The following press release has been issued by Cherokee County Sheriff's Office. All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Murphy, NC— Sheriff Derrick Palmer announced the June 18, 2020 arrest of 19-year-old Dru Jordan Baine, who provided a Fannin County, Georgia address, for sexual assault.
In mid-October 2019, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office was notified of a report of a sexual assault involving a minor child. The report alleged that Dru Baine was suspect in the reported assault.
Detectives with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office conducted an investigation into the allegations which included the assistance of HAVEN Child Advocacy Center in Murphy NC, The Cherokee County Department of Social Services, Appalachian Children’s Center Inc, McCaysville Police Department. At the conclusion of the investigation, the case was presented to the grand jury who met May 18, 2020, which issued the bills of indictment.
Dru Baine was located in Fannin County, Georgia where he had established residence after leaving Cherokee County, NC sometime during the investigation. He was arrested and later waived extradition and was brought to the Cherokee County Detention Center where he is currently being held.
Dru Jordan Baine was arrested for Statutory Rape of a Child by an Adult and Taking Indecent Liberties with Children. The North Carolina Magistrate set a $250,000.00 secure bond. Baine is scheduled to be in Cherokee County Superior Court on August 03, 2020 for his initial hearing.
Sheriff Derrick Palmer stated, “As you can see these cases are not solved overnight as we see on television. We are grateful for the assistance of McCaysville Police Department, HAVEN CAC and Appalachian Children’s Center for their invaluable assistance. Because of the age of the victim and the nature of the assault we do not anticipate any future press releases concerning this matter.”
To report suspicious activity and suspect violations of the law please call 828-837-1344 or submit a tip at email@example.com.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is allocating $35 million in federal funding to local health departments to support the COVID-19 response. Per federal guidelines, counties will be able to use these funds to support COVID-19 staffing, infection controls, testing and tracing, IT infrastructure and data sharing and visualization.
“Our local health departments are critical partners with the state as we fight this virus, and this funding will help them continue and expand their important work,” said Governor Roy Cooper.
“Since the start of the pandemic our local health departments have been working around the clock to protect their communities and slow the spread of the virus. These funds continue to support their ability to address the overwhelming demands they are facing,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D.
North Carolina’s local health departments are on the frontlines supporting people in getting tested for COVID-19 and knowing if they have been exposed. Testing and contact tracing are core public health activities and key components of North Carolina’s strategy to responsibly ease restrictions, while continuing to slow the spread COVID-19. These responsibilities are in addition to their ongoing work to promote health and prevent disease.
Local health departments will receive a base allocation of $90,000 per county with additional funding based on population size and their cumulative positive COVID-19 caseload. Some local health departments represent multiple counties. CLICK HERE to see how much each health department will receive.
This one-time, non-recurring funding is part of NCDHHS’ cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC), which awards annual funding to state, local and territorial health departments to support vector-borne disease surveillance and response. The coverage period runs from the beginning of the 2020 calendar year through the end of FY 2021-22.
Visit covid19.ncdhhs.gov to learn more about testing and contact tracing in North Carolina. For more information about the state’s response to COVID-19, go to nc.gov/covid19.
Erlanger officials announced today that Stephanie Boynton, currently CEO of Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital and Sequatchie Valley, will also assume the role of CEO of Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital (EWCH). Ms. Boynton previously served as Interim CEO of EWCH following Erlanger’s acquisition of Murphy Medical Center in 2018, and has been with the Erlanger Health System for the past 19 years.
In this new role, Ms. Boynton will be overseeing Erlanger’s critical access hospitals, with leadership responsibilities for EWCH, in addition to Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital and Sequatchie Valley. “We will continue to recruit new physicians to this area, and work closely with employees and the current medical staff to provide much-needed services to this community, Ms. Boynton said. “As with our healthcare facilities in Bledsoe and Sequatchie Counties, it is important to those living in this area that they can be treated within their community, remaining close to their homes, families, friends and support groups,” she added.
Matt Thomas will continue to serve as Chief Financial Officer and Teresa Bowleg as Chief Nursing Officer at Erlanger’s North Carolina-based hospital.
