Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of June 15

Jun 15, 2020

North Carolina continues to slowly reopen from the coronavirus pandemic.
Credit Creative Commons / https://bit.ly/2Cac52r

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 8.

June 19, 2020

6:30 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper has vetoed a bill that would have allowed gyms and bars to reopen immediately amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.  Public health restrictions ordered by the governor has kept those businesses closed for months.  Just two weeks ago, Cooper vetoed a similar bill that would have opened bars. The governor will announce next week whether he'll modify his current executive order to let more businesses reopen. – Cole del Charco and Amy Jeffries, WUNC

 

1:10 p.m. - Guilford County leaders have chosen to dip into a rainy day savings fund to help cover a budget shortfall due to the economic fallout from COVID-19. The new budget, which takes effect July 1, does not a property tax increase, according to the Greensboro News and Record. Budget planners said the county should take $38 million from its rainy day fund to make up for a projected decrease in sales tax revenue. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

12:22 p.m. - The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina has jumped by another 1,600 since yesterday, according to the state's daily count. That brings the total to over 49,000 since March. For the fourth day in a row, the state is also reporting a record breaking number of hospitalizations. 871 people are in the hospital sick with COVID-19, 14 more people since yesterday. 1,197 people in North Carolina have died from COVID-19. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:07 p.m. - The state's unemployment rate for the month of May was 12.9% -- the same as April's rate. The April and May rates still mark the highest seasonally adjusted rate for North Carolina since 1976, when records began being kept as they are now. In March, state unemployment was just 4.3%. The employed workforce actually increased by almost 120,000 people in May. But was down by more than 660,000 compared to a year ago. Job losses were concentrated in the leisure and hospitality industry. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:07 a.m. - UNC Greensboro is requiring faculty, staff and students to wear face coverings on campus effective immediately. Face coverings are required inside university buildings and outdoors on campus in situations where social distancing cannot be maintained. The university says it will provide face coverings to those who need it. UNCG also says they will enforce this rule if necessary, including asking students who are not wearing a face covering to leave the classroom. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:41 a.m. - Cumberland County Schools says students attending year-round schools will begin the school year remotely. The first day of school for Cumberland County year-round students will be July 9. The district says it is reviewing and considering multiple options for the opening of other schools based on guidance from the state. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:20 a.m. - The General Assembly finalized a measure Thursday to let bowling alleys, ice rinks and roller rinks to reopen at reduced capacity. Employees would be required to wear masks, and businesses must follow sanitizing and social distancing guidelines. The bill now goes to Governor Roy Cooper. The governor has already vetoed one measure that tried to reopen bars. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

June 18, 2020

4:20 p.m. - The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority’s Board of Directors has passed a budget with significant cuts to offset the "unprecedented decline in revenue" brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. What the board is calling a "survival budget" reduces operating and project expenses by nearly 45 percent.  It will allow RDU to keep the lights on while the demand for air travel is low, implement public health practices and prepare for recovery. Terminal expansion projects are now on hold. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

4:10 p.m. - Researchers at UNC Chapel Hill took part in a national study that adds to evidence that wearing a mask can limit transmission of the coronavirus. The study suggests this virus tends to first become firmly established in the nose before moving into the chest. The results reinforce that it's transmitted in respiratory droplets. UNC professor of medicine Richard Boucher, a lead author of the study, says if you cover up the nose you can contain or block those droplets. 

"A mask is a good way to prevent them from getting away or being produced by the person that may be infected but also very importantly protecting you from inhaling these particles from the atmosphere," said Boucher.

He thinks wearing a mask should be a standard practice. State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen reminds North Carolinians that masks should cover the nose and mouth. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

4 p.m. - Testing is underway at Albemarle Correctional Institution in Stanly County where every inmate is being checked for COVID-19. State Prisons Commissioner Todd Ishee said today that it's part of a plan to test every state inmate and prison staffer. But it will be costly and time consuming. 

"We estimate it will take at least 60 days to complete this testing and it is estimated that this process will cost about $3.3 million," said Ishee.

