Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of April 20

Apr 20, 2020

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 13.

April 26, 2020

12:17 p.m. - There are 8,830 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. 299 people have died, 451 people are in the hospital with the illness, and 107,894 tests have been completed. - Elizabeth Baier, WUNC  

April 25, 2020

1:53 p.m. - There are 8,623 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. 289 people have died, 456 people are in the hospital with the illness, and 105,265 tests have been completed. - Elizabeth Baier, WUNC

April 24, 2020

5:55 p.m. - Governor Cooper's decision to end in-person classes for the remainder of the school year means school athletics will also be canceled. The North Carolina High School Athletics Association released a statement Friday afternoon canceling all remaining winter championships and spring sports. The association's commissioner says she empathizes with student-athletes affected by the decision, but that it reflects a commitment to safety. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

5:09 p.m. - Stay-at-home orders will remain in effect in Durham through May 15, one week beyond Governor Roy Cooper's statewide order. The Durham city and county governments announced Friday they would be extending their combined local order. It was previously set to expire at the end of April. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

2:58 p.m. - North Carolina's public school buildings, already shuttered for the past month due to COVID-19, won't reopen this school year, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Friday. The decision was largely expected. Cooper originally closed K-12 schools in all 115 districts in mid-March for two weeks, then extended his executive order through May 15. - Associated Press

2:15 p.m. - Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina says it's investing hundreds of millions of dollars to improve access to healthcare and speed payments to providers during the coronavirus crisis. In a statement, the insurance company said it has expanded coverage for COVID-19 screening, testing and treatment, as well as for telehealth services. BlueCross NC is also extending its grace period for payments on premiums, while speeding its payment of claims. 

12:30 p.m. - Duke University says it won't accept federal relief funds related to the coronavirus. The university said in a statement Thursday that accepting the funds could pose legal and regulatory liabilities, even if it passed the money on to students. Duke says they will support students through institutional and donated funds and will continue to identify other sources of relief for the most vulnerable members of their community. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:50 a.m. - There are 8,052 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services reports. 269 people have died, 477 people are in the hospital with the illness, and 100,584 tests have been completed. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

High school seniors are trying to make decisions about where to go to college without making any last-minute visits to college campuses. College admissions offices have canceled in-person recruiting events and tours they would normally host this time of year. Steve Farmer, director of undergraduate admissions at UNC-Chapel Hill, told WUNC's podcast "Tested" that his office is reaching out to students almost entirely online. UNC System schools have canceled in-person classes through the summer.  It's not yet clear how they will conduct the fall semester. - Will Michaels, WUNC

Forsyth Tech plans to hold a virtual commencement May 7, the same date that was originally scheduled for graduation. The online ceremony will feature formal remarks, musical performances, and digital slides honoring graduates using submitted photos. The college will also mail free cap and gowns to graduating students. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Governor Roy Cooper is allowing NASCAR teams to work in their race shops as long as they maintain social distancing guidelines, clearing a potential hurdle to resuming the season in coming weeks.  For any racing to be done, North Carolina-based teams need access to their shops to prep the cars. On Thursday, Cooper said he is still considering NASCAR's request to run the Coca-Cola 600 as scheduled on May 24 without an audience. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

A second inmate in the North Carolina prison system has died after testing positive for COVID-19. The state Department of Public Safety confirmed today that an inmate at Neuse Correctional Institution has died of a pre-existing condition complicated by COVID-19. The inmate was hospitalized on Monday and died yesterday. He was in his late 70s. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

The City of Greensboro has canceled its annual Fun Fourth Festival because of the coronavirus pandemic. The event was scheduled for July 3rd and 4th and would have included activities including a race and a street festival. City officials are looking for safe locations to hold a fireworks show that residents can watch while maintaining social distancing.  - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Vidant Health is furloughing employees and cutting salaries and employee benefits because the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted the system's revenue. The health care system says it's faced with challenges which have been intensified by the coronavirus pandemic, including a growing number of patients relying on Medicare and Medicaid. Vidant said it will reduce pay for executives, as much as 25% for its CEO. Vidant also said it will be reducing employer contributions to retirement plans by 50%. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Following the guidance of Gov. Roy Cooper's extension of the state-wide stay-at-home order, the City of Fayetteville is extending its curfew until May 8. Curfew hours remain the same. Residents must be home from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Orange County is also extending its county wide stay-at-home order through May 8. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

