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Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of August 10

Courtesy Jon Gardiner
UNC-Chapel Hill

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 Aug. 3.

Aug. 14, 2020

6:20 p.m. - Monday is the first day of school for North Carolina's K-12 public school students. A majority of school districts have chosen to at least start the school year virtually. Some of those districts, including Orange County, Guilford County and Durham Public Schools are still waiting to get enough devices or wifi hotspots to distribute to their students. Some districts needed time to figure out funding. A Durham Public Schools spokesman says some of their device shipments were held up at U.S. Customs. Snags like these have some districts calling the first week an orientation, with the expectation that meat-and-potatoes instruction may have to wait until students are more prepared. About 40% of school districts, mostly in rural areas, will start the year in person with social distancing and mask wearing. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC
6:10 p.m. - The state's employment agency is chipping away at a backlog of unemployment filings stemming from the pandemic. The state has received more than 2.1 million unemployment claims since mid-March. The Division of Employment Security says it has decided whether to approve or deny 98%. But, that means more than 23,000 claimants are still waiting to hear back from the state. Twice as many claims remained in the backlog last month. And all claims filed between mid-March and mid-May have now been resolved. North Carolina has paid out nearly $1.6 billion dollars in state unemployment insurance benefits since the start of the pandemic. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

6 p.m. - The State Board of Education has voted against allowing the state's two virtual charter schools from expanding amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the state's public schools are set to resume classes remotely Monday. NC Virtual Academy and NC Cyber Academy said they were seeking to expand class sizes for one year to meet increased demand for online learning. Board members were concerned the move would take money away from school districts that are being required to offer online learning options this year and that the virtual charter schools have performed poorly since they started in 2015. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

2:50 p.m. - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has identified two clusters of COVID-19 cases in student housing communities. The school issued an alert Friday afternoon notifying campus staff, faculty and students of the clusters in Ehringhaus Community and Granville Towers. According to the state Department of Health and Human Services, a cluster is five or more cases. The exact number of cases was not disclosed in the campus-wide alert. The university says the individuals who contracted the coronavirus are isolating and being monitored. The Orange County Health Department and the university have teamed up to carry out contact tracing and track exposure risks. - Laura Pellicer, WUNC

12:40 p.m. - State health officials say the daily number of new coronavirus cases appears to be leveling off. But in their latest media briefing, they said they would monitor the case count as students go back to school next week, and as flu season approaches. The state reported more than 1,300 new cases Friday. – Will Micahels, WUNC

11:15 a.m. - The Wake County School board is postponing the date that it expects students to transition from virtual to in person classes. The school district had planned to start in person instruction on September 8th. Now the school board says that transition won't happen until at least late October. Monday is the first day of school for virtual instruction. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

8:05 a.m. - The Wake County School System is suspending all middle school sports until the spring semester.  The state's High School Athletic Association postponed the start of fall sports earlier this week, but each district can decide how to operate middle school sports. – Will Michaels, WUNC

7:45 a.m. - State health officials say the daily number of new coronavirus cases appears to be leveling off.  But in their latest media briefing, they said they would monitor the case count as students go back to school next week, and as flu season approaches.  The state reported more than 1,700 new cases yesterday. – Will Michaels, WUNC

Aug. 13, 2020

4:20 p.m. - The North Carolina Department of Commerce has set aside $15 million in federal funds to help businesses protect jobs amid the pandemic and economic downturn. Governor Roy Cooper said today that the Job Retention Grant Program is open to organizations that have lost revenue, but have kept staff on the payroll. Cooper said businesses are eligible for grants of up to $250,000 if they haven't already received other relief, such as from the federal paycheck protection program. Applications are due September 1st. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

4:10 p.m. - North Carolina Health Secretary Doctor Mandy Cohen says COVID-19 case counts and the rate of positive test results appear to be leveling off. Hospitalization numbers still top 1,000, but Cohen said many of those people likely were infected weeks ago. And she says it's a good sign that the state has not seen a sharp spike in infections. 