Ishee said the state is already testing everyone being transferred to prison from county jails and held in medical quarantine while they await results. He said inmates transferred between prisons will also be tested first, or held in quarantine for two weeks. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

10:31 a.m. - Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is extending its expanded reimbursement policy for doctor visits by video or phone through the end of the year. The health insurance agency says it will continue to cover telehealth visits the same as face-to-face visits. The expanded reimbursement policy was put into place at the beginning of the COVID-19 public health crisis. Blue Cross N-C says it will use data and insights gained from this time to update its telehealth policy. The new policy will be announced later in the year. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:20 a.m. - The Greensboro Transit Authority is offering free reusable cloth masks Thursday. One cloth mask will be provided per person while supplies last. This effort is in support of the transit agency's campaign encouraging people to stay safe and wear masks. The transit agency distributed almost 800 free cloth masks last week. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:23 a.m. - The state House approved a measure Wednesday to give public school teachers a one-time $350 bonus. Lawmakers also agreed to fund the experience-based raises that teachers in K-12 schools expect annually. It now goes to governor. The measure additionally urges Governor Roy Cooper to use federal COVID-19 relief funds to give $600 more to educators and provide bonuses to other school personnel, including custodians and cafeteria workers. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:15 a.m. - Guilford County Schools plans to resume some athletics and other extracurricular activities on July 6. The school system plans to re-open only high school fall sports and marching band training. Other sports and middle school athletics may be phased in at a later time. Participants will be required to sign waivers attesting to their health status. Student athletes will also be subject to a daily health screening and temperature check prior. Social distancing and limits on mass groups will be enforced. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:04 a.m. - People trying to enter the two buildings operated by the North Carolina General Assembly will get their temperatures checked again after the COVID-19 protocol was discontinued this week. Senate Democrats complained after the checks by General Assembly police and nurses were discontinued. The legislative complex administrator said no one ever registered a temperature high enough to warrant a medical referral when the checks were performed for several weeks. But Paul Coble says the checks will return next week. Coble says cleaning and safety initiatives and other operating adjustments have resulted in over $1 million in added expenses. – The Associated Press

June 17, 2020

7 p.m. - Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin has amended a coronavirus emergency order to require masks in public. The mask requirement goes into effect at 4 p.m. Friday. Durham and Orange Counties already require masks in public.– Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

6:50 p.m. - In accordance with federal health guidelines, Fort Bragg soldiers are now subject to a mandatory two-week quarantine before deploying to the Middle East. Married paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team are hunkering down at home while single soldiers are quarantined in a secluded compound on base. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

12:34 p.m. - The Town of Chapel Hill is launching a free face mask distribution campaign starting Wednesday until further notice. The town says the campaign is to make sure all residents who need face coverings have access to them. Free mask distribution will occur every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon at two fire stations on Franklin Street and Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard. Masks are limited to four per-household. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:21 p.m. - The State Department of Health and Human Services reports nearly 47,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The state is reporting almost 1,000 more cases since Tuesday. 846 people are in the hospital sick with COVID-19, the highest number of hospitalizations yet. 1,168 people have died. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:49 a.m. - The state House has passed a measure that would open bowling alleys and skating rinks. The legislation would overturn Governor Roy Cooper's order that has kept those businesses closed. The bill would allow the businesses to hold customers indoors up to 50 percent of fire capacity as long as they follow social distancing and sanitizing rules. Cooper has already vetoed one bill that would have let bars re-open for customers outdoors. Another bill on his desk seeks reopening bars and gyms. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:38 a.m. - After weeks of working remotely, hundreds of employees are being called back to the State Insurance Department headquarters in downtown Raleigh this week. The agency has guidelines for hygiene and social distancing in the office, and Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey says returning to the workplace is a calculated risk amid the COVID-19 outbreak. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

7:30 a.m. - The Raleigh City Council has voted to give the mayor authority to require face coverings to slow the spread of coronavirus. Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin has voiced concern about people congregating in public without wearing masks or practicing social distancing. Durham and Orange Counties have already mandated masks in public. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

June 16, 2020

7:30 p.m. - The Wake County Health Department says it has confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 at Pruitt Health. More than one staff member from the Raleigh nursing home has tested positive for the disease. In an email the health department said it would not disclose additional information about residents or employees at the facility. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

5:09 p.m. - The State Department of Health and Human Servoces will allocate $35 million in federal funding to local health departments to support coronavirus response. Counties will be able to use these funds to support COVID-19 staffing, infection controls, testing and contact tracing, IT infrastructure and data sharing. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