The Forsyth County Courthouse will be closed to the public effective immediately after an employee at the courthouse tested positive for COVID-19. The courthouse will stay closed at least through May 4. While the building is closed, alternate filing sites are available in the county. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

North Carolina public schools are slated to receive $390 million in federal aid to help get through the coronavirus pandemic. State Superintendent Mark Johnson says that funding can help with the ongoing challenges of transitioning to online learning. Most of the federal aid for K-12 education will go directly to school districts to decide how to spend. Johnson said his department is encouraging schools to use the funding for remote learning, to bridge gaps for the long term. In addition, schools have received money from the state relief fund. The Department of Public Instruction will also petition the General Assembly and the governor for support.  - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

9:35 a.m. - As remote learning is likely to continue through the end of the academic year, the State Board of Education voted Thursday on how districts should issue end-of-year grades. In the new grading policy, there will be no final grades given in Kindergarten through 5th grade.  For 6th through 8th grades, students will be given a pass or a withdrawal on report cards. But getting a withdrawal doesn’t necessarily mean a student won’t be promoted to the next grade, that will be up to principals and teachers to decide. Ninth through 11th grade students will be given the choice between having a numeric grade that would factor into their Grade Point Average, or a pass/withdraw for each class. The goal is to hold students harmless for circumstances related to the coronavirus that could make them get worse grades, but also to allow students who’ve earned good grades to get credit for them. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

April 23, 2020

5:05 p.m. - The shift to remote learning, emergency meals and other adjustments to the COVID-19 crisis have created an additional $382 million in needs for North Carolina public schools. That's the estimate presented at Thursday's state Board of Education meeting as a request to the General Assembly for additional funding. - WFAE

3:43 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper is extending his statewide stay-at-home order until at least May 8. It had been set to expire at the end of this month. Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen said North Carolinians have done a good job of flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases, but the state is not seeing a downward trend in hospitalizations and other key metrics needed to lift restrictions. Cooper outlined a three-phase plan to eventually ease restrictions as the state meets benchmarks for testing, tracing transmission and the trend in cases. Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

2:47 p.m. - The State Board of Education today voted to give uniformity to end of year grading for all public school districts during this time of remote learning. No final grades will be given to Kindergarten through fifth grade students. Sixth through eighth graders will be given a pass or fail on report cards.  Ninth through eleventh grade students can choose between a numeric grade that would factor into their Grade Point Average, or a pass/fail for each class. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

2:08 p.m. - Retail liquor sales are up in North Carolina, and that could mean more revenue for local police departments and other services. The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission reports retail sales of liquor rose 38% in March. Despite lost sales to bars and restaurants, ABC stores saw overall revenue grow by 20%. Some of the revenue collected by local ABC boards is distributed to their area law enforcement and other agencies that support alcohol treatment and education. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

1 p.m. - Wake County has seen a 29% jump in residential waste from February to March as a result of people staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The county says recycling has also increased significantly. Cardboard recycling is up 45% and recycling of major appliances rose 50%. Wake County Solid Waste Director John Roberson says while people are at home, they are doing spring cleaning or completing home construction projects. He says the amount of waste is unprecedented for the county. Roberson says they've had to increase their workforce to accommodate the demand. He expects this surge to continue for as long as stay at home orders are in effect. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

State officials say they have secured more than 20,000 COVID-19 tests to test officers and employees at the state's 56 correctional facilities. State Treasurer Dale Folwell and State Health Plan Director Dee Jones say all costs associated with testing the employees will be covered by the state. The officials did not mention any plans for wide-spread testing of inmates. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

State health officials are conducting COVID-19 testing today at the Mountaire Farms poultry processing plant in Siler City, where there has been an outbreak. According to a statement from the company, all workers who show symptoms of COVID-19 and family members of those who test positive can receive free testing this week. Other workers who enter the facility must be screened for symptoms and given a temperature check. A Mountaire Farms spokesperson said the company could not release how many employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, but WRAL reported yesterday that 11 workers had confirmed cases. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

