Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of March 30

Mar 30, 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 23.

April 5, 2020

12:02 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services says there are now more than 2,500 cases of COVID-19 in the state. 31 deaths from the illness have been reported. Nearly 270 people are hospitalized. 89 of the state's 100 counties have identified cases of COVID-19. The state says over 40,000 tests have been conducted. - Elizabeth Baier, WUNC

April 4, 2020

7:54 p.m. - Durham County officials confirmed on Saturday the county's first death from COVID-19. The resident was over 65 years old and had underlying health conditions, putting this individual at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19,  according to the CDC. Ten Durham County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases among Durham County residents to 182. - Elizabeth Baier, WUNC

12:26 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services says there are now more than 2,400 cases of COVID-19 in the state. 24 deaths from the illness have been reported. Nearly 270 people are hospitalized. 88 of the state's 100 counties have identified cases of COVID-19. The state says over 38,000 tests have been conducted. - Elizabeth Baier, WUNC

April 3, 2020

5:34 p.m. - Franklin County is implementing a curfew on Sunday night in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The county says the curfew will be in place from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily, and will last for as long as the statewide stay-at-home order remains in effect. That's at least until April 29. - Will Michaels, WUNC

4:45 p.m. - The state Department of Transportation is cutting back Amtrak service in response to the coronavirus outbreak.  The DOT says the Carolinian line, which runs from Charlotte to Rocky Mount, and on to New York will not run until May 4. There will only be one daily round trip on the Piedmont line from Raleigh to Charlotte.  Amtrak is waiving fees for people who need to change their reservations. - Will Michaels, WUNC

3:30 p.m. - North Carolina's chief legislative economist estimates state revenue collections could be down by up to $2.5 billion because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Associated Press obtained an email with the forecast, which projects those losses for the two-year budget cycle ending in June of 2021. The legislature's economist says most of the losses would happen in the fiscal year starting this July. He said the estimates are very preliminary and an updated forecast is expected in May. - Will Michaels, WUNC

12:54 p.m. - Davidson County Schools says a teacher who was distributing food to students has been diagnosed with COVID-19. The teacher last helped with food delivery at Midway Elementary School last Wednesday. The school system says it has disinfected all known areas where the teacher was working and will continue to serve food at the school. Meanwhile Durham Public Schools is ending its food distribution program after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:15 p.m. - One month after officials announced the first case of COVID-19 in North Carolina, the daily state count has now surpassed 2,000. The state Department of Health and Human Services says there are now close to 2,100 cases of COVID-19 in the state. 19 deaths from the illness have been reported. Nearly 260 people are hospitalized. 86 of the state's 100 counties have identified cases of COVID-19. The state says over 31,000 tests have been conducted. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:36 a.m. - Nearly 60 homeless people in Mecklenburg County are staying in a hotel with suspected or confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The county's health director says they have either tested positive, are displaying symptoms, awaiting results, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. North Carolina's emergency management director has asked FEMA to approve similar quarantine facilities statewide. - Will Michaels, WUNC

7:05 a.m. - At least three state prisoners have now tested positive for COVID-19.The cases were identified at Neuse, and Calendonia correctional facilities. All three are in isolation under medical supervision. Increased screenings for COVID-19, including temperature checks of all staff and visitors entering the prisons, began across the prison system earlier this week. Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee said at an afternoon briefing Thursday that a national shortage of touchless thermometers had prevented those screenings from being implemented sooner. Ishee said he also knew of four employees at facilities in central and eastern North Carolina who had tested positive -- including workers at the Maury and Johnston Correctional Institutions, and Central Prison in Raleigh. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

April 2, 2020

9:30 p.m. - Durham Public Schools will stop providing meals to families of students after a food distribution employee tested positive for COVID-19. In a voicemail sent to parents Thursday evening, Superintendent Pascal Mubenga said families would receive the regular delivery Friday, and could get a full week's worth of food on Monday before the distribution stops. - Jason deBruyn, WUNC

6:05 p.m. - The Orange County health department says two cases of COVID-19 have been linked to a long-term care facility between Durham and Chapel Hill.  A staff member and a resident at the Carolina Point nursing and rehabilitation center have both tested positive for the coronavirus.  The staff member is in isolation, but the resident has been hospitalized.  The local health department says it's monitoring other residents for symptoms. - Will Michaels, WUNC

