Coronavirus

Jul 23, 2020
With the coronavirus crisis in its fifth month, Charlotte planning director Taiwo Jaiyeoba has noticed something odd: Despite massive disruptions, his staff is actually completing some work more quickly. Plan reviews are faster. Advisory committees now meeting virtually are seeing 100% attendance. And developers have asked if they can continue to have the option of virtual meetings to go over their proposals with staff once the crisis ends.
Jul 23, 2020
No doubt, 2020 will be known as a year of change; good, bad, and lasting. The global coronavirus pandemic has forced shifts and pivots in almost all industries and facets of life. The food system is no exception. As the resiliency of the local food system is challenged, some farmers and food producers will find it tough to stay afloat in 2020. For others, 2020 is a year of growth, adaptation, and a record-breaking good year, much like 2008 when the Great Recession triggered a return to “local” that drove up demand.
Jul 02, 2020
Kevin Ross runs a pet care service from his home in Indian Trail through Rover.com. By mid-March, as cases of COVID-19 were rapidly rising in the US, his typically steady stream of clients began to dwindle. When states began issuing stay-at-home orders, many of his clients started working from home or cutting out travel. That’s when he saw a wave of cancellations. 
Jun 30, 2020
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of being stuck at home. While I understand the need during a global pandemic, months of “the new normal” has me missing the old one. Not being able to go to the gym, church, or the movies has got me—and a lot of other people—feeling anxious, and sometimes, pretty down. As it turns out, this is pretty normal, according to research. Folks at the Pew Research Center have completed a number of surveys over the past couple of months and found that half of all American adults are experiencing moderate to high distress during quarantine. There is a great deal of stress, anxiety and worry about health, finances, and the future, among other things. And the longer this continues, the more people report high levels of distress. Learning how to take care of our mental health during an extended quarantine could not be more important.
Jun 16, 2020
As the world sinks towards an unprecedented depression, now is the time to invest.   The demand for the most valuable commodity in the world — human ingenuity — has not been this low since the Great Depression in 1933. The nation’s unemployment rate spiked to 16.1% in April 2020 (before dipping to 13.3% in May), and world populations are confined to their homes, threatening the global economy. While this presents enormous problems, it also opens opportunities. 
Jun 04, 2020
We who write about cities are quick to make predictions. Some will prove prescient. Some won’t. But nobody really knows. Cities aren’t all alike. New York’s texture, way of life and pandemic experience are not Charlotte’s, or Houston’s, or Seattle’s. And this: We humans have a long history of behaving both predictably and unpredictably.
Jun 02, 2020
The novel coronavirus is extracting a terrible toll from our society, replete with mind-boggling statistics: A death toll of more than 100,000, 40 million people unemployed, a 95% plunge in airline passengers and so many more. The losses are immense. Grief is immeasurable. It’s still unclear how far-reaching and deep the economic pain we’re facing will run.  Amidst that, however, the pandemic offers lessons, and opportunities for change. Here are three lessons surfaced by COVID-19 that we should not let fade even after the virus is under control.
May 20, 2020
Places like Shelby’s Don Gibson Theater, the El Dorado Outpost outdoor retailer in the Uwharries and The Twilight Bark pet supply company in Troy were built on grit, luck and the surety that there would be demand for something other than the offerings at chain stores and strip malls. But for those counting on place-based, experiential strategies to drive their revivals, the key question is: Will that be enough?
May 19, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has generated a flood of data, maps and other resources to track the spread — and places to get help — throughout the region. Many of these resources are scattered across different websites and dashboards. Here’s a brief summary of what’s available, collected in one place. We will update this list as the pandemic goes on.
May 18, 2020
When the coronavirus pandemic hit in the middle of the spring semester, it added a whole new layer of significance to the assignments in Assistant Professor of Architectural History Lidia Klein’s spring seminar. The curriculum for the graduate course, Architecture and Production: from Assembly Line to 3-D Printing, challenged students to investigate “changes in methods of architectural production from the 19th century to the present,” placing those changes “within social, political, cultural, and economic contexts.” 
May 13, 2020
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, news headlines have called attention to both “essential workers” in the food system, such as farmworkers and grocery store employees, and extensive job losses for food system workers, primarily in retail and restaurants. There are requests for contributions to virtual tip jars and for customers to buy gift cards from small businesses alongside fears of food chain disruptions, empty grocery shelves, and virus exposure while shopping. All of this highlights the often invisible precarity of essential workers in the US food system — and the precariousness of the food system itself.
May 13, 2020
Projects that usually take years are happening in weeks during the coronavirus pandemic: Cities are closing streets to cars, opening public space for sidewalk cafes and investing more in pop-up parks and outdoor amenities.  Planners are responding to a desperate desire for more public, outdoor space, as restaurants, gyms, bars, concert venues, offices, schools and other indoor gathering places remain closed or severely restricted. In Charlotte, city officials have closed about two miles of streets near parks to through traffic, in order to give people more room that’s usually been reserved for cars.  The question, though, as restrictions begin lifting and people crave a return to some kind of normalcy, is whether such changes represent a permanent shift or a fleeting blip in our car-centric culture.
