Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of Dec. 7
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 Nov. 30.
Dec. 11, 2020
6:50 p.m. - The town of Youngsville says its Christmas parade generated $11,000 for needy children. The outpouring benefiting the "Shop With a Cop" program followed a national television appearance by the mayor. On Fox and Friends, Mayor Fonzie Flowers said parade-goers were being encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing and he put in a plug for the charity. Franklin County health officials concerned about the risk of coronavirus spread had scolded town leaders for deciding to go ahead with the annual event last weekend. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC
6:40 p.m. - State officials are notifying people who have been receiving unemployment benefits that some assistance programs are about to expire. In a memo released today, the state Division of Employment Security says two federal programs and one state program are set to run out on the week ending December 26th. The programs have either extended unemployment benefits or supplemented the weekly benefit amount during the pandemic. Congress is still considering another COVID-19 relief bill that does include more unemployment benefits. - Will Michaels, WUNC
6 p.m. - The new stay-at-home order from Gov. Roy Cooper meant to limit gatherings and the spread of coronavirus takes effect at 5 p.m. However, law enforcement officers are more likely to use violations as teaching moments than make arrests. Ran Northam, a spokesman for the Chapel Hill Police Department, acknowledged this stance.
“We’re going to lead with education, save enforcement for egregious and repeat offenders, and really our community has already done an incredible job in responding to asks for compliance, whether before the fact or if something is seen,” said Northam.
Retailers considered essential, such as supermarkets, gas stations and pharmacies can stay open. - Jay Price, WUNC
5:50 p.m. - The federal government says Durham's VA Health Care System is among those getting some of the first shipments of a COVID-19 vaccine. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says it will send doses of the vaccine to 37 facilities nationwide, including Durham. The Durham VA says it was selected because of its ability to vaccinate large numbers of people and store the vaccine at extremely cold temperatures. The vaccine will first go to frontline health care workers, then veterans in the VA's long-term care facilities. - Will Michaels, WUNC
5:40 p.m. - Restaurants, bars and retail stores will have to close at 10 p.m. tonight as a new stay-at-home order takes effect. Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order this week that includes a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Shawn Stokes the chef and co-owner at Luna Rotisserie in Durham, says his restaurant is usually closed by 10 p.m., but he believes the governor's curfew perpetuates the idea that restaurants are driving the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
"If he thinks that's the best bet based on the data and the science that he's looking at, then I'd say it's way past time to offer some financial support for us so we can weather this," said Stokes. "Otherwise, I think you're ultimately going to see a degradation of your independent restaurants in the state."
Cooper has said both dining out and informal gatherings have contributed to the spread of COVID-19. But he said if COVID trends don't improve, he would implement further restrictions that could affect businesses like stricter limits on indoor dining. - Will Michaels, WUNC
5:30 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper has penned an op-ed calling the state's COVID-19 metrics "dire" and asking North Carolinians to "dig deep." He says sacrifices made now will allow holiday gatherings again next year. The governor recently expanded a statewide mask mandate and a new nightly curfew takes effect tonight. Until vaccinations are widely available, Cooper says masks and social distancing are among the "few tools" available to keep people safe. State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen also issued a statement today saying North Carolina is just starting to see the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings. More than 7,500 new cases of COVID-19 were added to the state total today. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC1:40 p.m. - The leader of North Carolina's court system is postponing many proceedings for 30 days as new cases of COVID-19 continue to rise. Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court Cheri Beasley said today all non-essential in-person proceedings would be postponed starting Monday. A news release from Beasley's office says the impact on court dockets should be minimal because there are few jury trials scheduled at the end of the calendar year. – Will Michaels, WUNC
12:25 p.m. - A divided Durham school board has voted to allow some high school sports to resume activities after being suspended in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The 4-to-3 vote allows student athletes on basketball, football, boys' soccer, cheerleading and lacrosse teams to practice again. Workout sessions can start Monday for basketball and cheerleading. – Will Michaels, WUNC
12:05 p.m. - The State Department of Health and Human Services is reporting another record high number of new daily COVID-19 cases. More than 7,500 cases were reported Friday, breaking the previous record by more than a thousand cases. Reported COVID-19 hospitalizations also continue to increase. Over 2,500 COVID-19 hospitalizations were reported Friday. State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said in a statement North Carolina is now seeing the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings. She urged North Carolinians to wear a mask, wash your hands and wait six feet apart. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
11:45 a.m. - In a post-election survey from High Point University, more than 40% of respondents said COVID-19 is the most important problem facing the country and North Carolina. Around 20% of respondents said the second most important issue is the economy, followed by health care. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
8:25 a.m. - The Duke men's basketball team will not play any more non-conference games for the rest of the regular season. The Blue Devils will not reschedule three games against Elon, Charleston Southern and Gardner-Webb – all mid-major teams outside of the ACC. In a recorded video statement, Coach Mike Krzyzewski said he feels this is the right step to take for the safety of the players.
