Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of May 4

May 4, 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 April 27.

May 10, 2020

3:25 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reports 14,764 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina. 547 people have died. 192,135 tests have been completed. 442 people are in the hospital with the coronavirus. 99 of 100 North Carolina Counties have reported cases of COVID-19 with Avery county as the lone outlier. - Laura Pellicer, WUNC

May 8, 2020

5:52 p.m. - The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office has announced 4 of its detention officers at the Cumberland County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19. In a press release, Sheriff Ennis Wright said currently no cases have been identified among inmates. The detention officers are recuperating at home and the county health department is tracing their contacts. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

4:45 p.m. - With commencements canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, one North Carolina university is going all out to help celebrate the Class of 2020. The University of North Carolina at Wilmington has launched a multi-faceted approach to honor the seniors who won't be able to walk across the stage this weekend and hear cheers from family, friends and classmates. School officials sent a message to social media thanking parents for helping their kids reach graduation. UNCW is also asking local residents to show their appreciation by shooting videos of themselves celebrating the graduates from their homes. - Associated Press

3:38 p.m. - North Carolina residents will be able to frequent reopening businesses and parks as Gov. Roy Cooper's modified statewide stay-at-home order to address COVID-19 takes effect. More North Carolina businesses can be open starting Friday afternoon as long as they limit customer occupancy. All but one state park will be open starting Saturday. Restaurants are still barred from offering dine-in options for at least another two weeks. And, barber shops, gyms and movie theaters will remain closed. Cooper and state health officials are urging people to remain vigilant in keeping their distance and washing their hands. - Associated Press

2:14 p.m. - A nonprofit manufacturer in Durham that employs visually impaired workers has been granted a $2.7 million federal contract to distribute about 500,000 face masks to the Air Force. LC Industries is one of the country's largest employers of blind people. The Industries of the Blind in Greensboro and IFB Solutions in Winston-Salem - which also employ blind workers - will help manufacture the masks. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

1:30 p.m. - State treasurer Dale Folwell has announced he will no longer go forward with a plan to widely test state prison employees for COVID-19. The treasurer's office had secured 20,000 tests for prison staff covered by state health benefits. The Department of Public Safety called off that plan, citing concerns about its workers' privacy and the logistics of safely testing employees. Folwell said in a statement that he's disappointed they couldn't work out how to test prison staff right outside the facilities where they work. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

11:51 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reports the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina is nearing 14,000. The total is up almost 500 cases from yesterday. More than 500 people are in the hospital with coronavirus infections. 527 people have died. -Cole del Charco, WUNC

10:47 a.m. - Nearly 200 inmates within the state's prison system have been allowed to serve the rest of their sentences outside of prison to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Department of Public Safety released figures showing how it is carrying out a plan announced last month to allow some prisoners, including those who are higher risk for complications from COVID-19, to finish sentences in local communities, state officials said yesterday.  - Cole del Charco, WUNC

10:15 a.m. - The state's DMV headquarters in Raleigh was evacuated and closed yesterday after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. The employee, who was last in the building on Wednesday, worked on a floor that is not open to the public, a spokesperson told the Raleigh News and Observer.  Public officials will track people the employee may have been in contact with. - Cole del Charo, WUNC

7:32 a.m. - State election administrators say voters shouldn't worry about COVID-19 while casting ballots in next month's primary runoff election for a congressional seat in western NC. Election boards in 17 counties in the eleventh Congressional District will begin mailing absentee ballots to voters who've requested them today. The contest is a runoff between GOP candidates Lynda Bennett and Madison Cawthorn. State election officials say safety precautions will be in place at in-person voting sites. Those include masks for poll workers and voters, single-use pens and cotton swabs to cast ballots, hand sanitizer and protective barriers. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

May 7, 2020

4:16 p.m. - State health officials on Thursday reported the largest single day jump in positive COVID-19 tests. The total case count increased by about 640 to over 13,000. Despite that metric, Health and Human Services Secretary Doctor Mandy Cohen said the state remains on track to begin a phased reopening this weekend. She said it's important to view the number of new cases in context with the state's increase in testing.

