NC SNAC Releases Nutrition Resource Programs Guide

News, Press Release

RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and its partners with the State Nutrition Action Coalition (SNAC) have released a new NC Food and Nutrition Resource Programs quick reference guide, which provides a snapshot of 14 different U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service programs available in North Carolina, like the Summer Nutrition Program and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). These programs provide a vital source of support and aim to reduce food insecurity among under-served populations.

While these programs reach residents of all ages, those eligible may not know they could be receiving services. Local agencies and service providers are encouraged to use the guide, available in both English and Spanish, to help direct program clients and program participants to food and nutrition services available.

“The partners in our coalition identified this as a need early on and wanted to address ways to collaborate together to reach more North Carolinians with healthier foods and nutrition education,” said Rachel Pohlman, SNAC co-chair. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than ever are relying on these important safety net programs yet more can still be served.”

North Carolina’s SNAC is a state-level collaborative with active representation from state agencies and nonprofits that implement USDA/FNS programs. Together, the SNAC partnering organizations reach people throughout their lives, providing food benefits, nutrition education, healthy community changes and obesity prevention services to reduce food insecurity and improve the quality of life of North Carolinians.

The NC Food and Nutrition Resource Programs guide is available online and in a downloadable print version for local departments of social services and providers to use when advising current and potential beneficiaries of these services. For more information about these resources or to receive additional printed copies of this resource, please contact [email protected].

Gov. Cooper Issues Executive Order to Relax State’s Outdoor Mask Mandate and Ease Mass Gathering Limits

News, Press Release
mask mandate

RALEIGH: Today, Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. gave an update on the state’s current data, trends and vaccination progress. As the state’s metrics and key indicators remain stable, Governor Cooper also signed an Executive Order outlining safety measures for the month of May. Executive Order No. 209 will take effect April 30 and is set to expire June 1. As more North Carolinians get vaccinated and adhere to safety protocols over the course of the next month, the state anticipates lifting more restrictions on June 1.

“While our numbers are mostly stable, we have more work to do to beat back this pandemic,” said Governor Cooper. “Let’s work hard in May and get as many people vaccinated as we can before summer gets here.”

Under the new Executive Order, masks will still be required indoors but are no longer mandated outdoors. Masks are still strongly recommended outdoors by NC DHHS in crowded areas and higher risk settings where social distancing is difficult.

Executive Order No. 209 will also increase mass gathering capacity limits. The number of people who may gather indoors will increase from 50 to 100 and the number of people who may gather outdoors will increase from 100 to 200. Occupancy limits currently in place will remain the same.

“Fortunately, we now have enough vaccine for everyone. They are free and widely available across the state. In many places you don’t need appointment,” said Secretary Cohen. “For those who have questions, I encourage you to go to YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov to learn about the benefits of the vaccines, potential temporary reactions you might experience, and answers to common questions.”

North Carolina continues to focus on distributing vaccines quickly and equitably. To date, the state has administered over 7 million doses. 48.7% percent of those 18 and up are at least partially vaccinated, and 39.2% percent of those 18 and up have been fully vaccinated.

State health officials are continuing to monitor COVID-19 and its more contagious variants in North Carolina, which is why it is important to continue to follow the state’s mask mandate and continue to practice safety precautions, including the Three Ws—wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash hands often.

Dr. Cohen also provided an update on North Carolina’s data and trends.

Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is level.

Trajectory of Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory of cases is level.

Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is level.

Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is level.

In addition to monitoring these metrics, the state continues to respond to virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.

Read Executive Order No. 209.

Read Frequently Asked Questions.