NCDHHS Announces $26 Million to Help Mitigate the Economic Disruption of COVID-19, Including Assistance for Families Facing Eviction
Today, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced that the state’s Community Action Agencies (CAAs) have begun to receive flexible funds that can be used to help low-income individuals and families meet a variety of needs caused by the economic disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds are part of the federal Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) and can, among other allowable uses, help eligible residents facing eviction with unmet rent and utility expenses.
“With the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor’s moratorium on evictions and utility shutoffs is the only thing keeping many families in safe and stable housing,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D. “This flexible funding will allow our Community Action Agencies to continue to meet a wide array of needs in our communities, including helping families remain in their homes when the moratorium is lifted.”
Community Action Agencies are nonprofit organizations created by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. To be eligible for CSBG-funded services, individuals and families must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.
“Community Action Agencies have helped bridge gaps for low wealth residents and communities for 55 years,” said Sharon Goodson, Executive Director of the NC Community Action Association. “They provide comprehensive services like case management, transportation, housing, employment, education, child care, eviction and emergency assistance programs to ensure low wealth residents increase and maintain their economic stability.”
To apply for help, contact your local Community Action Agency. For additional information on the CSBG funding or contact information for the 33 Community Action Agencies in North Carolina, visit ncdhhs.gov/csbg-contacts.
Murphy, NC— Sheriff Derrick Palmer announced the June 11, 2020 arrest of 19-year-old Nickolas Ghannon Carter of Murphy, North Carolina in regards to a sexual assault.
In mid-November 2019 the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office received a report that a 13-year-old female had been sexually assault by an 18-year-old male. The report further alleged that the 18-year-old male had used methamphetamine to facilitate the sexual assault.
Detectives with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office conducted an investigation into the allegations which included the assistance of HAVEN Child Advocacy Center in Murphy, NC. At the conclusion of the investigation, the case was presented to the grand jury which issued the bills of indictment.
Nickolas Ghannon Carter was arrested on 6/11/2020 and taken to the Cherokee County Detention Center where he was served with indictments for Second Degree Forcible Rape and Statutory Sexual Offense with a Person Less than 15 years of age. The North Carolina Magistrate set a $600,000.00 secure bond. Carter is presently in custody of the Cherokee County Detention awaiting an August 3, 2020 Superior Court date.
Sheriff Derrick Palmer stated, “I want to commend the deputies and detectives on this arrest. They were diligent and pursued the investigation to conclusion. As you see, it takes teamwork to facilitate these investigations and we thank HAVEN CAC for their invaluable assistance. Because of the age of the victim and the nature of the assault, we do not anticipate any future press releases concerning this matter.”
To report suspicious activity and suspect violations of the law, please call 828-837-1344 or submit a tip at firstname.lastname@example.org.
USDA Announces Details of Direct Assistance to Farmers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program
Farmers and Ranchers to Receive Direct Support for Losses Related to COVID-19
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to this direct support to farmers and ranchers, USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program is partnering with regional and local distributors, whose workforces have been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat and deliver boxes to Americans in need.
Beginning May 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), through the Farm Service Agency (FSA), will be accepting applications from agricultural producers who have suffered losses.
CFAP provides vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities.
Farmers and ranchers will receive direct support, drawn from two possible funding sources. The first source of funding is $9.5 billion in appropriated funding provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability (CARES) Act to compensate farmers for losses due to price declines that occurred between mid-January 2020, and mid-April 2020 and provides support for specialty crops for product that had been shipped from the farm between the same time period but subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channels. The second funding source uses the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act to compensate producers for $6.5 billion in losses due to on-going market disruptions.
Non-Specialty Crops and Wool
Non-specialty crops eligible for CFAP payments include malting barley, canola, corn, upland cotton, millet, oats, soybeans, sorghum, sunflowers, durum wheat, and hard red spring wheat. Wool is also eligible. Producers will be paid based on inventory subject to price risk held as of January 15, 2020. A payment will be made based 50 percent of a producer’s 2019 total production or the 2019 inventory as of January 15, 2020, whichever is smaller, multiplied by the commodity’s applicable payment rates.
Livestock eligible for CFAP include cattle, lambs, yearlings and hogs. The total payment will be calculated using the sum of the producer’s number of livestock sold between January 15 and April 15, 2020, multiplied by the payment rates per head, and the highest inventory number of livestock between April 16 and May 14, 2020, multiplied by the payment rate per head.
