Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of June 29

Jun 29, 2020

People walk around wearing face masks in this photo taken on May 13, 2020.
Credit Thierry Raimbault/Flickr / https://bit.ly/2YH4TU6

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 22.

July 3, 2020

2:44 p.m. - Hopscotch organizers have canceled this year's Raleigh-based music festival. Dates have been scheduled for mid-September 2021. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

1:15 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services has reported there were 2,099 new lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases yesterday. That bring the case total to 70,241. The number of people in hospitals with the coronavirus has also increased throughout the week. On Sunday, there were 899 people hospitalized, but now at least 951 people are hospitalized with COVID-19. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

9:43 a.m. - North Carolina remains in Phase 2 of Governor Roy Cooper's gradual reopening plan, encouraging people to stay home if they can. But Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said she expects many people will travel over Independence Day weekend. At a Thursday briefing, she reminded North Carolinians to wear masks, maintain physical distance from others, and to wash hands often.

"We don't have a lot of tools to fight COVID-19. I wish we did," she said. "But it's the same thing whether you're traveling, whether you're not, it really goes back to the same tools here."

Cohen said anyone who travels to a state with an escalating outbreak--including South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas and Arizona--should get tested upon their return and be especially careful to wear a mask to protect others from the coronavirus. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

9:00 a.m. - The state General Assembly has approved funding for additional health measures at the High Point fall market. The $725,000 in relief comes from the federal CARES Act to help mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19 amid the ongoing pandemic. The Market is scheduled for mid-October. - Cole del Charco, WUNC
 

July 2, 2020

2:20 p.m. - The pandemic has prompted layoffs at the Belk department store chain, including at its Charlotte-based corporate headquarters. The company has about 1,300 employees at its corporate office and about 20,000 employees total. The Charlotte Observer reports that the company declined to disclose the total number of job losses, but said it is providing severance packages to those affected. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

2:10 p.m. - The state has sent supplies of PPE to schools for the first two months of the academic year as they prepare to reopen to students. If schools bring students back to classrooms during the pandemic, they'll be required to screen students and staff for COVID-19. They'll need thermometers, face masks, and other personal protective equipment to do those screenings. State Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said shipments started going out to districts Monday. 

"This equipment is intended for school nurses and designated staff who provide health care to students," said Sprayberry.

The state has also sent information to districts about vendors and how to purchase their own supplies beyond the first two months. Wake County Public Schools says it has already received its shipment and is prepared to get more equipment for the rest of the year. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

2 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper has signed two dozen more bills have into law. One signed measure distributes hundreds of millions of dollars more from North Carolina’s $3.5 billion share of federal coronavirus relief funds. And universities and colleges are getting relief from some COVID-19 litigation. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

 

8:56 a.m. - A lobbyist who met with up to five legislators at the state General Assembly has tested positive for COVID-19. The person has notified the people they had direct contact with, and none have symptoms so far according to legislative leaders, the NC Insider reports.  At least one legislator who met with the lobbyist in-person has been tested for the Coronavirus and will be in isolation until they receive their result. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

8:39 a.m. – North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest has filed his lawsuit challenging Governor Roy Cooper’s decisions to shutter businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic without getting the backing of other elected officials. The Republican Lieutenant Governor officially sued the Democratic Governor in Wake Superior Court Wednesday, nearly a week after he announced he'd do so. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

8:20 a.m. - North Carolina saw its largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases Wednesday.  More than 1,800 new cases were confirmed as around 900 people were hospitalized. The number of people in hospitals is near its high mark for about a week since it peaked at 915 late last month. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

8:05 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper is delaying his announcement about how K-12 public schools should reopen in the fall. The decision had been expected to come Wednesday. Local school boards have been anticipating guidance from the governor so they can determine how to start the school year, now just six weeks away. Schools have been developing plans and back up plans, and waiting to put one in place. Cooper still says getting schools reopened this fall is his number one priority. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

July 1, 2020

5:30 p.m. - Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest has filed a lawsuit against Governor Roy Cooper in Wake County Superior Court over how the governor issued orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The Republican plaintiff argues that the Democratic governor's executive orders closing businesses and requiring face masks were implemented without the necessary support of the Council of State, a group of top elected officials that includes the lieutenant governor. Forest will challenge Cooper on the November ballot, but says this lawsuit is not politically motivated. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