Novant Health is resuming some elective surgeries starting May 4. Clinics will reinstate appointments that were previously delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The health care system says this move is to ensure patients are receiving the care they need, pointing to a national decline in patients seeking care for emergency conditions, including heart attacks or strokes. Novant Health says clinics are taking measures to ensure social distancing, including lowering the number of patients in the clinic at once and staggering appointments. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:15 a.m. - Beginning Friday, self-employed people who are out of work will be able to apply for federal unemployment benefits. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program will provide benefits for up to 39 weeks to workers who are ineligible for state assistance. Independent contractors, including Uber drivers, freelancers and clergy will be eligible. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

Winston-Salem is launching an initiative to provide a mask for every person in the city. The program will allow residents to buy masks starting tomorrow for less than $3 at Winston-Salem area Lowes Foods stores. Renfro Corporation is producing the masks. The city says the large manufacturing business can make up to a million a week. City officials are urging their residents to wear masks and continue social distancing until the end of May. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:30 a.m. - A disproportionate share of African Americans continue to be sickened and die from COVID-19. The state Department of Health and Human Services says while African Americans make up 21% of the population, they account for nearly 40% of positive cases and deaths from the coronavirus. North Carolina's deputy secretary of health services Benjamin Money said pre-existing racial health and socio-economic disparities are likely driving those numbers.

"People that work in the service industry and have more opportunity to have contact with people on an individual basis have a greater chance of contracting the disease," said Money.

State Health and Human Services Secretary Doctor Mandy Cohen has said her department is trying to increase access to health care and identify other ways to reverse the trend, but did not say what those might be. - Will Michaels, WUNC

This weekend the North Carolina Arts Council is hosting a livestream benefit concert for North Carolina artists. The event will feature state-wide musicians from different genres, including Anthony Hamilton, 9th Wonder and Ben Folds. The virtual concert will raise funds for non-profit arts organizations in North Carolina that have established relief funds for artists in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The event will be live streamed on Facebook and Twitch starting Friday night. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

The state department of transportation is launching a public-private partnership to use drones to deliver critical medical supplies and food during the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative is scheduled to start next month. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Winston-Salem is launching an initiative to provide a mask for every resident in the city. The program called Mask the City will provide masks for residents to buy starting tomorrow for $2.50 at Winston-Salem area Lowes Foods. City officials are urging their residents to wear masks and continue social distancing until the end of May. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Dare County is now requiring its citizens to wear a mask or face cloth covering in public settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain, including grocery store or pharmacies. This amendment to the county's stay at home order is effective immediately. Durham County has a similar mandate in place. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:20 a.m. - North Carolina's top health official Dr. Many Cohen says the state is now in a better position to increase testing for COVID-19. In a briefing yesterday, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services said this week the department began offering new guidance to healthcare providers about when to test patients, telling them "if anyone is suspected for COVID-19, has fever and cough, that they should use their clinical judgment and order lab tests."

Cohen said testing capacity in the state has been improving overall, but the rate of testing actually dipped earlier this week. The secretary has said repeatedly that increased testing is one of the key components to being able to eventually lift stay-at-home restrictions.

All the Republicans in the state Senate have signed on to a letter pressing Governor Roy Cooper for specifics on how much more testing and PPE is needed, as they call on him to release a detailed plan for reopening the economy. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

9:15 a.m. - The Alamance County Board of Commissioners is urging Gov. Roy Cooper to take a regional approach to easing the statewide stay-at-home order. The county board is one of several that have reached out to the governor about lifting restrictions or getting more local authority to do so. Amy Galey, chair of the Alamance County Board of Commissioners, was inspired to write to the governor after looking at a map showing how the number of COVID-19 cases varies from county-to-county.

"There are parts of the state which are severely impacted by the virus, and there are parts of the state which have been less impacted by the virus. So it seems reasonable to consider having a regional approach in tackling this virus," said Galey.