"This progress is fragile," said Cohen. "As our colleges and universities bring students back to campus and our K12 public schools kick off the school year, we will face a new test. More people will be in close contact and moving around in our communities and that means the potential for viral spread." - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

4 p.m. - Researchers at Duke University have developed a way to test how effective face coverings might be at limiting the spread of the coronavirus. Scientists used a laser light to detect the amount and size of droplets expelled when speaking through different kinds of masks. They found an N95 mask without a valve to be most effective. Meanwhile, a neck gaiter made of polyester and spandex was too thin to prevent particles from penetrating it. In a media briefing Thursday, Dr. Eric Westman said overall the study confirmed the consensus within the medical community that wearing a face covering can mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

"I can be contagious and not feel sick. Often, people don't understand that, and that's a big deal. What I learned from this study is that just speaking can potentially spread this to other people," said Westman.

Researchers say the experiment was not a comprehensive test of all types of masks, and that some coverings could work better with modifications, such as folding over a neck gaiter to layer the fabric. - Will Michaels, WUNC

1:20 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reports a daily increase of almost 1,800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since yesterday. Hospitalizations have increased slightly since yesterday, but still remain low compared to the last 10 days. No new deaths have been reported. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:40 a.m. - Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is dropping a lawsuit against campaign rival Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. Forest sued the governor last month, seeking to undo Cooper's executive shutdown orders aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. Earlier this week a judge sided with the governor, saying Forest didn't prove Cooper had overstepped his authority. Forest told the court Wednesday he was dropping the suit. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:45 a.m. - Duke University reports a total of four students have tested positive for COVID-19 out of more than 3,100 who have been tested upon returning to campus since Aug. 1. Students who test positive are required to isolate until getting medical clearance. COVID-19 testing is continuing as students come back to campus. All incoming students are required to get a COVID-19 test before they are permitted to enter university housing or attend in-person classes. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:05 a.m. - Elm Street in downtown Greensboro will be closed Friday and Saturday evenings for the rest of this month for socially distant eating and shopping. Restaurants will serve customers outside. Shops will have sidewalk sales. Masks are required for anyone who goes. People must also stay 6 feet apart from others. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:30 a.m. - The Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree on Ocracoke Island has been canceled for the second year in a row. This year the event has been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. Last year the event was canceled because of extensive damage caused by Hurricane Dorian. The weekend long event commemorates the infamous pirate's last battle at Ocracoke. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:55 a.m. - On Wednesday the State Department of Health and Human Services reported a daily increase of nearly 1,200 more confirmed cases of COVID-19. Hospitalizations reached the lowest number in the last 10 days. 45 more deaths were reported. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:42 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper says he's preparing to accept the state extended unemployment benefits that President Donald Trump directed in an executive order. Cooper says his administration has started the application to receive the payments.

This comes after House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger urged the governor to act quickly to get the benefits. The state Republican leaders say the General Assembly will approve the state dollars required to receive the benefits when it reconvenes in early September. The extended benefits could result in at least another $300 a week for workers. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:30 a.m. - The mayor of the city of Washington has died from COVID-19 complications. Mac Hodges had been mayor of the city since 2013. He had previously served as the chairman of the Beauford County Board of Education. The Washington Daily News reports Hodges tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-July. He was then hospitalized and placed on a ventilator by the end of July. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Aug. 12, 2020

5:10 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper is pushing back the deadline for school and childcare facilities to to collect proof-of-immunization and health assessment documentation. The state health department says Cooper's order considers the pandemic-related limitations of health care visits and gives students and families an additional 30 days to get the required shots and check-ups. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

5 p.m. - A total of 20 people incarcerated at Durham County Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19. The whole population and staff were recently tested after a reported outbreak. A press release from the Durham County Sheriff's Office said an one case was discovered from a detainee in intake quarantine and is not connected to the other cases. The remaining 19 had been housing in a single block and are in quarantine until medical staff clears them. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

