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Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of June 22

Gerry Broome

This post will be updated periodically with the latest information on how the coronavirus is affecting North Carolina. Scroll down for older updates. For a recap of last week's news, check out Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of June 15.

June 26, 2020

5:05 p.m. - North Carolinians must now wear a mask in public where it is difficult to maintain physical distance from others. Governor Roy Cooper's executive order went into effect at 5 p.m. The mandate relies largely on the honor system although law enforcement will be able to issue citations to businesses that do not require employees and customers to wear masks. However, several sheriffs have said they will not enforce the governor's order. Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department is warning that "mask exemption" cards circulating on the Internet are fraudulent and do not carry the weight of law. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

4:50 p.m. - Latinx people make up a majority of North Carolina's new COVID-19 cases. At a briefing, Dr. Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, a physician and founder of the advocacy group Latin-19, spoke in English and Spanish to address those who must work at construction sites, meat processing facilities, supermarkets and kitchens and cannot shelter at home. She urged them to wear mask wearing and maintain physical distance.

"We're an essential part of the economy" she says, urging workers to protect each other. 

Martinez-Bianchi said testing sites are often inaccessible to people without cars, and asked state leaders to improve mobile testing efforts. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC
1:05 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper's mandate that North Carolinians wear masks in public goes into effect today at 5 p.m. In the wake of the pandemic, the General Assembly temporarily suspended an old state law that bans mask wearing in public. It was a measure to discourage the wearing of Ku Klux Klan hoods for intimidation. Last night, the legislature adjourned without extending the mask waiver. As it stands, face coverings will become technically illegal again on Aug. 1. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

9:58 a.m. - Saint Aungustine University announced that its homecoming event, "the Blue & White Experience 2020," will be a virtual event this year. The Raleigh-based HBCU will still host its homecoming football game on Oct. 24 with limited spectator capacity. - Mitchell Northam, WUNC

9:50 a.m. - Democratic state senator Sam Searcy of Wake County is taking a leave of absence from the General Assembly due to possible exposure to the coronavirus. He tweeted yesterday afternoon that he had received notice someone in his office had tested positive for the virus, and he plans to get tested. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

7:35 a.m. – Friday morning, the Durham VA Healthcare System will celebrate the release of its longest hospitalized COVID-19 patient. The 58-year-old Veteran was diagnosed with COVID-19 in early April and has fought a long battle with several stays in the intensive care unit. Hospital staff will give him a special sendoff as his family welcomes him home after more than two months in the hospital. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

7:20 a.m. - North Carolina's Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest intends to sue Democratic Governor Roy Cooper over the way Cooper has imposed business restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Forest wrote Cooper a letter Thursday arguing the governor has violated state law by issuing executive orders without seeking agreement from the Council of State. Forest is running against Cooper in the November gubernatorial election, and as lieutenant governor is a member of that group of top elected officials. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

June 25, 2020

5:05 p.m. - North Carolina's COVID-19 cases have reached 57,183. Alamance has become the 14th county in the state to record more than 1,000 cases.  – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

4:45 p.m. - WakeMed Health and Hospitals is changing its visitation policy to allow each patient to have a single visitor per day. The health system had been prohibiting visitors to limit the spread of coronavirus. A WakeMed press release said the company now recognizes "the important role that a loved one at the bedside plays in the healing process." The new visitation policy goes into effect tomorrow morning. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

3:20 p.m. - Hundreds of law school graduates are expected to sit for the North Carolina bar exam in person next month in Raleigh. Applicants must submit certification that they've been screened for COVID-19. The North Carolina Board of Law Examiners will require social distancing measures and mask wearing, but cannot guarantee isolation for exam takers who have health risks. The Board released guidance for test takers on its website, saying that each applicant must make their own decision whether to attend the exam. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