North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Doctor Mandy Cohen said a regional approach to reopening might be possible but a county by county strategy would be difficult, because many people live in one county and work in another. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

9:10 a.m. - Greensboro-based Cone Health is switching to rapid testing at the point of care for diagnosing patients with COVID-19. The number of COVID-19 patients at Cone Health has spiked over the last several days. This week, the number is in the mid-30’s. Dr. Bruce Swords says Cone Health received rapid test kits from its lab partners, which allows an in-house process. Swords said they can turn over the test in a matter of hours. - Keri Brown, WFDD

April 22, 2020

3:23 p.m. - The Raleigh City Council voted to put $1 million toward funds to support loans for small businesses. The Carolina Small Business Development Fund and Wake Technical Community College will administer the loans for businesses with less than 50 employees. Mayor Mary Ann Baldwin is now encouraging corporate donors to match city's investment. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

2:45 p.m. - The North Carolina National Guard is mobilizing its members to help food banks across the state. The Greensboro News and Record reports that 40 National Guard members are expected to help with stocking and deliveries at the Second Harvest Food Bank in Winston-Salem. It is one of seven regional food banks that will receive the extra help. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

11:55 a.m. - There are  7,220 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services reports. That's nearly 270 more cases from yesterday. 242 people have died, 434 people are in the hospital with the illness, and 90,336 tests have been completed. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

A fabric manufacturer in High Point has switched some of its operations to producing masks for health care workers and bed covers for hospitals. Culp Inc. says its also making other fabrics used for mattresses and furniture products to supply to healthcare facilities including nursing homes or emergency shelters. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Burlington-based Labcorp has received an Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin selling an at-home COVID-19 testing kit. The self-testing kits allow specimens be collected at home if recommended by a healthcare provider. The kits will first be made available to healthcare workers. The company intends to make the kits available for consumers in the coming weeks. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced today that it's receiving a $2 million federal grant to support mental health services. The funds will be used to bolster a hotline that connects health care workers with licensed mental health clinicians. The grant will also boost opioid treatment programs in communities that are struggling economically. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has issued a directive ordering magistrates to resume performing marriage ceremonies statewide, as long as people follow appropriate social distancing guidelines. This comes after several counties ceased performing marriages because couples brought large groups of witnesses to local magistrates’ offices to be married there. The order allows local officials to determine when ceremonies can be conducted and how many people can attend the ceremony. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:40 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services has received federal approval to temporarily waive additional policies in the state's Medicaid program during the COVID-19 pandemic. These waivers include expanding locations where services can be delivered and easing requirements for in-person meetings. The department previously received federal approval to allow out-of-state providers to help care for people enrolled in the state Medicaid program and waive some provisions that required pre-approval for care. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:30 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper is extending unemployment benefits to more North Carolinians who had previously been ineligible. His latest executive order allows furloughed employees who received a severance payment to also claim unemployment. More than 689,000 in the state have applied for unemployment benefits because of lost jobs and reduced hours since March 15. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:25 a.m. - A few hundred people gathered Tuesday in Raleigh for a ReOpen NC rally. They were protesting Governor Roy Cooper's stay-at-home order,  put in place to limit coronavirus infections in North Carolina. The protest came a week after a similar demonstration resulted in the arrest one person for engaging in what the Raleigh Police called non-essential activity, a violation of the governor's executive order. U.S. Representative Dan Bishop, a Republican Mecklenburg County, attended the rally and he chided Cooper, a Democrat, for not having a clearer plan on when restrictions will be lifted. At a briefing on Tuesday, Cooper said he understands people are frustrated and want to get back to work and send their kids back to school. Cooper says details on plans to ease public health restrictions are coming this week. One thing that's required first is a reduction in the number of new COVID cases over 14 days. - Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

11:10 a.m. - UNC Health is updating its policy regarding mask usage for its employees. The health care system is now providing a new extended-use mask after every other shift for all staff working at any UNC Health location. With the previous policy, workers were using masks for up to five shifts in some cases. The health care system has previously said they have enough personal protective equipment for its workers, but are working to secure more. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

 10:45 a.m. - A panel of health experts at Duke University says the state will need to ramp up its testing capabilities as leaders decide when and how to reopen parts of society. In a video conference Tuesday, the group of doctors and administrators said tracking the coronavirus will help prevent future surges and outbreaks until labs can develop a vaccine. The panel said leaders at both the state and federal levels should put together comprehensive plans to gradually reopen services. - Will Michaels, WUNC

10:30 a.m. - North Carolina universities are receiving tens of millions of dollars each in federal aid through the CARES Act. But it won't be nearly enough to cover their lost revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The amount we got from the CARES Act roughly equals the amount that we refunded in dorms and meal plans, and half of that amount that we got flows through to students," says Doug Shackelford, dean of the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Last week, the University of Arizona announced furloughs and pay cuts for its faculty. Shackelford says he wouldn't be surprised if other colleges go the same route. Due to the high density of college campuses, he said it may take them longer to return to normal operations even when other activity resumes. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC 

April 21, 2020

7:15 p.m. - Dare County says it's ready to gradually lift restrictions to entry. A little over a month ago, the county set up checkpoints and cut off access to non-residents to limit the spread of the coronavirus. That drew a lawsuit from a group of property owners. The county is allowing non-resident property owners back in waves, starting on May 4 with property owners whose last names begin with the letters "A" through "I". Fifteen people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Dare County with one death. But county officials say there have been no new cases in the past week and testing is readily available. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

6:01 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper is extending unemployment benefits to more North Carolinians who had previously been ineligible. His latest executive order allows furloughed employees who received a severance payment to also claim unemployment. More than 689,000 people in the state have applied for unemployment benefits because of lost jobs and reduced hours since March 15. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

4:15 p.m. - Authorities say a convicted drug trafficker who said he fled from a federal prison in North Carolina because he feared the coronavirus has surrendered after 18 days on the run. Richard R. Cephas turned himself in at a federal courthouse in Delaware. He escaped in early April from the Butner prison complex where dozens of inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 and five have died. Prosecutors say he'll be transferred back to North Carolina to face a prison escape charge. Cephas was about two years from release when he escaped. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

3:00 p.m. - The North Carolina Department of Transportation is delaying all major construction and road repair projects due to a budget shortfall. The Department is funded with taxes on gas and highway use and fees from DMV offices, all of which have been affected by the pandemic. With an expected $300 million budget shortfall, the DOT is postponing all projects that had been scheduled to start this year. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

2:15 p.m. - State health officials are announcing new safety guidelines for workers at food processing plants. The state Department of Health and Human Services reports there are COVID-19 outbreaks at 5 food processing facilities in North Carolina. All food processing plants across the state should be checking employees' temperatures and symptoms. Workers who become ill should be tested for COVID-19 and given paid sick leave if they test positive. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

1 p.m. - The American Lung Association says air quality related to ozone pollution has improved incrementally in North Carolina over the past several years. The group's annual report looks at trends from 2016 through 2018. The Triangle, the Triad, and the Charlotte-Concord metro areas recorded fewer unhealthy days of high ozone levels compared to last year's report. The American Lung Association says people who live in places with more pollution could be more vulnerable to COVID-19 because it's a disease affecting the lungs. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:45 p.m. - There are 6,951 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services reports. 213 people have died, 427 people are in the hospital with the illness, and 83,331 tests have been completed. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

The state Department of Health and Human Services reports there are at least 52 outbreaks of COVID-19 in nursing homes and residential care facilities across the state. Those outbreaks account for almost 1,200 cases in North Carolina as the state-wide case total nears seven thousand. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

State lawmakers are hammering out details for a plan to expand access to emergency loans for small businesses. A House committee has approved a draft bill that would allow businesses with 100 employees or fewer to apply for loans of up to $50,000. A previous version of the bill would have only served businesses with 50 or fewer employees. The updated plan would appropriate $75 million for loans, about three times the amount originally proposed. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

A Division of Motor Vehicles call center in Bladen County has reopened after an employee tested negative for COVID-19. The center closed yesterday pending test results. The facility was deemed safe for workers to return to work and opened again earlier today. The facility staffs about 65 employees. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

The UNC Medical Center is now collecting convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients to help current COVID-19 patients. UNC researchers are planning a clinical trial to analyze coronavirus antibody responses in patients who receive convalescent plasma treatment. Eligible donors must have tested positive for COVID-19 and be at least 14 days from resolution of symptoms. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Currituck County will allow all non-resident property owners to gain access into Corolla starting this Thursday. Non-resident property owners must have an appropriate entry permit to present at the checkpoint currently in place at the Wright Memorial Bridge. County commissioners agreed to begin allowing visitors to access Corolla on May 15th. The county banned all visitors from entering the county just over a month ago. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Biopharmaceutical company RedHill is testing a second drug for potential treatment against COVID-19. The Raleigh-based company announced it's partnering with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to test the drug in non-clinical studies. The drug that will be tested was originally developed to target illnesses including inflammatory lung diseases.  - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:15 a.m. - A group of commercial energy users wants Duke Energy to waive fixed monthly fees during the coronavirus pandemic. The Carolina Utility Customers Association filed a petition with state regulators last month. The organization represents large manufacturers and other commercial customers that shut down and not using much, if any, electricity. Duke Energy says it will work with individual customers, but opposes the idea of a waiving fixed monthly fees. Duke says a three-month waiver would cost it nearly $28 million. Duke is fighting the petition at the North Carolina Utilities Commission. Regulators have not scheduled a hearing on the request. - David Boraks, WFAE

Dare County officials are preparing a plan to start lifting restrictions on entry to the county. Dare County Health and Human Services Director Sheila Davies said the first phase of this plan will allow non-resident property owners to enter. More details are expected to be released later today. Currently, non-residents are not allowed to enter the county to limit the spread of COVID-19. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:00 a.m. - Gov. Roy Cooper’s legal counsel said today a planned protest Tuesday by the group ReOpen NC is allowed under the stay-at-home order. William McKinney wrote in a letter Monday that the protest planned for the state capitol grounds must be outside and that people stay six feet apart. He said that police may “intervene” to protect the public and protesters if people are too close together. At the first ReOpen NC protest on April 14, one person was arrested, and the Raleigh Police Department Tweeted that “protesting is a non-essential activity.” That prompted the group to ask Cooper over the weekend if tomorrow’s protest would be allowed. - Steve Harrison, WFAE

The annual Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro has canceled its 2020 season. The season was scheduled to start toward the end of June and continue until August 1st. All in-person concerts, master classes, and community outreach performances are canceled. The organization says this decision is to protect the health and safety of everyone involved with the event, and that waiting longer to come to this decision would have had a negative impact upon the well-being of the organization. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Cumberland County Schools is launching a YouTube channel to provide educational content for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Videos will include book readings, “do it yourself” obstacle courses and STEM challenges. New videos will be uploaded to YouTube daily.  - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Matthews-based Harris Teeter is now requiring its employees to wear masks or other face coverings at work. This includes workers at stores, distribution centers and facilities. Harris Teeter says it will provide employees with face coverings or they can provide their own. Shoppers are encouraged to cover their faces, but it's only required for shoppers in areas with local mandates. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Johnston County Public Schools is resuming its meal distribution program next week. The service will operate weekly on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Each service day will consist of additional food for the days when meals are not served. This comes after the school system suspended its meal services earlier this month, saying then the decision was made to protect its students health and safety. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:50 a.m. - So far, the state Department of Public Safety has transferred about 50 inmates from North Carolina prisons back to the community under the supervision of parole officers. State prison officials have identified about 450 more inmates for possible transfer to community supervision. All are non-violent offenders. In addition, they must be elderly, pregnant or have underlying health conditions. Advocates say the prison system is not getting enough inmates out, or quickly enough, during the pandemic. Several civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit seeking the release of medically vulnerable inmates. COVID-19 outbreaks have been identified at nine prisons across North Carolina. At Neuse Correctional facility, nearly half of the inmates have tested positive so far. The state does not have the capacity to proactively test inmates at all prisons before they show symptoms. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

10:45 a.m. - Some coastal North Carolina towns are starting to lift certain restrictions on beach access. Surf City and Wrightsville Beach have both reopened some beach access points to the public. However, no public parking is available and public restrooms will also remain closed. Social distancing guidelines will be strictly enforced. Surf City Town Manager Kyle Breuer says his town opened up the beach to give residents another place to get out and exercise safely. Breuer says the town is still urging non-residents not to visit the coast. Meanwhile, the towns of Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle have lifted restrictions on recreational water access, but only for residents or property owners. Exercise and play in the water had previously been prohibited to help reduce the strain on first responders. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

April 20, 2020

7:19 p.m. - Eastern Music Festival (EMF) announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will cancel the 2020 season. EMF's home office at the Greensboro Cultural Center is currently closed, and the year-round staff are working remotely to continue to fulfill its mission for the next season. For almost six decades, Eastern Music Festival (EMF), a classical music festival and summer educational program, has been produced each summer on the campus of Guilford College, UNCG, and other venues in the Greensboro area.

