Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of March 16

Mar 16, 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 March 9.

March 22, 2020

4:05 p.m. - UNC Health and WakeMed are asking community organizations, corporations and individuals to donate much-needed medical supplies to help protect workers and patients across their respective systems. Many generous individuals, nonprofits, private companies and others are reaching out to offer support. Currently, the biggest need is additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Instructions to donate to UNC can be found here, and to WakeMed here.

Most Urgent Needs

  • N95 masks
  • Surgical masks
  • Surgical masks with shield
  • Nasal swabs for medical use

Other Needs

  • Disinfectant
  • Eye protection, including safety goggles/glasses
  • Face shield
  • Gloves, disposable
  • Gowns, disposable
  • Hand sanitizer, greater than 60% alcohol
  • Hand soap
  • Shoe covers, disposable
  • Handmade masks

"At this critical time, we are calling on our community to donate supplies that will help ensure we can continue to protect our patients, providers, and staff," said Dr. Wesley Burks, CEO of UNC Health. "This situation is unprecedented, and we are asking for extra help."

1:45 p.m. - Wake County put new restrictions in place to help slow the spread of coronavirus and protect the local healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed. Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Greg Ford today signed a new State of Emergency Declaration. The declaration requires some types of businesses to close, prohibit gatherings of 50 people or more (which includes both staff and patrons, change visitation practices at nursing homes and restrict the use of playground equipment at local parks.

Other restrictions include: Closing fitness clubs, gyms, hair and nail salons, spas, tanning, massage, and tattoo salons, and other professional grooming services. "We are not at the point yet where we feel a stay-at-home order is necessary," said Wake County Manager David Ellis. "We hope that these new restrictions will achieve our goals of limiting the spread of COVID-19 and protecting the capacity our healthcare system to serve our residents, so we don't have to take that step." - Jason deBruyn, WUNC

12:48 p.m. - North Carolina's state April 15 tax filing deadline has been pushed back by three months due to the new coronavirus, the Department of Revenue announced. The rescheduled July 15 date for state individual, corporate, and franchise taxes follows the federal government's lead. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced a similar IRS delay on Friday, adding that IRS taxpayers won't face interest or penalties with the longer wait. AP

11:43 a.m. - A North Carolina state panel says people renting beach houses in counties that have blocked visitor access to the Outer Banks because of the new coronavirus should get their money refunded. The North Carolina Real Estate Commission has ruled that state law sides with tenants in this situation. The Virginian-Pilot reports the commission says landlords who won't refund money are open to lawsuits. Dare and Currituck counties have approved orders preventing visitors and non-resident property owners from entering the Outer Banks. And Hyde County has blocked visitor access to Ocracoke Island. AP

10:13 a.m. - Effective Monday, Duke Health, UNC Health and WakeMed will add additional restrictions on hospital visitors to protect the health and well-being of patients, visitors and team members due to concerns related to COVID-19. No visitors will be permitted in the hospitals’ inpatient areas. The additional limitations do not apply to clinics or some outpatient facilities, and include exceptions unique to each hospital system. As previously announced, the exceptions still limit visitors to one per patient. All visitors will be screened for illness. Jason deBruyn, WUNC

 

March 20, 2020

5:43 p.m. - New Hanover County has closed all beach access in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.  The county issued an emergency declaration this evening, and said anyone on a public beach will be considered to be trespassing.  The county is also implementing strict social distancing measures that other local governments have taken, including limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people. Will Michaels, WUNC

3:18 p.m. - North Carolina's Medicaid program has eased some of its coverage policies in an effort to expand health care access during the coronavirus pandemic.  The state Department of Health and Human Services says the changes allow more health care providers to give video or phone consultations, and eliminates the need for some prior authorizations and approvals for treatment. Will Michaels, WUNC

1:23 p.m. - UNC Rex Hospital in Raleigh set up a triage tent next to its emergency department Friday morning. The tent is specifically set up as an intake for patients potentially infected with the coronavirus. Hospital officials said the setup will allow health providers to keep patients separate from the main hospital, in an attempt to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Jason deBruyn, WUNC

The COVID-19 triage tent next to the UNC Rex Hospital emergency department.
Credit Jason deBruyn / WUNC

