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Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of June 1

A Grubhub delivery driver picks up two boxes of pizza
Ben McKeown

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 May 26.

June 5, 2020

7:05 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper has vetoed a bill that would have allowed bars to reopen outdoor areas. Bars closed in March under an executive order issued to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Lawmakers cited economic losses in the hospitality industry as a reason to strong-arm a reopening. But Cooper says the bill could cause COVID-19 transmissions to accelerate and would limit government's ability to respond. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC
6:45 p.m. Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson has agreed to enforce Governor Roy Cooper's order prohibiting outdoor gatherings of 25 or more people. Johnson told the News & Observer that if ACE Speedway attempts to host stock care races for the third weekend in a row, his deputies will be there to write citations. However, Johnson said he'd deploy them begrudgingly, as he disagrees with the language in the order. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

3:15 p.m. - Columbus County Schools will offer students the option of attending school from home in the fall if there are still ongoing health concerns over COVID-19. In a Facebook post, the school system says they will be sending out surveys to parents soon to assess the need for school at home. State education leaders say they'll put out guidance next week for how school districts might reopen in August. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

3:10 p.m. - The state department of health and human services reports over 33,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. That's almost 1,300 more confirmed cases since yesterday, the highest daily increase of cases yet. 966 people have died. 717 people are in the hospital sick with COVID-19. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:17 a.m. - The State Board of Education approved the allocation of $70 million from federal CARES Act funds for school districts and charter schools to provide summer programs. The programs will be aimed at helping elementary students who were in kindergarten through fourth grades during the 2019-20 school year needing extra instruction in reading or math because of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The summer instruction is intended for students most in need of academic support. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:09 a.m. - The North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association has filed suit against Governor Roy Cooper in an effort to re-open bars. The association represents almost 200 bar owners across the state that are seeking a temporary restraining order against the governor's executive order that closed the bars in March. The bars argue that the order is unconstitutional and unfairly treats bars differently than other businesses, including restaurants or distilleries. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:05 a.m. - State education leaders say they'll put out guidance next week for how school districts might re-open come August. Public schools in the state have been closed since April after an executive order from Governor Roy Cooper to slow the spread of COVID-19.  At the State Board of Education meeting Thursday, State School Superintendent Mark Johnson said re-opening schools has to be done safely. The Department of Public Instruction, the State Board of Education, the state Department of Health and Human Services and the Governor's office plan to put out one combined document to guide districts' plans to reopen. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

9:01 a.m. - A state senate committee has given bipartisan approval to a bill that would allow gyms, health clubs and fitness centers to re-open at 50% capacity. Those businesses are still closed under Phase 2 of the governor’s plan for reopening in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Republican Senator Tom McInnis says gym owners in his rural district are ready to open back up safely now. Governor Roy Cooper said at briefing Thursday that some restrictions might be lifted under “a phase 2.5.” Cooper has until Sunday to sign or veto a bill that would allow bars to re-open at partial capacity, or let it become law without his signature. – Jeff Tiberii, WUNC

8:57 a.m. - In a new executive order, Governor Roy Cooper directs the state Department of Health and Human Services to use federal relief funding to provide COVID-19 testing and related treatment to North Carolinians who don't have health insurance. At Thursday’s briefing, Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen urged people with symptoms or who have higher risk of infection to take advantage of expanded opportunities for testing. She noted that people who flouted a statewide ban on gatherings of more than 25 people outside have increased their risk of coronavirus exposure. Cohen said it's important to identify cases early and identify related transmissions to stop the spread of COVID-19. The DHHS website now has resources to allow residents to check whether their symptoms are consistent with COVID-19 and to find a list of nearby testing sites. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

8:54 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper has signed an executive order meant to mitigate health disparities that are exacerbated by the coronavirus epidemic. The task force will work to identify best practices to address social, economic, environmental and health inequities. State Department of Administration Secretary Machelle Sanders will lead it. The task force is named for the late Andrea Harris, who founded the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development.

