Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of March 23

Mar 23, 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 16.

March 29, 2020

4:00 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services says there are now about 1,040 positive cases of the coronavirus in North Carolina. That's up from around 760 cases on Friday. Four North Carolinians have died from COVID-19, and nearly 19,000 coronavirus tests have been completed in the state. - Laura Pellicer, WUNC

March 27, 2020

4:03 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper issued a statewide stay-at-home order effective 5 p.m. Monday. The order allows only for essential workers to leave home, bans gatherings of more than 10 people, and permits only critical activities like grocery shopping and seeking medical care. The order lasts through April 29. - Will Michaels, WUNC

2:11 p.m. - The state has asked FEMA for a "mortuary liaison" in the event North Carolina sees a large number of deaths from COVID-19, according to multiple media reports. Officials are not asking for a full "disaster mortuary operational response team", which would assist with autopsies and establish temporary morgues. The liaison would help develop a plan for managing fatalities. The state has only recorded three deaths so far. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

1:15 p.m. - Triangle area transit agencies are reducing their services and asking the public to travel less to further limit spread of the coronavirus. Agencies including GoTriangle and GoCary will be operating buses on a weekend schedule throughout the week. Only health care workers or other essential workers should be commuting. However, people are permitted to use transit for accessing necessities such as food and medical care. All public transit agencies have suspended fares. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:45 p.m. - Spanish pharmaceutical company Grifols is launching a clinical trial for a potential COVID-19 treatment at its facility in Clayton. Researchers will test whether antibodies from the plasma of patients who are recovering from COVID-19 could be used as a viable treatment. Grifols is partnering with the FDA and the federal biomedical research authority to collect the plasma.  - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:15 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services says there are now about 760 positive cases of the coronavirus in North Carolina. That's up from around 640 cases yesterday. The majority of the state's 100 counties have identified cases of COVID-19. The state says over 15,000 tests have been conducted. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:38 a.m. - Johnston County is reporting a resident died Thursday from complications associated with the coronaviurus. The patient was in their mid-60s and had underlying medical conditions. This is the third North Carolina resident to die from the coronavirus. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:58 a.m. - Durham and Forsyth Counties will be the latest local governments to issue stay at home orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Both counties will announce their orders later today. Several other counties and cities have created similar orders. They still allow essential employees to go to work as well as other residents to shop for groceries, order pickup or delivery, or seek medical care. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:42 a.m. - The North Carolina Republican Party's state convention is being delayed by three weeks due to the new coronavirus emergency. The state GOP announced that the convention will now be held June 4-7 in Greenville. It was originally scheduled for mid-May, but party Chairman Mike Whatley says the alteration was made in light of numerous safety regulations issued to respond to the outbreak. The Republican National Convention is still set for late August in Charlotte, where President Donald Trump would formally accept the GOP nomination. - Associated Press

March 26, 2020

4:50 p.m. - State health officials say a second North Carolina resident has died from complications of COVID-19.  A statement from the Raleigh city manager says Adrian Grubbs worked for the city for 17 years in its solid waste services.  The statement describes Grubbs as a young husband and father who was a dedicated servant of his community. - Will Michaels, WUNC

1:45 p.m. - The State Board of Elections sent a letter to state lawmakers today with recommendations for voting safety in 2020 amid the coronavirus outbreak. The boards' recommendations include simplifying the absentee by-mail voting process and making changes to help county boards of elections process a significant increase in mail-in ballots. The board also says lawmakers must provide funding to cover anticipated costs of ongoing sterilization of polling places and voting equipment. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

1:35 p.m. - Raleigh-based Golden Corral has suspended operations for 35 of its restaurants as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has furloughed over 2,000 restaurant coworkers, managers, and company support center employees. The CEO says the company will assist restaurant coworkers with food for their families and provide guidance as they seek unemployment. Some Golden Corral restaurants will continue operating with strict health precautions. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:53 p.m. - Unemployment claims surged once again in North Carolina, with nearly 30,000 applications being processed since yesterday. The state Division of Employment Security now says 195,000 claims for jobless benefits have been received in the last 10 days. The department had been processing between 3,000 and 5,000 claims per week before the coronavirus pandemic. - Will Michaels, WUNC

12:23 p.m. - Harris Teeter is seeking to hire more than 5,000 workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Matthews-based grocery store chain says the company needs to meet the high demand for food and household products. Earlier this week the store announced they would be giving one time bonuses to their employees for working during the coronavirus outbreak. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:26 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services says there are now 636 positive cases of the coronavirus in North Carolina. That's up from about 500 cases yesterday. The majority of the state's 100 counties have identified cases of COVID-19.  The state says nearly 13,000 tests have been conducted. - Will Michaels, WUNC