"These kids go through a lot," Krzyzewski said. "They're not paid employees and we need to take care of them."
Krzyzewski said players will take a small break to go home for Christmas. This will be the first time players can visit their families since August, when the team came to campus to quarantine before the start of the season. Players will return to campus before Christmas Day to resume practice. Duke next plays Notre Dame on Wednesday in South Bend. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
8:15 a.m. - Fort Bragg has been selected as an initial site to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine to military personnel. The Raleigh News and Observer reports health care and public safety workers at the base will receive first priority to take the vaccine. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
8:10 a.m. - Bennett College in Greensboro will continue online-only classes next spring semester. The small Black women's college has been operating virtually since the pandemic hit. Senior leaders of the college say they are confident that extending remote learning for another semester is the safest option for students, faculty and staff. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
7:50 a.m. - A new executive order from Governor Roy Cooper goes into effect Friday. The order requires people to stay at home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. There are exceptions for traveling to or from work, grocery shopping or seeking medical attention. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
7:35 a.m. - Wake County Public Schools is reporting 80 new COVID-19 cases in students and staff over the past week. The school district has reported approximately 300 total cases since some students returned to in-person learning in late October. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
7:20 a.m. - With COVID-19 cases and deaths on the rise inside and outside of North Carolina prisons, a judge is ordering the prison system to start testing staff for the coronavirus every two weeks. The Department of Public Safety has to complete the first two-week cycle before the end of this month. The court previously ordered monthly testing of prison staff and a sampling of the incarcerated population. – Amy Jeffries, WUNC
7:05 a.m. - Worker advocacy groups are suing to force the state to impose more workplace protections against the coronavirus. Illana Dubester of the advocacy group "The Hispanic Liaison" said frontline workers like those in farming, meat-packing and healthcare are at particular risk.
"These workers are deemed as essential," Dubester said. "And yet they’re being treated as expendable by the North Carolina department of labor and by employers."
The lawsuit notes that many in such industries aren’t paid well and struggle to afford healthcare. Last month, in rejecting the groups’ request for enforcement of protocols like health screenings and social distancing, Labor Commissioner Cheri Berry told them in a letter that the pandemic posed the most risk to people old enough to be outside the workforce, and that she believed educating employers about controlling the virus, as her department was doing, would be more effective than tougher regulations. – Jay Price, WUNC
Dec. 10, 2020
2:20 p.m. - Open enrollment for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace closes in five days. Navigators have had to switch to helping people enroll remotely because of COVID-19 pandemic. Mark Van Arnam, director of the North Carolina Navigator Consortium, says his organization has seen a 20 to 25% uptick in web traffic and a 20% increase in calls compared to last year.
"I do still however worry a bit about folks who have so much on their minds due to the pandemic that they're not getting the word that December 15th is the deadline," he said. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, almost 230,000 North Carolinians have signed up for insurance through the marketplace so far. Van Arnam says that's an average number for this point in the enrollment period. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC
12:25 p.m. - State health officials say they're making final preparations to receive and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine. State health secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said Thursday it's possible Pfizer could start shipping its vaccine in the next few days. It has not yet gotten final approval from the FDA. Cohen has been trying to promote the vaccine's safety based on trial results, and said the coronavirus is not in the vaccine itself.
"The vaccine imitates the infection so that our body thinks a germ like the virus is attacking, and this creates the antibody defense we need to fight off COVID-19 if and when the real germ attacks," Cohen said.