Said Sanders: "We are not all faced with the same challenges, and must look to provide alternative solutions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and other economic health inequity issues on vulnerable populations." – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

June 4, 2020

5:50 p.m. - Gov. Roy Cooper has announced an executive order containing several provisions to mitigate health disparities affecting communities of color which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We know that minority and marginalized communities are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions, including diabetes, kidney disease, obesity and asthma. The data shows that these underlying health conditions significantly increase a person's risk for severe COVID-19 infection," said Cooper.

The order creates a state health equity task force calls for equitable distribution of COVID-19 relief funds and directs the state health department to make sure everyone has access to testing and related health care. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

3:50 p.m. - Thursday, an N.C. Senate committee, approved a bill that would allow gyms, health clubs and fitness centers to open at partial capacity, with additional precautions in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Those businesses are still closed under Gov. Cooper’s current order and some owners have filed a lawsuit challenging the mandate. Matt Gross, who works in the state health department, spoke out against the reopening bill:

"The virus can also spread through contact with surfaces contaminated by respiratory droplets, if someone else touches the surface and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth even if they’ve never come in contact with the infected person. Also, people can be infected without symptoms and therefore spread the disease without knowing they are sick."

Last week lawmakers sent Cooper a bill that would allow bars to reopen at 50% capacity. The governor has until Sunday to sign, veto, or let that measure become law without his signature. - Jeff Tiberii, WUNC

3:40 p.m. - The State Health Plan is extending a cost waiver for COVID-19 testing and treatment through July 31st. An email from State Treasurer Dale Folwell says the insurance plan will waive deductibles, copayments and coinsurance for members who are diagnosed with COVID-19. The plan is also waiving the cost for the new drive-through COVID-19 testing at several CVS Pharmacy locations. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

1:50 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reports almost 32,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in North Carolina. That's nearly 1,200 more than yesterday, one of the largest daily increases. 960 people have died. 659 people are reported to be in the hospital sick with COVID-19. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:45 p.m. - The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro will be holding its summer programs online. Virtual activities will include crafts, animal ambassador encounters and behind the scenes looks with keepers. Zoo camp programs will be available for children in grades first through sixth. The programs last for three hours in the morning or afternoon. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:52 a.m. - High Point’s city hall has re-opened after closing earlier this week when an employee who works inside the municipal building tested positive for COVID-19. The building was evacuated and closed for thorough sanitation on Tuesday. The city says the building followed federal, state and local sanitation guidelines for cleaning the facility. The building re-opened Wednesday. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:48 a.m. - President Donald Trump is no longer planning to speak at the Republican convention in Charlotte, but the Republican National Committee says it plans to hold some business activities in North Carolina if Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and other officials “allow more than 10 people in a room.” Trump and the RNC had demanded that the convention be allowed to move forward with a full crowd and without participants having to wear face coverings. Trump vowed Tuesday night on Twitter to deliver his speech outside North Carolina. - The Associated Press

9:39 a.m. - Western North Carolina voters casting ballots in-person for a congressional primary runoff during the COVID-19 pandemic will be met by poll workers wearing face masks and be offered plenty of hand sanitizer. Early in-person voting for the June 23 runoff starts Thursday within the 11th Congressional District. Voters are choosing between Lynda Bennett and Madison Cawthorn for the Republican nomination. Workers at early-voting sites and election day precincts are being told to wear personal protective equipment, but voters without masks won't be turned away. Election officials began four weeks ago mailing traditional absentee ballots to voters requesting them. - The Associated Press