Arrest made in stabbing and stolen vehicle incident

News, Press Release
April 21, 2021 – At approximately 3:23 pm, on April 20th, the Cherokee County E-911 Communications Center received a phone call in reference to a stolen vehicle that was taken from a business on Tennessee St. While the victim’s report was being taken, the stolen vehicle was located nearby, along with the suspect, Mr. Isaiah Zavier Nelson. During this time, an altercation occurred with the suspect and one of the workers of the initial stolen vehicle’s owner.
The male victim (name withheld for privacy reasons) was stabbed multiple times, treated by the Cherokee County Medics, and airlifted shortly thereafter. During this time, the suspect fled the area on foot after leaving the stolen motor vehicle behind. After searching the area, and many businesses, he was finally located.
Mr. Nelson was arrested without incident on Andrews Rd. at 4:17 pm. He was charged with Possession of a Stolen Motor Vehicle and Going Armed to the Terror of the Public. He is currently being held at the Cherokee County Detention under a $25,000.00 secure bond. His initial court appearance is scheduled for April 29th, 2021, at 9:00 am. However, additional charges may be pending in the near future.
As of this morning, the victim had undergone surgery last night. After calling Erlanger in Chattanooga multiple times this morning, we have yet to hear back regarding his status.
While this incident was occurring, many activities, including sporting events, were taking place in Conaheeta Park. This is where the stabbing occurred. This information was being passed along to various staff members and other parties that were on scene at these events.
Due to the nature of this investigation, this is the only information that can be released as this time. As the investigation continues, more information will be released to the public.
The Murphy Police Department would like to thank the following agencies for their assistance:
Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office (Administrative Division)
Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office (Criminal Investigation Division)
Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office (Patrol Division)
Cherokee County Detention Center
Cherokee County E-911 Communications
Cherokee County Magistrate’s Office
Cherokee County District Attorney’s Office
Cherokee County Medics
LIFE FORCE Air Medical

North Carolina’s COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Opens for All Adults on April 7

News, Press Release
vaccine eligibility

RALEIGH: Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. gave an update on the state’s current data, trends and vaccination progress as tomorrow also marks the opening of vaccine eligibility for Group 5. This means anyone 16 years and older who wants a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination is eligible to get one.

“We remain focused on getting people vaccinated as quickly and as equitably as possible and continuing to slow the spread of the virus,” said Governor Cooper. “The more people we vaccinate, the more we can safely do.”

North Carolina continues to focus on distributing vaccines quickly and equitably. To date, the state has administered over 5.2 million doses. 39 percent of those 18 and up is at least partially vaccinated, and 26 percent of those 18 and up have been fully vaccinated.

“These tested, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines will help us get back in control of our lives and back to the people and places we love – like safely hugging a grandmother, traveling to see vaccinated family or friends, or having a potluck dinner with your vaccinated neighbors,” said Secretary Cohen.

State health officials are continuing to monitor the presence of COVID-19 and its more contagious variants in North Carolina, which is why it is important to continue to follow the state’s mask mandate and practice safety precautions, including the Three Ws—wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash hands often.

Dr. Cohen also provided an update on North Carolina’s data and trends.

Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is decreasing.

Trajectory of Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory of cases is level.

Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is level.

Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days

  • North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is level.

In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.

View the slides from today’s briefing.

Governor Cooper Signs Three Executive Orders to Help Struggling North Carolinians

News, Press Release
North Carolinians

RALEIGH: Today, Governor Roy Cooper signed three Executive Orders. Executive Order 206 extends North Carolina’s statewide residential eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021 in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recent extension of the nationwide moratorium through the same date. Executive Order 207 expedites the processing of unemployment insurance claims and is also effective through June 30, 2021. Executive Order 205 extends the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABC Commission)’s authorization to permit the delivery or carry-out of mixed beverages as an alternative to on-site consumption through April 30, 2021.

“Even though North Carolina is turning the corner on this pandemic, many are still struggling,” said Governor Cooper. “These Executive Orders will help families stay in their homes and help hard-hit businesses increase their revenue.”

The CDC continues to implement a nationwide residential eviction moratorium for tenants who meet certain criteria to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. As North Carolina continues a fast and fair vaccine distribution operation, it is critical to slow the spread of the virus. With many people struggling financially due to this pandemic, the State’s eviction moratorium halts evictions for nonpayment of rent and sets forth certain procedures for landlords and their tenants who may qualify for protection from eviction.

As renters struggled to stay in their homes due to pandemic hardships, Governor Cooper created the HOPE Program to make direct payments to landlords and keep people safely in their homes. To date, HOPE has awarded over $140 million to nearly 37,000 applicants.

Federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) was recently approved by Congress and North Carolina received more than $700 million to continue providing relief to renters and landlords. The State is working with the General Assembly and local governments to launch the updated version of rental assistance very soon.

