Coronavirus Live Updates: Week Of March 9

Mar 13, 2020

This post will be updated periodically with the latest information on how the coronavirus is affecting North Carolina. Scroll down for older updates.

March 14, 2020

4:58 p.m. - Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order Saturday afternoon to stop mass gatherings of more than 100 people across the state.

"We issued this as guidance on Thursday, however, despite this guidance, several venues continued their events, so today’s order makes it mandatory," Cooper said on Twitter.

The order also directs K-12 public schools across the state to close for students starting Monday, March 16 for at least two weeks. Several school districts had already announced closures starting Monday, and now the order makes it a statewide action, Cooper said.

As of 11 a.m. Saturday, North Carolina had 23 positive results of Covid-19 tests in 12 counties, according to state health officials.

- Elizabeth Baier, WUNC

12:08 p.m. - Harris Teeter and Publix supermarkets announced they will close stores early every night to focus on cleaning, replenishment, and the well-being of their workers. Publix stores will close at 8 p.m. starting tonight. Harris Teeter stores will close at 9 p.m. starting tomorrow, Sunday, March 15 and continue to open at their regular scheduled time.

-Elizabeth Baier, WUNC

11:16 a.m. - Duke Energy announced it will suspend disconnections for nonpayment effective immediately, since many customers may face unusual financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. This applies to all home and business accounts in Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina.

-Elizabeth Baier, WUNC

March 13, 2020

7:20 p.m. - Decisions about academics and campus operations at the state's 58 community colleges are made at each individual school. Wake Tech is suspending campus activities and conducting courses online until at least April 5. 

Alamance Community College is extending its spring break through March 20th and plans to begin providing lessons online starting March 23rd. A press release from Alamance Community College said staff and faculty are expected to report to campus on Monday. A spokesperson with the North Carolina Community Colleges office says system officials know of 23 colleges that are extending spring break and/or moving largely to online classes in response to concerns about COVID-19.

- Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

6:20 p.m. - The City of Durham has declared a state of emergency which prohibits a group of 100 or more individuals from congregating in a city building "that is owned or co-owned with the County of Durham." This effectively blocks planned performances at DPAC and the Carolina Theatre through March 28.

- Laura Pellicer, WUNC

5:45 p.m. - Duke University has announced three of its students who were traveling with a group overseas have tested positive for the coronavirus. The university says the students are receiving treatment outside the U.S. and will remain overseas until they have recovered. Other students who were part of that group have returned to Durham and will remain in self-isolation off-campus for at least two weeks. The university announcement said the students who have tested positive are in good condition and expected to fully recover.

5:30 p.m. - State public health officials are relaxing the criteria for who should get tested for the coronavirus. To date all of North Carolina's cases of COVID-19 of those cases were contracted by travel-related exposure as opposed to community spread. At a news conference this afternoon, State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said physicians should use their clinical judgment in ordering tests.

"What we are saying in terms of criteria is someone who has fever, who has lower respiratory symptoms and who is flu negative," said Cohen.

Cohen says testing for coronavirus in North Carolina is being ramped up and now taking place at university and private hospital labs.

- Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

5:10 p.m. - Guilford County Schools will not close schools in the midst of the growing concerns over the coronavirus. During an emergency school board meeting, Superintendent Sharon Contreras said they are following what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend and not necessarily following the lead of other school districts.

Contreras said it's important to be mindful of students who live in group homes or unstable living conditions that rely on support from schools. If the school district should decide to close, officials are considering offering a hybrid method to keep 25% of children in school. 

- Naomi Prioleau, WUNC

1:29 p.m. - Wake Tech is suspending campus activities and conducting courses online until at least April 5th. Alamance Community College is extending its spring break through March 20th and plans to begin providing lessons online starting March 23rd. A press release from Alamance Community College said staff and faculty are expected to report to campus on Monday.

- Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

 12:57 p.m. - The art world is now coming to a halt with headlining artists and big venues canceling and postponing events to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts -- a 3,000-seat theater in Greensboro, is postponing nearly a dozen events scheduled through the end of this month, including performances by comedian Jay Leno and the Greensboro Symphony.
 
Singer Michael Buble postponed his planned stop at 20,000-seat PNC Arena in Raleigh for March 20th. Billie Eilish played the arena last night, but called off the rest of her North American tour. The Greensboro Coliseum, which holds 23,000, may not be hosting any events for weeks either. Cirque Du Soleil is the latest to cancel its shows, which were scheduled for the first week of April.

