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Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of July 6

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 29.

July 10, 2020

3:50 p.m. - Appalachian State University's September football game at Wisconsin has been canceled. That's because the Big Ten Conference decided to move to conference-only schedules for fall sports, a precaution amid the pandemic. News outlets report the cancellation will cost App State a $1.25 million guarantee for the game. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC
3:40 p.m. - 1,046 people are currently hospitalized in North Carolina due to COVID-19. Hospitalizations tracked by the state are at an all-time high. And about 2,000 more lab-confirmed cases have been added to the state count today. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

3:00 p.m. - The ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging absentee ballot witness requirements in the state of North Carolina. The group says state law requiring voters who submit a mail-in ballot to have at least one witness puts people's health at risk during the COVID-19 outbreak.  The suit says the witness requirement is unconstitutional because it makes citizens choose between their right to vote and their personal health. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

9:03 a.m. - The state Republican party is holding its annual convention online today. Plans for an in-person convention were canceled last week after the risk of holding a large event during the COVID-19 pandemic led a top state health official to recommend against it. The convention will include some 1,400 delegates participating at home, or county party offices. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

8:50 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper announced on Thursday the state's highest single-day mark for COVID-19 hospitalizations  and second highest daily count of newly confirmed cases. Cooper said he was glad that North Carolina isn't seeing the same spikes that other Southern states are, but that caution is warranted as the school year approaches. "There are critical decisions ahead, on how we reopen schools and whether we continue to ease restrictions on certain businesses," he said. "On schools, we continue to get excellent input from teachers and superintendents and health officials. We want our children back in school safely, and we'll have an official announcement next week." Cooper emphasized the effectiveness of face coverings in reducing the spread of coronavirus and urged political leaders and celebrities to promote mask-wearing in public. -Rebecca Martinez, WUNC


July 9, 2020

6:10 p.m. - Physicians told the State Board of Education Wednesday there's no way to eliminate all COVID-19 risk when reopening schools.  Doctor Kenya McNeal-Trice of UNC Health said decisions should be made locally and accommodations should be made for those with higher risk of complications. 
"Listen to the voices of food service workers or cleaning and janitorial staff. They're vital to our schools. We could not function without them. Their voices are important as they are also assuming risk during this time of pandemic."

McNeal-Trice said in-person learning is important to children's overall well-being, so reopening plans should be adaptable to reduce risk as situations develop. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

6:05 p.m. - A North Carolina judge has refused to delay enforcing his ruling to allow bowling alleys to reopen in contradiction to the Governor's executive order closing them to slow transmission of COVID-19.  DOJ lawyers asked the State Supreme Court to halt implementation for now. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

6 p.m. - More than 1,000 North Carolinians are now hospitalized due to COVID-19.  The number of people in  hospitals from the Coronavirus continues to rise as the State Department of Health and Human Services is reporting yesterday's case numbers.  The state dashboard tracking COVID-19 says another 2,039 lab-confirmed cases of the virus were reported yesterday. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

5:50 p.m. - A “Top Chef” contestant’s restaurant in Raleigh has permanently closed down due to revenue losses amid the coronavirus pandemic.  Katsuji Tnabe told The News & Observer on Wednesday that his business partner decided to shut down Raleigh’s High Horse restaurant due to the money losses. The restaurant had opened in North Carolina’s capital city in November 2019. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

5:30 p.m. - State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said at today's briefing that lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases are still rising as are the number of people arriving at the emergency room with COVID-19-like symptoms. Meanwhile, the percentage of tests that are positive is relatively level, as is the number of hospitalizations. Altogether, Cohen says, the indicators of the trajectory of the outbreak are trending up, which is concerning. She reminds North Carolinians that "flattening the curve is not a one time thing" and urges people to wear face coverings and maintain physical distance in public. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

5:20 p.m. - The Atlantic Coast Conference is delaying the start of competition for fall sports until at least September 1st in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The delay includes all exhibition and non-conference games for cross country, field hockey, soccer and volleyball. It does not affect football, since play was not set to begin until September 2nd with NC State visiting Louisville. All sports can still begin practice on August 1st. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

5:10 p.m. - State health leaders are preparing guidance for reopening public schools in August while managing the risk of spreading COVID-19. Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen says that while it would be difficult to require masks and physical distancing among children available evidence suggests that children do not transmit the coronavirus as much as adults do.