"Yesterday was a huge testing day for us, it was something like 8,000 new tests," she said. "And you saw a percent positive of that stay pretty low, 6%, 7% for day over day, and that continues to be a good trend."

The percentage of tests that result in a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 has generally trended downward in North Carolina over the last week. Cohen has said the state can safely begin to reopen even as some trends merely level off, as long as hospitals have the capacity to treat patients. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

3:34 p.m. - Two more people in North Carolina died from flu-related symptoms last week, raising the death toll to 185 with one week left in the reporting season. By comparison, state health officials have recorded 507 deaths from COVID-19 since early March. The state Department of Health and Human Services extended this flu season's reporting period to the week ending May 16. Typically, the flu season runs from October first through March 31. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

2:41 p.m. - The Eno River Association has canceled this year's Festival for the Eno.  Festival Director Greg Bell says the uncertainty and risks associated with holding the event was too high for the health of the community. The festival was set to be held on July third and fourth. The event has been held each year since 1980 to celebrate the Eno River. This is the first cancellation of the festival in its 40 year history. Bell says there are no plans to reschedule the festival, but that elements of the festival will be incorporated into other events in the fall. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

2:22 p.m. - North Carolina State Parks will begin a phased reopening this weekend. All trails and most restrooms will be open for service beginning Saturday. Campgrounds, visitor centers, beaches and picnic shelters will remain closed to the public. To limit visitors in the parks, no overflow parking will be allowed. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

2:05 p.m. - The mayor of Fayetteville is lifting the city's curfew at 5 p.m. Friday. Mayor Mitch Colvin is allowing the curfew to expire in keeping with the governor's decision to move the state into Phase 1 of reopening. The curfew was first put in place at the beginning of April to limit the spread of COVID-19. Officials are recommending people continue frequent hand washing and social distancing. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

1:45 p.m. - Five faculty at the East Carolina University school of nursing have been helping identify nurses to pick up shifts at long term care facilities. Some facilities are in dire need of staff during the coronavirus pandemic and some furloughed, retired or brand new nurses might be able to help. In less than a week, this group of faculty have referred hundreds of potential employees to lessen the burden on understaffed care centers. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

9:15 a.m. - Carolina Beach is lifting all town-imposed restrictions starting tomorrow at 5 p.m. The town will open up public parking areas and beach activities and start allowing short-term rentals again. Officials encourage people to keep practicing social distancing guidelines. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

 

8:45 a.m. - Burlington-based Labcorp is now offering at home COVID-19 testing kits to individuals. The antibody testing kits were first made available to healthcare workers in late April. The self-testing kits allow specimens be collected at home if recommended by a healthcare provider. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

 

May 6, 2020

5:45 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper has announced that the state is working with private companies to get more wifi access to students. In some districts, buses are already providing wifi. But now, as many as 280 more routers are expected to be hooked up to school buses. The routers will be placed in the buses which will park at designated locations so students can have temporary wifi.  While parking nearby, students can turn in assignments, download materials and contact teachers. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

4:25 p.m. - The North Carolina Republican Party has delayed its convention by two months because of the continuing COVID-19 outbreak. The party had planned to hold the convention May 14-17 in Greenville. Now it's been pushed back to July 9-12 at the Greenville Convention Center. Party activists will elect Republican National Committee members and the state's delegates to the national convention, which is still set for late August in Charlotte. North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley said in a news release on Tuesday that the party is committed to hosting the state convention, but that it had to adapt to the "evolving timeline" for reopening the state. - Associated Press

4:08 p.m. - Raleigh mayor Mary Ann Baldwin is encouraging families to grab takeout or cook a meal and get together for Sunday supper this Mother's Day weekend. For every person who posts a photo of their meal on social media and tags the Raleigh nonprofit "The Sunday Supper," the group will donate $1 to the North Carolina Restaurant Workers Relief Fund. The Sunday Supper is known for its 2016 event in which it fed 1,000 people at one table extending several blocks across downtown Raleigh. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