3:00 p.m. - The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is walking back its count of COVID-19 tests. According to a press release, a LabCorp data error reported higher testing numbers than accurate. DHHS inaccurately stated than more than 2 million COVD-19 tests had been processes in the state. The correct number is just over 1.8 million. The state health department assures the public that it is working to be transparent in its findings and that the number and percentage of positive COVID-19 cases remain unchanged. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

2:40 p.m. - Court sessions at the Pitt County courthouse are canceled for today because a courthouse employee tested positive for COVID-19. Court cases that were to be heard today will be rescheduled. The District Attorney's office and the criminal division of the Clerk of Superior Court will also be closed today. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:35 a.m. – On Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper’s office announced that $95.6 million in new funding has been directed to help support K-12 and postsecondary students most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic who can benefit from support during the upcoming school year. The funding is North Carolina’s share of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, a part of the federal CARES Act. The GEER funds are intended to provide emergency support to school districts, postsecondary institutions, or other education-related entities for addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. – WUNC

8:20 a.m. - On Tuesday, the State Department of Health and Human Services reported an increase of about 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Hospitalizations went up slightly but have remained about the same this week. 32 more deaths were reported. The total death count since March is just over 2,200. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:30 a.m. - North Carolina workers who are unemployed or furloughed because of the pandemic are running out of benefits more quickly than those in most other states, according to a report from the regional Federal Reserve Bank. Temporary federal benefits had added $600 a week to the state unemployment payments and up to 13 more weeks of payments. But that $600 expired last month and Congress has been deadlocked on new pandemic benefits.

Bill Rowe is with the advocacy group North Carolina Justice Center.

“So, the $600 falling away shines another light on how bad our benefits are,” Rowe said. “When these other benefits end, then we go back to the shortest duration in the country and a program that had literally 9 percent of the unemployed getting benefits before the pandemic.”

Standard state unemployment benefits last 12 weeks; fewer than half the number in some other states. And the maximum payment is among the nation’s lowest. – Jay Price, WUNC

Aug. 11, 2020

6:40 p.m. - A judge has sided with Governor Roy Cooper in a lawsuit filed by Lieutenant Governor Dan Forestseeking to undo Cooper's executive shutdown orders aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. Forest's suit claimed Cooper overstepped his authority by imposing the orders without the concurrence of the Council of State, the 10-member body made up of the state's top elected executive officials. Forest is a Republican and is running against Cooper in the gubernatorial race. - Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

2:35 p.m. - The state health department reports a dog has died from COVID-19. Last week an individual arrived at the NC State Veterinary Hospital with their dog who had signs of respiratory distress. The individual said a member of the family had previously tested positive for COVID-19 and later tested negative. A complete investigation into the animal's death is ongoing. According to the CDC, there is currently no evidence that pets can spread COVID-19. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

2:25 p.m. - State officials are offering a new, expedited reimbursement program that aims to expand non-congregate sheltering options. The new funding initiative allows local agencies to receive expedited funds to secure locations such as hotel rooms for individuals to quarantine or isolate because of COVID-19. In Orange County, officials plan on using the new funding to support single rooms for over 60 people who were previously living in a homeless shelter. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

2:15 p.m. - Almost every student in North Carolina is going to spend part of this fall learning remotely, even if they report to school some days. But many working parents can't afford private tutoring and childcare to make up the difference for time out of the classroom. Father and Pineville Town Council Member Joe Maxim said more support is needed. 

"It’s going to come from a combination of at-home learning clusters, it’s going to come from community learning clusters, and, you know, now-dormant facilities getting engaged to support the effort," said Maxim.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has approved new guidelines for the coming school year. There’s a streamlined process for licensed child-care centers to expand into new space. And DHHS says public schools won’t need a license for remote learning centers set up in their buildings, even if someone else supervises the care.