"We gotta make sure the adults ⁠— the staff, the teachers and others⁠ — making sure that they're not congregating. The couple of outbreaks that we've seen have really been just teachers working in close proximity without face coverings."

Middle schools in Iredell and Union Counties have reported ongoing outbreaks among staff, and none among students. Governor Roy Cooper says he will announce plans for the school year in the coming week. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

5 p.m. - The N.C. State Athletics Department is reporting five positive tests for COVID-19. Senior Associate Athletic Director Fred Demarest told the Raleigh News & Observer that 315 student athletes, coaches and staff have been tested since the end of May. Members of the football and men's and women's basketball teams were allowed back on campus for voluntary workouts in June. Athletes had to get tested for COVID-19 in advance. Yesterday, UNC announced 37 athletes, coaches and staff within its athletic department staff had tested positive. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

4:50 p.m. - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given LabCorp emergency use authorization for its at-home COVID-19 test collection service. The product is meant to screen patients for coronavirus infections before undergoing medical procedures. The Burlington-based company is starting small, making the service available to "select" medical providers before expanding to more health systems. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

4:40 p.m. - The Orange County Board of Commissioners has updated the county's emergency declaration to cut off food and drink service to in-house patrons at 10 p.m. Chair person Penny Rich said in an email that cases have tripled in Orange County since Memorial Day and this change is intended to reduce group setting where the coronavirus can easily spread. The new rules go into effect tomorrow night. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC


July 8, 2020

6:10 p.m. - The General Assembly has indefinitely suspended an old state law that bans mask wearing in public. It was a measure to discourage the wearing of Ku Klux Klan hoods. A temporary waiver would have expired next month, making face coverings technically illegal. Now, state law aligns with Governor Roy Cooper's executive order requiring face coverings in public to slow the spread of coronavirus. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC
5:50 p.m. - Public health officials in Union County say they’ve identified 16 people who tested positive for COVID-19 after attending an in-person graduation ceremony about two weeks ago. Seniors at Marvin Ridge High School sat outside on a football field in folding chairs spaced about 6-feet apart. But very few wore masks and some took photos hugging their classmates. The Union County school board voted 5 to 4 in May to hold in-person ceremonies despite Gov. Roy Cooper’s limits on mass gatherings. Board Chair Melissa Merrell said in a statement the district provided clear health and safety guidance for graduates and their guests. - Claire Donnelly, WFAE

5:20 p.m. - Physicians are urging the State Board of Education to exercise caution when reopening schools but not to allow the presence of COVID-19 to prevent reopening altogether. During a meeting by teleconference today, Dr. Kenya McNeal-Trice of UNC Health told the board that in-person learning is important to the physical, emotional and social wellness of children, so reopening plans should be nimble, while trying to reduce risk. McNeal-Trice said decisions should be made at the local level and that accommodations should be made for students, staff and families who identify themselves to be at higher risk of complications from COVID-19. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

5 p.m. - UNC-Chapel Hill released a statement today saying 37 of its student athletes and other members of its athletics department have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of June. The Orange County Health Department is reporting a cluster of 5 or more related cases on the campus this week. Athletes, staff and coaches who have tested positive will isolate for two weeks. The Carolina football team is pausing its voluntary workouts for one week as a precaution. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

3 p.m. - The state House and Senate have failed to override five of Governor Roy Cooper's vetoes.  Three of them would have eased public health restrictions that Cooper enforced on businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. - Will Michaels, WUNC

2:30 p.m. - Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in North Carolina have hit a new high for the third straight day. The state is reporting that 994 people are in the hospital with the illness caused by the coronavirus, though there are still beds available and room in ICUs. The total number of confirmed cases continues to trend up, with more than 1,400 additional cases counted since yesterday. Ten percent of tests are coming back positive. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