Meanwhile, despite the recommendations of the Governor, and other closures in the performing Arts World, DPAC remains open today. The Durham Performing Arts Center has performances of Les Miserables until Sunday. On the website it says all Broadway productions, concerts, comedy shows and special events will continue to play as scheduled. On Thursday, the Governor strongly advised against gathering of more than 100 people. DPAC has a seating capacity  of 27,000. The Governor indicated if his recommendations were not adhered to that a mandate would follow.

- Amy Jeffries, Jeff Tiberii, WUNC

11:52 a.m. - Beginning Monday, many district and superior court cases in North Carolina will be postponed as part of the state's response to the coronavirus.

"This will allow us to drastically reduce the exposure caused by crowded sessions of court, which often bring hundreds of people at a time into our courthouses," State Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley said Friday morning.

Certain more urgent cases and proceedings will continue as scheduled despite concerns over the spread of COVID-19, including preliminary criminal hearings for setting bond conditions, processing of domestic violence protective orders, and issuing arrest warrants. Beasley acknowledged that the postponements would lead to a backlog of court cases. 

- Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

9:07 a.m. - The bishops of both United Methodist conferences in North Carolina are urging their churches across the state to suspend in-person worship services and other gatherings for the next two weeks at least.

The bishop of North Carolina's Episcopal Diocese made the same move and is encouraging churches to offer services online through Zoom or Facebook Live. The Diocese is also closing its offices with staff working from home. Funerals and life-giving ministries, such as food pantries and shelters, will continue.

The Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, which covers eastern North Carolina, is not canceling masses, but the bishop issued a notice releasing the faithful from attending.

- Amy Jeffries, WUNC

7:56 a.m. - The North Carolina Medical Board has voted to allow recently retired physicians and physician assistants to practice for 90 days, or until the state of emergency is over. The board is working on an online application form to receive temporary license requests from people whose licenses have expired in the past 24 months. The board hopes to increase the supply of qualified medical professionals to assist with the COVID-19 outbreak.

- Cole del Charco, WUNC

6:50 a.m. - The North Carolina General Assembly has postponed legislative government oversight committee meetings and cancelled student tours for at least three weeks as precautionary measures against coronavirus. Top staff for legislative leaders released directives on Thursday that should lessen foot traffic dramatically at the Legislative Building complex through the end of March. Their memo also encourages allowing staff to work from home during that time period.

- Associated Press

March 12, 2020

10:14 p.m. - Camp Lejeune reports the first presumptive positive coronavirus case, according to a Marine Corps statement. The Marine Corps dependent is currently receiving treatment for the virus while in isolation with the rest of their family, officials said. So far, none of the other family members who were also exposed have tested positive for the virus.

- Elizabeth Baier, WUNC

8:30 p.m. - Durham Public Schools will close starting on Monday as a measure to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Officials say they will have more details about options for distance learning, meals for children, and other concerns tomorrow. 

- Elizabeth Baier, WUNC

6:02 p.m. - The High Point Market Authority is postponing its spring furniture market until at least June.

The organization says it's following guidance from Gov. Roy Cooper, who said this evening that events that attract more than 100 people should be postponed or canceled.

- Will Michaels, WUNC

5:30 p.m. - The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services now says there are 15 positive cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina. Gov. Roy Cooper says there is still a shortage of requested testing materials from the CDC.

Leaders of state agencies say any events that will attract 100 or more people should be postponed or canceled to control the coronavirus outbreak. The governor has encouraged employers to let workers work remotely.

The NCAA has announced they are canceling men's and women's basketball tournaments, or March Madness.

- Will Michaels, WUNC

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district has decided to suspend classes starting Monday and have students learn from home when spring break ends on March 30.

- Amy Jeffries, WUNC

2:37 p.m. - The National Hockey League has suspended all regular season games. That comes after the National Basketball Association made a similar announcement last night, and the ACC canceled its men's basketball tournament earlier today. Media outlets are reporting that the NHL has asked all teams to look into securing arenas for possible playoff games in July. If no more regular season games are played, the Carolina Hurricanes would make the playoffs as the first wild-card team in the eastern conference.