Executive Order 207 expedites the processing of unemployment insurance claims, a measure that has been in place under previous Orders.

Under Executive Order 205, establishments holding certain permits from the ABC Commission, including restaurants, hotels, private clubs, private bars, and some distilleries, will continue to be allowed to sell mixed beverages to-go or for delivery.

The Council of State concurred with the two Orders requiring it, Executive Orders 205 and 206.

Read the Eviction Moratorium Executive Order and Frequently Asked Questions document.

Read the Processing of Unemployment Insurance Claims Executive Order.

Read the To-Go Beverages Executive Order and Frequently Asked Questions document.

Slaughter found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon

News, Press Release
Murphy, NC— After a lengthy trial, a Cherokee County Jury returned a verdict of guilty in the State of North Carolina v Jackie Slaughter for the charge of Assault With a Deadly Weapon Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury.
In May of 2017, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation into a report of an individual who had been cut by Slaughter at a residence in Andrews North Carolina.
Judge William Coward sentenced Slaughter to 117 – 153 months in the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections. Slaughter filed an appeal and is currently awaiting transportation to NCDAC.
Slaughter was also tried on Attempted Murder charges, but the jury was not able to come to a unanimous verdict and the North Carolina District Attorney will be deciding on a retrial.
To report suspicious activity and suspect violations of the law please call 828-837-1344 or submit a tip at [email protected]

Cooper Reminds North Carolinians to Prepare and Practice for Severe Weather

Business
severe weather preparedness week

RALEIGH: Governor Roy Cooper has declared March 7-13 Severe Weather Preparedness Week and urges North Carolinians to prepare and practice safety plans in case severe weather strikes.

Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are not unusual in North Carolina, and while spring is the most active season for severe weather, the recent thunderstorms that resulted in a deadly tornado prove they can happen anytime of the year.

“All North Carolinians need to prepare for severe weather, especially severe thunderstorms and tornados,” Governor Cooper said. “We have seen the devastation and deadly results these storms can bring. Having a preparedness plan, an emergency kit and a way to stay alert to weather reports will help protect you and your loved ones.”

On Wednesday, March 10 at 9:30 a.m., there will be a statewide tornado drill. This year, North Carolinians are being asked to practice their emergency plan using COVID-19 safety precautions. For those working remotely or at your place of employment, go to the lowest floor and the most interior room of the building you’re in, while wearing a mask and staying at least 6-feet away from people with whom you don’t live.

Test messages will be broadcast via the Emergency Alert System on radio and TV and on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radios.

“We recognize the challenges of holding a tornado drill in the workplace during COVID. If possible, hold the drill in small groups at different times, where social distancing can be maintained but still allows everyone to have the experience. The drill is a great way to practice what to do when severe weather strikes,” said Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry.

North Carolina is no stranger to severe weather. In 2020, North Carolina recorded 48 tornado touchdowns, including one that spun up as a result of Hurricane Isaias in Bertie County, leaving two people dead. There were also 247 flood or flash flood events across the state and 609 severe thunderstorms with damaging winds or hail of 1-inch or larger.

Tornadoes form during severe thunderstorms when winds change direction and increase in speed. These storms can produce large hail and damaging winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. A tornado can develop rapidly with little warning, so having a plan in place will allow you to respond quickly.

Emergency Management officials recommend the following safety tips:

  • Develop a family emergency plan so each member knows what to do, where to go and who to call during an emergency.
  • If thunder roars, go indoors! Lightning is close enough to strike you.
  • Know where the nearest safe room is, such as a basement or interior room away from windows.
  • Know the terms: WATCH means severe weather is possible. WARNING means severe weather is occurring; take shelter immediately.
  • Assemble an emergency supply kit for use at home or in your vehicle. Make sure to include a 3-day supply of non-perishable food and bottled water.
  • If driving, leave your vehicle immediately to seek shelter in a safe structure. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your vehicle and do not stop under an overpass or bridge.
  • If there is no shelter available, take cover in a low-lying flat area.

Read Governor Cooper’s proclamation and get more information on tornadoes and overall emergency preparedness online at www.ReadyNC.org.