3:35 p.m. - The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has issued guidance for summer camps that might point to what other activities may or may not be allowed this summer. Day camps will be allowed to operate in the first  phase of reopening, as long as they follow certain guidelines. Those guidelines prohibit sports where social distancing is not possible. That guidance will hold for summer sports leagues too. The department is in conversation with baseball leagues about whether they can adjust practices to play safely. The state DHHS is waiting on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about whether overnight camps can safely operate when more restrictions are lifted under the second phase of reopening, which could begin later this month. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

2:10 p.m. - The City and County of Durham is forming a task force that will focus on how to revise emergency declarations and stay-at-home orders. Durham Mayor Steve Schewel and Durham County Commission Chair Wendy Jacobs say an early priority will be assessing Durham's testing, contact tracing and personal protective equipment needs. The task force will also form industry-specific roundtables for local businesses — including restaurants, gyms, and hair salons — to participate in the process of determining how best to reopen. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

2:05 p.m. - Dare, Hyde and Currituck counties will allow visitors once again beginning Saturday, May 16. County officials say visitor re-entry on the 16th gives local businesses a week to prepare for the arrival of visitors now that some restrictions on businesses are easing starting on Friday. Officials stress that although visitors can return to the Outer Banks, social distancing guidelines are still in place. And people are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings in public settings. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

1:50 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reports 12,758 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina. That's up by 500 more cases from yesterday, one of the biggest daily jumps in cases yet. 477 people have died. More than half of those deaths are linked to nursing homes or residential care facilities. Almost 516 people are in the hospital with the coronavirus. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

1:45 p.m. - The North Carolina Air National Guard will conduct flyover salutes to foodbank workers, medical staffs and other frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19. The flyover Thursday will start over Asheville before heading to Wilmington and circling back to Charlotte. Along the way, the route will include medical facilities and food banks in Chapel Hill, Winston-Salem, Raleigh and Greenville. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

1:40 p.m. - COVID-19 cases in Wilkes County have spiked to over 130 in the last two weeks. Local officials are linking many of the new cases to a Tyson Foods Processing Plant with more than 2,000 workers. The county health department and state officials are working with Tyson to better understand the scope of the outbreak. They tested around 200 employees on Monday. Those results are expected back in the next few days. Wilkes County Manger John Yates says more testing is being planned in the community.

"We’re a little bit overwhelmed because of the number right now, but our health department is working hard and we’ve partnered with the school system. We’re bringing in school nurses to do contact tracing and we are also working with Walmart now."

Tyson is like a lot of others in the industry putting safety measures into place. That includes relaxing attendance policies to encourage sick workers to stay home, temperature checks, and dividers between workstations. But labor advocates say it’s not enough protection and action was slow to implement. - Keri Brown, WFDD

10:35 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper has announced that up to 280 school buses will soon be equipped with Wi-Fi hot spots to bring internet access to communities without it. Cooper says this is an effort to help more students connect to school online. The buses will park in designated locations, including school meal distribution sites or grocery stores. Several mostly rural counties, including Gaston and Robeson counties, will recieve the first 156 Wi-Fi hotspots. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:45 a.m. - The North Carolina Republican party state convention has been rescheduled to July. The annual convention was originally scheduled to start next week, but has been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event will still be held in Greenville.  - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:58 a.m. -  North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein says he's filed the state's first price-gauging lawsuit against a towing company accused of employing predatory towing and booting practices during the coronavirus pandemic. A temporary restraining order was issued on Charlotte’s A1 Towing Solutions and its owner for allegedly improperly booting and towing trucks that were delivering necessary supplies, including food and water. The company allegedly booted trucks that had permission to park from property owners and then charged drivers more than four thousand dollars to release their trucks. The order bans them from conducting their towing business until a court hearing. - Associated Press

May 5, 2020

6:01 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper announced today the state will begin relaxing the restrictions in his statewide stay at home order this Friday evening. North Carolina will be entering Phase 1 of the governor's plan to reopen the economy. During this first phase, any business that can safely practice social distancing will be able to operate. Hair salons, gyms and theaters will remain closed. Restaurants will remain carry-out only. And everyone is encouraged to wear masks when they go out, keep a 6-foot distance and frequently wash their hands. State officials will continue monitoring trends and reassess whether the state can proceed to phase 2 on May 22. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