Meanwhile, Cohen said she remains very worried about the spread of the coronavirus in North Carolina. The latest numbers show hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are still rising. – Will Michaels, WUNC
10:50 a.m. - Only 40% of North Carolina residents say they will take a COVID-19 vaccine approved by the FDA, according to a new Elon University poll. However, that's a seven-point increase in the number saying "yes" compared to Elon's last survey in October. The pollsters found those who plan to get the vaccine see it as a way to get back to normal life. A majority in the survey said they are supportive of employers and schools requiring COVID-19 vaccinations. Those who said they are disinclined to get it cited a lack of trust in the FDA and concern about side effects. Some expressed a feeling that the vaccine is an infringement of individual rights. – Amy Jeffries, WUNC
10:25 a.m. - Two people who attended an in-person conference for state public school superintendents have tested positive for COVID-19. WRAL reports the North Carolina School Superintendents' Association held a multi-day event last week in Greensboro. The association says all attendees of the conference have been notified about the positive cases. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
10:10 a.m. - The New Hanover County District Attorney and a top Mecklenburg County judge have tested positive for COVID-19. News outlets report Chief District Judge Elizabeth Trosch flew to Wilmington last Wednesday for a meeting about youth violence with New Hanover District Attorney Ben David. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Johnny Jennings was with Trosch during this day trip and has since also tested positive for the coronavirus. Trosch began showing symptoms last Thursday, and tested positive Friday. All three officials are now in isolation. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
9:05 a.m. – After her team’s 73-49 loss to No. 2 Louisville on Wednesday, first-year Duke women’s basketball coach Kara Lawson said she doesn’t think the sport should be happening right now, in the midst of rising COVID-19 cases.
"I don’t think we should be playing right now. That’s my opinion on it," Lawson said.
Duke is 3-1 on the season and is scheduled to play at Miami on Sunday. – Mitchell Northam, WUNC
7:35 a.m. - The Guilford County Board of Commissioners has passed a measure to further enforce capacity limits inside businesses. The Greensboro News and Record reports the measure allows specific county employees to enforce the COVID-19 regulations through different penalties, including fines or shutting the business down temporarily. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
7:20 a.m. - In men's college basketball, Duke's game against Charleston Southern on Saturday has been postponed because of a positive COVID-19 test from the Bucs' basketball program. NC Central was also scheduled to play against Charleston Southern next Tuesday. That game has also been postponed. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
7:10 a.m. - Two more county school districts are moving to online only learning. Last night the school boards of Cabarrus and Johnston counties voted to move to remote learning starting next week until mid-January. The state health department has labeled both counties red for critical community spread of COVID-19. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
Dec. 9, 2020
4:30 p.m. - A new study links evictions to an increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths. In North Carolina, researchers estimated 15,000 excess cases from March through early September. They estimated there were 300 excess deaths in that same time period. North Carolina did have an eviction moratorium in place for several months but that expired in June. There is now a federal moratorium in place, though that doesn't cover all situations. Sean Driscoll works with Legal Aid of North Carolina, which helps renters facing evictions and says preventing evictions keeps everyone safer.
"Tenants all over North Carolina are still being evicted. Putting people out on the street during a global pandemic not only threatens the health and safety of those individuals, it puts us all at risk," says Driscoll.
The federal evictions moratorium is set to expire at the beginning of next year. - Jason deBruyn, WUNC
4:20 p.m. - The men's basketball teams at UNC and NC Central will play each other this weekend after other opponents had to cancel games because of positive COVID-19 cases in their teams. The Tar Heels and Eagles will play Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill. UNC was scheduled to play Elon, and NC Central had an upcoming game against Vanderbilt, but both Elon and Vanderbilt have suspended team activities. - Will Michaels, WUNC
12:45 p.m. - The State Department of Health and Human Services is reporting a record number of new daily confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.The state reports nearly 6,500 new COVID-19 cases today. Over 2,400 people across North Carolina are hospitalized with COVID-19. The state's rolling seven-day average of COVID-19 tests coming back positive is 10.5% more than double the state's goal of 5%. – Will Michaels, WUNC
12:40 p.m. - The Atlantic Coast Conference says its championship football game in Charlotte will be limited to seven percent capacity, as laid out by one of Governor Roy Cooper's executive orders. The game between Notre Dame and Clemson is scheduled for December 19th at Bank of America Stadium. It will be limited to about 5,200 spectators, who will be assigned seats in pods to support physical distancing. – Will Michaels, WUNC
12:35 p.m. - USA Diving has postponed its World Cup Trials set for next week in Greensboro. The organization says it's in the best interest of athletes to refrain from traveling and gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Greensboro Aquatic Center has hosted major World Cup and Olympic qualifying events, but has been operating at limited capacity for much of this year. – Will Michaels, WUNC
11:15 a.m. - Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski says it's time to re-assess the near future of the sport as COVID-19 cases surge across the country. Speaking after Duke's loss to Illinois on Tuesday night, Krzyzewski said he understands his comments might be seen as an excuse to end the season early. Duke's record is 2-2 so far. He also wondered who is even able to make a sport-wide decision in the face of mounting health risks.
“I know the NCAA is worried about the end-game,” Krzyzewski said. “They're not as worried about the game we're playing right now.”
