Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of Oct. 5

Oct 5, 2020

Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham, left, and Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, greet each other after a televised debate Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Raleigh, N.C. Tillis announced Friday, Oct. 2, 2020 that he had tested positive for COVID but said he has no symptoms.
Credit Gerry Broome / AP Photo

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 Sept. 28. 

Oct. 9, 2020

11:40 a.m. - The Forsyth County courthouse will have limited operations available next week after five employees tested positive for COVID-19. The Winston-Salem Journal reports court officials are working with the Forsyth County Health Department to conduct contracting tracing. The courthouse previously closed for a short time in April after other employees also tested positive for the coronavirus. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:50 a.m. - Duke University is laying off 75 employees in its Talent Identification Program at the beginning of next year. Duke TIP helps select pre-college students across the country access advanced educational opportunities, according to its website. Duke TIP was forced to close its summer programs because of the pandemic. All other programs will also be closed for the rest of this year through next semester. The university will instead be creating a new unit in the Office of Academic Affairs to help serve pre-college students. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:35 a.m. - Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools is canceling this year's Frank Spencer Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament is expected to be held next year. The district says the Frank Spencer Holiday Classic is a nationally recognized basketball tournament. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:15 a.m. - Bankruptcy filings in North Carolina have fallen about 30% during the coronavirus. pandemic. But The Charlotte Observer reports that more than 3,000 people still filed for bankruptcy from April through September. And that worries experts. They say the dip in filings is just a brief reprieve from an expected deluge once some of the COVID-relief efforts subside. The underlying issues that drive bankruptcies have gotten worse in the pandemic. And they could come into stark relief once the extra unemployment payments and eviction moratoriums subside. Health care is still unaffordable for many Americans. And low wage work often can’t cover expenses like car payments and school supplies. – The Associated Press

Oct. 8, 2020

5 p.m. - The state health department has issued updated testing guidance to school districts considering re-opening. The guidance offers strategies for testing in schools should antigen testing become widespread and available. Currently, a school or district is not required to test. But state health officials recommend testing anyone in the school who is symptomatic, or has close contact with a positive case. They also say schools should consider routinely testing a sample of adults and children. Testing should also occur if a school is in a community with significant spread or if the school itself becomes a cluster. Just last week a teacher in Stanly County died after contracting COVID-19. Health officials today told the state Board of Education she did not contract the virus at school. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

4:50 p.m. - The state health department will start processing death records online. The state's system of paper records has caused delays in reporting deaths from COVID-19 to the federal government. It can take more than a month to finalize a death certificate in North Carolina. That means there is a wide discrepancy between the state and the federal government's numbers when it comes to how many people have died from COVID-19. The state Department of Health and Human Services says the new electronic system should cut the certification time down to just days. It will allow funeral directors, health providers and medical examiners to submit information directly to local registrars and registers of deeds. DHHS plans to roll out the system in rounds, starting with eight counties in North Carolina's urban areas later this month. - Will Michaels, WUNC

12:35 p.m. - Elon University is easing some COVID-19 related restrictions after two weeks of strict rules. Starting Friday, in-person dining will resume. Visitors will be allowed inside residence halls again. Intramural sports will also start up again in phases. The Town of Elon is continuing to limit gatherings to 10 person indoors and 25 person outdoors. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:40 a.m. - Free coronavirus testing is being offered by a brewery in Charlotte, North Carolina, after health officials raised concerns about a potential exposure during a recent event. The Charlotte Observer reports that the tests are being offered on Saturday to attendees of the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s Mecktoberfest. The tests will be free and offered through a drive-thru. The Mecktoberfest was held on Sept. 25-27. It attracted thousands despite state rules that prohibit big crowds. Fest attendees who want to get tested on Saturday should bring their ID and health insurance card, if they have one. But the test if free without insurance. – The Associated Press

7:20 a.m. - North Carolina State Fair food vendors will soon be offering take-out. 22 fair vendors will be open at the fairgrounds in Raleigh starting next Thursday. Some of the food that will be available for sale includes turkey legs, candy apples, funnel cakes and deep fried Oreos. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Oct. 7, 2020

2:40 p.m. - Doctors with UNC Health are warning of a possible surge in COVID-19 cases in North Carolina as more businesses open up again and people are more likely to come into contact with each other. The number of new cases has been rising over the last three weeks, and the share of coronavirus tests coming back positive has been increasing for two weeks. Doctor David Wohl, who helps run the respiratory diagnostic center at UNC Hospitals, said the state should take lessons from other parts of the country that have recently eased limits on businesses and gatherings. 

"The more that we don't use the measures that we know work, the more infections we see. We need to wear masks, but yet we have a huge proportion of Americans who are not wearing masks, encouraged somewhat by this administration, by our president who very well may be a super-spreader," said Wohl.

More than 1,000 people remain hospitalized with COVID-19 in North Carolina. The virus has killed more than 3,600 people in the state since March. - Will Michaels, WUNC

2:30 p.m. - East Carolina University says the schedule for the spring semester will remain the same as previously announced. The university will start classes on January 19. There will be no spring break. Classes will be a mix of in-person, online and hybrid. Students will be allowed to live on campus with a reduced capacity and all rooms will be single occupancy. ECU also plans to establish rooms for on-campus isolation and quarantine and to update plans for COVID-19 testing. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

2:20 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper tested negative for COVID-19 last month. A spokesperson for the governor says he has never tested positive. He took a test in mid-September after a family member had a fever. The spokesperson says Cooper will publicly confirm future test results and continue to get tested in accordance with state health guidance. The governor's Republican challenger, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, said Monday on Twitter that he also tested negative recently. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

2:10 p.m. - App State is postponing its football game at Georgia Southern that was scheduled for next Wednesday because of ongoing positive coronavirus cases. Last week the Mountaineers postponed its game against Louisiana until December. The game against Georgia Southern has been rescheduled for December 12. The university has not revealed exactly how many athletes on the team have tested positive for COVID-19. App State says players who have tested positive are recovering in isolation. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:50 a.m. - In an interview with WRAL News, Senator Thom Tillis admitted he was wrong for not wearing a mask at a recent White House reception. Tillis wore a mask during the outdoor event announcing the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barret to the Supreme Court, but he did not wear one during the indoor reception. Tillis said in the interview he will wear a mask going forward. The senator tested positive for COVID-19 late last week. On Monday he reported not feeling symptoms any more. He is still in isolation at his home in Charlotte. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:50 a.m. - The state department of health and human services is providing $35 million dollars from federal COVID-19 relief funds to help child care programs. The funds will go to licensed child care providers that have operated in person from August to October to help offset financial losses. Child care providers have had additional expenses to meet health and safety guidelines, but have experienced reduced revenues from lower enrollment. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:35 a.m. - Five firefighters from the town of Wake Forest have tested positive for COVID-19. The firefighters are assigned to a station that was closed after another firefighter tested positive for the coronavirus last week. That station is now open after being professionally cleaned. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:05 a.m. - The federal government has sent North Carolina 200,000 COVID-19 rapid antigen tests, which is expected to boost the state's testing capacity. The tests don't rely on laboratory processing and they can provide results in 15 minutes. North Carolina was one of many states that experienced a testing backlog this summer. At a media briefing Tuesday, State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said that this first batch of rapid tests will be distributed to 52 high-priority counties.

“These tests will be free to the patient, and will be deployed by the local health departments to outbreaks in schools and farm worker camps, food processing plants, homeless shelters, first responders, colleges and universities, and correctional facilities,” Cohen said.

Cohen said she expects the state to receive 3 million rapid test kits by year's end. – Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

Oct. 6, 2020

4:07 p.m. - The state health department is allocating $35 million in federal pandemic relief funds to create grants for licensed childcare facilities. Governor Roy Cooper said the grants are intended to offset the cost of operating despite reduced enrollment during the pandemic.

"Our childcare programs have been on the front lines since the start of this pandemic, keeping their doors open so other workers can keep our economy running and our public safe," Cooper said. "A strong and safe childcare system is essential to our recovery."