9:45 a.m. - The increasing number of people out of work and kids at home from school has put more pressure on programs that supply food to needy families. The need expanded by at least 25 percent in the past week alone and is likely to go up from there, says Eric Aft, the CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina. Still, he says the food supply, for now, is in good shape and the supply chain is working well. So he urges those with a need not to feel any stigma for taking a donation. “The beautiful thing about our community is that we’re here for each other, and this is the time that we really step up in that way," Aft said. "We’re all just neighbors, whether we have a need or maybe we’re doing okay at the moment, it’s all okay.” - Paul Garber, WFDD

8:30 a.m. - The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association is asking state lawmakers to consider enacting policies that will help restaurants and hotels during the coronavirus outbreak. The association suggests several policies including allowing restaurants with valid liquor licenses to deliver alcohol to customers, prohibiting landlords from evicting restaurants for not paying rent during this crisis, and giving state grants or no interest loans to small businesses. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:26 a.m. - The North Carolina Symphony has released a digital broadcast of an educational concert to support teachers and parents who are now instructing students at home. Materials include a video of the symphony playing an educational concert and an accompanying student book. The concepts taught in the video and student book align with the state curriculum for elementary students. The content is available for free online.  - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:45 a.m. - President Donald Trump has approved a major disaster declaration for North Carolina. Federal emergency aid has been made available for the state to help with recovery efforts in areas affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Governor Roy Cooper requested this declaration earlier this week. The state has another disaster declaration from the Small Business Administration that allows business owners to apply for low-interest loans. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC
 

March 25, 2020

6:55 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services is temporarily increasing Medicaid payments to long-term health care providers.  The agency says the move allows hospitals to care for beneficiaries who are at risk of serious illness from COVID-19.  The program is also increasing rates for behavioral health, intellectual and developmental disability, and specialized therapy providers. - Will Michaels, WUNC

5:24 p.m. - Another health care group is calling on Governor Roy Cooper to issue a statewide stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic. The North Carolina Medical Society called for more restrictions of movement for at least two weeks. The North Carolina Healthcare Association made a similar request earlier this week. The governor has ordered schools and most businesses to close across the state, but has stopped short of a statewide shelter in place. Local governments have been issuing their own stay-at-home orders. - Will Michaels, WUNC

3:36 p.m. - State treasurer Dale Folwell has tested positive for COVID-19. Folwell said he developed a cough after going on a trip with his son that he thought was a reaction to seasonal allergies. He was tested after the cough worsened and got positive results late last night. Folwell said he has been self-isolating at home. His staff has been notified of the results, and only essential employees are working at the Treasurer's office. - Will Michaels, WUNC

11:50 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed North Carolina's first deaths associated with the coronavirus. The agency says one person from Cabarrus County died Tuesday from complications of COVID-19.  The individual was in their 70s and had underlying conditions. Another person from Virginia who was in their 60s and traveling through North Carolina has died. The agency did not provide any other details about the deaths. - Will Michaels, WUNC

11:44 a.m. - The Mayor of Durham has announced a stay-at-home order for his city to stop the spread of the coronavirus. People providing essential services, like healthcare and transportation, can still go to their jobs. Activities such as grocery shopping and exercising are also allowed. Otherwise, residents must remain at home. The measure goes into effect Thursday at 6 p.m. and lasts until April 30th. Durham County has nearly 75 cases of COVID-19. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:07 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services has opened a child care hotline for people who are still being told to report to work during the coronavirus pandemic. The agency says the service will be coordinated by child care providers that meet updated health and safety standards. Priority will be given to children of critical workers like first responders, hospital staff, and other health care employees as well as children already receiving welfare benefits, or who are in unstable living conditions. - Will Michaels, WUNC

10:49 a.m. - The NC Department of Health and Human Services is reporting at least 504 cases of COVID-19. That's up by over 100 cases from yesterday's daily tally. No deaths have been reported in the state, but the count now includes cases in over half of North Carolina's 100 counties. Over 10,000 tests for the coronavirus have been completed in the state.  - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:25 a.m. - The National Park Service and the state parks system are closing more facilities to stop attracting crowds during the coronavirus outbreak. DuPont State Forest is closed until further notice. Parking areas are barricaded in the interest of public safety. Meanwhile, the southernmost 14 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway is now closed. Other sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway motor road remain accessible to the public. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:30 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services is urging people who have mild symptoms of COVID-19 to stay at home rather than seek out a test for the coronavirus. The recommendation follows new guidance from the CDC, which says people with a cough or mild fever should recover at home to slow the spread of the virus. The measures are designed to keep the health care system from being overrun. - Will Michaels, WUNC

March 24, 2020

8:08 p.m. - Durham Mayor Steve Schewel will announce a stay-at-home order to slow the spread of COVID-19. The mayor's office plans to make the announcement at 11 a.m. Wednesday from the Durham City Hall Council Chambers in downtown Durham. The announcement will be broadcast on television and the city's social media channels. - Jason deBruyn, WUNC

6:39 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper has requested another disaster declaration from the federal government to access assistance during the coronavirus pandemic. Cooper's letter to President Trump asks for a major disaster declaration, which would free up more federal unemployment assistance and crisis counseling among other programs. The state already has a disaster declaration from the Small Business Administration, which allows business owners to apply for low-interest loans. - Will Michaels, WUNC

5:11 p.m. - The Wake County Sheriff Office is halting requests for pistol and concealed-carry permits because of a surge in applications. Sheriff Gerald Baker said today pistol permit services will be suspended until April 30. A sheriff's lieutenant says applications have more than tripled during the pandemic. Two Republicans in the state Senate issued a statement saying state law requires sheriffs to process pistol permits within 14 days, and calling on Baker to reverse the decision immediately. - Will Michaels, WUNC

4:02 p.m. - State health officials are encouraging people who have mild symptoms of COVID-19 such as a cough and fever to stay home. At today's Council of State meeting, state Health and Human Services Secretary Doctor Mandy Cohen said the measures are meant to help hospitals handle what's expected to be a surge in cases. Cohen said the latest data available shows the hospitalization rate for COVID-19 is 20%, compared to about 2% for seasonal flu. The state's Emergency Management director said North Carolina received more personal protective equipment for health care workers today. But he said they still urgently need more supplies, and continue to ask for donations. - Will Michaels, WUNC

3:32 p.m. - The North Carolina Healthcare Association, representing more than 130 hospitals and health systems, is asking Governor Roy Cooper to immediately issue a statewide order to shelter in place. The association's Cody Hand says healthcare providers worry stricter social distancing rules are needed to slow the spread of coroanvirus.  
"We didn't feel like enough was being done to make sure that North Carolinians were distancing themselves for each other," he said. "And to make sure that employers weren't putting undue pressure on their employees to show up, even when the could work remotely."

A shelter-in-place order would make mandatory many of the recommendations that have already become a regular refrain. Namely to stay home if at all possible, and to keep a minimum of six feet away from others at all times. - Jason deBruyn, WUNC

2:40 p.m. - The Town of Beaufort in Carteret County is ordering residents to stay at home to curb the spread of the coronavirus. People providing essential services, like healthcare and transportation, can still go to their jobs. Essential grocery shopping and walking your dog are also allowed. Otherwise, residents must stay put. The order goes into effect Wednesday morning for the next four weeks. Pitt and Madison Counties have passed similar measures. Calls are growing for Governor Roy Cooper to issue a state wide stay at home order. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

1:05 p.m. - The federal government has approved North Carolina's request to ease some restrictions in its Medicaid program during the coronavirus pandemic. The order temporarily allows out-of-state providers to help care for people enrolled in the state Medicaid program. It also waives some provisions that require pre-approval for care. Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:53 a.m. - UNC Chapel Hill has created a tele-health hotline for dental care appointments. Carolina Dentistry says the service will be offered both through oral health care providers and directly to patients.  The state Board of Dental Examiners has encouraged offices across North Carolina to postpone any non-urgent care, but consider continuing emergency services to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.  - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:05 a.m. - The Golden LEAF Foundation will donate $15 million in funding to launch a rapid recovery loan program to help small businesses suffering economic losses because of COVD-19. Eligible businesses can receive loans up to $50,000 with zero interest and no payments for six months. This program is managed by the N.C. Rural Center. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:15 a.m. - The NC Department of Health and Human Services is reporting that there are at least 398 cases of COVID-19. That's up just over 100 cases from yesterday's daily tally- the biggest daily jump so far. No deaths have been reported in the state, but the count now includes cases in over half of North Carolina's 100 counties. Over 8,500 tests for the coronavirus have been completed in the state. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:28 a.m. -  North Carolina hospitals are asking Governor Roy Cooper to immediately issue a state-wide shelter in place order. News outlets report North Carolina Healthcare Association sent a letter to Cooper yesterday afternoon saying the step is needed quickly to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The association represents over 140 hospitals and health care systems across the state. The letter does not specify what a shelter in place order would mean for residents. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

