all A’s and being recognized as one of UNC’s top scholars.

“I think I’m a pretty good student,” she said. “I make dean’s list every semester, and I still did, but it was a lot on me because you know, at home, my parents are mid-divorce, and I was dealing with this, and we were all trapped in the same house.”

It was finals season at UNC, and Nguyen was worried her professors wouldn’t be accommodating while she was sick at home in Somerville, Va. She had to find a way to reach the dean of students and ask for help, but didn’t know how.

“Thankfully, I was in smaller honors classes where the professors knew me and could connect me,” she said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like if I was in a big lecture class with one professor who would not be responsive to email.”

Besides the stress of classes, Nguyen was dealing with loss of smell, fatigue and nasal headaches, as well as mental stress because of her parents’ marriage problems.

She said she was frustrated with the whole situation because she had taken quarantine seriously and never left her house. Her dad brought the coronavirus home after a shift at the retirement home where he works and infected her mother and her.

But quarantine also gave her more time for self-reflection, she said. At UNC, Nguyen said, she had been entangled in the university’s fast-paced, competitive culture, but being isolated for weeks allowed her to reevaluate her priorities.

“You realize that life is so short, so why am I doing things that I don’t completely enjoy when I could be using that time to do other things like reading or like really delving into my homework more,” she said. “When instead I’m just doing things that don’t fully make me happy.”

Most of Nguyen’s classes this fall are online, she said, but because of the environment in her house, she would rather move back to Chapel Hill, where she at least has the support of her friends.

“By some miracle I pulled through, but I don’t know if I can always pull through, especially with harder classes my junior year,” she said.

Though she feels she must move back to Chapel Hill, Nguyen said, she believes she will be at much higher risk because college students are more likely to engage in unsafe habits.

Does she think UNC students will social distance and take proper precautions at school?

“Absolutely not,” she said.

An interesting article in today's newspaper

New details emerge in brutal Greensboro double homicide. Defendants face the death penalty.

GREENSBORO — Kevin Hugh Moore’s cremated remains finally rest where he wanted them to be.

On a warm and clear summer day, his friend Mara Barker and her husband, Duane, scattered the ashes of the talented but troubled classical musician in Pisgah National Forest with those of his mother.

“It’s such a peaceful place,” Barker said, “and Kevin had many happy memories from attending the John Mack Oboe Camp” nearby.

Those peaceful surroundings contrast drastically with the way Moore and Lewis Franklin Humphrey died. The two were brutally stabbed to death in January 2019.

Four defendants in the slayings have remained in the Guilford County jail for more than a year, awaiting trial on charges of murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, arson and kidnapping.

If convicted of murder, they could face the death penalty.

A Superior Court judge has ruled that it will proceed as a capital murder case.

Because of its complexities, it could take longer than most.

The case involves two victims, four defendants and multiple attorneys, who likely will file multiple pre-trial motions.

It also comes during court delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I don’t expect this case to be set for trial until the end of next year at the earliest,” attorney Jerry Jordan, who represents defendant Chris Adrean Collins, said in an email.

Lewis Humphrey, 45, graduated from Northeast High School. He lived and worked at Super 8 hotel, 2108 W. Meadowview Road, his brother George Humphrey said in a 2019 interview.

Lewis Humphrey knew Collins and had let Collins stay with him at the hotel, George Humphrey said. But they had a disagreement and Humphrey wouldn’t let him back in.

“My brother wasn’t a troublemaker,” George Humphrey said in 2019. “He was just a good dude. He didn’t bother nobody ... You can’t find nobody to say nothing bad about my brother.”

Moore had played oboe and English horn professionally from 1985 through 2015, said Barker, who plays bass with the Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Salisbury and Roanoke, Va., symphonies.

He played with several major orchestras in the Carolinas and Virginia, mostly in the 1990s and 2000s, as a contract and substitute musician.

Through his publishing company Oboerama Music, he arranged music for orchestras and ballet companies. He rewrote orchestral pieces so that other ensembles could perform them, preparing parts for each instrument.

His orchestral reduction of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” ballet has been used annually by the Carolina Ballet, the North Carolina Academy of Dance Arts and the Atlantic City Ballet.

Being Moore’s friend wasn’t easy.

Moore had autism spectrum disorder and suffered from anxiety and depression.

Sometimes he lashed out verbally when he was frustrated and in emotional pain.