1:20 p.m. - State School Superintendent Mark Johnson has sent a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper asking for an explanation for updates to guidance for putting students on school buses this fall. Johnson wrote that the state Department of Health and Human Services reduced the social distancing requirements that previously would have kept students six feet apart on buses. Under one revised scenario for school reopening’s, there could be one student in every seat on buses, and only a foot or two apart, according to Johnson. The State Board of Education will receive an update on health guidance for schools during the COVID-19 pandemic in its monthly meeting this afternoon. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

8:05 a.m. - The city of Raleigh plans to cancel large events through October because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city council was told Tuesday that large, non-ticketed public events make it too difficult to set up health screening checkpoints. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

7:59 a.m. - North Carolina Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen has announced statewide orders allowing sites to test people for COVID-19 without a referral from a doctor and to report the results directly to the state database. Cohen said the state will also be deploying up to 300 free temporary testing sites to under-served communities throughout July. Cohen urged people who work in environments where it is difficult to maintain physical distance to seek out testing. She said many of the temporary testing sites will offer drive through or walk-up options. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

7:52 a.m. - Consumers are being more cautious around nonessential activities since COVID-19 reached North Carolina. UNC Finance Professor Greg Brown maintains a dashboard full of data about how the pandemic is impacting the economy, and how consumers are responding. The dashboard includes an index measuring people's willingness and ability to undertake nonessential activities away from home.  Brown said older and wealthier people, in particular, are spending less at retail stores, restaurants and other businesses. Brown said these consumers will need to feel safer to re-engage with the economy... and he policy makers and business leaders need to propose more localized solutions to help contain community spread of the coronavirus. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

7:44 a.m. - With the uncertainty of schools reopening this fall, there could be a surge in home schooling. For many students that home school, study groups or tutors are still part of the equation. Now, with the ongoing pandemic, those groups can only meet on Zoom. Take Brooke Medina, who is also communications director for the conservative Civitas Institute. Her daughter is in the 12th grade.

"Again our social lives have vastly changed, as have everyone else's,” Medina says. “But in terms of what she's learned and how she's been learning it -- that's been consistent."

Medina says the uncertainty around how schools will reopen might be driving new interest in home schooling. She's heard from two close friends who want to learn more about it. The Raleigh News and Observer reported that the registration system for families intending to home school was taken offline last week because of overwhelming demand. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

July 7, 2020

6:20 p.m. - The City of Raleigh plans to cancel festivals road races and parades through October because of the pandemic. Emergency Management and Special Events Director Derrick Remer told the city council today that large nonticketed public events make it too difficult to set up wellness screening checkpoints to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Remer said parks department and convention center events are not affected by this plan. His office still plans to allow events with fewer than 25 people such as neighborhood block parties. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

6 p.m. - A state judge has ruled that dozens of bowling alleys can resume operations immediately, so long as they adhere to the same capacity and face covering rules for other businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Roy Cooper has kept bowling alleys closed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. But Superior Court Judge James Gale found the governor has no reason to treat bowling alleys differently from restaurants, tattoo parlors, or other businesses where the risks are similar. The judge is requiring that precautions be taken, including cleaning rental shoes and bowling balls between uses and making hand sanitizer available to patrons. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

5:50 p.m. - North Carolina has now had more than 75,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen says the state broke another daily record for related hospitalizations, and the rate of tests coming back positive remains high.

"Our state needs to stabilize these trends in order to avoid a dangerous spike in the virus that could overwhelm our medical system and risk us going backwards, like so many states are doing now," said Cohen. 

Cohen announced that there's a new standing order from the North Carolina Health Department, meaning people who want to be tested for COVID-19 won't need a referral from a doctor and those patients can receive the test results directly from the lab. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC
5:40 p.m. - The 2020 Mountain State Fair has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The fair, which draws tens of thousands each year, was scheduled to take place in mid-September at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center in Fletcher, N.C. State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said it was canceled over concern about the health and safety of visitors and staff and the difficulty of enforcing social distancing. Troxler said this is the first year since the fair was founded nearly three decades ago that it has been completely called off. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