March 23, 2020

 7:41 p.m. - The North Carolina High School Athletic Association says all athletics events will remain suspended through at least May 18 amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement Monday came after Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order closing statewide public schools through May 15. Previously the NCHSAA had suspended all athletics events run through April 6. In a statement, commissioner Que Tucker says officials will use the coming weeks to make decisions about future steps. The questions ahead include whether to eventually resume spring sports and hold state basketball championship games that were originally scheduled March 14. - AP

5:49 p.m. - At least 11 people are now hospitalized in North Carolina with COVID-19.  State health officials say they are still testing people who show symptoms, but are prioritizing testing for people who fall in the high-risk category, such as people who are 65 or older or have chronic health conditions. - Will Michaels, WUNC

4:23 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper further clamped down on non-essential businesses Monday, ordering hair salons, tattoo parlors, gyms and movie theaters to close to curtail the spread of coronavirus. 

Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis said the public has been complying well with state and local orders to close businesses and avoid congregating so far. "We haven't encountered anybody that was recalcitrant as it relates to the order," she said. "They have been receptive and closed in a timely fashion, and we're hoping that the rest of the community would do likewise."

Precautions are also being taken to protect officers. Besides reinforcing sanitization and hand-washing, Davis said the department is transitioning to video conferencing and remote meetings as much as possible. Meanwhile, responding officers with the Chapel Hill Police Department might not shake hands or could ask that things like televisions be turned down so they can hear better while practicing social distancing. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

3:49 p.m. - A North Carolina textile company is organizing a national effort to produce up to 10 million face masks per week for healthcare workers as they treat coronavirus patients. The Charlotte Observer reports that Gastonia-based Parkdale Mills Inc. is working with companies such as Hanesbrand, Fruit of the Loom and others to build a manufacturing supply chain for the masks. Parkdale is one of the country's largest yarn spinners. The National Council of Textile Organizations said in a news release that the companies are often competitors in the marketplace, but are banding together "for the greater good of a nation facing one of its most monumental challenges." - AP

3:14 p.m. - N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said Monday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now considering more individuals to be at high risk for complications from COVID-19, including people who are immunocompromised or who have particular conditions like heart or lung disease. "This expanded definition for high risk by the CDC further emphasizes the need for all of us to commit to social distancing," she said. "We are working on additional interventions that we can do here in North Carolina to protect our higher-risk community members." - Will Michaels, WUNC

1:58 p.m. - North Carolina's public schools will remain closed through May 15 as the coronavirus pandemic grows in the state, Gov. Roy Cooper announced today. Cooper says he's not ready to give up on the school year, but thinks another few weeks are needed to fight the virus. The situation could still change, he says. Also today, the state Board of Education requested a waiver of year-end testing from the federal government and will ask the General Assembly to waive the state's requirement for exams. And the global International Baccalaureate Organization, which oversees programs in 58 public and private schools in the Carolinas, announced there will be no IB exams this spring. - WFAE

11:32 a.m. - The Durham VA Health Care System is now among the providers suspending non-urgent services. The medical center says it's trying to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and make space for more inpatient services as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise. The VA says veterans who still want to seek treatment for appointments that have been canceled can sign up for tele-health sessions. - Will Michaels, WUNC

9:41 a.m. - The NC Department of Health and Human Services reports at least 297 cases of COVID-19 in almost half the 100 counties across North Carolina. That's up from 255 in yesterday's daily tally. No deaths have been reported. Over 8,400 tests have been completed in the state. The number of cases will likely keep increasing quickly as testing ramps up. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:24 a.m. - The chairman of North Carolina Republican Party says the Republican National Convention in Charlotte is still on for August – for now – despite uncertainty over the new coronavirus. State Chairman Michael Whatley also says the state GOP convention slated for mid-May in Greenville is still on, but the schedule or venue could be changed depending on COVID-19 developments. Both the state GOP and Democratic Party are looking at virtual county and district conventions this year.  - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:12 a.m. - GoDurham and GoTriangle are suspending fares starting today. Riders should now enter and exit through rear doors of buses in an effort to support social distancing. Riders will not be allowed to stand near the driver. The transit agency is also asking the public to travel only when necessary in order to reserve space for health care professionals whose jobs are essential. GoDurham is also now suspending service after 9:30PM. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

This post is compiled and edited by Elizabeth Baier, Jason de Bruyn, and Laura Pellicer.

Previous weekly updates:
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of March 9
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of March 16