Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of May 26

May 26, 2020

Rachel Zhuang reopens the doors of Style Brows on Saturday morning at University Mall in Chapel Hill, NC. Zhuang has eliminated the waiting area and is taking fewer appointments as a precautionary measure amidst COVID-19. She wears a face shield while working with customers and cleans the chair in between each appointment. Zhuang has owned Style Brows for nine years.
Credit Kate Medley / For WUNC

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 May 18.

May 31, 2020

9:00 a.m. -- Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order that extends the prohibition of utility shut-offs and implements a moratorium on evictions. The order lasts for three weeks, prevents landlords from initiating eviction proceedings against a tenant for nonpayment or late payment of rent, and prevents landlords from assessing late fees or other penalties for late or nonpayment, among other measures. "North Carolinians need relief to help make ends meet during the pandemic," Cooper said. "Extending housing and utility protections will mean more people can stay in their homes and stay safe as we all work to slow the spread of this virus." - Elizabeth Baier, WUNC

May 29, 2020

3:54 p.m. - Durham City Council and Durham County Commissioners have announced plans to transition the community out of the local current Stay-at-Home order. Under Durham's Safer-At-Home Order, personal care businesses such as salons and barbershops and private pools will be able to open Monday morning. Breweries, distilleries and taprooms will be allowed operate at 50% capacity. However, bars and nightclubs must remain closed under Governor Roy Cooper's Phase 2 order. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

3:10 p.m. - The town of Cary has canceled its Independence Day fireworks and celebrations in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In an email, the Cary announced that all its parks, recreation and cultural events are canceled through July 5th. The town is also canceling summer camps and that all deposits will be refunded. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

1:52 p.m. - The school board of Union County outside Charlotte has voted to hold an in-person graduation ceremony for all its high schools despite the governor's orders that limits mass gatherings. News outlets report the school board narrowly approved holding the ceremonies in an outdoor stadium where students would maintain social distancing. The board's vote comes after students and parents held a protest outside Union County's superintendent's home demanding an in-person ceremony. More details about the graduation ceremonies will be discussed by the board next week. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:40 p.m. - The state department of health and human services reports nearly 26,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19. That's an increase of almost 1,100 more confirmed cases since yesterday, and one of the highest daily increases so far. 859 people have died. 680 are reported to be hospitalized with the illness. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:20 p.m. - The state Department of Public Safety is extending its effort to provide COVID-19 testing to all prison staff. The voluntary testing was set to end on Sunday, and will now be extended until the end of July. The tests are available for free to employees at prisons, juvenile detention centers and community correctional facilities. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:17 a.m. - Two more universities have announced changes to their fall semester schedule. East Carolina University will begin the semester two weeks early. There will be no fall break, allowing the fall semester to conclude before Thanksgiving. In the spring semester of 2021, ECU will cancel spring break. Meanwhile the UNC School of the Arts will eliminate time off for Labor Day and fall break to end the fall semester before Thanksgiving. The school says it will adopt a hybrid instructional model for the semester, combining in-person and online classes. Several other universities have announced similar changes to their fall semester. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:07 a.m. - North Carolina has received a $6 million federal grant to support jobs and workforce training during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible residents may receive short term training for jobs that are in high demand. People may also qualify to get help with temporary employment, doing work like contact tracing or delivering food and medical supplies. Workers who are eligible for participating in these programs must have been temporarily or permanently laid off as a consequence of COVID-19. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:53 a.m. - Guilford County Schools will be sending 10 school buses equipped with hotspots into historically underserved communities in Greensboro and High Point. The school system hopes this will help increase connectivity for students to learn. Each bus can manage up to 65 connections and the Wi-Fi reaches for about 300 feet. Buses will be parked strategically throughout neighborhoods where census data indicates a lack of connectivity near where students live. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:50 a.m. - Orange County is canceling all onsite recreation summer camps for this year. The county does plan to offer live, virtual programs. The county says opportunities may arise over the summer to create new offerings. Several other cities have similarly canceled in-person summer programs. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:45 a.m. - Lead organizers for the Republican National Convention have sent a letter to Governor Roy Cooper outlining suggested health guidelines for the event scheduled in Charlotte in August. The letter suggests eight specific safety protocols, including aggressive sanitizing protocols for all public areas and having attendees complete a daily health care questionnare using an app. The letter does not mention any requirements for masks or social distancing. The letter says Cooper has until next week to respond. President Donald Trump is threatening to move the convention if the governor cannot guarantee the event can happen at full capacity. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