12:04 p.m. - UNC System Interim President Bill Roper says spring commencements across all universities will be postponed. Roper says it's now up to individual schools to plan exactly what that will look like. He adds now is the time to change any graduation travel plans that had been made. - Celeste Gracia, Amy Jeffries, WUNC

11:25 a.m. - The North Carolina life sciences company LabCorp says it now has the capacity to conduct 20,000 tests per day nationwide for the coronavirus. The ramp up in testing likely means the state will have a spike in positive results. - Will Michaels, WUNC

10:45 a.m. - Alamance and Orange Counties have identified their first cases of the coronavirus. There are at least four cases in Orange County. And the Alamance County Health Department said today its first case is in self-isolation at home. As is routine, health officials are reaching out to anyone who might have been in close contact. - Will Michaels, WUNC

10:12 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services is reporting there are at least 137 cases of COVID-19 across 28 counties in North Carolina. That's up from the 97 cases in yesterday's daily tally. No deaths have been reported. Over 3,200 tests have been completed in the state. The number of cases are likely to continue increasing rapidly as testing ramps up. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:04 a.m. - The Mayor of Durham has ordered all gyms and theaters in the city to close by 5 p.m. today in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Durham County has at least 32 cases of COVID -19, making it the most infected county in the state. Mayor Steve Shewel's added the new closure orders to the city's emergency declaration issued last Friday. The order allows fitness centers to stay open if they are being used to provide childcare services on their premises -- but only for that purpose. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:56 a.m. - Senator Richard Burr is under fire after he sold as much as $1.7 million in stocks just before the market dropped in February amid fears about the coronavirus pandemic. National lawmakers and state organizations are calling for Burr's resignation. NPR reports Burr warned a small group of constituents to prepare for COVID-19's dire effects. At the same time, he was sharing different information with the public. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:50 a.m. - The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority's Board of Directors has decided to cut $95 million worth of capital projects and operational expenses over the next year as air travel plummets amid the coronavirus pandemic. Before the fallout from the outbreak hit here this month, RDU's passenger numbers were on a steep incline. The airport authority reports more than 482,000 people boarded commercial flights last month, a nearly 9% jump compared to last February. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:30 a.m. - To give taxpayers relief amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the North Carolina Department of Revenue won't impose late fees if income taxes due on April 15th are paid by July 15th. Though state law prevents the agency from waiving any interest. The move mirrors the response of the IRS, which has extended the payment deadline for federal taxes, but has not extended filing deadlines.  - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

March 19, 2020

6:17 p.m. - To give taxpayers relief amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the N.C. Department of Revenue won't impose late fees if income taxes due April 15 are paid by July 15. Though state law prevents the agency from waiving any interest. The move mirrors the response of the IRS, which has extended the payment deadline for federal taxes, but has not extended filing deadlines.  Amy Jeffries, WUNC

5:48 p.m. - The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority's Board of Directors has decided to cut $95 million worth of capital projects and operational expenses over the next year as air travel plummets amid the coronavirus pandemic. Before the fallout from the outbreak, RDU's passenger numbers were on a steep incline. The airport authority reported more than 482,000 people boarded commercial flights last month, a nearly 9% jump compared to last February. Amy Jeffries, WUNC

5:22 p.m. - Cumberland County has identified its first two positive cases of the coronavirus. The county health department says at least one of the individuals appears to have contracted the virus out of state.  Doctors are still determining the source of the other person's infection. The health department says it does not believe the two cases are connection. Officials are reaching out to people who may have had close contact with the individuals. Will Michaels, WUNC

4:44 p.m. - Congress passed urgent legislation to ensure that military veterans can continue to attend college. Hundreds of thousands of veterans get federal tuition and housing benefits through the post-9/11 GI Bill. But many received word they could lose those benefits if their colleges moved to online instruction because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jennifer Brookland, WUNC's American Homefront Project

3:50 p.m. - The Wake County health department says a person who attended an R&B concert at PNC Arena has tested positive for COVID-19. The department says the individual had symptoms while at Millennium Tour 2020 late last Friday night. The person had floor seats at the event, but moved throughout the crowd during the show. Wake County says it's difficult to determine who came into close contact with the individual, but says anyone who spent time on the floor might be at risk for exposure. Will Michaels, WUNC