5:10 p.m. - Public schools across North Carolina are preparing for the new school year to start in about six weeks or less. But Governor Roy Cooper has yet to give direction on whether they should open for in-person classes. Public school officials, teachers and parents had been expecting Cooper to announce his decision today about fall plans, but instead, he said in a press conference that he needs more time to watch COVID-19 trends. School boards across the state have been tasked with writing three plans to start the school year: with full, partial or remote attendance. But they were looking for guidance from the governor on which plan to implement. Cooper said he intends to announce a final decision for schools in the next couple of weeks. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

4 p.m. - North Carolina reported more than 1,800 new COVID-19 cases today. That's the highest single-day increase. There are 66,513 lab-confirmed cases in the state since the outbreak began. 901 people are currently hospitalized with the disease. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

3:30 p.m. - Ninety soldiers in the Special Forces school at Fort Bragg have been quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19. The soldiers were in a survival and evasion course that’s part of the regimen to become a Green Beret. Eighty-two are students, eight are instructors. Janice Burton, a spokeswoman for the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, said all 2400 students there get daily health checks, which is how the cluster was found.

"We had about five people symptomatic and that’s it. But we went ahead and tested everyone out of an abundance of caution. And they came back and we were like, ok, glad we did this," Burton said.

None of the soldiers has needed hospitalization, said Burton. - Jay Price, WUNC

3:20 p.m. - The Durham School Board has given initial approval to a reopening plan for the fall. High school students in Durham will take all classes online this fall, while K-through-8 students will have in-person instruction. In an effort to keep classes small, K-through-8 students will utilize elementary, middle, and high school buildings throughout the district. Governor Roy Cooper has not yet announced his plan for reopening schools. The Governor is expected to choose one of three plans as the baseline for North Carolina. School districts may then adopt that plan or choose one that is more restrictive. - Dave DeWitt, WUNC

12:15 p.m. - Unemployment rates increased in 65 of North Carolina's 100 counties in the month of May.  81 of the state's counties have unemployment rates of 10 percent or more. That's up from 77 counties in April, and just one in March before shutdowns due to the pandemic began. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

9:38 a.m. - Durham Public Schools announced Wednesday morning that it is delaying the start of athletic workouts for its school's sports teams to no earlier than July 20. In a release, the school cited "continuing concerns" over COVID-19. The North Carolina High School Athletic Association has not rendered a decision about resuming sports in the fall, though it has issued guidelines allowing schools to begin restrictive workouts this summer. DPS is continuing to evaluate when to resume athletic activities. - Mitchell Northam, WUNC

8:19 a.m. - Duke University has given more details about its plans for the fall semester amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The first day of class will be Aug. 17, and final exams will conclude by Thanksgiving with no fall break to limit potential spread of the virus. First year students will be assigned to dedicated first year housing spaces, while returning students will be assigned to other designated spaces. All undergraduates will be tested for COVID-19 before they can move into residence halls or start class. All students, faculty and staff will be required to sign a mutual commitment to community health and behavioral standards before the semester begins. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

8:09 a.m. – North Carolina’s Republican Party has canceled its annual in-person convention. The GOP cited the state health director's warnings that such a high-risk gathering for the spread of COVID-19 could put lots of delegates in the hospital. The convention was originally set for May in Greenville, but will be held virtually the second week of July.

8:01 a.m. - Baseball's minor leagues have canceled their seasons because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Teams across North Carolina have announced they've canceled their seasons in accordance with the decision of Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball on Tuesday. The head of the minor leagues' governing body said more than half the 160 were in danger of failing without government assistance or private equity injections. There are twelve minor league teams in North Carolina. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

7:55 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper had been planning to announce Wednesday how public schools should reopen for classes this fall. But in a news release Tuesday, Cooper said his press conference this afternoon will not address schools. The Cooper administration and the state Department of Public Instruction told each district to make plans for three possible scenarios. One plan for limited distancing with all students allowed back in school buildings. Another plan for moderate distancing, which would mean limiting the number of students in classrooms – that could necessitate students rotating going to school and learning from home. And a third possibility, all remote learning. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

7:47 a.m. - Some employees at East Carolina University and Appalachian State University are being furloughed this summer. More than 200 employees at Appalachian State and about 200 employees at ECU will be on full or partial furloughs by July 1. Many of the furloughed positions are typically funded by sales on campus and at sporting events, which could see a significant drop in receipts due to the pandemic. A UNC System spokesman confirmed these are the only public universities in the state that have received approval for planned furloughs so far. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

7:40 a.m. - At least a dozen people connected with a single event in Dare County have become sick with COVID-19. In a county where fewer than 100 people have tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic, this cluster of cases stands out as an example of what public health experts have been warning against. County officials haven’t released many details about the event, other than to say those who attended weren’t practicing social distancing or wearing masks. Many who got sick have experienced only mild symptoms. But at least one later infected an elderly relative, who had to be hospitalized. County health and human services director Sheila Davies says contact tracing has been completed and those who had direct contact with anyone testing positive have been quarantined. – Jay Price, WUNC

7:32 a.m. - More than one-quarter of North Carolina's nursing homes are reporting a COVID-19 outbreak. Now, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen says her agency is partnering with CVS Onmicare for one-time testing in every nursing home in the state.

