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Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of April 13

Playgrounds throughout Durham, N.C. city parks were closed March 26, 2020 after Mayor Steve Schewel issued a stay-at-home order for the city in an effort to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Chuck Liddy
Playgrounds throughout Durham, N.C. city parks were closed March 26, 2020 after Mayor Steve Schewel issued a stay-at-home order for the city in an effort to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

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 April 6.

April 19, 2020

The state department of health and human services reports 6,493 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina. 172 people have died, 465 people are in the hospital from the illness. More than 78,000 tests have been completed. 

Black North Carolinians account for 38% of COVID-19 related deaths in the state — based on the available racial data in lab-confirmed cases. African Americans make up approximately 22% of the state population. - Laura Pellicer

April 17, 2020

4:29 p.m. - It’s become a competition for the soldiers of 647th Quartermaster Company to see who can crank out the most face masks during a shift to protect against the coronavirus. The parachute rigging unit is essential to Airborne operations at Fort Bragg. On any given day, their shed is filled with paratroopers in red ball caps, busy packing parachutes and readying supplies for jumps. While that work continues, soldiers across the room are laser focused on tiny pins and buzzing sewing machines. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, riggers are now making hundreds of cloth face masks per day to fight the virus for personnel around the sprawling Army base in North Carolina. - Associated Press

3:18 p.m. - A COVID-19 outbreak at a North Carolina state prison has spread to more than 250 inmates, prison officials said Friday.  State prisons Commissioner Todd Ishee said during a media briefing that 259 inmates had tested positive as of Friday afternoon at Neuse Correctional Institution, a state prison in Goldsboro. He said none currently require hospitalization and that 98% of those testing positive were asymptomatic. All 700 inmates have been tested but some test results are pending.

Ishee said no coronavirus-related deaths have been reported at any of the state's prisons. Statewide, prison officials have been allowing some nonviolent offenders to leave prison early and complete their sentence under community supervision. - Associated Press

2:00 p.m. -  State emergency officials are continuing to ramp up procurement of healthcare equipment and supplies and distribute it across the state. The Director of Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry said that just yesterday the state ordered $12.8 million worth. Speaking to North Carolina's emergency response commission earlier today, Sprayberry said the state distributed gear to 42 counties yesterday.  

Over the next week, the state is expecting to receive 2.2 million N-95 masks, other protective equipment along with two refrigerated trucks that may be needed to handle the dead. Sprayberry said the state is unlikely to receive any more supplies from the depleted national stockpile. - Cole del Charco

Jessica Whichard with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina says food banks are buying excess produce from local farms that have extra supply due to a lack of sales to restaurants. She says one challenge lately has been sorting through that food with fewer volunteers to help. North Carolina food banks are utilizing delivery and pick up to get food to people in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senior citizens who receive meals through a federal nutrition program are getting their monthly food boxes delivered at home. Food banks are also pulling food orders together for families ahead of time and loading them into their cars to limit person-to-person contact. - Celeste Gracia

1:15 p.m. - Nearly 150 inmates at a state prison in Goldsboro have tested positive for COVID-19. The spike in cases comes after all 700 offenders at the Neuse Correctional Institution were tested for the illness. Previously the state division of prisons said 30 inmates at the facility had tested positive for COVID-19. Testing was also offered to all staff members at the prison. - Celeste Gracia

11:55: a.m. - There at least 46 nursing homes and residential care facilities with outbreaks of COVID-19 across North Carolina, three more than yesterday. The state department of health and human services reports that includes facilities from Durham, Orange and Johnston counties. There are at least seven correctional facilities with outbreaks of COVID-19, up one from yesterday. - Celeste Gracia

The state department of health and human services reports 5,859 confirmed casesof COVID-19 in North Carolina. That's nearly 400 more than yesterday. 152 people have died, almost 429 people are in the hospital from the illness. More than 72,000 tests have been completed. - Celeste Gracia

11:45 a.m. - The state's unemployment division expects to triple its staff to meet the unprecedented surge in unemployment claims. The division expects to have more than 1,600 people to help process claims and issue payments with the addition of staff from the workforce division and private call centers by the end of next week. Officials say that will be the largest number of people handling unemployment claims in the state's history. Well over 600,000 unemployment claims have been filed since March 15, most attributed to the COVID-19 outbreak. Only about a third of those who've applied have received payments. - Celeste Gracia

The state Department of Health and Human Services is providing additional funding to the state's Medicaid program to support nursing homes with older adult Medicaid beneficiaries at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. N.C. Medicaid will offer expedited hardship payments and enhanced reimbursement rates to facilities with multiple COVID-positive residents. This targeted Medicaid funding is meant to help adult care homes provide the more intensive care needed for residents with COVID-19 and limit the spread of the coronavirus. - Celeste Gracia

