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Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of August 3

Gerry Broome

This post will be updated periodically with the latest information on how the coronavirus is affecting North Carolina. Scroll down for older updates. For a recap of last week's news, check out Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of July 27.

Aug. 7, 2020

6 p.m. - The Raleigh Christmas Parade will not proceed through North Carolina's Capital City this year, due to concerns over the pandemic. Instead, the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association will host a televised virtual event in late November. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC
3:10 p.m. - Data from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction shows most K-12 parents won't have the option of sending their kids back to school at the start of the fall, even partially. Governor Roy Cooper allowed districts to opt for fully remote learning in his reopening guidance. His Republican gubernatorial election opponent, Lieutenant Dan Forest, wants every parent to be able to have the choice for fully in-person learning five days a week. The state remains in Phase 2 of its reopening as coronavirus cases remain high in North Carolina. Some teachers fear they don't have the cleaning supplies they need. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

3:05 p.m. - Latinx rights group Siembra NC will provide COVID-19 tests and masks in Randolph and Rockingham Counties tomorrow morning. The drive-thru events will be at Holy Infant Catholic Church in Reidsville and Eastern Randolph High School in Ramseur. Last month, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that 11 North Carolina sheriffs had signed Warrant Service Officer (WSO) agreements allowing them to train deputies to use ICE warrant to enforce federal civil law. In an email, Siembra said these agreements intimidate Latinx communities but individuals should still do what they can to decrease the spread of COVID-19. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

3 p.m. - State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen has issued an order requiring biweekly staff testing at nursing homes. Cohen says the state will use federal CARES Act funding to pay for this testing through November. Facilities will not need to retest asymptomatic staff that have already tested positive for COVID-19. Last month, the health department conducted baseline testing of residents and staff in nursing homes. DHHS is also adding ten regional infection control support teams to help long-term care facilities prevent COVID-19 transmission and manage outbreaks that do occur. 

Cohen says the state's caution up to this point has reduced the number of nursing home residents being infected by COVID-19 outbreaks, making these outbreaks shorter than they were months ago. Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:25 p.m. - The State Department of Health and Human Services is reporting about 1,500 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 since Thursday. 42 more deaths are also being reported. The state's total death toll since March is now over 2,100. Hospitalizations dropped slightly for the second time this week but still remain over 1,100. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:05 p.m. - Friday is the first day of fall move-in for Duke University students. Students moving into Duke campus housing must be tested for COVID-19 immediately upon arriving to campus. Undergraduates living off-campus must be tested before they can begin fall classes. Students must sign up online for testing appointments. Classes for the university begin Aug. 17. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:50 a.m. - The State Department of Health and Human Services has announced its selection of seven vendors to hire and manage over 250 community health workers. The health workers will be deployed in 50 counties to connect those affected by COVID-19 with needed services and support, including diagnostic testing, primary care, and nutrition assistance. Some of the vendors include Vidant Health and Southestern Health NC. The state-funded community health worker initiative will run through December. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:35 a.m. - Wake County is expected to lose around $138 million because of canceled and rescheduled events. The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau released a report today detailing the impact of COVID-19 on Wake County's tourism industry. Hotel lodging tax collections are down almost half compared to last year, while food and beverage tax collections are down nearly 26%. June saw the largest tax collection totals since the pandemic started affecting tourism in March. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:05 a.m. - Wake County is offering another week of free drive-thru COVID-19 testing in its Sunnybrook Building parking deck in Raleigh. Testing will run throughout next week. People must register for appointments online. Tests are prioritized for those who have COVID-like symptoms or underlying health conditions, work in high-risk settings, or have been in close contact with a known positive case of COVID-19. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:40 a.m. - The annual Dogwood Festival in Fayetteville has been canceled. News outlets report the event had originally been rescheduled for October. Event organizers have also canceled the remaining After Five concerts. Organizers said the cancellations were in the best interest of public health. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:30 a.m. - The state department of health and human services is reporting the first COVID-19 related death in the state tied to a child care facility. The state reports the death is a staff member at Grace Filled Beginnings in Washington County. There have been at least 10 total reported cases linked to the child care center. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:20 a.m. - The city of Greensboro is offering one-time emergency assistance for rent and utility payments. The city has earmarked around $700,000 to help its residents with rent and utility payments and about $100,000 for mortgage assistance. Greensboro residents can receive up to $1,500 in rent and mortgage assistance and up to $400 for utilities. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:07 a.m. - Fall sports at North Carolina's high schools are being delayed until at least mid-September. The state High School Athletics Association says it will not resume activities while North Carolina remains in Phase Two of Governor Roy Cooper's plan to reopen. This week, Cooper extended Phase Two until Sept. 11.