May 28, 2020

5:40 p.m. - North Carolina’s Utilities Commission will not order Duke Energy to waive fixed monthly charges for commercial customers during the coronavirus pandemic. The Carolina Utility Customer's Association had requested the break on behalf of manufacturers whose businesses had slowed or shut down, but the utilities commission sided with Duke Energy, saying other power customers might have to foot the bill for the factories. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

5:30 p.m. - Electric coops and some independent utilities could regain the authority to disconnect service during the COVID-19 pandemic if Gov. Roy Cooper does not extend an executive order that prohibits it. The governor and the state Utilities Commission both passed orders banning service disconnections. But the commission does not have authority over utilities like coops, and the governor's order expires on Sunday. In today's press briefing, the governor would not say whether he will extend it. North Carolina's electric coops provide power to about 2.5 million people. - Will Michaels, WUNC

4:30 p.m. - The North Carolina House of Representatives passed an elections bill Thursday aimed at making absentee-by-mail voting easier this year. The bipartisan measure now heads to the state senate. The bill would require only one witness to submit an absentee ballot. It would allow voters to request absentee ballots by fax or email. - Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

4:20 p.m. The Town of Kill Devil Hills has postponed its fireworks celebration for the Fourth of July until Labor Day. The town's board of commissioners voted to move the fireworks display to September 5th during their meeting last night. The town would have faced a fine of several thousand dollars if they canceled the show or moved it to next year. The commissioners decided to move it to September to avoid paying any fines and hope that there will be different guidance on mass gatherings by then. Several other towns and cities have canceled their Independence Day celebrations. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

4:10 p.m. - Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort has reopened its doors to patrons. On its Facebook page, the casino says it will operate at 30% capacity in keeping with North Carolina and tribal guidelines and operating with social distancing in place. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

4 p.m. - Extremely high levels of anxiety and depression are being reported in the general population nationwide during this pandemic, according to a report from the US Census Bureau. Mental health experts at UNC Chapel Hill are encouraging people experiencing such feelings to reach out for support. Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody of UNC's School of Medicine says because of the pandemic, professional help is actually more available now. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the Suicide National Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:53 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reports 25,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19. That's almost 800 more confirmed cases since yesterday. 827 people have died. 708 people are in the hospital, a slight increase from yesterday's number and the highest number of hospitalizations at any point so far. - Celest Gracia, WUNC

10:15 a.m. - CVS Health is opening 55 new drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites across North Carolina. Self-swab tests will be available to individuals meeting CDC criteria. Patients will be required to stay in their cars and will be given a test kit and instructions. Patients must schedule an appointment online. Scheduling will be available starting tomorrow. The new testing sites are in cities across the state, including Charlotte, Fayetteville, Raleigh and Greensboro. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:02 a.m. - The city of Greensboro is starting to re-open certain public areas in phases. The Greensboro Aquatic Center will re-open on a limited basis starting next Monday. Activities will be limited to select adult water fitness programs and swim club team practices. The total occupancy at the pool will be limited and participants must follow social distancing guidelines. The Greensboro Public Library will also begin some returning in-person services starting on next Monday. Customers will be allowed to return books at any library location. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

 

8:57 a.m. - UNC Health predicts it will suffer a revenue shortfall of up to $500 million for this year. The Triangle Business Journal reports the health care system expects a change in customer payments as people lose their jobs and subsequently their health insurance. At the same time, the system has increased costs for labor and supplies. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

May 27, 2020

6:20 p.m. - The Boone Town Council has voted to drop the COVID-19 self-quarantine requirement it passed last week. It prohibited anyone who spent the night outside Watauga County from entering indoor businesses in Boone until they had stayed in the county for 14 days straight. Some in the hospitality industry opposed the order, and a Superior Court Judge approved a temporary restraining order preventing enforcement. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

6:10 p.m. - Novant Health and the Federal Aviation Administration coordinated one of the first drone drops of personal protective equipment in American history this week. The FAA has loosened done regulations to improve medical supply delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. The drones now launch from the hospital system's logistics center in Kannapolis, N.C., carry up to 4 pounds, and have a round-trip range of 100 miles. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

6:00 p.m. - After two months off the ice, the Carolina Hurricanes are getting ready to play hockey again. The National Hockey League suspended the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now the league has announced a plan to send the top 24 teams into an expanded playoff series if play can resume this summer. Hurricanes Captain Jordan Staal said he's hoping to get some rink time in before the the Canes opening round game against the New York Rangers. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the playoffs will begin when the teams are medically cleared. He said training camps would not restart before July 1. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

5:50 p.m. - A Harvard University public health expert says that as North Carolina reopens the economy it should concentrate coronavirus suppression techniques in communities where they'll have the greatest impact. Sema Sgaier runs the Surgo Foundation which uses tech and behavioral science to identify public health solutions. Sgaier recommends North Carolina prioritize testing, contact tracing and isolation efforts in areas with a low number of COVID-19 cases but high levels of social, economic and epidemiological vulnerability. For example she suggests that targeting efforts in Greenville would save more lives than it would in Raleigh. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

5:40 p.m. - A group of fitness center owners say they're filing a lawsuit challenging restrictions on gyms as other businesses begin to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. The lawsuit claims Gov. Roy Cooper's reopen plan violates gym owners' constitutional rights by picking and choosing which businesses can reopen. A GoFundMe page started by one of the plaintiffs has raised tens of thousands of dollars for legal fees. That page suggests that some gyms are defying the governor's order, and have reopened at least at limited capacity. - Will Michaels, WUNC

3:10 p.m. - The General Assembly will reconsider whether to borrow money for government buildings and roads. Republican House Speaker Tim Moore and other representatives filed a measure this week that would put a $1.9 billion debt referendum on November’s ballot. A pay-as-you-go construction expansion plan crumbled last year beneath a veto by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

3:00 p.m. - The state Division of Prisons has resumed transferring a limited number of inmates to make room for others being sentenced to state prison. This practice had been halted in early April to stem the spread of COVID-19. A division press release said the inmates are being moved in phases to prepare for a gradual reopening of courts next week and an influx of inmates waiting in county jails. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

1:06 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reports around 24,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19. 794 people have died. About 700 people are in the hospital sick with COVID-19, the highest number of hospitalizations yet. The state is reporting almost 500 more confirmed cases since yesterday. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:58 p.m. - North Carolina bars could serve customers outdoors in legislation that passed a Senate committee on Tuesday. One approved measure would allow bars to sell beverages outside, whether on a patio or under a tent. Bars currently remained closed under the governor's executive order. Another bill expands the customer capacity for restaurants and breweries by allowing customers to be served outdoors as well. Businesses would have to limit outdoor seating. The measures now head to another committee. The full Senate and House would have to act on the bills before it goes to the governor. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:15 p.m. - The Justice Department has closed investigations into the stock trades of three senators who came under scrutiny for transactions made in the weeks before the market plummeted amid fears of the coronavirus. The development signals federal law enforcement may be narrowing its focus into the stock investigation of U.S. Senator Richard Burr. Federal agents showed up at his Washington-area home two weeks ago with a warrant to search his cellphone. Senate records show that Burr and his wife sold up to $1.7 million just before the market began to dive. Burr has denied any wrongdoing. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:36 a.m. - The City of Greensboro has canceled its annual Fourth of July fireworks show. The city says this type of event would likely draw thousands of people, and the city would rather wait until it's safer to bring people together. This is the latest of several Independence Day celebrations to be canceled. -Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:29 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper is admonishing the operators of an Alamance County stock car racetrack for hosting a crowded event over the holiday weekend. It reflects resistance to state precautions against the spread of the coronavirus.

Thousands attended the 2020 season opener at Ace Speedway, but few heeded the governor's recommendations to wear face coverings and stand 6 feet apart. Several race-goers told local media that their decision to attend was an act of civil disobedience, and that their desire to move freely outweighed concerns about the pandemic.

Alamance County's Sheriff  said last week that he would not interfere with race day. Governor Cooper said it was "deeply concerning" that the operators ignored  his order limiting gatherings to no more than 25 people outdoors. Meanwhile, Hickory Motor Speedway and 311 Speedway in Stokes County have followed NASCAR's lead. They're broadcasting races without spectators in the stands. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

 

May 26, 2020

6:20 p.m. - Civil rights activists have filed a class action lawsuit that calls for the release of medically vulnerable inmates from the federal prison in Butner during the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and Winston and Strawn brought the suit. The suit also asks a federal judge to approve appropriate candidates for compassionate release or home confinement so that remaining incarcerated people and staff can comply with federal health guidelines for physical distancing. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