4:30 p.m. - An employee with Durham Public Schools has tested positive for COVID-19.  The district says the worker had been helping distribute food and instructional materials at Bethesda Elementary School.  That location produces up to 500 meals to be sent to a handful of feeding sites, but the district didn't say exactly where.  Durham Public Schools is trying to determine what adjustments need to be made to its meal distribution program. - Will Michaels, WUNC

12:05 p.m. - The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission is now allowing buy-backs of unused liquor to help restaurants and bars during the coronavirus pandemic. Restaurants and bars can sell unused liquor to local ABC boards. In a letter to state Representative James Boles, the chairman of the state commission A.D. Guy said he's relying on the expertise of the restaurant and bar community on how to best help them during these difficult times. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC


11:15 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services says there are now close to 1,900 cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina. That's up from almost 1,600 cases yesterday as the rapid increase continues. Just over 184 people are hospitalized with a coronavirus infection. 16 deaths from the illness have been reported. Over three-quarters of the state's 100 counties have identified cases of COVID-19. The state says over 28,000 tests have been conducted.  - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:55 a.m. - UNC Chapel Hill is waiving tuition and fees for an accelerated online, refresher course to help trained and licensed nurses quickly get back into the field to fight the coronavirus outbreak. The program includes a self-paced, online course and a clinical practicum. The clinical practicum fee of $250 cannot be waived. The course usually takes up to nine months to complete, but has been condensed down to three months. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:50 a.m. - The cafeteria at the NC Legislature is closing indefinitely - a day after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. It's unclear why the cafeteria and the snack bar at the General Assembly have remained open, despite an executive order from the Governor banning in-person dining at restaurants. A cafeteria worker showing symptoms of the virus was sent home last Thursday. The employee tested positive yesterday. She, and colleagues who worked with her, have been placed on leave. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:15 a.m. - The first state prisoner has tested positive for COVID-19. The individual is a male inmate in his 60s at the Caledonia Correctional Complex in Tillery. The offender is in isolation at the prison. Earlier this week the state prison system said it was increasing screening for COVID-19 in its facilities. Heightened measures include temperature checks and a full screening with CDC recommended questions for everyone entering and leaving prison facilities. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

April 1, 2020

6:35 p.m. - Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina announced it is waiving member cost-sharing – including deductibles, co-payments, and coinsurance – for treatments related to COVID-19 if a member is diagnosed with the virus. Blue Cross NC said it will waive member cost-sharing for COVID-19 related treatments for both in-network and out-of-network providers. The company will reimburse providers in full at its in-network or Medicare rates in an effort to support them financially and administratively during this emergency. - Jason deBruyn, WUNC

4:51 p.m. - Researchers at Duke University are leading a study into whether a drug usually used to treat malaria could be a preventative drug for the coronavirus.  The university says it wants to know if hydroxychloroquine can prevent COVID-19 infections in health care workers.  Duke wants to identify candidates for the study in the next two weeks. - Will Michaels, WUNC

3:39 p.m. - State emergency management officials say North Carolina has received another shipment of personal protective equipment for health care workers... but Governor Roy Cooper says it's less than 20 percent of what the state has requested from the Strategic National Supply.  The state Department of Health and Human Services says it's particularly lacking coveralls and gowns. - Will Michaels, WUNC

1:10 p.m. - Leaders in the legislature have agreed in principle to waiving interest charges for taxes filed after April 15th.  In a joint statement, the two Democratic and two Republican leaders in the state House and Senate expressed their support for the change in policy during the coronavirus pandemic.  The state Commerce Department has already extended the filing deadline to July 15th, but it would take an act of the General Assembly to waive interest charges. Will Michaels, WUNC

12:50 p.m. - While classes continue remotely, faculty who run medical and science labs at UNC Chapel Hill are donating their surplus protective gear to UNC Hospitals. Just since Monday, UNC Health has received more than 800,000 items including gloves, face masks and disinfectant from campus and community donors. More than half of the donations came from the Adams School of Dentistry, which has limited its clinical operations. The UNC Wellness Centers in Chapel Hill and Cary are accepting supply donations through Friday.  - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