Cythina Terrell is the girls' volleyball coach at Wakefield High School in Raleigh. She says the COVID-19 outbreak is putting the entire season into question.

“We would already have been engaged in some sort of tournaments or games at this point, maybe five or six games into the season already, because we always start before the kids come on campus, and then we probably have a two- to three games per week schedule of non-conference games to play.”

The High School Athletics Association says it hopes to come up with a tentative schedule for fall sports by later this month. – Will Michaels, WUNC

Aug. 6, 2020

4:50 p.m. - Administrators at UNC Chapel Hill say students can still opt out of their housing contracts without penalty if they have not already moved in. In a press briefing today, Provost Bob Blouin said the university is accepting opt-out requests from students through tomorrow at 5 p.m. for any reason, including instances in which their classes have moved online because of the pandemic. But if students have already moved in or decide to opt out after tomorrow, they'll be charged cancellation fees.  Students started moving in on Monday. - Will Michaels, WUNC

4:30 p.m. - The opening of high school sports will be delayed once again following Governor Roy Cooper's extension of Phase 2 in his reopening plan. The state High School Athletics Association anticipated resuming some activities on September 1. But the strict limit on gatherings now remains in effect for at least another five weeks. - Will Michaels, WUNC

4:20 p.m. - State prison officials have completed COVID-19 tests of all offenders in state prisons. Results show 2.1% of the prison population were positive for the virus in a six-week mass testing operation. Of about 29,000 inmates tested, about 600 tested positive. The mass testing of the prison population began in June and cost around $3 million. Prisons will continue to test all new offenders for COVID-19 when they arrive at prison facilities from county jails. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC
4:05 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human services reports almost 2,000 more cases of COVID-19 have been identified since yesterday. The state's total case count since the beginning of the pandemic has surpassed 130,000. Hospitalizations have decreased slightly since yesterday but more than 1,100 people still remain in the hospital because of COVID-19. The state is reporting about 40 more deaths since yesterday, bringing the total death toll in the state to almost 2,100. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:05 a.m. - The North Carolina High School Athletics Association is further delaying the beginning of fall sports after Gov. Roy Cooper extended Phase Two of his plan to ease restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization originally intended to resume activities on Sept. 1, but Cooper's extension of Phase Two runs through Sept. 11. Strict limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings will remain in place.  The NCHSAA says it hopes to have a schedule for fall sports in place by later this month. – Will Michaels, WUNC

9:55 a.m. - The Atlantic Coast Conference has announced its 2020 football schedule. If public health guidance allows, the schedule will begin on Sept. 10. All 15 conference schools – including Notre Dame – will play an 11-game schedule. 10 games will be against ACC opponents and one against a non-conference team. The 11-game schedule is planned to take place over 13 weeks. Each team will play five home games and five road games in conference play. All non-conference game opponents must be played in the home state of the ACC team. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:35 a.m. - Appalachian State and Wake Forest have postponed their non-conference football game scheduled for Sept. 11 for a future year. The schools have also added two more matchups in the series — one at App State in Boone and the other at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. Wake Forest's news release cites the reduced fan capacity for the game between programs separated by 86 miles. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:49 a.m. - Durham Public Schools is suspending their student driver's education program indefinitely. The school system says it will provide details for restarting the program once it's safe to do so. Students who are awaiting “in-car” instruction will be given first priority in completing that portion of the program. The school system says it's developing an online course for the classroom portion of drivers-ed that could launch soon. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Aug. 5, 2020