9:34 a.m. - North Carolina legislators could soon end a legislative session marked by dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers have focused on the economic downturn and on challenging Governor Roy Cooper's orders keeping many businesses closed due to the virus. The House and Senate scheduled floor meetings on Thursday, and Senate Republicans say they're not coming back after that. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC
7:48 a.m. - At least two universities in the UNC system are reserving the right to not refund student housing fees if classes are forced to go remote again next school year. A UNC Greensboro spokeswoman said the university was acting under guidance from the UNC System and its own attorneys when it amended the housing contract, and that administrators wanted to notify students quickly so they could plan for the changes. Students at UNC Greensboro and Western Carolina University have been told that if they have to vacate campus dorms next school year, the universities are not obligated to provide refunds. Spokespeople from NCC State University and UNC Chapel Hill say their universities intend to offer pro-rated refunds if classes go remote. This past spring, UNC System schools gave students pro-rated refunds for housing fees for the months they were not on campus. Universities largely used federal emergency aid to pay for that. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC
7:40 a.m. - The USL Championship announced Wednesday an updated format for the remainder of the 2020 season that will see clubs divided into eight regional groups to complete in a 16-game regular season followed by a single-elimination playoff. Cary-based North Carolina FC plays in the second-tier professional men’s soccer league. Led by former U.S. national team coach Dave Sarachan, NCFC hasn’t played a game since March 7. – Mitchell Northam, WUNC

June 24, 2020

4:40 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper is ordering North Carolinians to wear masks in public to slow the spread of coronavirus. He also hit "pause" on his reopening plan, keeping the state in Phase 2. Cooper said kids 11 and younger, and people with medical conditions that preclude face coverings, are exempt from the mask order. However, law enforcement may cite businesses that do not enforce the order with customers, and individuals may be cited for trespassing. People who keep 6-feet apart in outdoor areas do not need to wear masks. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

11:10 a.m. - Duke Health has announced it will be easing some of its visitor restrictions at its clinics and Duke hospital in Durham. Adults who are hospitalized will now be able to designate one visitor, and children may be visited by both their parents. Patients in labor can also designate two support visitors, including a doula. Patients being treated for COVID19 will not be allowed visitors. Some exceptions may be made for end-of-life care. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

10:55 a.m. - Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles is calling for Governor Roy Cooper to require all North Carolinians to wear masks in public. In a tweet on Tuesday, Lyles said she supports the requirement for all residents to help combat the spread of the coronavirus. Cooper has said before that a statewide mandate is under consideration. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

7:50 a.m. - The North Carolina General Assembly has finalized another Republican attempt to block Governor Roy Cooper's COVID-19 restrictions. Lawmakers sent the Democratic governor a measure approved Tuesday that would keep his executive order limiting gatherings from preventing Fourth of July parades or fireworks. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

7:40 a.m. - The Piedmont Triad International Airport Authority saw a 92% decrease in passengers this May compared to last year. The Greensboro-area airport also saw a 45% drop in cargo. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

7:34 a.m. - Winston-Salem State’s Chancellor hosted the nation's top infectious disease expert on a university radio program Tuesday. Dr. Anthony Fauci gave an update on the search for a coronavirus vaccine. Fauci says a promising candidate for a vaccine could go into testing for effectiveness next month, and a second option could be ready for trials in August.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll have a vaccine of some sort as we enter 2021,” Fauci said.

Still, he says, there’s no guarantee that any of the vaccines being tested will ultimately work. Fauci also said that he’s worried about the flu season, which typically starts here in late fall. Fauci says both viral infections have similar symptoms, which will make it hard to tell them apart. He says that means testing for COVID-19 will be even more critical, and urged people to get flu shots to keep those numbers down. – Paul Garber, WFDD