6:10 p.m. - High school athletics departments will have to wait a few more weeks to restart sports programs as the state eases social distancing measures. The North Carolina High School Athletics Association has voted to extend its so-called "dead period" during the coronavirus pandemic until June 15th. The association's commissioner said Tuesday there are currently no plans to alter seasons of fall sports like football, but did not rule it out. Basketball season is scheduled to start in November. Some schools have released tentative plans for summer workouts in other sports like football and volleyball. - Will Michaels, WUNC

6 p.m. - President Trump took to Twitter again Monday, demanding that Governor Cooper commit to allowing the Republican National Convention to gather in Charlotte this August irrespective of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cooper said in a briefing this week that pandemic response cannot be political and that he welcomed a written proposal from the RNC on how to protect public health at the convention. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

4:20 p.m. - The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says it's distributing a one-time supplemental payment to help vulnerable families during the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is available to families enrolled in Work First, North Carolina's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Supplements of $265 per child are going out to households across the state accounting for 17,000 children. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

4:10 p.m. - Thousands of racing fans packed into Alamance County's Ace Speedway for a Memorial Day event, most without social distancing or face coverings to guard against the spread of COVID-19. At a briefing Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper called it "dangerous and reckless" to draw crowds without pandemic precautions. State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen instead praised NASCAR for holding its holiday weekend race in Charlotte without spectators in the stands, allowing fans to watch remotely. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

2:30 p.m. - High school athletics departments are waiting for more guidance about how to restart sports programs as the state eases social distancing measures. The state health department late last week released some recommendations for youth sports programs like closing off or marking six-foot intervals in dugouts and bleachers. And the North Carolina High School Athletics Association is expected to outline its plan later today. - Will Michaels, WUNC

2:20 p.m. - Wake Forest Baptist Health has launched a chat bot to provide online assistance for patients who are at high risk for complications from COVID-19. The bot has a symptom checker and can do risk assessments for COVID-19. The platform allows patients to have one-on-one conversations with health care providers remotely and ask questions about COVID-19 or other concerns. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

2:10 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reports 24,140 confirmed cases of COVID-19. 766 people have died. 621 are in the hospital sick with the coronavirus. The state is reporting an increase of around 180 cases from yesterday. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

2 p.m. - A judge has overturned an order from Boone, N.C. that would have required visitors from outside Watauga County to quarantine for 14 days before entering places that are open to the public. News outlets report Superior Court Judge R. Gregory Horne stopped the order soon after it went into effect. Local hotel owners sued the town, and Horne sided with them, saying the hotels would suffer harm to their reputations if they weren't able to honor reservations already made by visitors. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

1:50 p.m. - The Cumberland County School system is planning to host in-person graduation ceremonies for high school seniors next month. Graduations will be conducted in shifts with small groups of students and their guests arriving at scheduled times. Graduates may have a maximum of four guests accompany them. Face masks must be worn by all attendees. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:53 a.m. - Fayetteville State University and UNC Pembroke have announced changes to their fall semester schedule. Both universities plan to start classes early and cancel fall break so classes can finish before Thanksgiving. The last day of classes for both universities will be in mid-November. At FSU, the spring semester of 2021 will begin on February 1. Several other universities, including UNC Chapel Hill and NC State, have announced similar changes for the fall semester. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:20 a.m. - The City of Greensboro is planning to return to regular operating hours on June 8. Until then, public hours for the city's municipal office building remain limited. The City’s libraries and recreation centers will follow a different schedule with announcements made separately. The city says visitors will see more safeguards for customer service areas including shields, social distancing signage, and hand sanitizer. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:30 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reports almost 15,000 patients in North Carolina are presumed to have recovered from COVID-19. The state is providing weekly updated on the estimate number of recovered patients. As of yesterday, the state was reporting nearly 24,000 total confirmed cases of COVID-19. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:05 a.m. - President Donald Trump is threatening to pull the Republican National Convention out of Charlotte if Governor Roy Cooper doesn't allow a full capacity event in August. In response to President Trump, a spokesperson for the governor says state health officials are working with the RNC and will review its plans as they make decisions about how to hold the event. The governor's office says North Carolina is relying on data and science to protect the public's health and safety. Similarly, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles says the city will continue to follow guidance from public health professionals in determining the best and safest way to host the event. The convention is set to be held in August at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte. Organizers are expecting 50,000 people. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

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

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