For dairy, the total payment will be calculated based on a producer’s certification of milk production for the first quarter of calendar year 2020 multiplied by a national price decline during the same quarter. The second part of the payment is based a national adjustment to each producer’s production in the first quarter.
For eligible specialty crops, the total payment will be based on the volume of production sold between January 15 and April 15, 2020; the volume of production shipped, but unpaid; and the number of acres for which harvested production did not leave the farm or mature product destroyed or not harvested during that same time period, and which have not and will not be sold. Specialty crops include, but are not limited to, almonds, beans, broccoli, sweet corn, lemons, iceberg lettuce, spinach, squash, strawberries and tomatoes. A full list of eligible crops can be found on farmers.gov/cfap. Additional crops may be deemed eligible at a later date.
There is a payment limitation of $250,000 per person or entity for all commodities combined. Applicants who are corporations, limited liability companies or limited partnerships may qualify for additional payment limits where members actively provide personal labor or personal management for the farming operation. Producers will also have to certify they meet the Adjusted Gross Income limitation of $900,000 unless at least 75 percent or more of their income is derived from farming, ranching or forestry-related activities. Producers must also be in compliance with Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation provisions.
Applying for Assistance
Producers can apply for assistance beginning on May 26, 2020. Additional information and application forms can be found at farmers.gov/cfap. Producers of all eligible commodities will apply through their local FSA office. Documentation to support the producer’s application and certification may be requested. FSA has streamlined the signup process to not require an acreage report at the time of application and a USDA farm number may not be immediately needed. Applications will be accepted through August 28, 2020.
USDA Farm Service Agency is still taking applications from farmers for this Coronavirus price support program. Cattle producers, in particular, should contact the local office at 828-837-2721, extension 2.
To ensure the availability of funding throughout the application period, producers will receive 80 percent of their maximum total payment upon approval of the application. The remaining portion of the payment, not to exceed the payment limit, will be paid at a later date as funds remain available.
USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with producers by phone and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or any other Service Center agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) is releasing updated guidance for doctors and clinicians on who should be tested for COVID-19.
North Carolina is focused on rapidly increasing testing of people who may not currently have symptoms, but may have been exposed to COVID-19, especially people from historically marginalized populations who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. To support testing in populations being hit hardest by COVID-19, NCDHHS also has a new resource available, COVID-19 Community Testing in Historically Marginalized Populations: Best Practices.
The guidance recommends that clinicians conduct or arrange for diagnostic COVID-19 testing for:
NCDHHS has new tools to help people know if they should consider being tested for COVID-19 and to find a nearby testing place.
North Carolina Designates Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services Workers as Emergency First Responders
Today, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced that child protective services and adult protective services workers are designated as first responders. This classification will help these critical workers access Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needed while working in situations that require face-to-face contact with adults, children and families amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Face-to-face contact is often essential for child protective services and adult protective services work,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D. “This designation will help these emergency workers have the tools they need to stay safe while continuing to serve vulnerable children, adults and families.”
Child protective services and adult protective services are essential to protecting children and adults who are suspected or who have been found to be abused, neglected or exploited. These essential workers need access to complete information to effectively access child and adult safety and well-being. In many cases, the firsthand observation needed to obtain this information requires face-to-face contact with children, adults and families.
The new designation for child protective services and adult protective services workers is in addition to other measures intended to limit face-to-face contacts to the extent possible or conduct visits virtually.
To learn more about Child Protective Services in North Carolina, visit ncdhhs.gov/divisions/social-services/child-welfare-services/child-protective-services.
To learn more about Adult Protective Services in North Carolina, visit
Guidance formed through collaborative process with DHHS and School Leaders
RALEIGH: New health guidelines released Monday represent a first step to help North Carolina K-12 public schools find a safe way to open to in-person instruction for the 2020-21 academic year, health and education leaders announced Monday.
The StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12) lays out a comprehensive set of baseline health practices that public schools should follow to minimize risk of exposure to COVID-19 for students, staff, and families. In addition to specific requirements, the Toolkit recommends practices that schools should implement to minimize spread of COVID-19 while allowing in-person teaching to resume.
Governor Roy Cooper, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis, and NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Mandy Cohen shared the guidance Monday.
“Getting children back to school to learn is a high priority, but they must be able to do so in the safest way possible,” said Governor Cooper. “Every child, family and public school educator in North Carolina deserves strong protection to lower the risk of virus spread.”