11:30 a.m. - Health care workers at UNC Health can participate in a national clinical trial to test the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in preventing health care workers from getting COVID-19. To enroll, people must first participate in a program that asks health care workers to share clinical and life experiences in order to understand the perspectives and problems faced by those on the COVID-19 pandemic front lines. - Celeste Gracia

North Carolina has received more than $2 billion from the federal government as part of the federal coronavirus relief package approved last month, said N.C. Treasurer Dale Folwell. The money is the first disbursement from the federal government of more than $4 billion expected for North Carolina. The General Assembly  will decide how the state’s money will be spent as part of legislation expected toward the end of this month. -  Celeste Gracia

Greensboro based manufacturer Precision Fabrics Group is supplying material needed to make isolation gowns for healthcare workers in need of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The company has sent more than seven thousand pounds of material to a health care system in Arizona. - Celeste Gracia
Data scientists who are tracking the COVID-19 pandemic in North Carolina say state officials should use caution when considering whether to lift social distancing measures. Governor Roy Cooper said this week he would increase efforts to track the virus and determine when the state might see a peak in COVID-19 cases. Aaron McKethan, a data and health policy professor at Duke University, says lifting social distancing measures entirely could still cause a spike in cases that overwhelms hospitals.

"I think of it as not one peak, but a series of peaks, and our job in the public arena is thinking about how to prepare for the second, third and beyond peaks," says KcKethan.
McKethan says the state will also need to be prepared to contain small outbreaks of the virus when it does decide to ease social distancing measures. - Will Michaels

11:15 a.m. - Forsyth and Guilford counties have ended their local stay-at-home orders and are now just following the governor's statewide directive. Forsyth County Commission Chair David Plyler says there was a lot of confusion among residents in his county about which order to follow. The governor's stay-at-home order is currently set to expire on April 29th. Plyler says the county is ready to continue observing the guidance from state officials.

Meawhile, Wake County has extended its local order through April 30th with slight changes. The county will allow all retail businesses to operate if they provide delivery or curbside pickup options and will allow faith organizations to hold drive-in services. - Celeste Gracia


April 16, 2020

7:19 p.m. - North Carolina's Emergency Operations Center has now been up and running for 38 days in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. That's longer than after hurricanes Matthew or Florence. In a further indication that the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic will continue, state Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said at a briefing Thursday his agency has formed a food supply chain working group and that the USDA has assured a shipment would be arriving in mid-May to support school feeding programs. -Amy Jeffries, WUNC

4:23 p.m. - The volume of passengers traveling through Raleigh-Durham International Aiport was down nearly 52% in the month of March compared to a year earlier. Stay-at-home orders and guidelines that limited travel due to the coronavirus curtailed air travel starting in mid-to-late March. The airport says traffic is now hovering around 4% of what it was last year. That's in line with the sharp declines other U.S. airports are experiencing. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

3:30 p.m. - A North Carolina-based chicken processor is selling its products directly to consumers across the south as the coronavirus crisis as interrupted normal food distribution. House of Raeford Farms began sales at a single location three weeks ago and expanded to six of its seven plants in the southeast. Customers can drive to a designated site and wait in their cars as their order is brought to them in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana. -Cole del Charco, WUNC

2:02 p.m. - The 2020 REX Hospital Open has been canceled, in response to the evolving coronavirus pandemic. In a statement, title sponsor UNC REX Healthcare said  it was in complete agreement with the decision by the PGA TOUR to cancel additional Korn Ferry Tour events. - Jason deBruyn, WUNC

1:22 p.m. - The ban on tourists in the Outer Banks has caused large piles of uncollected seashells to form during the coronavirus pandemic. A video posted to Facebook by the Cape Lookout National Seashore shows multitudes of colorful shells spread out across the beach as waves splash over them. Park facilities at the Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras National Seashores are closed due to the virus, but the grounds are open to residents. The shells remain uncollected since visitors are the ones that tend to gather them during the springtime.  Cole del Charco, WUNC

12:04 p.m. - Wake County is extending its stay at home order through April 30th with some modifications. Under the updated order, all retail businesses in the county are allowed to operate if they provide delivery or curbside pickup options. It also reiterates the need for employers to conduct basic health screenings and send workers home if they are sick. The order also allows faith organizations to hold drive-in services. Wake County officials point to data to show that social distancing efforts are helping to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but urge residents to continue practicing social distancing to flatten the curve. Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:30 a.m. - There at least 43 nursing homes and residential care facilities with outbreaks of COVID-19 across North Carolina. The state department of health and human services reports that includes facilities from Guilford, Wake and Cumberland counties. There are at least six correctional facilities with outbreaks of COVID-19. Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:56 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reports over 5,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina. About 130 people have died. Around 450 people are hospitalized with the illness. Over 70,000 tests have been completed. 94 of the state's 100 counties have identified cases of COVID-19. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC
7:12 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper has set in place the route that North Carolina must take before movement and commerce restrictions due to COVID-19 can ease. Cooper said on Wednesday that the state will need more widespread testing, extensive efforts to track down people in contact with the sick, and slowed rates of cases and hospitalization. The governor said any "new normal" could include partially-full restaurants and sporting events without audiences to continue practicing social distancing. Cooper also warned that improvements would be incremental. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

