A red firetruck in the neighborhood doesn’t always mean there’s a fire. This summer, for some Greensboro neighborhoods, it will mean cool relief from temperatures that lately have been stuck in the 90s.
The Greensboro Parks and Recreation and Fire departments partnered to bring free pop-up spray grounds on Tuesdays and Thursdays to different recreation centers through Aug. 13.
To follow social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, visitors will be limited to 25 at a time with a rotation every 15 minutes if capacity is reached, according to city officials. Visitors will be asked to stay 6 feet away from people who aren’t family members and to wear a face covering while waiting to go into the spray area.
The temporary spray grounds will be open from 2 to 4 p.m..
Here’s the schedule:
See more photos at greensboro.com.
GREENSBORO — In a normal year, you knew that UNCG students were returning to campus by the lines.
Lines of cars and trucks on West Market Street and West Gate City Boulevard, all waiting to pull onto campus. Lines to find a parking space. Lines to get room keys. Lines for the elevators. Lines of students, family members and volunteers hauling bags, trunks and boxes into the residence halls.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNCG’s move-in looks a lot different this year. For one thing, there aren’t any lines. For another, move-in has already begun — more than three weeks before classes are scheduled to start.
The redesigned student move-in process — starting earlier, lasting longer and aiming for maximum social distancing — is a preview of how different the fall semester will be at UNCG and a lot of other universities.
In past years, “students usually come in, get settled and (families) leave all at once. They see their roommate and start activities,” said Tim Johnson, UNCG’s executive director of housing and residence life. This year, he added, “it’s clearly going to be different.”
Some other UNC System schools are opening their dorms a little earlier than usual to cut down on crowds. Students attending N.C. A&T and Winston-Salem State will begin moving in Aug. 7, more than a week before classes start. Students will stay on campus after they arrive.
UNCG and at least two other UNC System schools will do a version of what the Greensboro university has dubbed “stop, drop and roll”: Students will stop at campus, drop off belongings in their dorm rooms and roll on home until shortly before classes begin.
UNCG normally needs three days to move all its students onto campus. This year’s move-in started Saturday and will run for 12 days, through next Wednesday.
As of Tuesday, about a quarter of the UNCG students planning to live on campus had dropped off their belongings. Students won’t return to campus until Aug. 12. Classes start Aug. 18.
UNCG’s dorms won’t be full this year. Only about 4,300 of 5,700 beds have been claimed.
Johnson said about 1,100 students this month canceled their room reservations — about twice the usual number. More students have opted for off-campus housing, he added, or decided to take most or all of their classes online from home.
For the 4,300 students who do plan to live on campus, UNCG cut out some usual move-in features and added new rules to minimize contact between people.
This year, there aren’t volunteers to help students and families haul their stuff. (UNCG’s housing office usually rounds up about 400 volunteers annually, Johnson said.) And there aren’t golf carts to shuttle families around campus.
Students had to sign up in advance for a three-hour move-in window — roommates couldn’t pick the same slot — and could bring only two other helpers with them. Each move-in slot was capped at 10 students to limit the number of people in a dorm at one time to 30. And everyone must wear masks, which are required in UNCG’s public spaces and classrooms this fall.
It’s a dramatic difference from when Angela Walker moved into her dorm room at a Texas university in the mid-1980s.
“Everybody is there all at one time, and the elevators aren’t working as well as they should,” recalled Walker, a retired U.S. Army officer who’s now an elementary school music teacher in Fayetteville. “My dad was like, come on, we’ll hump this stuff up the stairs.”
Walker helped her son, Dominic, move into his UNCG dorm on Monday. She didn’t recall seeing anyone else on his floor as they unpacked his clothes and bedding.
“His move-in was nothing like my move-in — nothing,” Walker said. “This was worlds better.”
At midday Wednesday, there were no lines, no traffic and barely anyone moving in. As a pickup truck slid into one of a dozen empty spots in the lower level of the McIver Street Parking Deck, two UNCG employees wiped down a bin students could use to haul their stuff. There was no waiting to pick up room keys.
“I wasn’t expecting many people,” said Chizzy Ogbonna, a first-year student from Raleigh who plans to study nursing. “I really wasn’t.”