11:45 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services says there are now close to 1,600 positive cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina. That's up from almost 1,500 cases yesterday. The hospitalization rate is also rising with more than 200 people in the hospital due to the illness. Nine deaths have been reported. Over three-quarters of the state's 100 counties have identified cases of COVID-19. The state says over 26,000 tests have been conducted. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:17 a.m. - The latest numbers released by the state Department of Health and Human Services show there are currently 670 patients on ventilators across the state, including people who are not diagnosed with COVID-19. Just over 2,500 ventilators are available, according to 84 percent of hospitals in the state reporting to DHHS. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC


7:08 a.m. - UNC Wilmington has suspended summer programs that were scheduled to being in April and run through mid-June because of the coronavirus outbreak. The only program excluded from the suspension are athletic programs, and a decision on those will be made by May 15. Currently, non-athletic summer programs scheduled to begin after June 24 are still expected to take place. Duke University has also canceled in-person and Marine Lab classes for its first summer session, which was set to start May 13th. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:45 a.m. - NASCAR is making face masks for healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus. Volunteer engineers are using five 3-D printers at NASCAR'S Research and Technology Center in Charlotte. The printers - which typically focus on updating car parts - are running almost 18 hours a day. Engineers contacted suppliers and came up with designs for face shields after racing stopped in March amid the coronavirus pandemic. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:15 a.m. - Increased screening for COVID-19 is taking place at prisons across the state. Heightened measures include temperature checks and a full screening with CDC recommended questions for all persons entering and leaving prison facilities. Approximately 100 state prisoners have been tested for COVID-19 over the past month, but so far all have tested negative. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

March 31, 2020

5:43 p.m. - The Wake County Sheriff's Office says it will resume processing pistol permits. Sheriff Gerald Baker says he reached an agreement with a plaintiff who filed legal action over his decision to suspend the process due to a surge in applications during the coronavirus pandemic.  Baker did not name the plaintiff, but gun rights activists sued him last week.  He says the process will be modified to minimize the number of people who have to come to the county's public safety center, but did not provide any more details. - Will Michaels, WUNC 

4:30 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper announced a new executive order prohibiting utilities from disconnecting people who are unable to pay during this pandemic. Tuesday’s Order applies to electric, gas, water and wastewater services for the next 60 days. The order directs utilities to give residential customers at least six months to pay outstanding bills and prohibits them from collecting fees, penalties or interest for late payment. Telecommunication companies that provide phone, cable and internet services are strongly urged to follow these same rules. - Jason deBruyn, WUNC

3:03 p.m. - Fayetteville will be under curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting Wednesday. Mayor Mitch Colvin says the curfew will remain in effect as long as the governor's stay-at-home order is in place. That statewide order made gatherings of more than 10 people illegal, but Colvin says cookouts and house parties in Fayetteville have continued. "And so this is really an attempt by the local government to discourage large social gatherings," he said.

The number of identified COVID-19 cases in Cumberland County has risen to near 20. Colvin says a rapid increas in cases factored in his decision to call for a curfew in his city. The order includes exceptions for essential activities like going out for food or healthcare. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

12:05 p.m. - This year's American Dance Festival in Durham has been canceled. The month-long festival was set to begin in June. ADF's administrators say they decided to make the decision now to alert artists, students and teachers who were preparing to participate. The festival includes performances and classes that usually attract patrons from around the world. - Will Michaels, WUNC

10:30 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services is temporarily increasing food assistance benefits for March and April to help current recipients during the coronavirus pandemic. All families that receive Food and Nutrition Services will receive the maximum amount allowed for their household size. Recipients should expect two separate payments for both March and April. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:10 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services says there are now about 1,500 positive cases of the coronavirus in North Carolina. That's up from around 1,300 cases yesterday afternoon. Eight deaths have been reported and about 160 people are in the hospital. Around three-quarters of the state's 100 counties have identified cases of COVID-19. The state says over 23,000 tests have been conducted. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:35 a.m. - North Carolina's public television network is now airing educational programs designed to complement work that students are doing at home or online while schools are closed. UNC Television started airing shows this week on its North Carolina Channel and on the web focused on learning for children in grades four to 12.  The Department of Public Instruction is also assembling materials related to the programs for online access. - Associated Press