April 15, 2020

6:23 p.m. - UNC Health announced 12 employees of the UNC Medical Center have tested positive for COVID-19. The system has released a statement calling that a "very small number" of cases in a workforce of 13,000 in Chapel Hill. And with widespread community transmission of the coronavirus, it was expected that some staff would ultimately be infected. UNC Health says it's  been aggressively testing any staff with a broad range of symptoms and ensuring employees who test positive receive the appropriate treatment and are cleared before returning to work. Amy Jeffries, WUNC

5:05 p.m. - State lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene in Raleigh on April 28, but the legislative building will not be open to the public due to concerns about COVID-19. The leaders of the state House and Senate announced today that access will be limited to members of the General Assembly, staff, and credentialed media from April 20 through May 8. And they'll be doing temperature checks of people entering the legislative building and the legislative office building. A House committee has been meeting remotely in recent weeks to discuss possible legislation in response to the coronavirus crisis. Public comment has been collected through an online portal. Amy Jeffries, WUNC

3:54 p.m. - Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools says a person working on the logistics side of its food delivery program has tested positive for COVID-19.  The district's head of communications says the person was not involved in preparing or delivering meals, and deliveries will continue. Cole del Charco, WUNC

3:15 p.m. - State lawmakers are considering legislation to give up to $1 million to commercial fishing businesses struggling because of the coronavirus crisis. The Division of Marine Fisheries would distribute the emergency aid to commercial license holders if the bill can get support in the General Assembly.  Cole del Charco, WUNC

10:59 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reports over 5,100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina. Nearly 120 people have died. About 430 people are in the hospital with the illness. Over 67,000 tests have been completed. 93 of the state's 100 counties have confirmed cases of COVID-19. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC
8:32 a.m. - Durham Public Schools is starting a new meal distribution program tomorrow. Durham FEAST will provide free children’s breakfasts and lunches prepared by Durham restaurants, while adults will receive shelf-stable food supplies or family-style casseroles. Families can pick up meals at certain schools on Mondays and Thursdays. This new program comes after DPS stopped its student meal distribution program after a teacher who was handing out meals tested positive for COVID-19. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:30 a.m. - A conservative non-profit organization is suing the city of Greensboro and Guilford County on behalf of anti-abortion protestors who were arrested for violating the county's stay-at-home order. Alliance Defending Freedom argues the men were in compliance with the county's order. Seven men were charged with with violating the stay-at-home order and obstructing a police officer for protesting outside an abortion clinic. This is the second suit filed by anti-abortion activists against Greensboro. Another filed by men who were forced leave their protest outside an abortion clinic sues the mayor of the city claiming the stay at home order violates their first amendment rights.  - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:52 a.m. - Randolph Health in Asheboro is taking steps to close its intensive care unit and re-organize its emergency department to prepare for more COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks. ICU nurses, equipment and ventilators will move to the emergency department. The department will soon have a respiratory illness unit and a non-respiratory illness unit to separate patients with potential COVID-19 symptoms. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC
6:30 a.m. - Chatham County is reporting its first COVID-19 related death of a resident. The individual was a resident at The Laurels of Chatham Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and had been in declining health before contracting the illness. The nursing home has an outbreak of COVID-19, with at least 57 cases at the facility. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

April 14, 2020

6:31 p.m. - Across North Carolina, 72 airports will receive money through the federal coronavirus relief package approved last month. Altogether, the state's airports will get almost $284 million from the CARES Act. RDU International Airport is getting just under $50 million, and Charlotte International Airport will get nearly $136 million. The Federal Aviation Adminstration says it will make the funds available this month. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

4:26 p.m. - North Carolina's rural hospitals are facing steep financial losses during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Rural and independent hospitals rely heavily on routine and elective procedures, which have been put on hold during the pandemic. Dr. Roxie Wells is the president of Cape Fear Valley Hoke Hospital in Raeford. She told a group of state lawmakers Tuesday morning that collectively, the state's rural hospitals could lose $145 million a month in revenue.