“This effort will extend through the middle of August and reach an estimated 36-thousand residents and 25 thousand staff in over 400 nursing homes in the state,” Cohen said.

More than 4,400 cases of COVID-19 have been linked to nursing homes in North Carolina thus far. That's out of a total of about 65,000 confirmed cases. Cohen said DHHS has completed testing at all state-run nursing homes. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

 

June 30, 2020

6:40 p.m. - More than 4,400 COVID-19 cases have already been reported in North Carolina nursing homes and 660 people have died. Now, state Health Secretary Doctor Mandy Cohen says her department is partnering with CVS Omnicare to test everyone in the state's 400 nursing homes. Outbreaks of two or more cases have been reported in well over 100 of those facilities. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

6:35 p.m. - North Carolina’s Chief Supreme Court Justice is extending emergency directives to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Chief Justice Cheri Beasley's directives restrict entry into courthouses for anyone who was likely exposed to the coronavirus. Only people with business in courthouses will be allowed inside. Other directives include increased use of teleconferencing for remote court hearings and allowing certain documents to be served by email. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

6:30 p.m. - A state audit says some classes offered through North Carolina’s online public school portal aren’t meeting required content and design standards. State Auditor Beth Wood examined courses offered by the North Carolina Virtual Public School, used by tens of thousands of middle and high school students annually. Auditors determined that eight of the 12 virtual school courses it evaluated didn’t meet required curriculum content. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

6:20 p.m. - The Durham Bulls have canceled their 2020 baseball season. A team statement said the announcement was made in accordance with the decision of Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball. The Bulls organization is considering other events that can be planned at the stadium. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

6:10 p.m. - Elizabeth City will resume collections of utilities payments tomorrow. That's despite Governor Roy Cooper's pandemic-related moratorium on utility shutoffs through July. City Manager Richard Olson said Elizabeth City faces a $3.6 million dollar revenue shortfall and might soon have to raise rates. State Treasurer Dale Folwell released a statement supporting Elizabeth City's decision to move forward on collections. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

6 p.m. - At least 18 residents of Dare County have tested positive for COVID-19 since Friday, and county officials say most contracted it at a single gathering.  Sheila Davies, the county health and human services director, said those at the gathering weren’t practicing social distancing or wearing masks. 

"While the majority of those who recently tested positive are only experiencing mild to moderate symptoms, we’re already seeing the virus spread from those who were at the large gathering to their household contacts, including an elderly household member who then required treatment at the hospital," said Davies in a video update for residents.

A dozen new cases were connected to that single gathering. The county had closed access to outsiders early in the pandemic, and then reopened gradually, so even a small outbreak stands out. It has reported 97 cases total, many of those among non-residents. - Jay Price, WUNC

5:55 p.m. - Alamance County's health director says she will step down at the end of July. According to a news release, Stacie Saunders will become the public health director for Bumcombe County. Saunders recently testified in a court case involving ACE Speedway that COVID-19 presented a local public health emergency. The Alamance County attorney and sheriff have resisted the governor's orders shutting businesses and requiring masks to curb the coronavirus pandemic. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

10:12 a.m. – North Carolina’s Chief Justice is extending emergency directives allowing use of technology amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A statement from the judicial branch says it's important to protect the health and safety of people while still performing its duty of administering justice. The move allows more use of tele-conferencing and email in court proceedings to limit foot traffic in courthouses. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

8:29 a.m. - Advocates for rural hospitals say federal support is helpful now, but may not be enough. The federal coronavirus aid package has helped some of the state's hospitals that needed money the most, but even with funds specifically designated for rural hospitals, North Carolina Health News reports that they will likely need help beyond the first phase of the pandemic. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

8:17 a.m. - A non-profit advocating for workers' rights is condemning reports that poultry plants are reinstating normal absentee policies for workers. The director of Oxfam America wrote in a statement that Tyson Foods' apparent decision to roll back policies created to keep workers safe from COVID-19 is "irresponsible and shows zero regard for workers’ wellbeing.” A number of meat processing plants in the state have become hotspots for the Coronavirus as many people work shoulder-to-shoulder. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

8:04 a.m. – North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest says his impending lawsuit against Governor Roy Cooper isn't politically motivated, despite their November election matchup. Forest, a Republican, said Monday the lawsuit is over process, for the way the Democratic incumbent has failed to seek or receive support for six executive orders since March from the Council of State. Forest has characterized Cooper's move as unilaterally closing businesses. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

7:50 a.m. - Researchers from the medical schools at UNC-Chapel Hill and Harvard have found that the pandemic is having a significant negative impact on Americans' mental health.