Feature image courtesy of Georgia Storm Troopers.

Three arrested in methamphetamine distribution conspiracy

News, Press Release
methamphetamine
Murphy, NC— Sheriff Derrick Palmer announced the February 26, 2021 arrest of 53-year-old Terry Leon Simmons of Andrews, North Carolina, 43-year-old Tina Jane Hill of Marble, North Carolina, and 39-year-old Keith Ryan Noles also of Marble, North Carolina for conspiring to possess crystal methamphetamine.
In October 2020, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office conducted a search in Marble, North Carolina, the residence of Hill and Noles. In the search, a trafficking amount of methamphetamine and several firearms were seized. From that search Hill and Noles were charged for trafficking in methamphetamine and felon in possession of a firearm. Hill and Noles subsequently were released on secure bonds.
During the last week of February 2021, with the assistance of agents with the Department of Homeland Security Investigations, North Carolina ALE, and Detectives of the Macon County Sheriff’s Office a joint investigation resulted in the seizure of a large quantity of crystal methamphetamine and additional firearms and other suspected illegally possessed controlled substances destined for Cherokee County, North Carolina.
Keith Ryan Noles, and Tina Jane Hill were arrested and are currently incarcerated in the Cherokee County Detention Center for Conspiracy to Traffic Methamphetamine in excess of 400 grams. Both are under a $300,000.00 secure bond.
Terry Leon Simmons was arrested and is also charged with Conspiracy to Traffic Methamphetamine in excess of 400 grams. Simmons at the time of arrest had an additional amount of methamphetamine and paraphernalia on his person. Simmons is currently incarcerated in the Cherokee County Detention Center under a $350,000.00 secure bond.
Sheriff Derrick Palmer stated “This has been a total team effort by our office working in cooperation with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. This is a large seizure and as we continue our investigation we anticipate additional arrests in the future. Further, as you can see these individuals continue their criminal activities even after the arrest. We appreciate and are glad for the cooperation of our federal, state, and local partners in these endeavors.”
To report suspicious activity and suspect violations of the law please call 828-837-1344 or submit a tip at [email protected]

Erlanger recruits 65 physicians and advanced practice providers in 2020

Community, News, Press Release
Erlanger

Chattanooga, Tenn. – Erlanger Health System recruited 65 full-time physicians and advanced practice providers (APP) in 2020.

Of these new providers,

  • Thirty-four are physicians and 31 are APPs;
  • Fifty-two are adult providers and 13 are pediatric providers;
  • Adult providers represent 11 clinical specialties and areas of medicine – women’s services, orthopaedics and sports medicine, primary care, behavioral health, critical care, neurology and neurosurgery, gastroenterology, cardiology, endocrinology, bariatrics and hospitalists;
  • Pediatric providers represent 8 clinical subspecialties and areas of medicine – neonatology, pediatric intensive care, general pediatrics, pediatric pulmonology, pediatric gastroenterology, pediatric cardiology, pediatric neurology and pediatric hospitalists.

“Provider recruitment was one of Erlanger’s main goals in 2020,” said Erlanger Health System CEO Dr. William Jackson. “Our provider and leadership recruitment team has done a superb job of identifying and onboarding exceptional physicians and APPs to serve our patients throughout the region.”

One area of focus for provider recruitment included adding more primary care providers to the team at Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital (EWCH). Six providers were recruited to EWCH – Dr. Brian Mitchell, Dr. Stephen Rubendall, Dr. Stacie Gilmore, Dr. Terry Fokakis, Dr. Jillian Irwin and physician assistant Samantha Thompson. These providers work in the communities of Murphy, Andrews and Hayesville in western North Carolina.

Another recruitment win for Erlanger in 2020 was the addition of the region’s only adult and pediatric fellowship-trained orthopaedic oncologist, Dr. Ryan Voskuil. As a former Erlanger orthopaedic surgery resident, affiliated with the University of Tennessee College of Medicine Chattanooga, Dr. Voskuil returned to Erlanger to create the region’s first dedicated sarcoma team and bring orthopaedic oncology principles to the management of metastatic bone disease and benign conditions of the musculoskeletal system.