Also, community-based groups, such YMCAs and town recreation departments, can now launch remote-learning centers without a license, if they have a contract with a school district. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

12:25 p.m. - Wake Forest Baptist Health has started recruiting for a national Phase 3 clinical research study to evaluate a potential COVID-19 vaccine. The study is recruiting healthy volunteers ages 18 or older in high-risk populations, including the elderly, racial minorities, and essential workers. Volunteers must have no known history of COVID-19 infection. Wake Forest Baptist Health is one of 89 research sites across the country participating in the study. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:28 a.m. - The State Department of Health and Human Services has 34 upcoming free COVID-19 testing events scheduled in several counties, including Wake, Nash and Cumberland counties. The state is trying to increase access to free testing for communities of color that currently have limited testing sites. Testing is a priority for anyone who has symptoms or for those who may have been exposed to COVID-19. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:20 a.m. - The State Department of Health and Human Services estimates around 12,000 people have recovered from COVID-19 in the past week. Since March, about 117,000 people are estimated to have recovered. The state has identified about 137,000 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:12 a.m. - Even students who aren't going back to school in person, will still have to provide proof of immunization before classes start. In the spring, the CDC reported the number of children receiving routine vaccinations was going down amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the American Academy of Pediatrics has urged schools to require immunizations like normal, and encouraged people to take their children to routine and preventative health checkups. State law requires that children receive certain immunizations recommended by the CDC, whether they're in public schools or not. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

Aug. 10, 2020

5:10 p.m. - As of today, North Carolina has completed more than 2 million COVID-19 tests. The Department of Health and Human Services reported that 5% of all tests taken in the last day had positive results. 1,111 people are hospitalized for COVID-19. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

1:15 p.m. - Several football players from UNC and Duke have opted out of this year's season because of COVID-19 concerns. Media outlets report Duke long snapper Ben Wyatt and offensive guard Jacob Rimmer have chosen to sit out for the season. Carolina defensive backs DJ Ford, Javon Terry, Bryce Watts and offensive lineman Triston Miller are also sitting out this year. The NCAA requires universities to honor athletic scholarships for players who chose to opt out. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:20 p.m. - A private school in Raleigh is canceling on-campus classes until further notice after a student tested positive for COVID-19. Neuse Christian Academy began the school year with in-person classes last week on Wednesday. The academy says it was notified yesterday evening that a student had tested positive. The school says it will follow public health guidelines for quarantining, additional cleaning and re-opening. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:52 a.m. - A student athlete at West Forsyth High School who returned to campus for voluntary summer workouts has tested positive for COVID-19. The student last attended a workout at the school last Monday. School officials are working to notify students and staff who may have had contact with the student-athlete. Those individuals are being asked to quarantine according to health department guidelines. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:45 a.m. - The Town of Morrisville has canceled the last week of summer camp after two campers tested positive for COVID-19. The two campers were siblings who attended a youth summer camp at Cedar Fork Community Center. Families will be refunded for missed days. The town says officials have notified the families of more than 30 children about the COVID-19 cases. Those families are being asked to quarantine their children in accordance with public health guidelines. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:50 a.m. – Beginning Tuesday, census takers will begin visiting homes in Wake County that haven’t yet responded to the Census. Census takers will wear masks and follow public health guidelines when they visit homes. Wake County’s self-response rate is about 69%, while North Carolina’s response rate is around 59%. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:42 a.m. - North Carolina will ease gathering restrictions for the Republican National Convention in Charlotte later this month. Gov. Roy Cooper’s current executive order limits mass indoor gatherings at event venues to 10 people. In a recent letter written to the RNC, state health officials said they understand more than 10 people may need to assemble indoors to conduct party business. State officials are still asking for masks and social distancing to remain enforced. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:35 a.m. - Eight inmates at the Durham County Detention Facility have tested positive for COVID-19. Full scale testing of all inmates and staff is now being conducted. The Durham County Health Department has initiated contact tracing and any persons with exposure will be contacted. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:28 a.m. - UNC football has added Charlotte to its 2020 schedule. The two in-state teams will meet for the first time on Sept. 19 in Chapel Hill. The game against the Charlotte 49ers will be the Tar Heels' one out of conference game. The Tar Heels start their season on Sept. 12 against Syracuse. – 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
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of Aug. 3

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