5:23 p.m. - The University of North Carolina at Wilmington says it is extending the cancellation of its summer programs, camps and non-athletic conferences due to the coronavirus pandemic. The school had initially announced that its summer programming was canceled through June 24. Another announcement from the school said the programming is now canceled through Aug. 5. UNCW said in a statement that that some camps and programs will be offering participation online and urges those interested to check individual programs’ websites for information. UNCW Athletics will announce a decision about its camps by May 15. - Associated Press

3:59 p.m. - North Carolina is now eligible to receive federal funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support mental health services. Last week, President Trump granted FEMA authority to release funds for crisis counseling assistance. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services can now apply for grants to support its crisis counseling services and the Hope4NC helpline. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

3:04 p.m. - The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services estimates more than half of North Carolina adults are at a higher risk for severe illness if they fall sick with COVID-19. The department estimates 51% of adults in the state either have at least one underlying health condition, are over age 65, or both. An estimated 42% of adult North Carolinians have conditions such as lung disease, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes, linked to more severe cases of COVID-19. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

1:45 p.m. - The North Carolina Secretary of State's office has been fielding questions from small businesses about what they need to do to become eligible for emergency federal loans. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall says her office started getting a lot of calls in early April. Businesses who had failed to file annual reports to the office had fallen out of compliance with state law and had found that made them ineligible for federal loans. As Marshall told the governor and other members of the Council of State, her staff went to work coaching businesses back into compliance.

"To give you context, we've completed 11,000 reinstatements for the year. And during the same period last year, it was roughly 2,000," said Marshall.

Just in April, her office reinstated more than 5,000 businesses, which can now seek COVID-19 relief. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

1:40 p.m. - Public school students will begin classes a week earlier than usual this fall, under new school calendar regulations signed into law by the governor this week. The state COVID-19 recovery act sets the first day of school for the 2020-2021 school year on August 17. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

1:35 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reports 12,256 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in North Carolina, approximately 400 more cases than yesterday. 452 people have died. 250 of those deaths are linked to nursing homes or residential care facilities. 534 people are in hospital with the coronavirus. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:58 a.m. - Mooresville-based Lowe's Home Improvement is requiring its employees to wear face coverings when working. The company says it's making masks and gloves available to workers. Lowe's also announced it's giving a second, one-time bonus to all workers. The company says stores will continue to monitor store occupancy and limit customer traffic when necessary to help enforce social distancing. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:40 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper says his administration will soon be releasing the specifics for the first phase of his plan to gradually reopen the state. Those details could be announced today or tomorrow. State Health and Human Services Secretary Doctor Mandy Cohen says Phase 1 will involve loosening restrictions on activities with lower risk for spreading the coronavirus. "We're looking to minimize that in close proximity -- less than six feet -- for more than 10 minutes of time," Cohen said. "And then when you do that if you have to be in closer contact to be wearing face coverings and to be washing your hands very frequently." Activities that could allow for that minimal prolonged contact between people, Cohen says, include shopping and visiting parks. The governor says he hopes the state can progress to the first phase of reopening this weekend when his current  stay-at-home order is set to expire. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

7:12 a.m. - Emergency video notarizations are now temporarily authorized under state law for most notarial acts until August 1st. Previously, a notarization had to be conducted in close physical proximity. North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall says emergency video notarizations will allow crucial business transactions and important medical or court documents to be notarized in a timely manner while social distancing. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:35 a.m. - State legislation approved yesterday grants a five-month extension of the expiration date on more than two dozen Department of Motor Vehicle credentials. The extension applies to any credential that expires on or after March 1st and before August 1st. These credentials includes driver licenses, learner's permits and vehicle registration. The bill also allows the DMV to waive any penalties for a late registration renewal during the extension period. Customers who already paid a fee for a late renewal in March or April will be reimbursed. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC
 

May 4, 2020

4:42 p.m. - A sharp drop-off in revenue has left North Carolina's transportation department without the cash reserves mandated by state law. It means the agency can't enter into new contracts for construction, engineering or infrastructure repairs. The transportation department is funded entirely through gas taxes, highway use taxes, and DMV fees. It's required to have at least $293 million on hand, but is projecting revenues will be off by more than $300 million in the fiscal year that ends June 30 − the result of a dramatic decline in travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. An even larger shortfall is expected in the next fiscal year. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

