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This edition is sponsored by Raleigh Convergence. 
Here’s what’s happening now:

With just over one week until the North Carolina potentially moves to Phase 2 of lifting restrictions, state officials described the indicators as “stable.”

But moving to Phase 2 on May 22 isn’t a given.

“Continued stability in these trends is a real positive for our state. While we remain on a good path for the 14-day trends we need to see to move to Phase 2, our progress as a state is still dependent on our individual actions,” said North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, while encouraging people to wear face masks, use physical distancing and wash hands.

How we’re doing now as of Thursday’s press conference:
✔️ Trajectory of COVID-like syndromic cases
❌ Trajectory of cases (expected with increased testing)
✔️ Trajectory of positive tests as a percentage of overall tests
✔️ Trajectory of hospitalizations
Testing and contact tracing is up, PPE supplies are increasing.

Governor Roy Cooper said testing capacity will be important in making the decision to move forward. While testing has increased, expect it to increase more.

Newly announced Thursday, the NCDHHS will list testing sites on their website as testing continues to increase.

➡️ Read more in-depth: [What to know about COVID-19 in Wake County]

➡️ Updated regularly: [how to help]

What else to know:

⚖️  Wake County Superior Court judge denied a lawsuit that would have released people from prison. 5 people have died while in state custody. [Carolina Public Press]

😷 Antibody tests show few have been exposed to the coronavirus. [WUNC]

⛪ Different churches and denominations have different approaches on gathering, while some protest. [News & Observer]
Message from Raleigh Convergence:

When you support Raleigh Convergence with a sponsorship, you're supporting the future of independent local media based right here in the Raleigh area.

If the timing isn't right for a message from your business, consider donating a sponsorship to a local charitable organization of your choice to share their message! [sponsor kit]

Converging Stories, Raleigh Convergence's live storytelling series, launched earlier this year to a sold-out crowd at Transfer Company.

We may not be able to gather in the same way, but our storytelling project will go on.

We'll hold a night of live storytelling around the theme of "What If?" on Monday, May 25, virtually.

The storytellers, our neighbors, are coached to tell their true story around the theme and will tell it live over Zoom.

Attend this event to remember the ways we connect even during challenging times.

Meet the storytellers:

Kenia Thompson,
founder of WordCrumbs, is a marketing professional with a passion for all things communication. Her love for education has led her to compile her classroom teachings and life lessons and use them as a vehicle to inform and educate others on the importance of communication. 

In an effort to share much needed speaking skills with the public, Thompson takes a fun conversational approach that relates to all audiences. She is also an executive coach, facilitator for team development exercises and retreats, a videographer and a mom to two!

Jay Smith, together with his wife, build homes and manage property in the downtown Raleigh area. At the core, I’m a Native Angeleno, a Californian, a married father of two college-aged kids who helped me to understand my purpose.

I genuinely want us all to succeed and will go out of my way to ensure that. Being a property manager is exactly what you would think it’s like. I’m the guy that everyone wants to know but nobody wants to be.  If you want something done, you come to me – everyone knows that! 

I adopt a Greenway, volunteer with City of Raleigh, the Skate4Life Organization and work to prevent teen suicides. You can usually find me fixing tenant problems and toilets. You can also find me at the skatepark, ripping it up with the kids.

Mary Willson is the Director of Engagement at EducationNC where she leads newsletter and social media initiatives. Her work is focused on lifting up the voices of EdNC readers and connecting our work to the broader North Carolina public. Previously, she held a variety of engagement and management roles at 6AM City.
She is proud to be in the inaugural cohort of the CUNY Newmark Graduate School of Journalism’s Executive Program in News Innovation and Leadership.  She is an active member of the Online News Association, has served on its conference social media team for three years, and was the inaugural Instagram digital host in 2019. She previously worked for USA Today Network as a digital producer in Fort Collins, Colorado — her hometown — where she graduated from Colorado State University. 

She can be found walking her Goldendoodle Dax, running,  hiking, going to solo movies, reading, or exploring the Southeast on the weekends. 