5:10 p.m. - According to economist and UNC finance professor Christian Lundblad, it's unrealistic to focus solely on protecting people from the COVID-19 pandemic while allowing the economy to whither, and vice versa. He told a Kenan-Flagler Business School panel that the pandemic has suppressed the economy and the downturn will have lasting impacts on the health of vulnerable people. That's why society needs to accept COVID-19 as a limitation and innovate. Lundblad said businesses need access to more specific health, industry and social behavioral data to make more innovative decisions. He also said because front-line and hourly-wage workers are assuming higher risk during the pandemic, businesses and governments need to make policies that protect and support them. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

4:40 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper says he does not plan to extend an executive order that suspends utility disconnections. The governor initially signed an order in March that prohibited utility shutoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It's set to expire on July 29.  - Will Michaels, WUNC

8:40 a.m. - The annual Carolina Renaissance Festival has been canceled due to safety concerns amid the coronavirus outbreak. The festival said in a statement Monday that the event has been rescheduled to the fall of 2021. It was supposed to be held in October and November of this year. The Charlotte Observer reports the outdoor renaissance event has been held in Huntersville since 1994. A festival official told the newspaper the event draws more than 200,000 people to the town every year. – The Associated Press

8:04 a.m. - A drag racing track in Robeson County that drew thousands of spectators in June has been closed by county officials. The crowd size broke the Governor's executive order limiting mass gatherings, the Fayetteville Observer reports. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

7:55 a.m. - According to a report released Tuesday by the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, COVID-19 has had a massive impact on tourism and the money it typically brings to the area. Tax collections are down $9.2 million year-to-date, and more than 200 conventions, meetings and group sporting events were cancelled, totaling a $110.4 million economic impact. More than 100 large scale events and festivals have been canceled or rescheduled too. Only six hotels in Wake County remained closed and hotel occupancy rates are hovering just above 40%. – Mitchell Northam, WUNC

7:43 a.m. – Starting Tuesday, the Chatham County parks department is introducing a pop-up playground to encourage exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recreation equipment will travel to parks, parking lots and open areas and will be available by request. Users will sign a waiver, get a temperature check and practice social distancing. From now through mid-August, park employees will drive the trailer filled with soccer balls, games, a parachute and a giant Connect Four board to open spaces where people can spread out and play. Chatham County's Parks and Rec director Tracy Burnett said she hopes the pop up playground will be a safe alternative, monitored by county employees to ensure CDC guidelines are met. - Liz Schlemmer and Cole del Charco, WUNC

July 6, 2020

2:20 p.m. - The Greensboro Police Department has reported a COVID-19 outbreak among seven of its employees. The department said in a news release today that five officers and two other staff have tested positive for COVID-19. According to the department, those employees are recovering at home and undergoing contact tracing. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

12:20 p.m. - The number of North Carolinians currently hospitalized with COVID-19 is the highest it's been since the virus came to the state. There are at least 982 people hospitalized with the coronavirus, with hospitals reporting more patients over the weekend. The number of hospitalizations has steadily risen over the last month. There are almost 75,000 lab-confirmed cases in the state. – Cole del Charco, WUNC
11:50 a.m. - The state women's prison in Raleigh has a new outbreak of COVID-19. 47 women incarcerated there have recently tested positive for COVID-19. A Department of Public Safety spokesman said this is the second outbreak at that prison and that most of the more than 90 inmates who contracted the coronavirus in the first outbreak have since recovered. One inmate at that prison has died of COVID-19. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC
9:35 a.m. - Several community pools in Raleigh are set to reopen Monday. Seven facilities will open with limited capacity and social distancing protocol. Reservations for the limited spots can be made online up to seven days in advance. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

8:40 a.m. - Eight mayors in the Triangle want more federal assistance from their delegation in Congress as they face massive budget shortfalls from lost revenue during the global pandemic, the NC Insider reports. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

This post is compiled and edited by Elizabeth Baier, Mitchell Northam and Laura Pellicer.

Previous weekly updates:
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of March 9
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of March 16
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of March 23
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of March 30
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of April 6
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of April 13
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of April 20
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of April 27
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of May 4
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of May 11
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of May 18
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of May 26 
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of June 1
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of June 8
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of June 15
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of June 22
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of June 29

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