Carl Brown Jr., a senior from Charlotte who’s working as a resident assistant in a UNCG dorm this year, said he sees some upside to the lack of crowds. It’s safer, he said. And when the students on his floor arrive, he’ll be able to meet them all as soon as they get there.
Brown said he brought a smaller TV than in past years as well as fewer clothes, shoes and room decorations. That was partly a concession to the limited space inside his tiny 1998 Hyundai. It also was a nod to COVID-19, which caused UNCG and most other schools to close their campuses in March midway through the spring semester.
“I don’t know if we’ll be sent home (early), so I packed lighter,” Brown said. “I just hope we can stay the full semester.”
RALEIGH — Blind and visually impaired voters will face discrimination and difficult choices in the 2020 elections, a new lawsuit claims, unless North Carolina acts quickly to improve options for voting by mail.
North Carolina has specialized voting machines for people with disabilities who vote at any polling place around the state. But this year, the coronavirus pandemic is expected to lead to a massive increase in voting by mail. And the only option for that is a paper ballot.
Having only a paper ballot for mail-in voting, the new lawsuit says, means that unless they want to risk their health to vote in person, blind voters will be forced to not only tell someone else who they’d like to vote for but to also trust that person to actually fill out their ballot.
“Ensuring that absentee voting is made accessible for blind voters is particularly important because citizens with disabilities already face many barriers to full and equal participation in the voting process, in contrast with sighted voters,” the lawsuit says.
Nearly 300,000 North Carolinians had a visual disability as of 2016, according to the National Federation of the Blind — close to 3% of the state’s population.
The State Board of Elections has previously been in contact with one of the groups that sued. State Elections Director Karen Brinson Bell sent it a letter last month addressing some of its concerns — including the question of getting a trusted person to help them fill out an absentee ballot.
Brinson Bell said anyone who wants help with a mail-in ballot “may request assistance from a Multipartisan Assistance Team (MAT), a team of bipartisan volunteers trained and authorized by the county board of elections.”
And while there are strict rules in place for most voters when it comes to getting outside help requesting an absentee ballot or mailing it in once it has been filled out, state law does have exemptions for voters who are blind or have another disability.
Brinson Bell also noted the availability of specialized voting machines for voters with disabilities at polling places. And North Carolina’s election website, www.ncsbe.gov, is scheduled to be revamped by the end of August, she said, in large part to be more accessible to people with disabilities who are trying to get more information about the state’s elections.
“The State Board is committed to promoting accessibility for voters with disability, including blind voters,” Brinson Bell said.
But the people and groups who filed the lawsuit disagree. They say the state’s voting system discriminates against people with disabilities.
Many can’t take advantage of the specialized voting machines because their polling place isn’t served by public transportation, the lawsuit says. And others might choose to simply not vote, rather than having to tell someone who they’re voting for.
“The denial of one’s right to vote with full privacy and independence is particularly disenfranchising, as these are the hallmarks of free voting in a democracy,” the lawsuit says. “Requiring voters with vision disabilities to dictate their votes to third parties in order to vote absentee will inevitably deter some voters and further decrease turnout rates among citizens with disabilities.”
The individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit are a mix of Democratic and Republican voters. They’re joined by Disability Rights North Carolina, the N.C. Council of the Blind and the alumni association of the Governor Morehead School, a school in Raleigh for visually impaired children from around the state.
And blind voters, the lawsuit says, probably have more reasons than most to want to practice social distancing during coronavirus — including not traveling to polling places in person.
“While blindness on its own is not a risk factor for COVID-19, people with vision disabilities have increased risk of exposure due to their disabilities,” the lawsuit says. “People with vision disabilities often rely on touch more than sighted people and therefore are at heightened risk of touching surfaces with the virus. Further, blind people may have difficulty social-distancing because they may not be able to tell if others around them are adequately distanced, nor can they as readily confirm whether others around them are wearing masks.”
Numerous other groups have sued North Carolina over various facets of the 2020 elections, in addition to this latest lawsuit on behalf of blind voters who wish to vote by mail. Those other lawsuits include: