Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of Aug. 24

Aug 24, 2020

Credit Gerry Broome / AP

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 Aug. 17.

Aug. 28, 2020

2:20 p.m. - The North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association has announced it will allow private schools to begin fall sports, including football, in September. All sporting events will be held without fans. The North Carolina High School Athletic Association, by comparison, has delayed all sports practices for public schools until at least November. Higher contact sports have been delayed until winter or spring. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

11:05 a.m. - UNC Athletics has announced that it will begin playing fall sports without fans at home events. This includes football, men's and women's soccer, and volleyball. Attendance restrictions will last at least through September. The university says it will continue to evaluate conditions with the hope of increasing capacity in October. Tailgating will also not be allowed on campus. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:50 a.m. - Mecklenburg County reports two attendees and two event workers tested positive for COVID-19 at the Republican National Convention. All were immediately isolated. The county reports almost 800 COVID-19 tests were administered to people at the RNC. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:30 a.m. - Several state universities have identified new clusters of COVID-19. North Carolina Central University has identified a cluster of COVID-19 cases in Baynes Residence Hall involving student-athletes who are part of the football team. UNC-Wilmington announced two clusters in Pelican Hall and Graham-Hewlett Hall with 5 students in each cluster. UNC-Chapel Hill identified a cluster at the Cobb residence hall. North Carolina State University identified five new clusters in residence halls and three Greek life houses. 39 people have tested positive in those clusters. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:25 a.m. - The Orange County Health Department says college students returning home from campus should get tested for COVID-19 if a cluster of cases was identified in their living area. Health officials say students should also quarantine for 14 days regardless of test results. Orange County is offering free COVID-19 testing Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Chapel Hill. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:15 a.m. - The Johnston County Board of Education has voted to continue online-only learning until at least Oct. 15. Students will not return for in-person learning in September, as previously planned. The board says the decision was made out of an abundance of caution. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Aug. 27, 2020

6:10 p.m.A new cluster of COVID-19 cases has been identified at Cobb residence hall at UNC Chapel Hill. According to the school, the individuals in the cluster are "isolating and receiving medical monitoring." - Laura Pellicer, WUNC

5:40 p.m. - East Carolina University is the latest to call off its season opener football game because of the pandemic. Athletics Director Jon Gilbert announced today the game against Marshall on September 12 in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium will be postponed. The ECU Athletics website said the Pirates and Thundering Herd hope to reschedule the game later this year. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

5:30 p.m. - The Orange County Health Department is instructing students returning home from college to quarantine for two weeks if a cluster of COVID-19 cases was identified in their dorm or apartment. A cluster is 5 or more connected cases close in location. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

5:20 p.m. - The pandemic and related economic downturn are disproportionately affecting people in poverty. The Aspen Institute estimates that by the end of this year, 25% of renter households in the state risk being kicked out of their homes. Kathryn Sabbeth from the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic at the UNC Chapel Hill School of Law says people often think of eviction as the result of unfortunate events but it also causes even worse outcomes after the fact. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

"Whether we're talking about credit damage, relocation to overcrowded or substandard conditions, a destabilization of employment, destabilization of education. I think people imagine those things to perhaps result in eviction, but the causal arrow goes the other way as well," said Sabbeth.

Sabbeth says the pandemic makes it all the more unsafe for displaced people to bunk with friends or stay in congregate shelters. State and federal moratoriums on evictions have expired. However, Governor Roy Cooper announced funding this week to help people impacted by the recession to pay for rent and utilities. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

5:10 p.m. - North Carolina State University has started moving students out of resident halls. Chancellor Randy Woodson announced the decision Wednesday to reduce the spread of coronavirus on campus after a series of COVID-19 clusters erupted on and near campus. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

2:30 p.m. - Cardinal Gibbons High School has informed parents that four student have tested positive for COVID-19. News outlets report the school says the students have been off campus for more than a week and that the cases are isolated, not likely a cluster. Classes continue in person with pandemic precautions. However, this evening's Back to School Night will be an online presentation. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

2:20 p.m. - Gov. Cooper has put out his ideas for how legislators should allocate nearly $1 billion in remaining federal pandemic relief. The money would mainly be directed toward public health, K-12 schools and local governments. The General Assembly returns next Wednesday for a session that's only expected to last a few days. Cooper also wants lawmakers to consider $25 billion in adjustments to the current state spending plan. Coming two months before the election, the Democrat's proposal includes policy and spending prescriptions he has long favored, such as expanding Medicaid coverage. Those plans are likely to be idled by the legislature's GOP leadership. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

11:05 a.m. - Federal authorities say a North Carolina man lied on paperwork to get $400,000 in federal loans from the Paycheck Protection Program. 31-year-old David Redfern was charged earlier this week with wire and bank fraud. Federal prosecutors say Redfern applied for loans available for struggling businesses under the CARES act. The loans were for a construction business, but Redfern tried to withdraw the loan proceeds in cash or transfer them to his personal bank account. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:55 a.m. - Elon University has removed seven students from its campus for allegedly hosting mass gatherings that violated the governor's COVID-19 related orders. Final decisions about their consequences are still being determined. The university has also received reports of 32 students attending those events. Those students are facing student conduct charges. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:20 a.m. - 18 people at Johnston Community College have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those, 16 are students and 2 are employees. The college has started contact tracing and infected individuals are being asked to isolate. 60% of classes at the college are being taught online this semester. 42 more classes will move online by Sept. 8 in light of the outbreak on campus. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:55 a.m. - The Chapel Hill Police Department issued four citations this week to UNC-Chapel Hill students found in violation of the governor's COVID-19 orders. The individuals violated the order last week, but citations were not issued immediately because police were investigating the incident. Violations of the order are a Class 2 misdemeanor. UNC-Chapel Hill is notified of citations to students. The university says it will take disciplinary action against students as needed. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:40 a.m. - Six staff members at an elementary school in Moore County have tested positive for COVID-19. Those staff members at Robbins Elementary School are now in isolation. A classroom of students associated with the affected staff is in quarantine. A remote learning plan will be implemented for those students while they are under quarantine. This is Moore County’s first reported COVID-19 cluster in a public-school setting. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:25 a.m. - North Carolina State University identified three new clusters of COVID-19 Wednesday in residence halls and in another Greek House. 21 total people have tested positive in those clusters. Students at N.C. State must leave on-campus housing by next weekend. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:10 a.m. - Lawmakers return to Raleigh next week to determine what to do with remaining pandemic relief funds. Governor Roy Cooper is calling on them to revisit the state's operating budget at the same time and expand Medicaid, increase unemployment benefits, and give bonuses to educators and staff at public schools and universities.

“I know many parents out there who have become home school teacher assistants out of necessity,” Cooper said. “They value our teachers even more than before. We cannot keep leaving teachers behind, but expecting them to lead the way for our children."

Cooper wants to use $47 million in COVID-19 relief for workforce and business development, and $27.5 million for grants to help small business with rent and utilities. He is also proposing $275 million in bonds to support vaccine development and public health labs. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

Aug. 26, 2020

2:54 p.m. - NC State University will begin moving students out of dorms tomorrow, amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Chancellor Randy Woodson wrote in an open letter today that  the rapid spread of positive cases has made normal campus housing "untenable." Woodson said the move-out process will be rolled out over the next 11 days to help ensure physical distancing. Some current students can apply for waivers to remain on campus for various reasons. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

1:31 p.m. - Researchers at UNC - Chapel Hill have found people infected with the coronavirus are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized if they are obese. A team at the Gillings School of Global Public Health reviewed data from around the world about COVID-19 patients, and found obesity was associated with a significantly higher risk of complications. UNC public health professor Barry Popkin says obesity can cause immune system impairments and sleep apnea, which makes the lungs vulnerable.

"On top of the fact that obese individuals are more likely to be hypertensive or diabetic, or have heart disease," Popkin said. "You put all that together and it shows a much bigger risk than we thought before."

Popkin says the pandemic has also limited how much people can get out, and makes shoppers more likely to buy processed foods with longer shelf lives. The paper is published in the journal Obesity Reviews. - Will Michaels, WUNC

12:45 p.m. - N.C. State's football season opener against Virginia Tech has been rescheduled following a cluster of COVID-19 cases in the Wolfpack's athletic programs. The university identified 27 people in its programs who tested positive for COVID-19. The game will now be played Sept. 26. It was originally scheduled for Sept. 12. The Wolfpack will still open their regular season at home on Sept. 19 against rival Wake Forest at Carter-Finley Stadium. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:45 a.m. - More than a dozen COVID-19 cases in Forsyth County have been traced to a religious camp. The Winston-Salem Journal reports the cluster of cases arose at the Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters in Cherokee County. 19 Forsyth County residents who attended the camp tested positive for COVID-19. The camp says on its website its following health recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization to prevent the spread of germs. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:30 a.m. - North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is filing a lawsuit against a packaging company in Morrisville for price gouging and alleged unfair and deceptive trade practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stein claims Stephen Gould Corporation tried selling extremely high priced N-95 masks to state departments and health care systems. The lawsuit alleges the company told potential buyers the markup on these masks was only 3%, when the actual markup was more than 100%. The lawsuit asks the court to stop the company from offering goods at unreasonably high prices during the pandemic and seeks monetary penalties. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:15 a.m. – UNC-Chapel Hill and Fayetteville State University both identified another cluster of COVID-19 on their campuses on Tuesday. FSU reports six people have tested positive at the University Place Apartments. UNC-Chapel Hill found a cluster at the Koury Residence Hall.

North Carolina State University identified seven new clusters of COVID-19 on Tuesday. A total of 63 people have tested positive in those clusters at on-campus residence halls, dorms and off campus student apartment complexes. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:45 a.m. - A charter school in Greensboro is temporarily suspending in-person classes and moving to remote learning only after students tested positive for COVID-19. Cornerstone Charter Academy will be fully remote until at least next week. It's unclear exactly how many students tested positive. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:30 a.m. - Two firefighters from the town of Clayton have been released from the hospital after battling COVID-19. Two other firefighters remain hospitalized. 17 out of 41 firefighters in the town's fire department have tested positive for COVID-19. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:18 a.m. - The Piedmont Triad International Airport saw another slight increase in passenger traffic from June to July. But overall traffic was still down 75% compared to July of last year, according to statistics from the airport. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:10 a.m. - State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen kicked off a Tuesday briefing reminding North Carolinians to follow the "Three W’s" to slow the spread of COVID-19: Wearing a mask, waiting six feet apart, and washing hands often.

Cohen said these practices have been effective in decreasing disease transmission, but that many young people seem to be flouting the guidelines. She said that's especially apparent in college towns, where case counts have been rising and where large gatherings are happening off campus.

Port City Daily reported last week that UNC-Wilmington was enlisting managers of off-campus apartments to identify students hosting or attending large gatherings and ignoring physical distancing guidelines. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

Aug. 25, 2020

4:17 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper announced today that $175 million will be allocated to provide rent and utility assistance to North Carolinians amid the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn. The funding comes from state and federal sources, including the CARES Act. State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen touted the plan to address housing insecurity. "Having a stable, safe place to live is fundamental to well-being and health," she said. Local governments can apply for funds through the state Department of Commerce. Cohen said other application details are forthcoming. Moratoriums on evictions have now ended, putting hundreds of thousands of residents at risk of losing their homes. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

3:35 p.m. - Almost 16% of North Carolinians with gym memberships have returned to the gym. That's according to a national survey from fitness website Run Repeat. The problem is that gyms are not allowed to be open in North Carolina right now. An executive order from Governor Roy Cooper forced them closed months ago. State Health Secretary Doctor Mandy Cohen reiterated today that gyms pose a higher risk of viral transmission than other public settings.

"When you are exercising, you are breathing heavier," Cohen said. "And when you breathe heavier, more viral respiratory droplets have the opportunity to leave your body and go to others."

The Run Repeat survey also found that about 40% of North Carolinians with gym memberships do not plan to return to the gym once gyms are officially re-opened. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

2:56 p.m. - The UNC System says it needs more money from the state Legislature to cover extra costs brought on by COVID-19.  The system's finance chief Jennifer Haygood briefed a group of House lawmakers this morning and requested $100 million in flexible funding.

"As soon as we feel like we've come up with a plan, conditions change, and we understand that we have to pivot and adjust accordingly -- and therefore I'd emphasize the need for that flexibility," said Haygood, adding that universities are dealing with evolving conditions. Schools have had to pay for PPE, signage and protective barriers around campus, more intensive cleaning, and air conditioning renovations. Schools have also provided technology to some students to ensure they can access online instruction.

The finance chief says the the state university system will likely lose more than $100 million in revenue from housing, dining and student parking this semester. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

12:30 p.m. - The NC Courage will soon return to the field for the National Women's Soccer League fall series. The league announced Tuesday it will resume play on Sept. 5. The fall series will include 18 matches over seven weeks. Three pods of three teams each will play each other to minimize travel. The Courage is in the Southern regional pod, along with the Orlando Pride and the Houston Dash. Games will be aired on CBS. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:15 a.m. - Duke University reports 12 more students tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 10 faculty and staff members also tested positive. Duke administrated around 5,000 tests last week to students, faculty and staff. Those who tested positive are now in isolation. About 75 students, faculty and staff were asked to quarantine as a result of contact tracing. Around 60 others were released from isolation and quarantine and cleared to return to campus. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:28 a.m. - North Carolina State University has temporarily paused all athletic-related activities because of a COVID-19 cluster within its programs. 27 positive cases have been identified in the program. The university says not all cases are student athletes. The university says they are pausing activities until additional information is available. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:15 a.m. - Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has issued an order extending and modifying several emergency directives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order allows court proceedings to continue to be conducted remotely, waves most notary requirements, and allows courthouse access to be restricted. Senior resident superior court judges are also required to submit plans for the resumption of jury trials by the end of September. The order expires on Sept. 22. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:05 a.m. - All of the UNC System schools track their COVID-19 cases on public dashboards. While the data isn't perfect, it's safe to say UNC System schools have seen more than 21-hundred COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began -- and about half of those positive tests were taken last week.

UNC Chapel Hill reported 465 new cases last week alone. NC State and ECU had the next highest case counts. Both decided to move online during a week in which they each reported more than 200 new cases. Appalachian State University and UNC-Pembroke have the next largest outbreaks, each with at least 60 students and employees in isolation. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

Aug. 24, 2020

7:30 p.m. - East Carolina University announced on Sunday it would be shifting all undergraduate classes online and asking students living in campus housing to move out of the dorms. Today, the university updated its public dashboard that tracks COVID-19 cases. The data show 262 students and 5 employees at ECU tested positive last week. Nearly 26% of the tests that were conducted by the university's Student Health Services came back positive. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

2:04 p.m. - The State Board of Elections is advising college students who choose to vote by mail to have their absentee ballots sent to their current address. A notice from the Board assures students they can be registered to vote at their campus address even if they have been temporarily displaced due to COVID-19 outbreaks, but they should make sure if they want an absentee ballot, that it's mailed to an address where they can receive it. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

1:10 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services has 55 upcoming COVID-19 testing events scheduled in several counties, including Wake, Chatham and Gaston counties. Tests are free and insurance is not required. The state hopes to increase access to testing for communities of color. Testing is a priority for anyone who has symptoms or who may have been exposed to COVID-19. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:15 a.m. - A school district in Western North Carolina was forced to move classes online at a high school after numerous cases of COVID-19 were identified in staff. Macon County Schools is closing down Franklin High School until at least September 11th. Students had returned for in-person learning. It's unclear exactly how many staff members became infected. The small school district has identified cases of COVID-19 in students and staff at six of its 11 schools. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:15 a.m. - The state announced plans last week to expand COVID-19 testing in the Triad with a new partner. StarMed Healthcare will deploy free testing at sites in seven counties. StarMed will work with DHHS and local public health officials to decide which areas are most in need of testing. The provider has already been conducting drive-through testing events in partnership with several county health departments, including Forsyth.

The expansion news comes about a week after Forsyth County health officials disclosed that 100 patients had been charged for StarMed COVID-19 tests that were supposed to be free. StarMed Healthcare COO Tracey Hummell said the bills were sent in error from their insurance clearinghouse. Hummell said all those affected by the mistake have been notified, and will not be required to pay. - April Laissle, WFDD

8:10 a.m. - In the Town of Clayton, almost half of the fire department has tested positive for COVID-19. 17 out of 41 full time firefighters tested positive for COVID-19. 5 of those firefighters are in the hospital. Clayton Fire Chief Lee Barbee says one firefighter felt sick about two weeks ago. That led to four others on the same shift testing positive. Required testing of other shifts revealed 17 firefighters testing positive in total. Barbee says despite daily disinfecting of the station and equipment, it's hard for firefighters to social distance when responding to emergencies and living together. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:02 a.m. - North Carolina’s unemployment rate rose in July even as the overall number of people working grew compared to June. The state reported Friday over 72,000 more people were employed compared to June, but the overall labor force grew by 135,000. The labor force includes people deciding to look for work again as businesses continue to re-emerge after COVID-19 restrictions have eased. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:50 a.m. –UNC-Chapel Hill has resumed activities for some sports teams. On Sunday, many teams resumed practice, including field hockey and men's and women's basketball and soccer. Football returns to practice Monday. All other sports teams will continue to pause activities for now. Last Wednesday, all athletic activities were temporarily suspended in response to rising COVID-19 cases on campus. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:42 a.m. - The Greensboro Symphony is postponing all fall performances because of current restrictions on large gathering sizes. New dates will be announced at a later date. Ticket holders should keep their tickets to use for rescheduled performances. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:35 a.m. - On Sunday, the State Department of Health and Human Services reported a drop in hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients. Almost 900 patients across the state are hospitalized, with 84% of hospitals reporting. The state reports over 150,000 cases of COVID-19 have been identified since March. 7% of administered tests are coming back positive. The total death count since the start of the pandemic has surpassed 2,500. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:30 a.m. - FEMA has granted North Carolina's request for extended federal unemployment benefits. The funding will provide an additional $300 a week for people unemployed because of COVID-19. FEMA will work with Governor Roy Cooper to implement a system to make this funding available to North Carolinians. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:24 a.m. - A Black student advocacy group at UNC-Chapel Hill has started a mutual aid fund to help students who are suddenly rushing to move off campus. The university is encouraging students living in dorms to move out by Wednesday as the campus shifts all undergraduate classes online due to COVID-19 outbreaks. Tamiya Troy is president of the Black Student Movement. The fund raised over $15,000 in its first two days. She says it will support students dealing with unexpected expenses.  

“Covering the costs of deposits for off-campus apartments, renting a move-in truck, purchasing train tickets to get home, even buying groceries and gas,” Troy says. “So a lot goes into moving off campus, but also finding alternative housing. So it's a lot that goes into this, and honestly a lot that students was not prepared for."

Some students are scrambling to find off-campus housing in the Triangle where affordable options are scarce. The aid fund has already received dozens requests for assistance, and Troy says there may be more to come if students lose on-campus jobs. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

7:15 a.m. - The Johnston County Register of Deeds has been especially busy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The county has issued an above average number of marriage licenses in recent months. Brides and grooms-to-be have visited the office from other counties and even out of state. The demand for birth certificates is also up as people have traveled to get their records in-person. Register of Deeds Craig Oliver says while services are limited in other counties, his office is fully operational, though staff are taking precautions.

"We got up Plexiglas, we wear our masks, we sanitize the surfaces,” Oliver said. “We can't let this virus to keep us hostage. and, you know, we're trying to help out the public."

Oliver says his office has generated nearly $2 million in revenue since the pandemic started in March. On average the office generates about $4 million a year. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:08 a.m. - East Carolina University is moving undergraduate classes online for the fall semester and the UNC Charlotte is delaying in-person instruction because of concerns about COVID-19. UNC Charlotte will begin classes as scheduled on Monday, Sept. 7, but students won't be in the classroom until at least Oct. 1.

Undergraduate classes at ECU will start online Wednesday. Classes are suspended Monday and Tuesday to allow students and faculty to adjust to the change. This comes after both UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University announced plans to go all remote after outbreaks of COVID-19 among students. Both universities issued alerts about additional clusters at residence halls, fraternities and sororities over the weekend. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

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

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