Schools are asked to plan for reopening under three scenarios – Plan A: Minimal Social Distancing, Plan B: Moderate Social Distancing, or Plan C: Remote Learning Only. NC DHHS, in consultation with the State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction, will announce by July 1 which of the three plans should be implemented for schools to most safely reopen. The remaining plans may be needed if the state’s COVID-19 metrics change over time.
“Opening schools will be possible if we keep working together to slow the spread of COVID-19. We will each need to do our part and practice the 3 Ws – Wear a cloth face covering. Wait six feet apart. Wash your hands frequently. These easy actions will have outsized impact in keeping viral spread low to in order to help get our children back to school,” said Cohen.
The Public Health Toolkit was developed collaboratively by DHHS and DPI with input from a range of stakeholders across the state, including local superintendents, State Board of Education members, the Governor’s Teacher Advisory Council, and members of the Governor’s COVID-19 Education and Nutrition Working Group.
“We are working together to balance the need for all of our children to get back to school – especially children who rely on public schools for their education, health, safety and nutrition – while at the same time proceeding cautiously and deliberately to protect their health and safety,” said Chairman Davis. “I know meeting these public health requirements will take a tremendous effort by our schools – but I also know we are doing the right thing and that our schools will rise to the challenge.”
The StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit will be a companion to operational guidance under development by DPI that will offer strategies for how to implement the public health guidance, and cover other non-health areas for reopening planning, including scheduling, instructional practice, and staff training.
"Today, North Carolinians have the important first step of returning to schools in the fall with this release of the final health guidance for schools from the NC Department of Health and Human Services," Superintendent Johnson said. "In addition, the North Carolina education agency has already been leading workgroups, comprised of diverse stakeholders from teachers to school staff to superintendents to other support professionals, to create draft operational strategies that will help our school systems prepare for the fall. We will now seek feedback on the draft operational strategies from other stakeholders across the state to ensure that we best capture the needs of all our schools.”
The StrongSchoolsNC Public Heath Toolkit (K-12) was developed using the most current CDC guidance for schools and includes requirements and recommendations for eight areas: Social Distancing and Minimizing Exposure; Cloth Face Coverings; Protecting Vulnerable Populations; Cleaning and Hygiene; Monitoring for Symptoms; Handling Suspected, Presumptive or Confirmed Positive Cases of COVID-19; Communication and Combating Misinformation; Water and Ventilation Systems; Transportation; and Coping and Resilience.
For example, it requires students and others to be screened for illness before entering school, and requires floor markings to maintain social distance. It also includes sample screening symptom checklists in English and Spanish, a flow chart protocol for handling suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, and a checklist of infection control supplies schools may need. The Toolkit will be updated as new health guidance is released by the CDC and additional resources are added.
Questions about the StrongSchoolsNC Public Heath Toolkit (K-12) should be directed to StrongSchoolsNC@dhhs.nc.gov (in English or in Spanish).
N.C. Department of Transportation officials have selected a recommended alternative for improvements to Corridor K in Graham County.
The alignment chosen utilizes existing highways instead of the five other alternatives, which required sections on new locations.
The typical roadway section for this project, designated as A-0009C, includes one lane in each direction with alternating climbing and passing lanes and an 8-foot-wide shoulder.
This will improve mobility and reliability between U.S. 129 in Robbinsville and the existing four-lane section on N.C. 28 at Stecoah. It also will provide a safety benefit for pedestrians in Robbinsville and at the Appalachian Trail.
“This selection allows NCDOT and its agency partners to focus our resources on a single plan that best serves the residents,” NCDOT Division 14 Project Development Engineer Wanda Austin said. “We have taken a major step together and we look forward to continuing our partnerships with local government officials, the environmental agencies and advocacy groups through the entire process.”
NCDOT officials, along with representatives from Graham County, Appalachian Regional Council, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency, N.C. Division of Water Resources and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission chose the recommended alternative by weighing a wide range of important considerations.
Cost, design considerations, travel benefits, community impacts, public input, and the minimization of natural resources all factored into the final decision. Construction on the project, with a cost of at least $133 million, may begin as early as the fall of 2022. Corridor K is part of the Appalachian Development Highway System established by Congress in 1965.
The project team plans to finish the Environmental Assessment this summer which will be followed by additional public engagement in the fall.