1:16 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper says North Carolina now has its first positive case of the coronavirus caused by community spread.  That means a person who tested positive did not have a travel history and did not have known contact with someone else who tested positive.  Cooper says the confirmed community spread case is in Wilson County.  But there are positive cases of COVID-19 identified in at least 21 other counties. - Will Michaels, WUNC

12:12 p.m. - North Carolina Congressman David Price will self quarantine after two U.S. House Representatives tested positive for COVID 19. Price says his contacts did not fall within guidelines that require quarantine, but he's taking the measure as a precaution. He says he will work from home until next week. Price is 79 years old. Adults over 65 are at high risk for contracting COVID 19. Some members of his staff will also be self-quarantining. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:18 a.m. - State health officials are now reporting at least 97 cases of the coronavirus in North Carolina. The state Department of Health and Human Services says those positive results are now spread among at least 22 counties. The state says about 2,500 tests have been conducted, but that number may not include all laboratories that have testing materials. - Will Michaels, WUNC

8:32 a.m. - North Carolina has issued stricter guidelines for nursing homes and long-term care facilities in an effort to protect the elderly from the coronavirus. Those include prohibiting visitors and conducting health screenings for staff and anyone else that enters the building. State health officials say there are some visitor exceptions, like end-of-life care or other situations determined by a facility to necessitate a visit. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC 

7:00 a.m. - Pregnant women are now in the high-risk category for people who might experience severe complications from the coronavirus. Expectant mothers should take the necessary precautions, according to State Health Director Betsey Tilson. "Don't go out, make sure that you are doing the social distancing, wash your hands really well. All the same recommendations we have for other people in the high-risk category apply to pregnant women," she said. People who are 65 and older or who have chronic health conditions are also considered high-risk individuals. - Will Michaels, WUNC

6:42 a.m. - North Carolinians can now dial 211 for assistance related to coronavirus. NC 211 will refer callers to organizations in their local community that can help address their specific health and human needs. North Carolinians also can text COVIDNC to 898211 to receive general information and updates about COVID-19 . - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:30 a.m. - Members of the High Point City Council are in self-quarantine after attending a conference in Washington D.C. last week. Two people who attended the conference held by the National League of Cities tested positive for COVID-19. Six of eight members of the Winston-Salem City Council are also in self-quarantine. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

March 18, 2020

8:10 p.m. - Duke University announced it would postpone commencement. In an email to students, University President Vincent Price said he was "resolutely committed to an in-person recognition of the Class of 2020," though added that the university did not yet have firm rescheduled dates as of Wednesday. "Commencement will surely take place, and here on campus.  And while we are still in the early stages of exploring possible dates and details of this ceremony, rest assured that it will reflect the indelible mark that this class has left on Duke," Price wrote. - Jason deBruyn, WUNC

7:08 p.m. - Jobless claims surged due to the virus. Restaurants were ordered to stop all dine-in service, and retail has effectively come to a standstill as people across the state stay in their homes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The state Division of Employment Security said the number of claims in which people blamed COVID-19 for their layoffs or for reduced hours surpassed 4,700 by Wednesday morning. In North Carolina's recent robust economy -- the January jobless rate was 3.6% -- the number of overall claims has been roughly 3,500 per week, said Larry Parker, a division spokesman. Similar surges are occurring in other states. - Associated Press

12:24 p.m. - Hyde and Currituck Counties are closing access for visitors to Ocracoke Island and the northern Outer Banks. The visitor restrictions for Ocracoke Island go into effect early tomorrow morning.  Beach areas in Currituck County will close to visitors Saturday. The moves come a day after Dare County said it would also restrict visitors to its barrier islands. - Will Michaels, WUNC

10:59 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services is reporting there are at least 63 cases of COVID-19 across 18 counties in North Carolina. That's up from the 40 cases in yesterday's daily tally. No deaths have been reported. Over 1,800 tests have been completed in the state. The agency's latest count shows most cases are in the Triangle and surrounding areas. The number of cases is likely to increase more rapidly as testing ramps up. - Celeste Gracia, Amy Jeffries, WUNC 

