THE WEIRD: Earthquake

We’ve seen Kanye West run for president, we’ve seen murder hornets, we’ve seen Trump try to ban TikTok, we’ve seen NASCAR ban the Confederate flag. This year’s been full of unexpected news, and honestly, Sunday’s 5.1 magnitude earthquake—despite being the state’s largest for over a century—might not even crack the list of top five weirdest moments of 2020. The aftershocks were felt as far away as Atlanta, but the epicenter was right around the northern N.C. town of Sparta. WRAL got to work reporting on the quake by bringing viewers live video from Sparta—in Greece. (Oops.) In a sign of how truly bizarre 2020 has been, that’s arguably not even the biggest North Carolina weather reporting blunder in the past week: Remember when the Weather Channel called Ocracoke Island “Corncrake Island?”

THE BAD: UNC sorority members

Last Tuesday night, two dozen students were filmed leaving a house near UNC’s campus to head to a party. None of the women, who seem to be part of UNC’s Chi Omega sorority, were wearing masks, and they were all standing side-by-side rather than social distancing. It’s a frustrating but predictable result of recalling students back to campus for fall classes. A July survey published by the university found that, while 84 percent of surveyed undergraduate students said they were likely to wear face masks on campus, only 52 percent said they were “extremely likely to adhere to physical distancing requirements on campus.” Worse still, 28 percent said they were likely to attend some sort of party or large campus gathering. These actions put people’s lives in danger, from students to university employees to business owners and residents in college towns across the state.

THE AWFUL: Piecemeal COVID-19 response

Of course, the fact that those students were made to return to campus at all speaks to a larger issue with our country’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States’ response to COVID-19 has been all over the place, and it looks abysmal when you look at other how other countries fought the virus. New Zealand, for example, hasn’t seen a new COVID-19 case from an unknown local source in over 100 days thanks to a strict nationwide lockdown enacted early in the pandemic by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. By contrast, the responsibility for tackling the pandemic here has been left up to state and local governments. It’s encouraging to see states like North Carolina making the hard choice to extend lockdown measures or cancel beloved events like the State Fair, but the lack of a coordinated national strategy has led to a world-leading 5.3 million cases here in the United States.

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