May 11, 2020
The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, with support from the Gambrell Foundation, is preparing to launch the second cohort of faculty fellows to study pressing issues in the Charlotte region. 
May 11, 2020
The novel coronavirus, better known as COVID-19, has changed the world as we know it. This holds true for the field of education, particularly K-12 schools in North Carolina and across the U.S. COVID-19 has exposed some glaring educational inequities that were present before the pandemic, but in many ways have been amplified during this crisis. As a result, I provide four major educational inequities that have directly impacted the most vulnerable K-12 students’ ability to learn and reach various educational academic achievement metrics.
May 05, 2020
What are the gendered implications of COVID-19 for women doing the work that keeps many of us alive? At the front lines of this pandemic, women are overburdened,  an unseen labor force that keeps the country running and takes care of those most in need whether or not there is a pandemic. These women are underpaid and undervalued, they are the essential workers, and they are more at-risk for intimate partner violence and sexual exploitation. And the most striking implication is that we are exposing women to COVID-19, in some cases killing them, even as they are trying to save us.
Apr 27, 2020
Across the Charlotte region, parks have been full and streets largely empty for the past several weeks, as people try to get out of their houses for fresh air and exercise while staying home from work and school. Other cities have been opening vast stretches of their streets to walkers, joggers, bicyclists and others seeking outdoor space while following social distance guidelines. The logic is simple: Auto traffic has plunged to levels no one could imagine two months ago, while millions of people need more places to be outside than often-inadequate parks. 
Apr 23, 2020
More than a month into local stay-at-home orders and the shutdown of large parts of Charlotte’s economy, one area is clearly feeling the impact: public transit.  As might be expected, ridership numbers have plummeted, both as a result of workers staying  home and the Charlotte Area Transit System reducing hours. 
Apr 21, 2020
Encouraging people to stay home, avoid non-essential outings is the main strategy to contain the spread of COVID-19. However, for those facing family violence, home can be anything but safe.  Advocates across the country are concerned about an increase in domestic violence and child abuse incidents, with schools closed and  families stuck at home.
Apr 21, 2020
Monday night’s rezoning meeting felt like most Charlotte City Council sessions from previous years, despite the mayor and staff sitting six feet apart and developers battling audio and video glitches in the remote setup.  But even though developers are moving forward with most of their previously announced plans and cranes are still filling in the blank spaces on our city’s skyline with new towers, questions are swirling about what the era of COVID-19 means for the much-touted urban revival. 
Apr 21, 2020
This map shows the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents in the 14-county region the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute serves. The number varies significantly between the counties, which could be a reflection of factors ranging from population density to how many tests...
Apr 16, 2020
Students lose 20% to 30% of their school year learning gains over the summer and research has found that students of color, students with disabilities and those from low income families experience greater summer learning loss than their peers — and now, the coronavirus pandemic threatens to compound these losses.
Apr 15, 2020
Since the coronavirus lockdowns began, Mecklenburg’s resource helpline has seen housing assistance requests jump 219% and food assistance jump 747%. These numbers are an indication of the dramatic impacts we’re seeing unfold on Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s economy. 
Apr 15, 2020
There will certainly be scores of studies and articles for years to come about lessons for public administrators from how our multiple levels and units of government managed the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. An important place to start is asking the right set of questions.
Apr 14, 2020
The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and the city of Charlotte are collecting stories to learn what you and your neighbors are seeing and to celebrate the efforts underway by people pulling together that are getting us through this unprecedented time. 
Apr 14, 2020
This is the age of the “metropolitan revolution” in the U.S.: the city as the crucible of change in the wake of waning effectiveness at the national level. Or so say some, like former Chicao mayor Rahm Emanual, whose book “The Nation City” came out in February.  That the triumph of the city could now seem almost blasé to urbanists makes it all the more provocative to regionalists and rural advocates. We asked former UNC Charlotte Urban Institute Senior Fellow Brian Dabson, a nationally recognized expert on regional development and resilience, to give us his take on the new book. Below he shares why he thinks cities (still) need their regions, whether the urban-rural divide narrative will wither away in 2020, and how this new era of pandemic risk might foster more regionally-minded thinking in the future.
Apr 09, 2020
As unemployment rises and schools remain closed, the coronavirus crisis is highlighting some of the many inequalities in the Charlotte region.  Those problems go beyond the ones we’re familiar with, such as income inequality and patterns of segregation. They point to deeply embedded inequalities in how we’ve built our city and our region, as well as access to key infrastructure. 