“Under Dr. Jackson’s leadership, Erlanger Medical Group has welcomed a large number of new providers to our practices,” said Erlanger Medical Group Senior Vice President Meridith O’Keefe. “The providers who joined us in 2020 are filling essential roles that will positively impact the health of our community and the greater region.”

In preparation for the COVID-19 pandemic, Erlanger’s recruitment plans were adapted to accommodate care for those affected by the virus. Five critical care providers were recruited to work in an intensive care setting. Nine hospitalist providers were onboarded to ensure those patients who were hospitalized received the best care possible.

For more information about Erlanger Medical Group’s elite providers, please visit erlanger.org/DOCS.

North Carolina Expands Pre-Thanksgiving No-Cost COVID-19

Community, Press Release
Thanksgiving

RALEIGH: This weekend, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) is offering more than 120 no-cost COVID-19 community testing events, including new locations in partnership with retailers to help North Carolinians protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities as they prepare for Thanksgiving.

In addition to existing testing events throughout the state, grocery stores in seven counties are offering testing on November 20-22: Buncombe, Cumberland, Durham, Iredell, Johnston, Mecklenburg, and Union. Select Carlie C’s IGA, Compare Foods, Food Lion, Ingles Markets, and Target will have walk-up and drive-thru testing. Testing will be conducted by C.W. Williams Community Health Center (in coordination with NC Community Health Center Association), OptumServe, and StarMed Urgent and Family Care, P.A.

For a full list of all testing event times and locations throughout the state, visit the No-Cost Community Testing Events page on the NCDHHS website. More locations are being added each day. Additional testing sites can be found at Find My Testing Place.

“We care about our customers and about the communities we serve,” said Emma Inman, Director of External Communications for Food Lion. “Along with NCDHHS, we want to encourage North Carolinians to get tested for COVID-19. It’s a simple thing to do before we see our friends, family, and loved ones this Thanksgiving to care for them and help slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Anyone can get tested for COVID-19 at the events. People without insurance are eligible for testing and identification documents are not required. Children and adults may be tested, but a parent or legal guardian must be present with children and teens 17 or younger.

People who have symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been around a person with COVID-19 should not shop in person until their isolation or quarantine period has ended. This includes shopping at partner retailers during testing events.

North Carolina is experiencing record high numbers of COVID-19 cases. NCDHHS urges caution when traveling or gathering for Thanksgiving and other holiday celebrations, especially for gatherings that include people who are at a higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19, such as anyone over the age of 65.

People who choose to travel or gather for Thanksgiving should consider having a COVID-19 test three to four days ahead of time. A test can help someone know if they have COVID-19 even if they do not have symptoms yet; however, tests can miss some infections and are not a fail-safe measure. If your test is positive, you should stay home, not attend any gatherings, and self isolate or quarantine. If your test is negative, you still need to practice the 3Ws – wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart from people who do not live in your household, and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently.

NCDHHS also recommends that everyone quarantine for 14 days before gathering with anyone outside their household to limit advance risk of being exposed to COVID-19. Quarantining is particularly important from the time you test until you travel or gather with people outside your household.

While gathering, shopping or traveling, follow the 3Ws. For a full list of guidance about traveling and gathering during the holidays, along with a chart outlining low, medium and high-risk activities, see the NCDHHS Interim Guidance for Thanksgiving Holiday.

