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Drones to Deliver Protective Equipment in North Carolina

The state transportation department said Wednesday that, starting in May, a public-private partnership will use drones to deliver critical medical supplies and food during the COVID-19 response.

by Bruce Henderson, The Charlotte Observer / April 23, 2020
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(TNS) — Mecklenburg County, N.C., coronavirus cases are at 1,284, according to state reports, increasing by 39 new cases since Tuesday. Thirty-three people have died in the county.

The county, which unlike the state reports only cases among Mecklenburg residents, had reported 1,255 cases and 32 deaths late Tuesday.

Statewide, the Department of Health and Human Services reported 7,220 total cases Wednesday morning, including 269 new ones. The 242 deaths by Wednesday were a daily increase of 29 people.

As coronavirus has closed many businesses and grounded flights, traffic on highways and rural roads has plummeted — and the air has probably gotten cleaner as a result.

The N.C. Department of Transportation says the number of cars on roads with stoplights and signal systems is down 31% in Charlotte, compared to just before the coronavirus closures took place.

Because emissions from cars, trucks and other vehicles are heavy contributors to air pollution, state transportation officials say they expect an improvement to air quality.

With fewer people on the roads, driving times have shrunk so cars idle less and use gas more efficiently, and so pollute less, they say.

Drone-delivered medical supplies

The state transportation department said Wednesday that, starting in May, a public-private partnership will use drones to deliver critical medical supplies and food during the COVID-19 response.

Charlotte is among sites for the project. Zipline and Novant Health will deliver personal protective equipment and other medical equipment across Novant’s medical campuses, the department said.

The department’s Division of Aviation and its partners will host an online forum from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday on the initiative.

“North Carolina has been a leader in demonstrating how drones can help people in times of crisis,” Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette said in a statement. “We look forward to putting this technology into productive use as we work to help citizens and medical professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In Raleigh and Garner, WakeMed, UPS and Matternet plan to use a drone to deliver non-COVID-19-related supplies and equipment between WakeMed’s main hospital in Raleigh and the WakeMed Garner Healthplex. In Holly Springs, Flytrex will deliver food from restaurants in a shopping center to nearby neighborhoods.

Officials will use data collected to help learn how drone technology can be used in other areas of the country. Funding for the individual drone missions will come from the private partners, while DOT coordinates the project.

Real estate agents seek looser restrictions

A group representing Charlotte real estate agents wants the county to loosen some restrictions on selling houses as signs show the pandemic is taking a toll onspring home buying.

Pending home sales were down 11% in March compared to the previous year, says a report by Mecklenburg County based on data from Canopy Multiple Listing Services.

Mecklenburg’s stay-at-home order prohibits many aspects of real estate transactions from being conducted in-person. The county’s economist, Michael Simmons, predicts that economic uncertainty during the outbreak will prompt buyers to pull back.

Even after the order is lifted, his report estimates it will take several months for many to recover from financial hardship, impacting sales.

©2020 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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