March Madness brings in nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars for the NCAA each year. Last season's tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Three ACC-Big Ten Challenge games have been canceled this week due to COVID-19 outbreaks on teams. – Dave DeWitt and Celeste Gracia, WUNC
7:35 a.m. - Johnston County Schools and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are returning to remote learning next Monday until at least mid-January. The boards of education each voted last night to return to online-only learning because of increasing COVID-19 infections. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
7:15 a.m. - The city of Fayetteville plans to use federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay for motel rooms for homeless people. The Fayetteville Observer reports the city plans to pay for rooms for up to 40 people who usually stay at the Salvation Army shelter during cold weather. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
7:05 a.m. - At his latest press briefing yesterday, Gov. Roy Cooper said the trends of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations prompted him to issue the new modified stay-at-home order.
“And let me be clear. We will do more if our trends do not improve,” Cooper said. “That means additional actions involving indoor restaurant dining, entertainment facilities or shopping and retail capacity. None of us wants that.”
Cooper did not specify a threshold for putting more restrictions in place. The numbers of hospitalizations and new daily cases have more than doubled since this time last month. – Will Michaels, WUNC
Dec. 8, 2020
4:05 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper is reinstating a stay-at-home order for overnight hours as new cases of COVID-19 continue to surge. Cooper signed an executive order today that says people must stay at home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. with some exceptions like buying groceries, working, or seeking medical care. The state Health Department reported another record high today in the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19. And a report released today from researchers at Duke and UNC suggests that hospitals in North Carolina are about six weeks away from reaching capacity if the current rate of hospitalizations continues. In a press briefing this afternoon, Cooper called the situation "dire."
"Our new modified stay-at-home order aims to limit gatherings and get people home where they are safer, especially during the holidays. It's also a reminder that we must be vigilant the rest of the day," said Cooper.
The stay-at-home order takes effect on Friday. Cooper said he would issue stricter measures if trends don't improve. - Will Michaels, WUNC
3:10 p.m. - There have now been more than 400,000 positive cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina since the global pandemic hit the state. The state Health Department reported 4,670 new cases today. The number of North Carolinians hospitalized with COVID-19 has also risen to 2,373. That's more than double the number of hospitalizations a month ago. - Will Michaels, WUNC
11:35 a.m. - North Carolina hospitals would run out of beds in six weeks if the current trend of COVID-19 hospitalizations continues. That's according to the latest report from a group of researchers at Duke and UNC. They estimated the time hospitals have before they reach capacity based on how many beds are available and the rate of hospitalizations.
Mark Holmes is a health policy professor at UNC-Chapel Hill who contributed to the report. He told WUNC's podcast "Tested" that COVID is also putting stress on hospital staff, which could disproportionately impact smaller rural hospitals.
“Every bed needs nurses, physicians and allied health to support it, and we don't have a good sense of what the state of that resource is,” Holmes said. “And that's going to run out before the beds and ventilators are, most likely.”
Some regions of the state have longer lead times than others. The Wilmington area has about 12 weeks while the Charlotte area has about five, and the Triangle has about five-and-a-half. – Will Michaels, WUNC
9:05 a.m. - The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates Wake County has lost about $20 million in tax collections this year due to losses in hotel occupancy and the food industry. The report from Visit Raleigh tallies the tourism losses from January through October.
Visit Raleigh and the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance had booked 308 conventions or events in Wake County this year that were canceled due to the pandemic. That amounts to more than $150 million in lost economic impact. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC
7:35 a.m. - The town of Kill Devil Hills will continue to hold its annual fireworks event to celebrate the Wright Brothers first flight, but town officials are asking families to watch from home. The fireworks will be livestreamed on Dec. 17 to commemorate the first flight's 117th anniversary. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC
7:25 a.m. - The Wayne County school board voted Monday night for elementary students to return to in-person instruction full-time beginning this spring semester. Wayne County students are currently in Plan B, which is a mixture of online and in-person classes. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC
7:15 a.m. - Some teachers at Orange County Schools stayed home Monday to protest their expected return to school buildings. The school district did not confirm how many employees stayed home yesterday, but one teacher who helped organize the demonstration said more than half the teachers at her school did. Some teachers took personal days and taught virtually anyhow.