Marble man arrested for sexual assault of minor

News, Press Release
marble sexual assault minor
Murphy, NC— Sheriff Derrick Palmer announced the September 28, 2020 arrest of 46-year-old Robert Eugene Barnhill, of Marble, North Carolina for charges of sexually assaulting a minor child.
In May 2020 a complaint was made with the Cherokee County Department of Social Services and then to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office of an allegation of sexual assault involving a minor child. Pursuant to this allegation, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation which identified Barnhill as a suspect in the case.
As the case was being investigated assistance was provided by HAVEN Child Advocacy Center, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, and the Cherokee County Department of Social Services.
During the investigation, several electronic devices and other items of physical evidence were collected for examination. Additionally, numerous interviews were completed.
The case was presented to the Cherokee County Grand Jury on 9/28/2020 and true bills of indictment for the arrest of Barnhill were issued. Barnhill was arrested at his Marble, North Carolina residence where he briefly resisted arrest by the officers.
Barnhill is currently confined at the Cherokee County Detention Center and charged with SECOND DEGREE RAPE, SECOND DEGREE FORCIBLE SEX OFFENSE, INDECENT LIBERTIES WITH CHILD, FELONY INCEST, and POSSESS METHAMPHETAMINE. The North Carolina Magistrate set a $250,000.00 secure bond on the sexual assault charges and $5000.00 secure on the Controlled Substance charge. Barnhill is scheduled to appear in Cherokee County Superior Court on 12/14/2020.
Sheriff Derrick Palmer stated “This has been a total team effort and we appreciate the assistance in bringing this case to some closure. Due to the age of the victim and nature of the crimes, we will not be making any further press releases in this case.”
To report suspicious activity and suspect violations, including sexual assault of a minor, of the law please call 828-837-1344 or submit a tip at [email protected]

Andrews man arrested for child sexual assault

News, Press Release
sexual assault child
Murphy, NC— Sheriff Derrick Palmer announced the September 24, 2020 arrest of 39-year-old Benito Morales Mendez, of Andrews North Carolina for sexual assault of a child.
In January 2020 a complaint was made with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office of an allegation of sexual assault involving a minor child. Pursuant to this allegation, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation which identified Mendez as suspect in the case.
As the case was being investigated assistance was provided by HAVEN Child Advocacy Center, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Cherokee County Department of Social Services, and Cherokee County Schools. These agencies provided assistance in collecting statements from the victim and witnesses.
During the investigation, several electronic devices and other items of physical evidence were collected for examination.
As the investigation continued an additional allegation of Violation of a Domestic Violence Protective Order was made against Mendez and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Additionally, an arrest warrant was issued for Mendez’s arrest for the allegations involving the sexual assault of the child.
When Detectives attempted to arrest Mendez information was made known that he had fled from North Carolina. Further, information was made to know that Mendez was not a legal citizen of the United States.
Assistance was requested from the United States Marshal Service Fugitive Apprehension Task Force, and the Department of Homeland Security Investigations who assisted in locating Mendez several months later in Texas where he had fled. Mendez refused to waive extradition and a Governor’s warrant was issued and Mendez was brought back to Cherokee County where the North Carolina warrants were served on him.
Benito Mendez is currently charged with STATUTORY RAPE OF A CHILD BY ADULT and VIOLATE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTION ORDER. Mendez was taken before the North Carolina Magistrate who set a $500,000.00 secure bond. Additionally, Mendez has an ICE Detainer which has no bond. Mendez is expected in Cherokee County
District Court October 1, 2020, for his first appearance.
Sheriff Derrick Palmer stated “As you can see it takes a team effort and one of the reasons we work so closely with our local and federal partners. Due to the age of the victim, we will not be making any further press releases.”
To report suspicious activity and suspect violations of the law please call 828-837-1344 or submit a tip at [email protected]

Cooper Announces Nearly $40 million to Connect Students and Communities to High-Speed Internet

News, Press Release
COVID-19 relief funds internet

RALEIGH: Governor Roy Cooper announced nearly $40 million in funding for NC Student Connect, a new partnership created to address internet connectivity gaps that are a barrier to remote learning for many North Carolina students. When school resumed in August, superintendents estimated that at least 100,000 students still lacked a reliable internet connection at home.

Many North Carolina students are currently attending school remotely and need reliable internet access to be able to connect with their teachers and access their lessons. Students who are attending school onsite may also need internet access at home to be able to complete assignments.

“Long before COVID-19, expanding access to high-speed internet has been a top priority for my administration, and this pandemic has made the need even more urgent,” said Governor Cooper. “NC Student Connect will make critical investments in high speed internet access and remote learning that will help students, health care and businesses in our state.”

Today’s NC Student Connect investment includes:

  • $30 million to distribute 100,000 wireless high speed hot spots for students to connect with their remote learning classes.
  • $8 million to create accessible sites in convenient locations across the state such as school parking lots, municipal areas, and state parks, museums and historic sites. These NC Student Connect sites will provide free high-speed internet for students to connect to the Internet to download lessons and complete assignments offline.
  • $2 million for educator professional development, parent training and student involvement in a spectrum of activities that go into effective remote learning. More than 1,300 educators from rural North Carolina already participated in a virtual conference focused on remote learning to help them be better prepared to teach throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about that conference.