The state health department said in a news release that it has already distributed more than $80 million in operational grants for childcare programs. - Rebecca Martinez, WUNC

2:44 p.m. - A cluster of COVID-19 cases has broken out in the sheriff's office in a western North Carolina county. In a statement, the Macon County Health Department announced an unspecified number of employees at the sheriff's office fell ill and tested positive for the disease. Symptoms have ranged from mild to severe, with some workers showing no symptoms at all. - Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

11:20 a.m. - The number of people in North Carolina who’ve applied for unemployment benefits since the coronavirus pandemic began is at 1.31 million. The Winston-Salem Journal reports that the figure was released Monday in a report from the N.C. Division of Employment Security. The agency said that some people have reached the end of one unemployment benefit program and had to switch to another. That means the actual number of claims is even higher because some people have had to file for more than one unemployment insurance program. Since the middle of March, people in North Carolina have filed a combined 2.49 million state and federal jobless claims. – The Associated Press

10:30 a.m. – UNC-Wilmington has identified three clusters of COVID-19 involving student athletes. The university announced Monday a total of 18 positive coronavirus cases among the women's basketball, softball and men's soccer teams. Sick individuals are in isolation. The university says it's working with the New Hanover County Health Department to perform contact tracing. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:20 a.m. - Two schools in Cumberland County will be closed starting Tuesday for deep cleaning because of positive COVID-19 cases impacting staff. Employees at Gallberry Farm Elementary School and Jack Britt High School will telework until Thursday. Last week two other schools in Cumberland County were also closed for a few days following positive COVID-19 cases impacting staff. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Oct. 5, 2020

7:25 p.m. - A spokesman for Senator Thom Tillis says the senator is no longer exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 and has regained his sense of taste and smell. He is continuing to isolate at home. In the statement issued this afternoon, the senator said he "feels great" and expressed gratitude for the well wishes he has received. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

4:35 p.m. - Campus food pantries around the state are offering new and different services to students as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At Durham Tech and NC A&T State University, pantry leaders are helping students apply for food benefits. Some pantries, including those at UNC Chapel Hill and Duke, are offering contact-free delivery directly to students' homes. Students can also go online and schedule times to pick up items in person. Erin Riney of Durham Tech said pantries are experiencing high demand during the pandemic, even with fewer students around.

"We aren't seeing necessarily a huge increase in the number of students who have a need, but what we are seeing are the students that we do have, that their need has increased significantly," Riney said.

The pantry at NC State University has received over 5,000 visits so far this year, compared to under 4,000 for all of last year. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

4:30 p.m. - An inmate at Central Prison in Raleigh has died after testing positive for COVID-19. The man was in his early 70s and had pre-existing medical conditions. The inmate tested positive for the virus in August and was hospitalized several times. Sixteen state inmates have died of COVID-19 related health issues, including two at Central Prison. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

4:20 p.m. - A fire station in the town of Wake Forest closed Saturday after a firefighter tested positive for COVID-19. The town's fire department says the facility will be professionally cleaned and sanitized. All the firefighters at the station have been sent home and told to self-isolate. There will be no interruption to fire services in Wake Forest as a result of the positive coronavirus case. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

4:10 p.m. - The fall version of the Furniture Market in High Point will be in-person, despite the pandemic. The Market is annually one of the biggest showcase events for the industry, and draws people from across the globe. Some North Carolina manufacturers are experiencing a boom in business. Showrooms open at the High Point Furniture Market on October 13. The nine-day event is three times longer than normal, to help control the flow of the up-to 50,000 attendees per day. - Naomi Prioleau, WUNC

4 p.m. - Wake Forest University is pushing back the start of its spring semester. Students will start classes on January 27th. The university is also canceling spring break as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Western Carolina University recently announced similar changes to their spring semester. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

3:50 p.m. - A spokesman for Senator Thom Tillis says the senator is improving after experiencing mild symptoms following a positive COVID-19 test. Tillis is continuing to self-isolate at home. Tillis is among several people to be diagnosed with the virus after attending the Supreme Court nomination ceremony in the White House Rose Garden for Amy Coney Barrett. He was wearing a mask at the ceremony. Tillis has said he's temporarily halting in-person campaigning during his re-election bid. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

3:40 p.m. -  The Inter-fraternity Council at Appalachian State University has banned all fraternity activity for two weeks because of a recent surge of COVID-19 cases in the town of Boone. The council says each fraternity must mandate a two-week-long stay at home order for their members. Gatherings of more than five people involving fraternity members are banned. The council also says any individuals or fraternities who don't follow the order will face severe punishment. Violations will also be sent to the university's division of student affairs for further consequences. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

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

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