“People are being pushed by the effects of the pandemic more and more into clinical categories of anxiety and depression,” says Olafur Palsson, a clinical psychologist and professor of medicine at UNC. “Symptoms that would worry a psychologist.”

The study is based on survey results from a representative sample of 1,500 participants. They were asked about factors including worry, frustration, boredom and concern about societal collapse. Palsson said most of the survey results were collected in May, before the police killing of George Floyd and subsequent wave of protests. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

June 29, 2020

5:10 p.m. - An employee of the North Carolina Division of Employment Security has been diagnosed with COVID-19. According to a statement, the division sanitized the facility where the individual worked and other staff assigned to that location are working remotely to further prevent the spread of illness. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

5 p.m. - The Department of Public Safety is considering the cases of inmates who can be allowed to finish their sentences outside of prison. This comes after the ACLU of North Carolina and other civil rights groups sued the state, alleging that it failed  to protect people in state custody from the pandemic. At a recent press briefing, Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks said 380 inmates are now under supervision in the community. Hooks said the pool of inmates being considered for a similar arrangement has expanded to 975. 

"They still have to be nonviolent offenders with release dates, but we did extend release dates to 2022 for some of our older population," said Hooks.

Wake Superior Court Judge Vice Rozier has ordered that the state will also have to turn over a census of each state prison with descriptions of living and sleeping spaces and information on how many masks have been issued to each inmate. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

4:50 p.m. - Lieutenant Gove. Dan Forest gave more details today about the lawsuit he is threatening to file against Governor Roy Cooper. In a press conference, Forest claimed the lawsuit has to do with process, and not the specifics of Cooper's executive orders since the state's coronavirus outbreak. Forest says the governor should have brought the decision of closing public spaces to the Council of State, a group of ten elected officials. Cooper has cited statutes that he says gives him the authority to issue executive orders. Forest is running against Cooper in this year's gubernatorial election. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

12:20 p.m. - Over the weekend, the number of North Carolinians hospitalized with COVID-19 held about steady. Sunday, state data shows, 890 people were in the hospital with the coronavirus. The number of hospitalizations and cases have both increased since April. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

7:50 a.m. - The State Board of Elections is meeting today for the first time since holding an election during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The board will meet by phone this afternoon. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

7:45 a.m. - Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin says bars that opened Friday night are in violation of the Governor's executive order and need to comply before more severe enforcement is required. Baldwin spoke with the Raleigh News and Observer the day after several Raleigh bars opened for the first time in three months. On Friday, a lawsuit from the NC Bar and Tavern association to re-open was dismissed.  The Governor's most recent executive order prevents bars from re-opening for another two and a half weeks. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

7:39 a.m. - Guilford County School officials plan to reopen fall sports and marching band activities on July 6. Other sports and middle school athletics may be phased in at a later date. The approach will give the district more time to secure protective equipment and train staff as they monitor the spread of COVID-19. Participants will sign waivers attesting to their health status. Weight rooms and locker rooms will remain closed and facemasks are required on campus. The district says only outdoor practices and activities will be allowed at this time. And spectators will not be allowed. – Keri Brown, WFDD

7:32 a.m. - Leaders from health systems around the state say they can handle a surge of COVID-19 cases more effectively today than they could three months ago. But those same leaders warn that the additional capability has limits. Hospitals have more PPE and have better triage policies in place. They've also improved care for coronavirus patients, says Dr. Myron Cohen, a UNC Health infectious disease specialist.

"And the drastically improved medical care leads itself to much lower mortality than we saw early in the epidemic and to people getting out of the hospital much more quickly than they did early in the epidemic,” Cohen said.

Based on new medical research, hospitals aren't as quick to put patients on ventilators. But the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has hovered near 900 for the past week, almost double what it was in late April. If trends continue, leaders worry about hospitals reaching capacity. – Jason deBruyn, WUNC

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

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