7:27 a.m. - A coalition of fitness club operators is hoping state lawmakers will Wednesday to override Governor Roy Cooper's recent veto and allow gyms to reopen across the state. The group has drafted a list of proposed best-practices for slowing the spread of the coronavirus in their facilities. Doug Warf is the president of O-2 Fitness and helped create the "NC Fit and Healthy" protocols. A spokesperson for the state Department of Health and Human Services said in an email that DHHS was not involved in developing these protocols for gyms but it supports business efforts to keep patrons healthy. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

June 23, 2020

4:15 p.m. - Nine-hundred-and-15 people are being treated for COVID-19 in North Carolina hospitals. It's another record high figure from the state health department. White House infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce that North Carolina needs to do more to blunt a surge of cases before the disease spreads too quickly to contain. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

2:10 p.m. - North Carolina teens can now get a provisional drivers license without taking a road test. Under a new law,  the Division of Motor Vehicles will temporarily waive the requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sixteen and 17-year-olds who have been driving with a learner permit without incident for at least a year can make an appointment at the DMV to sign the waiver. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

2 p.m. - The Department of Public Safety is reporting a COVID-19 outbreak at Albemarle Correctional Institution in Stanly County. At least 60 inmates in a housing unit and 12 prison staff members have tested positive. An email from DPS Spokesman John Bull said that the inmates testing positive aren’t showing symptoms. 

"Nearly 250 prisoners living in the unit have been tested and about 500 more at the prison’s other two housing units were being tested Monday," Bull wrote. The results from the other two units were expected later this week. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

9:35 a.m. - Wake County is planning to hire more than 230 temporary staff to support its COVID-19 response efforts. According to a statement from the county, its Emergency Operations Center has been operating for 112 days straight, its longest single run. The county plans to use CARES Act funding to bolster that team. Wake County will hire more contact tracers and support staff so county workers can go back to their regular duties. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

9:27 a.m. - North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has extended orders to postpone jury trials for another month due to the coronavirus pandemic. That order expires July 20. Beasley also signed orders giving court clerks more time to schedule eviction proceedings. Normally, eviction hearings are set within seven days. Under this order, clerks of superior court will have 30 days to schedule hearings. That will help address a backlog of more than 10,000 eviction hearings pending in the state. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

9:18 a.m. - Faculty, staff and students at East Carolina University are voicing their concerns about the university's plan to reopen in the fall. 230 have signed a petition calling for no instructor to be required to teach and for mask wearing and other CDC health guidelines to be enforced. They also want free COVID-19 testing. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

7:33 a.m. - Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan has issued an emergency proclamation requiring face coverings to be worn anytime social distancing is not possible in public or private spaces. That includes in grocery stores, businesses, sidewalks and public transit. This declaration takes effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday and will remain in effect until it is modified or rescinded. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

7:21 a.m. - The North Carolina Health Department has added two features to its online COVID-19 dashboard. DHHS has begun posting county outbreak data with a breakdown of race, ethnicity, gender and age.  Childcare centers and schools were already required to report COVID-19 outbreaks to the state. That data will now be made available through the state dashboard too. Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said Monday just three clusters of COVID-19 cases have been linked to child care facilities.

“I think the data's still evolving to understand, ‘Do kids actually transmit the virus in the same way as adults do?’ It looks like kids transmit the virus less-well than adults do,” Cohen said.

Working-age adults make up nearly half of North Carolina's confirmed COVID-19 cases. Kids age 17 or younger only make up 10%. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

June 22, 2020

5:20 p.m. - The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will begin reporting COVID-19 clusters at schools and childcare settings on its online dashboard. Children make up only 10% of cases in the state. But working-age adults, including those in essential jobs like child care, make up nearly half of the state's cases. Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen says schools and childcare providers must report all COVID-19 cases and that information will now be accessible to the public starting tonight. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

5:10 p.m. - State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen says she and the governor are still considering whether to mandate face coverings in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus. And at this afternoon's briefing Cohen said it's unclear whether bars or gyms will be able to reopen anytime soon. Last week, Gov. Cooper vetoed a bill that would have allowed bars and gyms to reopen. The order outlining public health restrictions under Phase 2 of the governor's reopening plan is set to expire this week. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