9:45 a.m. - The High Point Market Authority has rescheduled its spring furniture market for mid-June. The event will run for three days instead of the normal five. Originally scheduled for late April, the event was postponed last week after Governor Roy Cooper advised cancelling public gatherings amid the coronavirus outbreak. The Market Authority says given the uncertainty of the outbreak, officials will reassess the situation in May to see if the event can still be held in June. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:40 a.m. - Charlotte-based Bank of America and Truist have both announced they will donate millions of dollars toward relief efforts during the coronavirus outbreak. Bank of America says it will commit $100 million to help increase medical response capacity and increase access to learning as a result of school closures. Meanwhile, newly-formed Truist says it will donate $25 million to organizations, including United Way, the CDC Foundation and Johns Hopkins Medicine. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:16 a.m. - The Carolina Hurricanes say they will pay PNC Arena and Canes' event staff for lost wages after the rest of the NHL season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Staff will be paid based on what they would have earned during the team's last seven home games that were scheduled. Funding will come from Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon, the Carolina Hurricanes Foundation, and Canes' players. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:04 a.m. - Business professionals say upwards of 100,000 workers could be laid off in North Carolina during the coronavirus pandemic.  In a press conference Tuesday, professors at UNC 's Kenan Flagler Business School warned ripple effects of the crisis will likely disproportionately affect low-income workers, and require a massive federal bailout. The outbreak has brought consumer services to a standstill with businesses limiting their hours or telling employees not to come to work at all. - Will Michaels, WUNC 

6:45 a.m. - Six of eight members of the Winston-Salem City Council are in self-isolation after attending a conference in Washington last week. The Winston-Salem Journal reports two people who attended the conference held by the National League of Cities tested positive for COVID 19. Two city staffers are also in self-isolation.  - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:32 a.m. - The American Red Cross is asking healthy and able people to donate blood as the organization suffers a severe shortage. More than 100 blood drives have been canceled in the Triad, the Triangle, Fayetteville and elsewhere in eastern North Carolina with donors avoiding gathering places in response to the coronavirus outbreak. All the cancellations add up to a loss of over 3,800 expected blood donations in the region. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

March 17, 2020

7:55 p.m. - UPDATE TO DARE COUNTY CLOSURE: Dare County cut off visitor access this afternoon and launched online permitting for residents, property owners, and essential workers to enter. But high demand quickly overwhelmed the permitting system so the county has since announced it would allow entry to its residents, along with residents of Currituck County, with valid driver's license or another government-issued ID showing a local address. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

The state DMV is closing dozens of offices in mostly rural areas as more cases of the coronavirus are reported.  The DMV says employees at those offices will be reassigned to other locations that will remain open by appointment only, or to help with call centers.  The offices that will remain open will also limit the number of people who can visit at one time. - Will Michaels, WUNC

4:44 p.m. - At least 15 more people affiliated with Duke University have tested positive for COVID-19.  The university says the individuals are part of the same overseas travel group in which other positive cases were identified last week. Four others of this group were diagnosed in another country and are remaining there for treatment. The people involved in the latest cases are self-quarantining at their homes off campus. - Will Michaels, WUNC

4:29 p.m. - Guilford County is reporting its first positive test of the coronavirus. The county health department says the individual started experiencing symptoms after a trip to Florida. Authorities say the person is in isolation at home. The state has recorded cases of COVID-19 in at least 16 other counties. - Will Michaels, WUNC

3:43 p.m. - A UNC-Chapel Hill employee has tested positive for COVID-19, according to an alert released by the university. The school says the employee has self-isolated at home. - Laura Pellicer, WUNC

1:35 p.m. - In response to CDC guidelines to avoid discretionary travel, Dare County is no longer allowing visitor access starting this afternoon. Checkpoints will be established at entry points to the county. People who want to enter - including permanent residents and property owners - must apply for a permit online. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:48 p.m. - The UNC System will no longer allow students to live in residence halls for the remainder of this spring semester in order to substantially reduce the number of people on campus in light of the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement today, the system said students must vacate their dorms, unless granted an exception by their university. Exceptions will be limited to situations where students establish a significant need to remain in housing. Universities will also reduce campus dining operations to takeout. All UNC schools are moving to online instruction by next week. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:34 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper is ordering bars and restaurants to shut down all in-person dining at the end of the day today. A new executive order from the governor says takeout and delivery operations can continue. It will also expand unemployment benefits for people who are out of work because of the spread of the coronavirus. - Will Michaels, WUNC

9:17 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services says there are at least 40 cases of COVID-19 across 16 counties. No deaths have been reported. The agency's latest count shows most cases in the Triangle and surrounding areas. There are positive tests as far west as Watauga County and as far east as Craven County. The number is likely to increase more rapidly as testing capacity in the state improves.  - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:40 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services is rolling out more testing for the coronavirus. The agency now says it has enough materials to test about 1,300 people. State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Tilson says the state would attempt to expand access to tests, but continue to prioritize people with symptoms who fit the CDC's criteria.  - Will Michaels, WUNC

March 16, 2020

6:55 p.m. - UNC Health says it has developed its own test for the virus based on the World Health Organization's diagnostics. 