- Dave DeWitt, WUNC

1:35 p.m. - The Atlantic Coast Conference has canceled the rest of its men's basketball tournament. The tournament in Greensboro had reached the quarterfinal round, but the ACC said this afternoon it would cancel the remaining games to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. The No. 1 seed, Florida State, will represent the league as the ACC champion in the NCAA tournament, which will be played without spectators, except for the players' family members.

- Will Michaels, WUNC

12:30 p.m. - Along with an increasing number of campuses in North Carolina and across the country, every university in the UNC System will be conducting classes online starting March 28th to prevent spread of the coronavirus.  

UNC System interim President Bill Roper, who has led UNC Health Care and UNC's medical school, explained the rationale for the move at the governor's COVID-19 task force meeting this morning.

"I just stress the point 18-22-year-olds are not at high risk," Roper said. "This is not about protecting the health of students on our campuses, rather it is trying to prevent them bringing the virus to a university campus and then accelerating the transmission because grouping of students, and then they're going out and exposing lots of other people."

- Cole del Charco, WUNC

10:34 a.m. - State health officials have identified three more cases of the coronavirus, bringing the number of North Carolinians with the virus to 12. Governor Roy Cooper said this morning two cases are in Forsyth County and one is in Johnston County. A couple from Forsyth was on a cruise ship where other passengers tested positive. Health officials are still investigating the case in Johnston County. The governor's COVID-19 task force has been meeting this morning to discuss evolving measures for mitigating the spread of the virus. Members say they are considering multiple scenarios as the virus spreads.

- Will Michaels, WUNC

6:41 a.m. - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to give more than $13 million to North Carolina to fight coronavirus. The Triangle Business Journal reports that the CDC is giving money to states after President Donald Trump signed a law appropriating $8.3 billion to combat the pandemic.

- Cole del Charo, WUNC

5:17 a.m. - A popular film festival in Durham has been canceled over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. Organizers of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival said Wednesday their event is part of Duke University's cancellation of all school-sponsored events through late April. Meanwhile, Raleigh is canceling its Saint Patrick's Day parade scheduled for this weekend. And the North Carolina Museum of Art is postponing its annual Spring event, Art in Bloom, and will announce a new date at a later time.

- Cole del Charco, WUNC

March 11, 2020

5:30 p.m. - The NCAA is recommending its sporting events go forward without crowds to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. 

This comes as the ACC Men's Basketball Tournament continues in Greensboro. The ACC says tonight's Men's Basketball Tournament games will continue as planned. The conference is reevaluating the rest of the tournament.

- Will Michaels, WUNC

Credit Courtesy NCAA Official Twitter

4:55 p.m. -  The UNC System says all the state's public universities will suspend in-person classes amid the coronavirus outbreak. Schools will need to start offering classes online, starting March 23rd. UNC-Chapel Hill and other universities are extending their spring breaks through next week. The remote classes will be held until further notice. The UNC System is also suspending outside gatherings of more than 100 people and any university-sponsored travel outside North Carolina.

U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, U.S. Reps. David Price and Richard Hudson sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence pushing for additional coronavirus testing kits. This comes as Governor Roy Cooper says the state's public health lab still has not received the replenishments promised by the CDC. At a press conference in Charlotte today, Cooper said the lab is chipping away at its current supply.

The state is still counting only seven positive cases of COVID-19, all of which are in the Triangle area.

- Will Michaels, WUNC

1:15 p.m. - Three private schools in Raleigh are taking precautions after family members of students have tested positive - or are being tested - for the coronavirus.

Grace Christian school has closed its two campuses temporarily for cleaning while one family is being tested. Trinity Academy closed Tuesday afternoon and is open today. WRAL is reporting that a Trinity parent tested positive for the virus. Thales Academy has remained open with after-school activities canceled after a parent tested positive for COVID-19.

Administrative assistant Jacqueline Hervies says administrators at Thales have followed guidance from county health officials and the CDC.

"We've taken all necessary precautions and have been told that we are clear to be open, and we've done everything on our end to make sure that our students and families are safe," Hervies said.

The school was thoroughly cleaned overnight. Administrators could not say whether the parent who tested positive is one of the seven previously identified COVID-19 patients in the state. Six are Wake County residents. 

- Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

10:37 a.m. - The danger the coronavirus poses to younger people is much lower than for those over the age 65 or with an underlying health problem. Tuesday, state officials issued recommendations tailored to different age groups.