The district had planned for most teachers to begin teaching remotely from their classrooms this week, although most students are set to return in January. Teachers organized the action in solidarity with those who did not feel comfortable returning for health or family reasons. The Orange County School Board called a special school board meeting yesterday. The Board voted to grant all permanent employees a $500 bonus and decided to allow them to begin transitioning back to their buildings any time this week. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC
Dec. 7, 2020
3:30 p.m. - The Wake County Sheriff's Office has cited a woman for allegedly violating mass gathering restrictions by hosting an outdoor concert that drew more than 150 people in Zebulon. Authorities say Nanci Morales-Gonzales coordinated the event. An executive order signed by Governor Roy Cooper limits outdoor gatherings to no more than 50 people. Violations of the executive order can be considered Class 2 misdemeanors. - Will Michaels, WUNC
3:20 p.m. - The state Health Department has released a list of hospital systems that will get the initial shipment of a forthcoming coronavirus vaccine. The list of 11 health care systems includes some of the largest like Duke and UNC, Wake Forest Baptist based in Winston-Salem and Atrium Health in Charlotte. The vaccine will also go to a handful of smaller hospitals in more rural areas across the state. State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen has said the first round of COVID-19 vaccine doses will go to a limited number of hospitals. Governor Roy Cooper expects about 85,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to arrive as soon as next week. State health officials expect to get weekly shipments after that. The doses will go first to frontline health care workers, then residents of adult care facilities. The vaccine is not likely to be available to the general public for several more months. - Will Michaels, WUNC
12:20 p.m. - The number of North Carolinians hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to rise. The State Department of Health and Human services says there are now more than 2,200 people being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals. That's nearly double the number of hospitalizations this time last month. The health department reported more than 4,300 new cases of COVID-19 today. – Will Michaels, WUNC
11:20 a.m. - The Carolina Panthers have closed their practice facility as they move more players to their reserve COVID-19 list. NFL teams do not routinely release information about whether a player tested positive or was exposed to the coronavirus. The team says it will conduct meetings virtually today and tomorrow. The Panthers were off this past weekend, and are scheduled to play the Denver Broncos in Charlotte next weekend. – Will Michaels, WUNC
11:10 a.m. - An elementary school in Person County is moving all classes online for one week after reporting another cluster of COVID-19 cases. Four students and one staff member have tested positive at Helena Elementary School in Timberlake. The school also moved classes online for a week in October when four cases were reported. – Will Michaels, WUNC
8:15 a.m. - Monday is the deadline for parents who qualify to apply for a $335 stimulus check from the state. Families who filed a state tax return for 2019 will automatically receive the payment. But families who did not make enough money to file a tax return must apply online or by phone. The original application deadline was in October. Today's extended deadline was granted after a lawsuit from the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy. The center argued many families who needed the checks most were not aware of the grants. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
8:05 a.m. – N.C. State's men's basketball team is returning to Raleigh from a basketball tournament in Connecticut after a member of its traveling party tested positive for COVID-19. The Wolfpack's game against UConn on Saturday was canceled. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
7:50 a.m. - High school basketball players will be required to wear cloth face coverings during all practices and games, according to new guidance issued Friday by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. Practice starts Monday for the season. This guidance follows similar face covering requirements for volleyball and cross country. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
7:35 a.m. - On Sunday, the State Department of Health and Human Services reported a new high of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row. Approximately 6,400 cases were reported across the state. That compares to just over 6,000 cases reported Saturday. In a statement, State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the increases are very worrisome. She said state officials are looking at what further actions could be taken to save lives in the state. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
7:20 a.m. - North Carolina hospital systems remain on alert amid the largest surge in COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. State health officials say hospitals still have the capacity to care for patients who develop complications from the disease. But they worry hospitals could be overwhelmed if the number of new daily cases remains high.
Dr. David Weber is the associate chief medical officer of UNC Health. He says the hospital system is ready to reinstate some preemptive measures it took in the spring if necessary.
“We would ramp down some of our elective procedures in order to open up additional beds. We've not had to do that,” Weber said. “We're managing to maintain all of our usual activities while dealing with increased numbers of COVID floor patients and COVID ICU patients.”
Weber says UNC Health recently bought a large-capacity freezer to store doses of a coronavirus vaccine that's expected to be delivered later this month. – Will Michaels, WUNC
7:10 a.m. - The State Health Department is launching a pilot program to get more students and staff at schools operating with in-person instruction tested for COVID-19.
Free antigen tests will soon be available for students and staff who show symptoms or have come in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The supplies are coming from the federal government. Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, the state’s health director, told state education leaders last week the testing will help mitigate potential COVID-19 outbreaks.
“The point about testing will be early identification of people who may be positive so that we can then more quickly put in those control measures to prevent spread through the schools,” Tilson said.
The health department plans for the districts and schools selected for the pilot to get the rapid test kits by Dec. 14. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC
This post is compiled and edited by Elizabeth Baier, Mitchell Northam and Laura Pellicer.
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