3:52 p.m. - Several airlines have requested to temporarily reduce service to the Raleigh Durham International airport, due to a decline in traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires airlines that receive federal funding through the CARES Act to maintain their service, but airlines can apply for an exemption. Allegiant Air has been granted an exemption and will reduce its flights to RDU to one per week until September 30. Spirit and Frontier Airlines were each denied their requests to reduce service to RDU. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

3:05 p.m. - The coronavirus aid package passed by the legislature and signed Monday by Gov. Roy Cooper includes $85 million to allocate to five North Carolina universities. The funds will be used to try to develop a vaccine and treatment for the virus, as well as for community health measures to help fight COVID-19. The institutions receiving funds are:

  • $15 million to the Duke University Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI) of the Duke University School of Medicine.
  • $29 million to The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to allocate to the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory.
  • $15 million to the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.
  • $6 million to the Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine.
  • $20 million to Wake Forest University Health Services

- Jason deBruyn, WUNC

2:09 p.m. - After 60 years in business, Northgate mall in Durham will permanently close its interior stores effective immediately. A spokesperson for the mall's management company said the COVID-19 pandemic caused "extreme financial difficulties" for many of the mall's tenants. Exterior tenants, including the Northgate Stadium 10 movie theater, are expected to reopen when state and local restrictions on businesses lift. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

1:10 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper has signed two bills into law dispersing COVID-19 relief. State lawmakers unanimously approved the almost $1.6 billion dollar relief package over the weekend. The two bills allocate federal funds to local governments, universities, and set aside money for small business loans. Lawmakers still have about $2 billion in federal aid, and nearly $3.5 billion in state reserves. This is the first significant policy step, with more legislation likely in the months ahead. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

12:20 p.m. - More than 56,000 North Carolina businesses have been approved for federal loans in the U.S. small business administration's second wave of relief. In this round, North Carolina businesses will receive a total of nearly $4.3 billion dollars in loans from the Paycheck Protection Program. The average loan amount nationally is less than half what it was in the first round, when nearly 40,000 North Carolina businesses were approved for about $8 billion in loans. The Triangle Business Journal reports the drop comes after the Small Business Administration added tighter limits on applications from large banks. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

11:40 a.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reports approximately 11,800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina. That's about 180 more cases from yesterday. 430 people have died. Over half of those deaths involve nursing homes and residential care facilities. Almost 500 people are in the hospital with the virus. 99 of the state's 100 counties have identified cases of the virus. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:50 a.m. - Wake County and Wake County Public Schools are partnering to sterilize and re-use N-95 masks for health care workers. Wake County will use sanitizing cabinets from school science labs to clean the masks with ultraviolet light. These cabinets are typically used to sterilize student safety goggles. Masks will be cleaned no more than five times to prevent deterioration. Wake County has moved the cabinets to different emergency response locations in the county to start sanitizing the masks. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:15 a.m. - The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is going to begin phased re-opening starting this coming Saturday. The park will reopen many roads and trails. Campgrounds, picnic pavilions and visitor centers will remain closed during the first reopening phase, which is expected to last for at least two weeks. A return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. The park typically has more than one million visitors each month from May through October. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:36 a.m. A state judge is demanding that North Carolina’s prison system provide detailed information about how it’s trying prevent the spread of the new coronavirus among offenders. The judge ordered the information on Friday in response to a lawsuit that seeks to release prisoners at high risk for COVID-19 and those near the end of their sentences. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:50 a.m. - Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has issued an order to extend emergency directives for courts until the end of May. These directives include postponing most in-person court hearings and broadening the courts' ability to use technology. Beasley originally issued an order containing emergency directives at the beginning of April. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

6:35 a.m. - After a six-week closure amid coronavirus fears, the popular Durham Farmers' Market reopened Saturday. The market closed in March because of the city's stay-at-home order. The market had several new safety rules in place, including social distancing guidelines and mandatory face masks. Organizers say pre-orders and pre-pay are strongly encouraged.  - 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
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