"It is with deep sadness that we have to make this important decision to cancel the 2020 EMF season. The health and safety of our students, faculty, patrons, staff, and the entire Greensboro community was at the forefront of this decision," said Melanie Tuttle, EMF Board President. "Waiting longer to come to this decision would have had a negative impact upon the well-being of the organization. Our goal is to continue educating young musicians and creating and sharing excellent music for many years to come. This decision, although unwelcome, is the right one." - Jason deBruyn, WUNC

6:30 p.m. - Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has given nearly $200,000 from his gubernatorial campaign fund to people and businesses needing assistance due to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, according to his campaign committee. - Associated Press

4:56 p.m. - Families of North Carolina students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch will now be eligible for a new food assistance program to help buy groceries. Families who already receive food and nutrition assistance, better known as food stamps, will receive an additional $250 dollars per child on their benefits card. Families with children who receive federally subsidized school meals but do not currently have a benefits card can apply for one. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

3:15 p.m. - Fort Bragg soldiers are making face masks and face shields for units and personnel across the army base. Soldiers from a parachute rigging unit are producing up to 600 cloth face masks a day. N.C. State University donated 4,000 meters of unwoven material to the base that's being used to make the masks. Meanwhile, soldiers from the 188th Brigade Support Battalion are using 3D printers to make face shields. The equipment is being distributed to people across Fort Bragg at risk of coming in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

2:32 p.m. - Wake Tech Community College is sending off new graduates of its nursing school with a curbside pinning ceremony Monday. The 64 graduates will soon head to the workforce, and the healthcare front lines. The North Carolina Board of Nursing is instituting a new policy to allow nursing school graduates to be hired before taking the state licensure exam. That will allow them to begin working as soon as May. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

11:34 a.m. - A Division of Motor Vehicles call center in Bladen County is temporarily closed while an employee is being tested for COVID-19. The DMV said in a press release that the call center will go back into service when it is determined safe for its employees to return to work. The facility staffed approximately 65 employees. People are encouraged to use online services for DMV help. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

11:18 am. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reports more than 6,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina. That's about 270 more cases from yesterday. Nearly 180 people have died. Around 370 people are in the hospital with the illness. More than 79,000 tests have been completed. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:13 a.m. - Five Republican state senators are asking Governor Roy Cooper to allow NASCAR races – without fans – next month at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In a normal year, NASCAR would run the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte track over Memorial Day weekend but NASCAR’s schedule has been upended by the coronavirus pandemic. NASCAR said Friday it hopes to resume racing at some point in May without fans in the stands. On Sunday, the senators said allowing a race at Charlotte would require the governor to amend an executive order.  A spokesman for the governor said Cooper has talked with track officials but it's too soon to commit to decisions about specific sporting events. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

6:55 a.m. - Beginning this morning, the state Legislature will be closed to the public until May 8th. For the next three weeks, only legislators, staff, and credential media will be allowed inside the building. Anyone going in will have their temperatures taken upon entry and be turned away if it’s higher than 100.4F. Leading Republicans announced the changes last week, citing the need for appropriate measures to ensure health and safety amid the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers will convene a week from Tuesday and the spatial logistics for that are still being finalized. When they do gavel in, action is expected to waive interest on delayed business taxes, extend DMV deadlines, and there may even be consideration of expanding health coverage for the uninsured for COVID-19-related medical costs. - Jeff Tiberii, WUNC

6:35 a.m. - Durham is now requiring people to wear masks in public. An amendment to the city and county's unified stay-at-home order says face coverings are required in places where it's not possible to maintain social distance, such as grocery stories, pharmacies, and public transit -- though no one will be removed from public transit for failure to wear a mask. The updated order also includes guidelines for farmers markets to operate with temperature checks of vendors and handwashing stations. Realtors are again allowed to hold in-person showings, but only of vacant homes. - Amy Jeffries, 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
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of April 13