Sarah Day Owen Wiskirchen, Raleigh Convergence editor, publisher & founder, will emcee and share a short story as well.

ATTEND: [Get your ticket now]

PS: Consider making plans to order food from our partner, Transfer Company. We might not be on-site, but we can all share a meal together while apart.
PPE my LP is a collaborative art project with record album covers

If you've been spending more time on Instagram lately (same), you may have had the good fortune of coming across a new project from Raleigh creative Cameron Laws: PPE my LP.

The concept: Fashion a mask onto the album cover of your choice, then share it. In a matter of a couple weeks, Cameron's posted nearly 140 album covers, many of them from others.

The emailed interview below has been condensed for length.

Raleigh Convergence: How did you come up with the idea for this project? What were some of the things you considered in getting it started?

Cameron: I suppose that I have Willie Nelson to thank for this one! Like a lot of folks in creative roles, I'm working from home and my main role of curating art and music festivals is in a holding pattern.

I'd wanted to come up with a project, because I find a lot of joy in making things and I needed that more than ever! I was also limited to the items I had on hand.

The initial idea was to put paper masks on the people featured in artwork hanging in my house, but it so happened to be Willie Nelson's birthday, and I'd woken up with the intention of putting Red Headed Stranger on the turntable to celebrate.

The portrait cover of that album and this idea came together so organically, and with the help of some folded magazine scraps, PPE my LP began!

Not only has it been a great connective creative outlet, but it's made me rediscover a few old favorite albums, too.

RC: Many other people have jumped on board in making their own PPE My LP art. Do you have a favorite in any category? 

Cameron: It's impossible to choose! I love vinyl, and I also like to think about the artists behind these albums, and why they chose whatever album cover art they did.

To then add the idea of a music lover choosing a particular album from their collection to interact with is also really fun. Sure, it's a sort of silly thing to do, but I do like to think about all of those creative choices coming together. 

RC: Why are you making art now? What's the motivation behind doing something like this in this moment? 

Cameron: Frankly, my days quarantining were starting to run together, and I was looking for a daily creative task outside of my role at Artsplosure. 

I also really wanted a project that other people could participate in from their own homes, just to foster a sense of connection in these distanced times. We're in the middle of a very serious, scary, and stressful global situation, and I wanted to bring in a little levity to lessen that weight that I'm sure we're all feeling every day.

While I'm a big believer in the fact that general productivity is not a way to quantify self-worth, I sincerely find a lot of joy in seeing the real-life results of an idea -- even if that idea is putting miniature masks on my albums.

Personally, I'm trying to get better at working through the part of the creative process where I rapidly shift from "this is such a fun idea, I love this!" to "this is so stupid and no one is going to get it and I'm wasting my time." 

I think most creative people feel that way, and it can be hard to work through. I can't say this is a super serious project, or even that I'm a very 'serious' artist/person, but it's been surprisingly rewarding to just put it out there each day, and to have had so many people reach out to tell me that following it or participating in the project has brightened their day. That's all I could hope to accomplish in these wild times.

RC: I know you love records. Why?

Cameron: I like vinyl because, as obvious as it sounds, its such a tangible thing that gives us the otherwise intangible experience of music.

Real people sat down with real instruments and equipment and recorded this album, and to have a physical representation of that, from just holding the record to the fact that a needle is hitting varying grooves to reproduce what those artists made -- it's just pretty wild!

Not to mention that so much of our daily lives exist in such an opposite way. Most of our communication and media is experienced through our devices now, so I like having this one very real version of a medium to experience.
RC: How can other people get involved in submitting their own?
Grab some scrap paper and an album and get crafty! Then just post it to instagram and tag @ppemylp. I try to post at least one submission a day. 
Cameron Laws is an artist, musician, and active member of North Carolina's creative community via her own work and through her role as program director at Artsplosure. A proud daughter of rural North Carolina, Cameron currently lives and works in Raleigh. You can find more of her work on her instagram at @ms.unsuitablepet, #neverperfectalwayspurty, and Explore her new project at @ppemylp.
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