7:05 a.m. - The Supreme Court of North Carolina is extending appellate court deadlines that fall between now and April 30th for 60 days in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The Court is also encouraging electronic filings. Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has previously postponed most cases in superior and district courts for 30 days, and extended deadlines in trial courts until mid-April. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:45 a.m. - A GoTriangle bus driver who was at work while experiencing symptoms has tested positive for COVID-19. Wake County health officials believe bus riders could have been exposed to the virus. The driver was at work from March 18th to March 20th and drove on routes 300 and 305. Anyone who rode those routes during that timeframe and starts to experience symptoms should self-isolate for seven days. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:15 a.m. - A statewide stay-at-home order is now in effect in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. It includes limited exceptions for activities like grocery shopping, seeking medical care, and commuting for essential workers. State Health and Human Services Secretary Doctor Mandy Cohen is imploring North Carolinians to follow the order, describing the response to the coronavirus as war. "And our enemy is this virus. It can hurt us. It can take our loved ones from us. And the only way we can win and save as many lives as possible is if we all do our part and stay home," she said. Cohen and the state epidemiologist warned Monday North Carolina is still in the early stages of the pandemic. They said they still expect a surge of COVID-19 patients at hospitals in the next few weeks. -  Will Michaels, WUNC


March 30, 2020

6:31 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper has signed an executive order designed to give healthcare workers, schools and local governments access to surplus property. Cooper says the order allows local governments to request state-owned items like computers to help students learn from home. It also directs the state to donate personal protective equipment that it may not need. - Will Michaels, WUNC

5:48 p.m. - Duke University is canceling in-person and Marine Lab classes for its first summer session, which was set to start May 13. The university says it's exploring whether or not it can offer the classes online. Duke has not yet made a decision about the second summer session, which starts in late June.  All university-sponsored travel programs have been canceled for the entire summer. - Will Michaels, WUNC

4:16 p.m. - The state Department of Revenue has cleared its headquarters in Raleigh after learning that an employee tested positive for COVID-19.  A spokesman says the department learned of the results Monday, but the worker has not been in the office since March 21. He says the building will get a thorough cleaning before employees are allowed back in. Employees are still processing tax returns as quickly as possible under the circumstances. - Will Michaels, WUNC

2:31 p.m. - State health officials say it could be two more weeks before North Carolina starts to benefit from strict social distancing measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In a teleconference this morning, state epidemiologist Doctor Zack Moore said the latest case information suggests infections in North Carolina are still trending upward. "We have to acknowledge that we're just at the beginning," Moore said. "Every indication is that this is just ramping up now and we are in what we would call the acceleration phase of the pandemic here in North Carolina, so we are still on our way up." A statewide stay-at-home order goes into effect at 5 p.m. today. Moore said it will take time to determine how well isolation measures are working, and urged people not to leave home unless they have to. Will Michaels, WUNC

11:45 a.m. - 1,300 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in North Carolina in the latest daily count. State health officials say 137 people are currently hospitalized with the illness -- a little more than 10 percent of known cases. Nearly three quarters of North Carolina's 100 counties have reported cases of COVID-19. At least 21,000 tests have been conducted at public and private labs across the state. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:25 a.m. - Nearly every resident at a small assisted living facility in northeastern North Carolina has tested positive for COVID-19. The Northampton County health department did not identify the facility, but officials say 24 of the county's 26 cases are linked to the home. They say everyone who has tested positive is in isolation, and more tests are pending. - Will Michaels, WUNC

6:39 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper has announced a texting tool to help children access food. Families that need food assistance for their children can now text FOODNC to 877-877 to find free meal sites nearby. Sites have been set up across the state for families with children ages 18 and younger who rely on free or reduced-cost meals at school. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:17 a.m. - The North Carolina Board of Nursing is adjusting rules in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic to ensure undergraduate students finish their requirements and join the health care field. The nursing board is instituting a temporary "graduate nurse" status that allows nurses who have earned their degree to practice under RN supervision. Eligible students can apply for the temporary permit. The permit will remain valid until they can take their certification exam. The company that administrates certification exams has temporarily closed testing centers in the US. The state board is also working to allow retired or inactive nurses to re-join the work force. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:05 a.m. - Officials with Cape Fear Valley Health say the health system is temporarily furloughing approximately 300 employees to reduce spread of the coronavirus. The health system has temporarily closed some services and rescheduled nonessential surgeries, procedures or diagnostic testing. - 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
Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of March 23