8:53 a.m. - A staff member at a federal prison complex in Butner has died from COVID-19. The staff member worked at the complex's low security prison. This is the first staff death from COVID-19 at the prison complex. About 400 inmates and 12 staff members at the complex have tested positive for COVID-19. 15 inmates have died. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:49 a.m. - The Orange County Board of Commissioners approved a second round of grants for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. $410,000 are now available for small businesses in amounts up to $5,000. Interested business owners can apply online until June 17. In April, the Board of Commissioners approved $300,000 for grants and loans for small businesses. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:42 a.m. - The seats above the floor in the state House chamber are reopen to the public again. The House has voted to amend its operating rules. The seats in the House gallery had been limited to members, reporters and sergeants-at-arms, but with Wednesday's changes the public can sit there again. The House will continue to televise floor sessions online. The Senate already had reopened its seating gallery when it returned to normal operations in mid-May. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

June 3, 2020

6:30 p.m. - Unemployment rates have soared across the state as a result of shuttered businesses and declining revenues amid the coronavirus pandemic. But according to new figures from the state Department of Commerce in some areas, it’s not as bad. For April the City of Greenville had an unemployment rate of 9.5%, same for Durham-Chapel Hill. That is the lowest rate of any metro area in the state. The Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Metro area had the highest jobless rate for last month –17.6%. The county with the highest unemployment rate was Dare – which has many service, tourism, and seasonal workers. More than 12% of the state’s labor force is out of work, according to figures through April. - Jeff Tiberii, WUNC
6:00 p.m. - Hundreds of protesters minded social distancing guidance in Chapel Hill this afternoon. The crowd marched peacefully through the campus of UNC Chapel Hill and down Franklin Street shouting "No justice, no peace" through covered faces, as part of nation-wide protests against racial police violence. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

5:50 p.m. - Infectious disease experts fear that the coronavirus could begin to spread rapidly as people congregate. Confirmed cases are trending up and hospitalizations for COVID-19 in North Carolina have been increasing in the past few weeks, though there are still ICU beds available. Dr. David Wohl, who co-leads a respiratory diagnostic center at UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, says all the virus needs to spread is a susceptible host. 

"Whether that be in a meat processing plant, on a farm, in a correctional facility, or during a very very important expression of our rights, but it doesn't care," said Wohl. - Jason deBruyn, WUNC

3:20 p.m. - As Republican party leaders seek out venues for a national convention in another state, the Charlotte Host Committee is expressing disappointment. A statement from the committee said their team had worked in good faith for two years to bring the Republican National Convention to Charlotte, and that many local businesses will suffer if the August event is moved. President Donald Trump and RNC officials are at an impasse with Gov. Roy Cooper over whether North Carolina can guarantee an in-person convention in Charlotte despite COVID-19 precautions. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC
1:32 p.m. - A Durham girl has become North Carolina's first child fatality of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aurea Soto Morales died Monday at UNC Hospital. She had been a second-grader at Creekside Elementary School. A GoFundMe page has raised more than $13,000 for her family. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

11:57 a.m. - The State Department of Health and Human Services reported more than 30,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 Wednesday. That's almost 900 more reported cases since Tuesday. 939 people have died. 684 people are in the hospital. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:50 a.m. - Non-resident property owners of Dare County have filed suit against the municipality for not allowing them to access their homes from mid-March through the beginning of May. Dare County declared a state of emergency in mid-March and prohibited any non-residents from entering in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19. Joseph and Linda Blackburn of Virginia argue that the order was unconstitutional and an illegal seizure of their property. The couple argues they have suffered damage by not being allowed to access their property because of lost market rental value. The couple is seeking compensation for their loss. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:44 a.m. - A federal prison complex in Butner has ordered mass COVID-19 testing for all inmates at one of the prisons. The Raleigh News and Observer reports the testing started Tuesday and will continue Wednesday at the complex's low security prison that houses almost 1,200 male inmates. The prison complex has three separate facilities. At least 16 inmates at the prison complex have died from COVID-19. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:10 a.m. - The Winston-Salem Forsyth County School system is launching a virtual academy in the new academic year. The project had been in the works before the coronavirus pandemic, but leaders feel now is a good time to start it. The application process began this week and is open to all students in the district. Anissia Scales, the principal of the new academy, says the program will be flexible and personalized. Guilford County Schools is also planning a similar program. Last week, the school board approved the district to move forward with pursuing two virtual academies: one for kindergarten through fifth grade and one for grades 6 through 12. – Keri Brown, WFDD