“He had a lot of problems that were severe,” said Moore’s cousin, Mike Barnette of Gastonia. “But he was still a human being and had the right of a human being, and they took that away from him.”

Deep down, Moore had a good heart, Barker said.

Moore apparently had met the four defendants at a church that serves breakfast to the homeless, Barker said. He invited them to share his apartment at Summit Avenue and Yanceyville Street, but had been trying to get them to leave.

On Jan. 14, 2019, Moore was stabbed to death there, six days before his 55th birthday. But his body wasn’t discovered for 10 days.

When Barker didn’t hear from him, she went to his apartment on Jan. 22, 2019. No one answered her knock. Two windows were broken.

Barker called the police. She said she understands that police did visit the apartment that day, but assumes that they didn’t find anything.

The following night, on Jan. 23, Barker learned that a fire had broken out at Moore’s apartment. Firefighters and police found Humphrey’s body.

The next day, police found Moore’s body in a bedroom. It had been covered with a smiley-faced tablecloth and plastic, wrapped with red tape and rope.

He, too, had died of multiple stab wounds, the autopsy showed.

Police arrested Collins, then 18 and from Youngsville, in Greensboro.

Damian Roger Verwey, then 20, and Rebecka Ellen Willard, then 23, were arrested in Muskegon, Mich.

Cassandra Lynn Reynolds, 35 at the time, was picked up in Victorville, Calif.

Barker praised the work of Greensboro police and Det. T.E. Vaughan.

She wonders whether the defendants were at the apartment on Jan. 22, when she knocked on the door and sent the police.

“I wish the police had detected signs that they were at a murder scene with an 8-day-old dead body,” Barker said.

The next day, Humphrey was dead, the fire was set, and Moore’s housemates were gone.

In late October, a Guilford Superior Court judge ruled that the murders’ details justified proceeding as a capital murder case.

The order by Judge Lora C. Cubbage says Moore was assaulted for several hours before being killed. Before his death, he asked his captors “to kill him to end the suffering.”

Humphrey was invited to Moore’s apartment — where Moore’s dead body had been for a week — sometime around Jan. 21, 2019.

When Humphrey arrived, he was attacked, robbed of his credit card and cellphone, and eventually killed, the judge’s findings said.

Humphrey was moved from one place to another, for the purpose of doing him serious bodily injury and terrorizing him, an indictment on the kidnapping charge says.

Even if convicted of first-degree murder, the defendants might not be executed.

No executions have taken place in North Carolina since 2006.

In each of the last few years, about five or so cases have gone to trial as capital murder cases, said Gerda Stein of the state’s Center for Death Penalty Litigation, the nonprofit law firm handling such cases.

Most cases end in pleas, or end up not being capital cases, Stein said. Some are dismissed.

In the past few years, fewer than one person has been sentenced to death a year, Stein said.

Executions have been on hold because of litigation surrounding lethal injection and the N.C. Racial Justice Act.

Public opinion has changed dramatically over the past several years. North Carolinians seem to prefer life without parole over execution, Stein said.

She attributes that to several factors, including the exoneration of 10 death row prisoners in the state and many more across the country.

Federal executions, too, had been exceedingly rare in recent decades, but the federal government executed three people last week after a hiatus of nearly 20 years.

If defendants in the Moore and Humphrey murders are found guilty, both Barker and Barnette favor life in prison without possibility of parole, not execution.

George Humphrey could not be reached by phone for comment. But in the 2019 interview, he said he favored prison over execution.

Barnette attended the hearing when Cubbage ruled it a capital case.

He said he plans to attend future proceedings. “I want somebody to be there to speak for him,” Barnette said of his cousin, from whom he had been estranged.

“I have had enough time to go through the grieving process, to get rid of the anger,” Barnette said. “Just the sadness is left.”

He said he wants both prosecutors and defense attorneys to have time to do it right. So he doesn’t mind delays.

“I hope they present their case right and they have their evidence correct, so that there’s no misinterpretation of who did what,” Barnette said.

He and Barker continue to run Moore’s company. Last December, they rented out the rights to use his reduction of “The Nutcracker” to three ballet companies.

But they haven’t found Moore’s laptop. His best composition was stored on it, and Barker has just a few pages.

When they scattered Moore’s ashes, she said, she and her husband felt as if a weight had been lifted.

Barnette didn’t attend.

“That’s something I didn’t have the heart to do,” he said.