NC Student Connect is a partnership across state government including the Department of Information Technology (DIT), the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR), Governor Cooper’s Hometown Strong initiative and the NC Business Committee for Education (NCBCE), an educational nonprofit in the Governor’s Office. These and other agencies have already worked to build partnerships to help leverage public investments to increase internet access in underserved communities. Purchasing began before Labor Day and thousands of hot spots will be shipped to school systems this week and will continue throughout the month.

“This announcement illustrates the state’s unwavering commitment in connecting all our students and all of NC,” said DIT Acting Secretary Thomas Parrish. “There’s no greater action than investing in our children, our future world changers. We are grateful to our private partners, and all those who are assisting in this effort; our tomorrow says thank you.”

“As a parent with a child that is remote learning at home, I can testify to the urgent need for devices with high speed connectivity,” said DNCR Secretary Susi Hamilton. “As a leader in State government, I can answer the Governor’s call to help school children by lending them devices through our State Library and add to their learning experience through outdoor and cultural programming that this department offers.”

“Today’s actions significantly advance Governor Cooper’s commitment to quality, accessible high-speed internet for every North Carolina school district. Our Remote Learning Working Group continues to produce meaningful solutions for our most marginalized students. The time is now for bold, innovative, and collaborative solutions that deliver high-speed internet to every North Carolina home,” said Jeremy Collins, Director of Innovative Connectivity with Hometown Strong.

“Google is proud to work with our state, local, and corporate partners to provide innovative connectivity solutions—such as our Rolling Hotspots program in North Carolina—to help students access Wi-Fi. NCBCE’s Remote Learning Working Group is thrilled that the state will invest in the NC Student Connect Program and provide professional development for educators as part of a collective effort to make it possible for more students to engage in school work remotely,” said Lilyn Hester, Head of External Affairs – Southeast, Google, who serves as vice chairwoman of NCBCE and Chairwoman of the NCBCE Remote Learning Working Group.

Initial private sector investments in remote learning and NC Student Connect include, AT&T, Duke Energy Foundation, Fidelity Investments, Google, Smithfield Foundation, Verizon Foundation, and Wells Fargo Foundation.

Cherokee County announces 2nd COVID-19 death

News, Press Release
resident work-related death
CHEROKEE COUNTY, NC – A resident that was reported to have COVID-19 on Monday, June 29 has died from complications. This individual was in their late eighties. This is the second COVID-19 related death in Cherokee County.
This serves as an unfortunate reminder of the seriousness that surrounds COVID-19 and the potential impacts to those high-risk individuals. We as a community must do our part to help stop the spread of the virus by washing our hands, practicing social distancing and wearing a mask to help protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19. These are important preventative measures that we should all be taking any time we are in areas where maintaining 6 feet of distance may be difficult. It’s also important to remember that just because you feel well, doesn’t mean you can’t transmit the virus to others.
Cherokee County Health Department emphasizes that anyone who becomes ill with a respiratory type illness to isolate until the following criteria are met:
• At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath), AND
• At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
It is also recommended that household and close contacts of persons with a respiratory type illness should quarantine to the extent possible for 14 days and monitor for symptoms of a respiratory illness. If household or close contacts become sick during the 14 day monitoring period, it is advised that they then isolate until the criteria for discontinuation of isolation (listed above) are met.
In addition to isolating as instructed above, if you become sick with a respiratory type illness, please contact the Cherokee County Health Department at 828-837-7486 or your primary care provider to determine if you need to be tested.
Because COVID-19 is most commonly spread through respiratory droplets, individuals should take the same measures that health care providers recommend to prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses, including washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, staying home if you are sick and covering coughs and sneezes with your elbow. The CDC now recommends that cloth face coverings be worn in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies).
It is important to make sure the information you are getting about COVID-19 is coming directly from reliable sources like Cherokee County Health Department, CDC, and NCDHHS. For more information, please visit the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus and NCDHHS’ website at www.ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus, which will also include future positive COVID-19 test results in North Carolina.
Cherokee County Health Department regularly updates our Facebook page with accurate and current information regarding COVID-19, we encourage the public to check our Facebook page for up-to-date information at