The health care system says initially, the test will only be available for people who have been admitted to one of its hospitals and a handful of clinics across the state. UNC says the tests will help ease the testing burden at the state's public health lab and companies like LabCorp.

UNC Health says it can conduct tests and get results in a matter of hours. It has not confirmed how many people it can test. 

6:27 p.m. - State health officials are recommending stricter isolation measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.  They are following new guidelines from the CDC, which call for no gatherings of more than 50 people for at least the next eight weeks. President Trump has subsequently said people should not gather in groups of more than 10.

State health officials are reporting at least 33 positive results in North Carolina across 14 counties and at least one person has been hospitalized, but only a little more than 300 people have been tested. The state Department of Health and Human Services's latest count shows most of the cases are in the Triangle and surrounding area, but there are positive tests as far west as Watauga County and as far east as Craven County. Nearly half of the cases are in Wake County. Officials say those cases include a teacher at Fuquay-Varina Elementary school, Wilson County's first case, and an employee at the Brier Creek Target.

Doctors expect the number of cases to rise sharply as more tests become available. State health officials said today they now have the ability to test 1,300 people for COVID-19. - Will Michaels, WUNC

11:23 a.m. - Campbell University says a student has tested positive for the coronavirus. The university says the student presented with symptoms at the University Health Center on March 11th, and was asked to self-quarantine. Since the state has expanded the criteria for testing, Campbell says two other students have been tested. One was negative, and the other is awaiting results. - Will Michaels, WUNC

11:05 a.m. - Public health concerns over COVID-19 could mean reduced customer traffic for small businesses in North Carolina cities and towns. Economic development boosters are trying to help. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance has issued tips for supporting local businesses, urging customers to order goods online, purchase gift cards, and patronize restaurants that offer curbside delivery. Read more here. - Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

10:58 a.m. - There are at least 33 positive tests of the coronavirus across 14 counties in North Carolina. The latest count from the state Department of Health and Human Services shows most of the cases are in the Triangle and surrounding area, but there are positive tests as far west as Watauga County and as far east as Craven County. The number is likely to increase more rapidly as testing capacity in the state improves. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

8:50 a.m. - Duke Energy officials say the company will not disconnect any customer’s service for non-payment during the coronavirus pandemic. The company will continue to respond to power outages, read meters and send bills. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

7:00 a.m. - A person who attended the BrickUniverse LEGO Fan Convention on March 8 at the Raleigh Convetion Center has tested positive for the coronavirus. That has prompted county health officials to urge others who attended to call an information line to see if they may have been exposed to the virus. Wake County is asking anyone who was at the event from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. to call the COVID-19 information line at 919-856-7044. - Associated Press

6:31 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper has issued an executive order requiring all K-12 public schools across North Carolina to close for at least two weeks, beginning today, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The decision to close schools statewide came hours after Wake County officials announced an elementary teacher in Fuquay-Varina had tested positive for COVID-19, and soon after Wake and Johnston County Public Schools announced they would close to students.

The executive order also puts a statewide ban on all gatherings of more than 100 people, elevating previous guidance to an official mandate. The ban does not apply to restaurants or shopping centers. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

6:16 a.m. - The number of COVID-19 cases statewide rose to 32 over the weekend, including 14 in Wake County. Officials say those cases include a teacher at Fuquay-Varina Elementary school, Wilson County's first case, and an employee at the Brier Creek Target. The number of positive results is expected to rise when the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services releases updated figures later this morning. There have been no reported deaths related to COVID-19 in the state. -  Dave DeWitt, WUNC

6:11 a.m. - The North Carolina Division of Prisons has suspended all in-person visits as a precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Officials say they'll make efforts to allow for increased phone calls and recreational opportunities will visitation is suspended.  Volunteer visits will also be suspended. - Cole del Charco, 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