4:30 p.m. - The International Bluegrass Music Association will host its annual Music Awards show virtually this fall. A statement from the Raleigh-based organization said health and logistical concerns relative to COVID-19 made it too challenging to plan an in-person event this year. IBMA will announce nominees later this month. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

1:16 p.m. - The state department of health and human services reports close to 46,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. That's about 750 more confirmed cases since yesterday. 829 people are in the hospital, the highest number of hospitalizations so far. The state reports no new deaths since yesterday, leaving the death toll at 1,118. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:52 a.m. - The jobs of more than 700 people who work at hotels in Charlotte have been impacted because of the economic devastation wrought by the coronavirus. The Charlotte Observer reported Tuesday that the jobs are at several major hotels that include the Westin, Ritz-Carlton and Renaissance Hotel. Marriott International owns those brands. Spokeswoman Casey Kennett said in a statement that the company has seen a significant drop in consumer demand because of travel and social distancing restrictions. She said that the firm has adjusted operations with measures that include staff reductions, implementing temporary leave and terminating some employees. – The Associated Press

8:40 a.m. - The Eno River Association will host an online event on July 3 in place of the Festival for the Eno. One Eno will feature live and recorded music performances, a virtual crafts market, and environmental education. A full musical lineup and schedule will be announced in the coming weeks. The Festival for the Eno was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:31 a.m. - North Carolina State University will require students, faculty and staff to wear face masks in all campus buildings and in all university programs held inside. This requirement goes into effect on July 1. The university says they will provide face coverings for people who need them. UNC Chapel Hill is also requiring face masks on campus. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:23 a.m. - The State Department of Health and Human Services estimates just over 29,000 patients have recovered from COVID-19. The state reported around 45,000 total cases as of Monday. The state is reporting estimated number of recovered patients weekly. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:15 a.m. - A coalition of community service agencies will receive $26 milliom in federal funds to help mitigate economic disruptions -- like evictions and utility disconnections -- prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sharon Goodson of the North Carolina Community Action Association says Governor Roy Cooper's moratorium on evictions will help keep vulnerable families in their homes through the end of this month, and now this funding will buy some more time for families in need. Community Action Agencies were created as part of President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty" initiative. Goodson says North Carolina's community action agencies typically draw from one annual allocation of $19 million to alleviate poverty. This grant money is open to more recipients and is earmarked for pandemic-specific hardship. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

8:06 a.m. - State health officials have been asking North Carolinians to wear face coverings in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus for weeks. Now, amid daily surges in confirmed COVID-19 cases, and emerging research about the effectiveness of community mask wearing, Governor Roy Cooper is considering a firmer hand. Cooper said Monday that masks are already required for staff and customers in personal care businesses, such as barbershops and nail salons. Orange County started requiring all people to wear face coverings in public on Friday. Durham also requires masks. Raleigh City Council is expected to take up the issue on Tuesday. Cooper is expected to announce a decision on whether to revise restrictions on activity and businesses next week. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

June 15, 2020

5:50 p.m. - The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Carolina has climbed sharply since Gov. Roy Cooper initiated Phase 2 of his plan to reopen the economy. In today's briefing he said he is concerned about the trend and is still considering whether to further loosen restrictions on businesses.

"At the first of next week, we will be announcing our decision – based on science and based on advice from health experts – as to, if we're gonna go into the next phase, that would start on Friday of next week, and if we are, what it would look like," said Cooper.

Cooper and Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said they are also considering whether to make face coverings mandatory in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

3:55 p.m. - Some gym and health club owners are reopening their doors despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Roy Cooper has refused to lift his executive order closing fitness facilities. However, a recent letter from the state Attorney General’s Office says that indoor gyms can be open when members have orders or prescriptions from a doctor saying they need to exercise for their health. State legislators have drafted several bills attempting to override the governor's order and reopen gyms to everyone. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

3:30 p.m. - Some restaurants in Raleigh's Glenwood South district drew large crowds over the weekend. Onlookers described it as a pre-pandemic "normal" Saturday night, with no social distancing and no mask-wearing. Starting Friday, restaurants and other businesses in Raleigh were allowed to expand outdoor seating, which could have contributed to the crowds. But it wasn't packed everywhere. Sam Sills, the general manager of Armadillo Grill on Glenwood Avenue, said his restaurant has been encouraging social distancing. 