8: 20 a.m. - Consensus legislation designed to help North Carolina voters worried about COVID-19 gain access to absentee ballots received some changes before clearing a state Senate panel. The Senate elections committee on Tuesday approved the measure that retained all of the provisions included in the legislation when the House voted for it overwhelmingly last week. The bill in part expands options for registered voters to receive absentee ballot request forms, including the creation of an online portal for submissions. The committee also approved an amendment that its sponsor says will help investigate attempts at potential ballot fraud and harvesting using the portal. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:12 a.m. - At Tuesday's briefing, State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen laid out the basic COVID-19 metrics. She said North Carolina has boosted testing to an average of 10,000 per day. Cohen said the number of confirmed cases is increasing too, and has accelerated lately, which indicates more viral spread. Cohen said the percent of tests coming back positive is level. She explained that fewer people are showing up in the emergency room with COVID-like symptoms. And despite the rise of actual COVID-19 hospitalizations, Cohen said, it's not overwhelming hospitals. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC


June 2, 2020

4:26 p.m. - North Carolina hospitals reported another record high number of COVID-19 hospitalizations today: 716. But hospitals are not being overwhelmed, according to State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen. "We continue to have capacity in our healthcare system in case they become ill, which is good, but we would like to see that number declining, not increasing," she said. As North Carolina increases COVID-19 testing, the number of positive cases is increasing daily. Three of the last 10 days saw the number of cases jumping by more than 1,000. At a briefing, Governor Roy Cooper said he will not expand the scope of businesses permitted to reopen this week. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC
1:10 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reported Tuesday almost 30,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in North Carolina. That's around 600 more than Monday. 921 people have died. 716 people are in the hospital with COVID-19, the highest number of hospitalizations yet. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:49 a.m. - The Greensboro Farmers Market is planning to return to an outdoor walkup market after operating as a pre-order drive-thru market only since the end of April. The farmers market will operate at a limited capacity starting this Saturday. Staff and vendors will be wearing and using PPE at all times and disinfecting frequently used surfaces. The farmers market is asking all customers to wear face coverings. Hand-washing and sanitation stations will be available. The market is still offering drive-thru pre-orders on Wednesdays. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:46 a.m. - The president of Greensboro College said the school will end its fall semester before Thanksgiving in order to reduce the number of trips students make during the coronavirus outbreak. A news release says the school's fall semester will now end on Nov. 24. Final exams will be held online during the first week of December. Students will have class on Labor Day and fall break will be canceled to make up for the early fall dismissal. The spring schedule will remain as before. The college also announced it has resumed “limited” in-person campus tours for prospective students and families. - The Associated Press

11:40 a.m. - A health care system in Robeson County has announced several changes in response to financial impacts of COVID-19. Almost 150 workers are being laid off. Three clinics are permanently closing. Southeastern Health is lowering pay for the organization's most senior leaders, including a 46% reduction in pay for the CEO. Services including physical and occupational therapy will be consolidated. The health care system says it lost money by previously temporarily suspending non-essential procedures when preparing for an expected surge in COVID-19 patients. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:13 a.m. - More than 130 employees of Guilford College who were furloughed in April have had their furloughs extend until the end of July. The Greensboro News and Record reports the small private began the furloughs in the beginning of April to save money. The furloughs were expected to continue until June 1, but the furloughs were extended last week until July 31. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:09 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reports around 3,900 patients are presumed to have recovered from COVID-19 in the past week. A total of almost 18,900 patients have presumably recovered from COVID-19. The state is providing weekly updated on the estimate number of recovered patients. As of yesterday, the state was reporting more than 29,000 total confirmed cases of COVID-19. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:06 a.m. - An outbreak of COVID-19 has been identified at the Wilkes Correctional Center in Wilkes County. The local health department reports three positive cases at the facility. Health officials say the three sick individuals are now in isolation. The Wilkes Correctional Facility is a minimum custody prison that houses up to 262 adult males. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:02 a.m. - The city of High Point has suspended all transit services indefinitely because of a confirmed positive COVID-19 case. All routes are no longer in operation. The city says the transit system will only continue services to individuals who need transportation for dialysis treatments. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:58 a.m. - North Carolina's COVID-19 outbreak is disproportionately affecting people of color. Now, the state health department is seeking businesses that are used to serving diverse populations and can competently support testing and contact tracing in marginalized communities. At Monday's briefing, Cardra Burns of the Public Health Division called these efforts a "down payment" on the state's commitment address root causes of health disparities without making them worse. Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said Monday that although African Americans make up 22% of North Carolina's population, they account for 34% of COVID-19 deaths. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