If you're in the high risk  group -- over 65 or with a chronic condition -- officials are saying you should stay away from large gatherings and avoid mass travel. If not, you should strike a balance.

"We do want people to take this seriously, ut we also want them to go on living their lives, particularly those who are not in the higher risk group," Gov. Roy Cooper said. "We just need them to do it wisely."

Meaning, anyone can spread the disease to others more at risk, so everyone should do things like wash their hands more, keep surfaces disinfected, and cover up when you sneeze or cough.

Also, with all seven of North Carolina’s COVID-19 cases in the Triangle area, state officials are asking employers in the region to let workers tele-commute, be flexible with sick leave, and urge employees to stay home when sick.

- Jay Price, WUNC

9:03 a.m. - Following the Governor's declaration of a state of emergency over coronavirus, Cumberland County schools in eastern North Carolina has canceled all out of state, and out of district field trips and employee-related travel. Wake County Public Schools announced a similar decision yesterday.

- Cole del Charco, WUNC

7:45 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency Tuesday, which in part frees up more funding to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. Cooper said the state has slowly been getting more testing supplies, but state health officials are also looking to private companies like Lab-Corp in North Carolina to provide them.

"The problem has been that they have not received the supplies from the CDC that they had been promised and that they had anticipated," Cooper said.

There are seven confirmed cases in North Carolina. But as of Tuesday, at least 25 more people were being tested for the virus. And officials outlined new guidelines recommending older adults and people with chronic health conditions stay away from large crowds due to the spread of the coronavirus. People who are 65 and older or have underlying health concerns are in the high-risk category, and could develop serious complications from COVID-19.

- Will Michaels, WUNC
 

March 10, 2020

7:52 p.m. - To mitigate spread of the coronavirus, Duke University has suspended on-campus labs and classes until further notice.

- Laura Pellicer, WUNC

5:25 p.m. - State health officials issued new guidance today, saying people who are 65 years or older or have chronic health conditions should stay away from crowds or social events. 

UNC Health is suggesting limited visitor access to its hospitals across the state due to the spread of the coronavirus. The health care system is urging people to call or use virtual options to communicate with friends or family in its hospitals.

The Wake County Public School System is canceling all field trips and employee-related travel because of local cases of the coronavirus.

And Wake County health officials have released more information about the movements of five people who recently tested positive for the coronvirus. One individual voted early at Millbrook Exchange Community Center in Raleigh on February 29th, and had contact with elections officials. Between March 2-5, multiple people went to work at Biogen in RTP while they had symptoms. They also traveled to and from Boston and RDU between March 2-6. On March 4th, one person ate at Zest Café and Home Art in Raleigh. Officials believe there is an increased risk of exposure at these particular locations, and are reaching out to people who may have been in close contact.

- Will Michaels, WUNC

1:07 p.m. - North Carolina is slowly getting more testing kits for the coronavirus. State health officials said today they now have the capacity to test 300 more people. There are seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina. At least 25 more people are waiting to be tested.

- Will Michaels, WUNC

12:09 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency in response to more confirmed cases of the coronavirus in North Carolina. The declaration allows resources to flow more freely between state and local governments as health departments try to screen patients for the virus. There are seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina.  

- Will Michaels, WUNC

Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, 3/10/2020 in response to more confirmed cases of the coronavirus in North Carolina.
Credit Jay Price / WUNC

11:25 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper is expected to declare a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus today.

This morning, Cooper’s secretary of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen updated state lawmakers on the coronavirus in North Carolina. She said the situation is developing very quickly and the outlook will likely change by this afternoon.

The state remains in a phase of containment with fewer than 10 cases in the state. However, Cohen said attention will soon turn to mitigation.

"And that is where we will make more recommendations on protections for our high-risk individuals, recommendations around social distancing and things like that to limit community spread," said Cohen, also urging people to rely on facts and not fear, as more cases are inevitably confirmed.

Governor Cooper is holding a press conference at noon.

- Jeff Tiberii, WUNC

11:20 a.m. - U.S. Representative Mark Meadows, the incoming White House Chief of Staff, has tested negative for Coronavirus, but will quarantine himself out of an abundance of caution. Meadows was notified that he may have come in contact with a person who tested positive for the novel Coronavirus at the Conservative Political Action Conference more than a week ago.    