"We've basically cut it down to maybe 20-25 seats inside the actual building," he said.

On Twitter, Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said she has alerted businesses in Glenwood South that large crowds without masks or distancing will not be tolerated. Local law enforcement is responsible for enforcing the requirements under the governor's statewide order. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

1:20 p.m. - North Carolina’s highest court has made history by hearing oral arguments using video conferencing as the court system continues to attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The state judicial system said the cases heard on Monday marked the first time oral arguments were heard using remote technology since the court convened in 1819. State Supreme Court justices listened from their offices to lawyers representing plaintiffs and defendants. The state Court of Appeals made similar history in late April when a three-judge panel of the court heard arguments through video conferencing. – The Associated Press

12:51 p.m. - More than 1,036,000 people have filed for unemployment since mid-March because of the pandemic. The State Division of Employment Security says they have determined eligibility for 93% of all claims for state unemployment benefits filed since mid-March. The department says more than 24,000 claims have been resolved. Approximately 45,000 claims are still pending a resolution. The state has also launched an online claims status tracker so people can get updates on their claims without having to speak to someone. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:39 p.m. - The State Department of Health and Human Services says certain non-profit organizations in North Carolina have started to receive $26 million to help low-income families during the pandemic. The funds are part of a grant that can help eligible families that are facing eviction. Organizations receiving this grant are the Community Action Agencies. These agencies were created by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. To be eligible for these services, families must be at or below two hundred percent of the federal poverty level. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:26 p.m. - Wake Forest University has announced plans for this upcoming fall semester. On-campus classes will begin on Aug. 26 and run through Nov. 24. Like several other universities, there will not be a fall break and students will return home for Thanksgiving and finish the semester remotely. The university intends to announce full plans for re-opening their campus by the end of this month. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:15 p.m. - The State Department of Health and Human Services reports more than 45,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. That's almost 1,000 more confirmed cases since yesterday. 1,118 people have died. 797 people are in the hospital sick with the illness. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:23 a.m. - The chancellor of Appalachian State University has announced that 106 employees in the athletics department are being furloughed. Chancellor Sheri Everts said last week that the furlough plan will reduce the hours worked by most athletics employees over a 90-day period. A smaller number of employees will be on continuous furloughs, but for shorter periods of time. The athletics department at App State is projected to face a $5 million shortfall because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The university has already discontinued three sports and implemented other budget cuts in the athletics department. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:01 a.m. - The North Carolina State Fair has announced that open livestock shows will not be held this year. The fair intends to offer a modified livestock show program for junior competitors. Planning for the fair is continuing. No decisions have been yet regarding the operation of the fair this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and orders regarding gatherings of people. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:56 a.m. - Five officers at the Forsyth County Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19. The Forsyth County sheriff's office reports there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in any inmates so far. The sheriff's office says the detention center is taking appropriate precautions, including checking staff for symptoms daily and quarantining new inmates for 14 days. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:52 a.m. - Wake County is offering free drive thru COVID-19 testing in Zebulon on Monday and Tuesday. People must reserve a spot online in advance. Tests are reserved for people who have COVID-like symptoms or underlying health conditions. People who have attended protests or other mass gatherings are also encouraged to get tested. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:49 a.m. - Courthouses in Greensboro and High Point have closed until June 22 after a number of employees tested positive for COVID-19. The courthouses are being thoroughly sanitized. The public is not allowed into the courthouses at this time and employees are being asked to stay home. The Guilford County health department has started contact tracing sick individuals. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:43 a.m. - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts a jump in COVID-19 deaths in six states including North Carolina. The CDC estimates that the number of new deaths over the next four weeks will likely exceed the number of new deaths reported over the last four weeks. Other states where a spike in deaths is expected include Arizona, Utah and Arkansas. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:38 a.m. - The state Secretary of Health and Human Services says her department is working to test every nursing home resident for COVID-19. About half of North Carolina's COVID-19 deaths are connected with nursing homes. Now, Dr. Many Cohen says identifying and isolating infected residents is crucial. Cohen said state-run nursing homes have completed testing of their residents. Now, she says, DHHS is working with private facilities to implement widespread testing. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

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

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