June 1, 2020

11:23 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human services reports more than 29,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. The state is reporting almost 700 more confirmed cases since Sunday. 898 people have died. 650 are in the hospital. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:14 a.m. - A speedway in Alamance County held another round of races Saturday night depsite state and local officials asking for the event to be canceled. The Times-News reports Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson appealed to Ace Speedway to call off the races, but track owners refused. A large crowd attended the first races of the season earlier in May with little regard to social distancing measures and breaking the governor's order that limits mass gatherings. Governor Roy Cooper called the event reckless and dangerous. A smaller but still considerable amount of spectators showed up Saturday. Fans and drivers had their temperatures taken before entering the speedway. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:42 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper has ordered all state flags to be lowered to half-staff Monday in memory of those who passed from COVID-19. Cooper is encouraging North Carolinians to observe a day of mourning to grieve the lives lost. Faith-based organizations from across the country are leading a national moment of silence at noon. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:26 a.m.Wake County is now conducting free drive-thru COVID-19 testing at locations throughout the county. The first drive-thru testing location is at the Wake County Commons Building. Residents must schedule an appointment online. The county says people with COVID-like symptoms or those who have underlying health conditions should get tested. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:22 a.m.Duke University has announced changes to its schedule for the fall semester. In line with many other universities, classes will begin a week earlier than usual, and there will be no fall break to allow for final exams to conclude before Thanksgiving. The spring semester of 2021 will begin a week later than normal and there will be no Spring Break in 2021. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:19 a.m.Governor Roy Cooper has signed an executive order that extends the prohibition of utility shut-offs and implements a moratorium on evictions. The evictions moratorium lasts for three weeks, prevents landlords from enacting late fees and gives tenants a minimum of six months to pay outstanding rent. The utility shutoff moratorium lasts for the next 60 days and also extends repayment plans at least six months. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:15 a.m.Lead organizers of the Republican National Convention say they plan to host the event in Charlotte in August at full capacity. In a second letter to Governor Roy Cooper, organizers say when the RNC contracted to come to Charlotte, it was for a full convention. A full convention would include around 19,000 attendees. Organizers did not address most of the questions posed by Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Mandy Cohen. Cohen was asking for more specific information on safety protocols for the event. The letter does not address how the event will include social distancing, but says the RNC will provide masks for those who request one, and test attendees before and during the convention. Organizers say the governor has until Wednesday to guarantee the event can happen at full capacity. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:06 a.m. - Lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to "significant" declines in global air pollution, including NO2. Steven McNulty, who directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Southeast Regional Climate Hub in the Research Triangle Park, told WUNC that "the amount of NO2 concentrations have decreased by about 87%" in Raleigh from the middle of March to now. McNulty and collaborators at NC State University and the University of Alberta reviewed NASA air quality data comparing this time period with the same time the year before. In a letter in the May issue of the journal Ecological Processes, they assume that water quality might be seeing temporary improvements, too. They say the long-term implications of this recovery should be studied to guide resource management moving forward. - Rebecca Martinez, 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

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