Apr 08, 2020
As much of our work, learning and lives move online following the stay-in-place policies to control the coronavirus pandemic, the inequity of the digital divide for low-income and rural households here and around the country is now more visible.  Like most states in the country, North Carolina has poor broadband (or high-speed internet) outside of most cities and towns. Almost all 100 counties in the state include rural areas with little or no broadband
Apr 01, 2020
Like everyone else, the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute team is adjusting to the new reality of working from home and becoming part of a national focus group on consumer preferences for remote conferencing services (after a couple of weeks of sampling, do you now prefer Zoom, WebEx, or Google Hangouts Meet?). In our effort to stay connected as a team, even the institute’s weekly “research huddle” has gone virtual. It’s a 30-minute “standup” where our researchers provide updates on what they’re working on and share ideas for future research topics. It’s a wonderful time as a director to sit back and marvel at the talent that has been assembled in one team, and to be impressed by their passion to serve the public, even during a time when that public has by necessity turned inward and when it’s not always clear what form our service should take.
Mar 30, 2020
Closed bars, restaurants and breweries. Hundreds of thousands of employees working from home while trying to home-school children. Near-empty road and no toilet paper on the shelves.  The immediate impacts from the coronavirus crisis are highly visible. But the virus could have more long-lasting and farther-reaching impacts beyond the immediate unemployment and economic disruption we’re seeing. Here are five other areas the coronavirus could have an impact on our region.
Mar 30, 2020
The coronavirus crisis is growing across North Carolina, with a statewide stay-at-home order going into effect Monday, but the effects could be felt differently from place to place. 
Mar 30, 2020
After weighing the pros and cons of taking groceries to elderly parents; after assessing the risk of exposing them to coronavirus while driving them to the doctor; after worrying about friends who are sick in New York City, those who are considered essential workers and those who are now unemployed; after obsessively wiping surfaces with bleach solution and slathering hands with sanitizer; after years of developing virtual networks only to be unnerved by social distancing, I find moments of respite while pulling winter weeds. 
Mar 24, 2020
Mecklenburg County residents are directed to stay at home through a new proclamation Tuesday, in order to limit their social contacts and slow the spread of coronavirus. But some residents could find that harder to do: The rate of crowded housing varies widely across the city of Charlotte and the rest of the county. 
Mar 23, 2020
The 2020 Census is crucial for making policy, assigning Congressional seats and divvying up resources for the decade to come, but it’s one of the many institutions facing a big challenge from the coronavirus. Census response forms were sent nationwide last week, inviting people to respond online. People who respond online, over the phone or via mail  won’t get a knock on their door from a Census worker — an especially important consideration in a time of pandemic.
Mar 23, 2020
If there has ever been an object lesson on why housing matters and why we must prioritize providing it for people who don’t have a place to live, this latest crisis should teach us. Charlotte’s homeless population is at particular risk as we collectively adjust to COVID-19.  Work to end homelessness takes on new urgency in a pandemic, for reasons of both personal and community safety. The lack of housing makes social distancing difficult, if not impossible. Many individuals experiencing homelessness are especially vulnerable to the virus because of high rates of underlying health conditions. A growing number of homeless individuals are over the age of 60. Simple necessities to maintain hygiene and prevent the spread of any infection are not regularly available (it’s hard to wash your hands for 20 seconds if you don’t have a sink). 
Mar 20, 2020
Charlotte is home to the world’s sixth-busiest airport by takeoffs and landings, and Charlotte Douglas International is often cited as the region’s most important economic asset. That’s why the airline industry’s sudden existential crisis could be especially consequential for the region.  Because of the coronavirus crisis, American Airlines and other carriers are struggling with the twin blow of a massive dropoff in customer demand and radically tightened restrictions on where they can fly.
Mar 19, 2020
Restaurant workers are grappling with the industry’s near shutdown in North Carolina due to coronavirus. Another category of workers being hit hard is those employed by the retail sector. The closures have come swiftly over the past week, engulfing an ever-widening swath of stores locally:...
Mar 18, 2020
With Gov. Roy Cooper’s declaration this week that restaurants must close their dining rooms and move to carry-out only, restaurant workers across the region are scrambling to figure out how they’ll get by during the coronavirus crisis.  Food services and drinking establishments (basically, restaurants and bars) account for almost 9 percent of the region’s jobs: 115,000 out of 1.35 million total jobs in Mecklenburg and the surrounding 13 counties.
Mar 17, 2020
Everything from the NCAA basketball tournament to this spring’s garden parties at Buckingham Palace has been canceled, and the disruptions have also reached into the rhythm of meetings and public input sessions that drives much of planning and development in Charlotte.
Mar 17, 2020
“For the health and well-being of our community, the University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encouraging social distancing and the postponement of large community gatherings as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Angelique Gaines, a social research specialist at the Urban Institute who spearheads the program. “In adherence to this guidance, City Walks will be postponing its month of walking, biking and munching tours in May. These events will now be planned for the fall. Thank you for your understanding during this time.”