https://www.facebook.com/cchdnc.gov.
Symptoms for COVID-19 have a wide range reported-ranging from mild to severe illness. Symptoms include: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. If you are having a mild respiratory illness or exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19, isolate yourself from others until the criteria above is met. If your illness becomes severe requiring urgent or emergent health care, call and inform your health care provider or emergency services of your symptoms prior to arrival.
If you have questions, you may call the Health Department at 828-837-7486 during regular office hours which are Monday-Friday 8AM-5PM.

Three arrested on trafficking heroin charges

News, Police & Government, Press Release

MURPHY, N.C. – Cherokee County, N.C. Sheriff Derrick Palmer reported the Feb. 28, 2020 arrest of three individuals violations of North Carolina Controlled Substances Act including trafficking of heroin and cocaine possession.

The three allegedly responsible are Waylon Douglas Carswell,45, of Murphy, James Terry Sawyers,67, of Marble, N.C., and Marcia Elaine Weeks, 38, of Murphy.

Acting on information that individuals were illegally transporting and distributing transporting large quantities of heroin into Cherokee County, N.C., an investigation was conducted by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO).

At about 1:30 a.m., investigators and deputies conducted a traffic stop on the suspect vehicle. During the traffic stop, the CCSO K-9 was utilized, which resulted in a positive indication for the presence of controlled substances. A search of the vehicle uncovered over 50 grams of heroin, a small amount of crack cocaine, a firearm, and U.S. currency. CCSO seized these items.

James Terry Sawyers

James Terry Sawyers was brought to the Cherokee County Detention Center where he was placed on a $500,000.00 secure bond for TRAFFICKING IN OPIUM OR HEROIN, CONSPIRE TO TRAFFIC IN OPIUM/HEROIN, FELONY POSSESSION OF COCAINE, MAINTAIN PLACE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE. Sawyer’s first appearance is scheduled for March 5, 2020, in Cherokee County District Court.

Waylan Douglas Carswell was brought to the Cherokee County Detention Center where he was placed on a $250,000.00 secure bond for TRAFFICKING IN OPIUM OR HEROIN, CONSPIRE TRAFFIC OPIUM/HEROIN, FELONY POSSESSION OF COCAINE. Carswell’s first appearance is scheduled for March 5, 2020, in Cherokee County District Court.

Waylan Douglas Carswell

Marcia Elaine Weeks was brought to the Cherokee County Detention Center where she was placed on a $250,000.00 secure bond for TRAFFICKING IN OPIUM OR HEROIN, CONSPIRE TO TRAFFIC IN OPIUM/HEROIN, FELONY POSSESSION OF COCAINE, SIMPLE POSSESSION OF SCHEDULE III CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE, SIMPLE POSSESSION OF SCHEDULE IV CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE. Weeks’ first appearance is scheduled for March 5, 2020, in Cherokee County District Court.

Marcia Elaine Weeks

Sheriff Palmer said “Good work picking up the lead and following through with the information which took some very bad drugs off the streets. We are continuing this matter to wherever it leads. Our new K9 made its first detection and we anticipate continued success with the new addition to the Sheriff’s Office.”

Three car accident results in multiple crash victims

Murphy NC, News, Press Release
crash victims

MURPHY, N.C. – At or around 6:35 pm, on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, the Cherokee County E-911 Communications Center received a call in reference to a three-car motor vehicle crash at the intersection of Conaheeta St., Valley River Ave., and Veterans Memorial Ln. Multiple first responders from the Murphy Police Department, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, Cherokee County EMS, Station 11, and other units responded to the scene.

Multiple patients received treatment at the scene of the crash and some were transferred to Erlanger Western Carolina Emergency Room or Union General Hospital. Two crash victims were extricated from their motor vehicles. All three cars had to be towed from the scene.

Given the severity of the motor vehicle crash, and future charges pending, this is all the information that the Murphy Police Department can be released at this time. Once the investigation is complete, an updated press release will be issued.

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