5 p.m. - A Superior Court Judge is giving the state five more days to provide details of how prisons are deciding which inmates to test for COVID-19 and provide images of the cells where inmates who test positive are isolated. The ACLU of North Carolina and several other civil rights organizations sued the state in April saying it failed to protect people in state custody from the pandemic. The state will also have to turn over a census of each state prison with descriptions of living and sleeping spaces and information on how many masks have been issued to each inmate. Judge Vinston Rozier denied the state's request to remove those disclosures from the order. Another hearing has been scheduled for next Monday. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

3:20 p.m. - The State Employees Credit Union has signed onto the Carolina Relief Plan. State Attorney General Josh Stein is coordinating the effort to have banks and lenders agree to offer grace periods on mortgages and loans and waive fees for customers impacted by COVID-19. The credit union joins Bank of America, which signed on earlier this month. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

1:20 p.m. - A UNC Chapel Hill School of Law clinic is opening a new defense hotline starting Monday for Spanish-speaking tenants who may be at risk of eviction. This comes after the statewide moratorium on evictions has ended. The UNC Civil Legal Assistance Clinic is partnering with the Latinx advocacy group Siembra NC to offer the hotline. Callers can get legal advice in Spanish about whether they are protected from eviction under the CARES Act. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

1:10 p.m. - A coalition of graduate students, faculty and staff at Duke University have laid out their demands for a safe reopening of campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In a Facebook live video, a representative of the unofficial Duke Graduate Students Union laid out the demands. They call for guarantees for personal protective equipment, and for workers to be able to refuse unsafe working conditions without retaliation. They want free coronavirus testing and free access to a vaccine when it becomes available. They're asking for paid time off and sick leave, and back-pay for workers who did not receive furloughs. And they stressed that they want the provisions to apply to everyone employed at Duke, including part-time contract workers. Finally, they're asking for a "seat at the table," meaning they want President Vincent Price to invite the workers’ coalition to approve the university's plans to reopen. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

7:50 a.m. - Statewide hospitalizations for patients suffering from COVID-19 hit another all-time high over the weekend. On Saturday, 883 North Carolinians were hospitalized with COVID-19. That dropped on Sunday, as total lab-confirmed cases of the coronavirus in North Carolina rose to nearly 53,000. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

7:41 a.m. - UNC Health will ease some restrictions for visitors to its Triangle hospitals, beginning Monday. Each patient will be allowed one designated visitor in most inpatient areas. All visitors will be required to wear masks and could be subject to health screenings at any time. The hospitals include UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, UNC REX Hospital in Raleigh and Johnston Health hospitals in Smithfield and Clayton. Tougher visitor restrictions were implemented in March, when the coronavirus pandemic first hit this region. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

7:33 a.m. - The state Senate has passed a bill that would override an executive order and reinstate Fourth of July activities. The bill would prevent cities from banning events such as parades and fireworks from July 1 through July 10. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

7:25 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper vetoed a bill Friday that would have reopened gyms and bars. Two lawsuits challenging the Governor's authority to close businesses were heard on Friday. One, an ongoing lawsuit from Ace Speedway in Alamance County argues it shouldn't have to remain closed as it puts the business at risk for having to shut down permanently. The judge in that case said he will make a decision Wednesday. The other, a lawsuit from the NC Bar and Tavern Association, will determine whether the Governor has the authority to close industries that pose a unique health threat as identified by public health experts. The Bar and Tavern Association is arguing that if restaurants can seat people outdoors, they should be able to as well. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

7:20 a.m. - Dare County officials met Friday afternoon and updated their Emergency Declaration for COVID-19 to include a mandate that face coverings be worn in indoor and outdoor public spaces where social distancing cannot be maintained. The measure went into effect on Sunday. – Mitchell Northam, 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

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