"I am concerned that we will see an upward swing in closures in our state if we aren't proactive, decisive, and swift in our response to cash flow concerns of these facilities," she said. - Will Michaels, WUNC

12:36 p.m. - More clusters of COVID-19 cases are being identified inside nursing homes and residential care facilities across North Carolina. The state Department of Health and Human Services reports there are at least 39 outbreaks at these centers, including facilities in Durham, Wake, Orange, and Chatham Counties. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC
12:04 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reports there are over 5,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina. Almost 110 people have died. More than 65,000 tests have been completed. Over 400 people are in the hospital with the illness. 93 of the state's 100 counties have reported cases of COVID-19. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC
8:45 a.m. - The state legislature is funding random sample antibody testing for the coronavirus. State lawmakers are providing $100,000 to researchers at Wake Forest University. The researchers will send at-home antibody test kits to 1,000 North Carolinians every month for one year to track the virus and population immunity over time. Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger has repeatedly pushed for such an effort over several weeks. Berger says the study will provide data to help legislators make decisions. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC
6:37 a.m. - A federal prison complex in Butner reports three more inmates have died because of complications caused by the coronavirus, bringing the total number of inmate deaths to four. All three deaths were men who had long-term, pre-existing medical conditions. At least 59 inmates and 26 employees at the prison complex have tested positive for COVID-19. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:05 a.m. -  Wake County has identified another COVID-19 outbreak at a local long-term care facility. Sunnybrook Rehabilitation Center in Raleigh currently has five positive cases of the virus. The state Department of Health and Human Services reports there are at least 29 other nursing homes across the state with COVID-19 outbreaks. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

April 13, 2020

6:22 p.m. - North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley is extending deadlines for court filings. Documents that were to be filed on or after March 16 are now due June 1. Beasley's latest order also puts pending bail bond forfeiture proceedings on hold. Previous directives have suspended court proceedings and extended trial and appellate court deadlines to limit the risk of exposure to the coronavirus in courthouses. Amy Jeffries, WUNC

5:17 p.m. - The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro has created a way to visit virtually. The zoo has education events, art projects, videos, and other experiences available online. The zoo will post new animal videos daily in an effort to help families and schools with at-home learning. Cole del Charco, WUNC

4:02 p.m. - More than 1,000 coronavirus-related price gouging complaints have been sent to the State Attorney General's office. Consumers have reported overcharges for hand sanitizer, cleaning products and face masks. One complaint was about a person selling a roll of toilet paper on Facebook Markeplace for one hundred dollars. Price guagers face a penalty of up to $5,000 per violation. Cole del Charco, WUNC

3:12 p.m. - Another pharmaceutical company in Research Triangle Park is beginning clinical trials of a potential treatment for COVID-19. BioCryst Pharmaceuticals is opening enrollment into a trial to assess the safety and impact of the drug galidesivir in patients with COVID-19. Galidesivir is an antiviral drug that's in advanced development for the treatment of Marburg virus disease and yellow fever. The trial will be conducted in Brazil. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:06 a.m. - An executive order from Governor Roy Cooper that mandates social distancing measures goes into effect 5 p.m. Monday. The order limits the number of people inside at one time to no more than 20% of the capacity allowed by the fire code. Violations of the order are Class 2 misdemeanors. The order also encourages business owners to provide hand sanitizer to their customers, create special shopping hours for older adults, and install shields at check out counters. Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:50 a.m. - Officials say testing has confirmed just over 50 additional cases of COVID-19 at a North Carolina nursing home with a coronavirus outbreak. Chatham County said in a news release Sunday that all residents and staff of The Laurels of Chatham were tested for COVID-19 after six people associated with the facility had previously tested positive. The results showed an additional 51 individuals had the virus. The development comes as data from the state show there are 28 ongoing outbreaks in nursing homes across the state. An outbreak is defined as two or more cases. - Associated Press
6:53 a.m. - Wake County has identified 43 additional people at Wellington Rehabilitation and Healthcare in Knightdale who have tested positive for COVID-19. This brings the total number of positive cases at the facility to 47. The 43 new cases include 18 patients and 25 staff members. Results are still pending on 21 tests. Last Thursday four people at the facility—two nurses and two patients—tested positive for the virus. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC
6:38 a.m. - An inmate at a federal prison complex in Butner has died because of complications caused by the coronavirus. The Federal Bureau of Prisons says 81-year-old Charles Rootes had long-term pre-existing medical conditions. Rootes died Saturday after being transported to a hospital for medical care. At least 59 inmates and 23 employees at the prison complex have tested positive for COVID-19. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:05 a.m. - The Fresh Market is requiring all guests to wear face coverings when shopping in their stores starting Tuesday. The Greensboro-based grocery store chain says they're following guidance from The Centers for Disease Control. Employees of The Fresh Market are already required to wear face coverings while working. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC
This post is compiled and edited by Elizabeth Baier, Jason de Bruyn, 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

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