- Cole del Charco, WUNC

10:50 a.m. - Healthcare providers and insurance companies in North Carolina are trying to help screen patients who might have been exposed to the coronavirus. Wake-Med Health is offering discounted tele-health appointments to help determine who might need medical attention while limiting their exposure to other people. Wake-Med's tele-health director, Doctor Bobby Park, says he anticipates more video consultations as officials report more cases of COVID-19.

"We are going to have positive tests because we're looking for it, but I think we're going to have a way to effectively triage people correctly with tele-health, and we'll manage it as best we can," Park said.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has said it will cover the costs of coronavirus testing for its policyholders.

- Will Michaels, WUNC

VA Centers In NC Begin To Screen For Coronavirus

10 a.m. - VA medical systems across the state have begun basic screening for COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus. Data suggests the elderly and those with underlying health issues are more vulnerable to the effects of the virus. That means VA patients — who tend to be older and sicker than patients elsewhere — may face greater risk.

That's one reason the VA systems across the state, which are anchored by medical centers in Asheville, Durham, Fayetteville and Salisbury, have started mandatory screening for anyone entering the centers, clinics, or other facilities. The screening applies not just to patients, but also visitors, employees, volunteers and contractors. They'll be asked a simple set of questions about symptoms and recent travel.

VA officials say that if patients they are experiencing symptoms such as fever-with-cough, or shortness of breath, they should contact their primary care team before visiting VA facility.

- Jay Price, WUNC

March 9, 2020

Five More NC Residents Test Positive For Coronavirus

9:04 p.m. - Five more North Carolina residents have tested positive for the new coronavirus strain, bringing the number of cases to seven statewide, authorities said Monday.

All five new patients are from Wake County and all of them traveled to Boston to attend a BioGen conference, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said in a news release. Several cases of COVID-19 across the country have been linked to the conference, according to the news release.

Officials said tests in the five new cases are being sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for final confirmation.

Health officials said the new cases are not related to another Wake County resident who tested positive last week. There also was an earlier case in Chatham County.

The department said the Wake County Public Health Division is working to identify close contacts with the newly affected patients and determine whether additional measures are necessary.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough.

For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered."

- Will Michaels, WUNC

Another Individual Who Tested Positive Visited Durham, Wake Counties

5:25 p.m. - The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says another individual who tested positive for the coronavirus was recently in Durham and Wake Counties. Health officials say the person from Indiana was in the area between March 2 and March 6 and did have symptoms at the time.

The individual started showing symptoms March 2 while working at Biogen in Research Triangle Park. Local health departments believe that to be the only location at high risk of exposure. The person drove home to Indiana on March 6. 

 

A joint news release from Durham and Wake County governments does not explain where else the patient was between March 2 and 6.

Meanwhile Mecklenburg County health officials say an individual who tested positive for the coronavirus in South Carolina traveled through the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The patient did not have symptoms when they arrived on a flight from Italy. Officials did not disclose when the person came through the airport. 

There are no confirmed cases of the virus in Charlotte, but Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris said Monday officials are also being selective about who they test.

“If an individual comes in [and] has the symptoms, we will work with the hospital systems, doctors' offices to do a respiratory screen first to see if there is another reason for the illness before we go through with the testing for the coronavirus, and that's specifically because of the limitations with our testing at this point,” said Harris.

The individual who traveled through Charlotte is in isolation at home in South Carolina. Harris urged residents not to panic, and continue taking common sense precautions like hand-washing and social-distancing. There are two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina.

A shortage of testing kits means the CDC is still recommending tests only for people who have symptoms of COVID-19, like shortness of breath.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the state’s largest insurer says it will cover its policyholders' costs of getting tested for the coronavirus. BCBS says it will pay for in-network providers to do the tests and that patients still have to pay for a doctor's visit. 

Health care providers are also trying to expand coverage by offering more services like tele-health screening for the virus. WakeMed Health is reducing the cost of urgent care video consultations from $45 to $15. 

WakeMed Director of Telemedecine Dr. Bobby Park says virtual appointments with a physician can help sort out who needs medical attention or testing for COVID-19 without putting others at risk.

“If you expose a hospital system or [personnel], then those folks have to go get self-quarantined as well if they end up having problems. So it's great to be able to minimize that exposure to all involved,” said Park.

 

- Elizabeth Baier, Will Michaels and Laura Pellicer, WUNC; Associated Press