7:45 p.m. - Orange County's health director is recommending that UNC Chapel Hill start the school year with online classes only. The local health director sent a letter to UNC's chancellor saying he should further consider virtual learning for the entire fall semester. Students started moving into dormitories this week. In a response posted online, UNC Chapel Hill chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz noted the health director's statement was a recommendation, not a mandate. He said the university has taken steps to limit classroom and dorm capacity, and the UNC System has told the campus to "stay the course." - Will Michaels, WUNC

4:50 p.m. - North Carolina will remain in Phase 2 of Governor Roy Cooper's plan to reopen the economy for at least five more weeks.  State health officials say trends in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations are stabilizing, but that the daily number of new cases of COVID-19 is still high. At a briefing this afternoon, Cooper said his administration wants five weeks to track the trend of coronavirus cases as K-12 schools and universities reopen this month.
"In-person learning has benefits, but it means challenges for our state, especially as our higher education campuses draw students from around the country and the world. With the hustle and bustle of opening schools, people will move around more, and so will the virus," said Cooper.

Businesses like gyms, bars and entertainment venues will remain closed in Phase 2. The statewide order to wear a face covering in public is also still in effect. - Will Michaels, WUNC

4:25: p.m.Governor Roy Cooper is extending Phase 2 of his plan to reopen North Carolina's economy by at least another five weeks. At a briefing this afternoon, state health officials said there were signs of progress in the trends they're following in the COVID-19 outbreak, but that the number of new cases being reported each day is still high. Bars and gyms will remain closed, and a statewide mandate on wearing masks in public is still in place. But dozens of North Carolina's public school districts are at least partially reopening for in-person learning in less than two weeks. - Will Michaels, WUNC

12:45 p.m. - Orange County's health director is recommending that UNC Chapel Hill start the school year with online classes only. The local health director sent a letter to UNC's chancellor saying he should further consider virtual learning for the entire fall semester. Students started moving into dormitories this week. UNC Chapel Hill's current plan is to hold in-person classes with face coverings and physical distancing, and extending transition time between classes. – Will Michaels, WUNC

12:25 p.m. - The State Department of Health and Human Services reports about 1,100 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 since Tuesday. Hospitalizations remained about the same since Tuesday at around 1,170. The death toll in the state has now surpassed 2,000 people. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:30 a.m. - The entire fourth grade at the Wake Forest campus of Thales Academy will be quarantined for two weeks after a student tested positive for COVID-19. News outlets report the fourth grade student contracted the virus from a family member. The private school resumed in-person learning on July 20. Last week, Vice President Mike Pence visited the academy in Apex and praised the school for re-opening in-person learning. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:28 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper will host a briefing Wednesday to discuss updates on the state's response to COVID-19. The governor is expected to make an announcement regarding the next step of the state's gradual re-opening plan. Phase 2 of the plan is set to expire this Friday. Phase 2 has been in place since around mid-May. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:05 a.m. - The amusement park Carowinds in Charlotte has announced that it will remain closed for the rest of this year because of ongoing challenges related to COVID-19. Season passes for 2020 have been extended through 2021. The amusement park first closed in March. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:45 a.m. - The State Department of Transportation is resuming operations of the state-operated Piedmont passenger rail service next Monday. The rail service had suspended operations in May because of COVID-19's impact on the department's revenue. The line travels between Raleigh and Charlotte. Passengers with reservations can modify their trips online. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:05 a.m. - A second Winston-Salem firefighter has tested positive for COVID-19. The Winston-Salem Journal reports 30 firefighters from two stations are now in quarantine after being in contact with those sick. The firefighters must quarantine for 14 days and be tested for the coronavirus. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:51 a.m. - The Piedmont Triad International Airport saw a slight increase in passenger traffic from May to June. But statistics released by the airport show overall traffic was still down almost 84% compared to June of last year. Overall traffic for this year is down nearly 58%. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:28 a.m. - Absentee-by-mail ballots start going out to voters on Sept. 4, but county elections boards haven't even been able to submit orders to printers yet. A coalition of advocacy groups sued the State Elections Board and legislative leaders to make absentee voting easier this fall. They wanted a judge to eliminate a one-witness requirement for absentee ballots. They also wanted no-contact drop-boxes for voters concerned that delivering absentee ballots to county elections boards would expose them to the coronavirus.

The judge denied these and other requests, but did rule that elections officials must provide absentee voters with more due process before challenged ballots can be rejected because of an error that can be remedied, such as a witness's address or a mismatched signature. - Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

Aug. 4, 2020

12:50 p.m. - The State Department of Health and Human Services reports approximately 1,600 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 since Monday. A total of 128,000 cases have been identified by the state since March. The state is reporting about 100 more hospitalizations since yesterday. There are almost 1,200 hospitalizations across the state, lower than the record breaking number of hospitalizations from last week. No new deaths were reported, leaving the state's death toll at nearly 2,000. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:20 p.m. - About two out of every three students in North Carolina's public schools will start the year with remote learning. State Superintendent Mark Johnson told North Carolina's highest elected officials Tuesday the number of districts choosing to keep classes online continues to grow. Johnson promised the Council of State that his department has helped improve the remote learning experience since it was first implemented in the Spring.

The traditional school year starts in less than two weeks.  Many districts have elected to keep remote learning in place for one to five months, and then revisit the possibility of having some classes in person. – Will Michaels, WUNC

11:50 a.m. - The Chatham County Health Department reports multiple people who attended a memorial and a funeral in late July had COVID-19 at the time. The memorial service was held on July 25 at Bonlee Recreational Park. The funeral was held at Emmaus Baptist Church in Pittsboro on July 27. The positive test results came after the events. Others who were in attendance may have been exposed to the virus. The health department is in communication with those who tested positive, and is working to contact others who were at these events. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:35 a.m. - Duke's men's and women's basketball teams have returned to campus to begin preparing for the upcoming season. The student-athletes arrived at the Washington Duke Inn on Sunday. They underwent COVID-19 screening and checked into their rooms to begin a mandatory quarantine period. Throughout this week the players will have various Zoom meetings to review academics, compliance and nutrition. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:45 a.m.  - The State Department of Health and Human Services estimates approximately 105,000 people in North Carolina have recovered from COVID-19. The state has identified almost 127,000 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of March. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:20 a.m. - Wake County has identified COVID-19 outbreaks at two more long term care facilities in Raleigh. The facilities are Morningside of Raleigh and Falls River Court and Village. It's unclear exactly how many cases of COVID-19 are at these centers. The state Health Department defines an outbreak as two or more people testing positive for the virus. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:05 a.m. - The city of Greensboro will be closing streets in their downtown area this Friday and Saturday to expand space for dining and shopping. Restaurants will be serving customers outside and stores will have sidewalk sales. People are required to wear masks and stay six feet away from others. The town of Chapel Hill recently expanded portions of Franklin Street to expand dining areas. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:50 a.m. - The State Department of Health and Human Services has 38 upcoming community testing events scheduled in several different counties, including Wake and Graham. These testing events are part of the state's effort to increase access to free COVID-19 testing for communities of color. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Aug. 3, 2020

4:40 p.m. - As tropical storm Isaias rolls up the east coast bringing heavy rain and wind power outages are expected. But with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many power utilities are operating with smaller teams. Jeff Brooks with Duke Energy in Wilmington and says this year it's a much different setup. Brooks says for Hurricane Florence in 2018, Duke Energy had a staging site in Wilmington that could hold 2,000 people at once. But this year, they're relying on smaller "pods" of crews of two to four vehicles. That means backup teams from out of state could have longer transportation times. But he says the usual system could result in even longer delays if a large number of workers had to quarantine. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

4:20 p.m. - Shelters for people who are evacuating due to incoming Tropical Storm Isaias will be screening for COVID-19, and will have hand sanitizer and PPE. In an emergency briefing this afternoon, state officials encouraged those who can stay with family or in a hotel to do so, which would limit interactions with more people and potential spread of the coronavirus. Shelters will be observing social distancing, and anyone has COVID or who screens positive for symptoms will be given an alternative place to stay in isolation. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

4:10 p.m. - A car race traditionally scheduled for July in Connecticut has been moved to the fall and now, to Charlotte. The Northeast Grand Prix auto race at Lime Rock Park has been moved to the Charlotte Motor Speedway because of the coronavirus. The race was postponed to September and recently moved to Charlotte on October 9-10 as part of a NASCAR event weekend. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

1:50 p.m. - Carolina Panthers linebacker Christian Miller has informed the team he has opted out of the 2020 season because of coronavirus concerns. Miller, a fourth-round pick in 2019 out of Alabama, played in seven games last year. He had two sacks in the victory over the Cardinals in Week 3 but injured his ankle two weeks later and played just 25 snaps the rest of the season. – The Associated Press

1:10 p.m. - A survey by the New York Times shows more than 250 cases of COVID-19 at North Carolina colleges and universities. The Times surveyed every public four-year college in the country, along with private institutions that compete in Division I sports or are part of a group of elite research universities.  Overall, the survey found more than 6,600 cases linked 270 colleges since the beginning of the pandemic. That's even before fall classes begin at most schools. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

12:35 p.m. - Courthouses in Lee County are closed until Aug. 12. Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter says the public can go online to research court dates. During this time, cases will be automatically continued and notices will be mailed to addresses on file. The Register of Deeds office will be available by appointment only for now. The county clerk of court office and the district attorney office will also be closed. Sheriff Carter did not offer a reason for the closures. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:28 p.m. - Wake County is using $5 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to help residents who have unpaid utility bills. The Wake County Board of Commissioners says households with low to medium income levels will be eligible for up to $500 in assistance. Wake County Commissioners chairman Greg Ford says funds will go directly to utilities.

“We believe this process is the most efficient and effective way to help alleviate the stress that some residents feel each month when they get their utility bills and must choose between paying them, or putting food on the table for their families,” Ford said.

Residents can apply online, by phone, or at the county's Swinburne facility in Raleigh and the Eastern Regional Center in Zebulon.  The county says it will likely take 30 days to process applications and start distributing payments.  he latest report from the state Utilities Commission says nearly 1.5 million customers in North Carolina have missed payments during the pandemic, totaling almost $260 million in unpaid bills. – Will Michaels, WUNC

7:57 a.m. – The college town of Chapel Hill is preparing for nearly 30,000 students to return to the UNC campus this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic. UNC-Chapel Hill has dedicated two dormitories to quarantining students, and UNC Healthcare and Labcorp will test those who show COVID-19 symptoms.  Students have to sign a community commitment to wearing a mask and physically distancing on campus and in the community. But locals still have concerns about the impending influx of young people.

"I struggle to understand why we expect dormitories, and COVID in dormitories, to spread less than nursing homes,” said Chapel Hill Mayor Pro Tem Michael Parker.

Parker said it was the right call to shut down the University during the spring, but even then the spread of COVID-19 in the community was far smaller. Outgoing UNC System President Bill Roper said university students can be expected to follow public health guidelines. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

7:41 a.m. - Duke University is freezing undergraduate tuition at the same level as the 2019-20 academic year. The university will rescind the planned almost four percent increase that had been announced earlier this year as well as reduce certain student fees. Student fees will also be adjusted depending on whether students will be living in Duke-provided housing and in the Durham area, or studying remotely. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

This post is compiled and edited by Elizabeth Baier, Mitchell Northam and Laura Pellicer.

Previous weekly updates:
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of March 9
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of March 16
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of March 23
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of March 30
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of April 6
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of April 13
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of April 20
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of April 27
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of May 4
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of May 11
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of May 18
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of May 26 
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of June 1
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of June 8
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of June 15
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of June 22
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of June 29
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of July 6
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of July 13
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of July 20
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of July 27

Stories, features and more by WUNC News Staff. Also, features and commentary not by any one reporter.
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