NC will hire at least 250 new contact tracers to track COVID-19 cases, health officials say

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Here are the latest updates about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in North Carolina.

8:15 p.m.

Durham County official said there are 565 COVID-19 cases. One more patient has died, making a total of 16 coronavirus-related death to date in the county.

The latest death was a resident under 65 with multiple underlying health conditions.

There are currently four outbreaks at Durham long-term care facilities and one crisis and assessment center. Three were previously identified and two more outbreaks additional have been confirmed at Hillcrest Convalescent Center and Durham Recovery Response Center.

  • 111 cases at Durham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

  • 47 cases at Treyburn Rehabilitation Center

  • 5 cases at Durham Recovery Response Center

  • 4 cases at Durham VA Healthcare System Community Nursing Home

  • 2 cases at Hillcrest Convalescent Center


6 p.m.
Cumberland County said two more people have died from COVID-19 complications. Both were in their 80s and had underlying medical conditions.

There are 224 total cases and 8 deaths in Cumberland County.

In Robeson County, officials said there are 34 new cases ranging from ages 15-71. In total, there are 129 cases and 3 deaths.

4:10 p.m.
Lee County said it has 125 positive cases of for COVID-19. That includes seven new cases identified Saturday, 11 new cases identified Sunday, and 15 cases Monday.

3:45 p.m.
Halifax County said it has five new positive COVID-19 cases (one as of midnight Saturday, four more for Sunday; there are no new cases today so far), bringing the total known cases in the county to 56, with one death.

Of 312 tests, 247 were negative and nine test results are pending.

WATCH: ABC11's Steve Daniels breaks down new COVID-19 data from NCDHHS
EMBED More News Videos

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released new data Tuesday highlighting trends around the COVID-19 pandemic.



2:00 p.m.
In a news conference, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced a new partnership that will allow the state to begin hiring at least 250 people over the month of May to trace close contacts of any residents who test positive for the novel coronavirus.

Through the Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative, the state will begin accepting applications online immediately. Cohen said special consideration will be give to applicants who are currently unemployed and have community engagement experience.

Cohen said approximately 70 percent of the state's local health department said they could handle their contact tracing workload with their current staff, so the department will focus on overwhelmed communities.

In addition, Cohen announced that the health department would begin reporting the locations of all nursing home outbreaks in the North Carolina, as well as how many cases are in each nursing home.



"We've been trying to always strike the balance of transparency and getting good data to folks, protecting public health and protecting individual privacy," Cohen said.

In addition, Department of Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry addressed the state's supply of personal protective equipment. While the state has a substantial supply of gloves, procedure masks and face shields, Sprayberry said North Carolina has less than a week's supply of N95 masks and gowns, based on the current volume of requests.

Sprayberry did say, however, that he expects to be able to source more personal protective equipment within the next four to six weeks.

11:45 a.m.
Seventy inmates at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh have tested positive for COVID-19. 161 offenders were tested during the weekend.

The state Department of Public Safety says a majority of those are showing no symptoms associated with the coronavirus.

Before the weekend, 10 offenders in NCCIW tested positive. They were placed in isolation in accordance with Centers for Disease Control guidelines and provided any necessary advanced medical care.

All offenders at the prison, as well as the entire staff, have been issued face masks, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. They also said cleaning regimens have been increased.

Based on the test results, Prisons is enacting its contingency plan to do to the following in accordance with CDC guidelines:

  • Separating the offenders who have tested positive from the offenders who tested negative.
  • Isolating all offenders in a group who have tested positive in two dorms.
  • Quarantining in three dorms for 14 days the offenders who have tested negative, with close monitoring of their health and twice daily temperature checks.
  • Ensuring staff do not mix between the positive and negative dorms.


10:20 p.m.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting an additional 312 cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 9,142 cases in 95 counties. There have been seven new deaths attributed to COVID-19 since Sunday, bringing the state's total to 306. That's up 37 since Friday.

This is why North Carolina does not report coronavirus recoveries

NCDHHS reported that 473 people remain hospitalized and 109,920 tests have been completed.

RELATED: Why you might see different numbers of COVID-19 cases depending where you look



Here are the 3 phases of Gov. Roy Coopers plan to reopen North Carolina
Gov. Roy Cooper laid out a plan to reopen North Carolina, but here's what has to happen first

MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES

Two long-term care facilities in Durham reported coronavirus outbreaks over the weekend, the Hillcrest Convalescent Center and the Durham Recovery Response Center. Durham County is now monitoring outbreaks at four Durham long-term care facilities and one crisis and assessment center.

In Cumberland County, a Tele-Town Hall will happen with state and local leaders discussing the unemployment benefits system Monday at 6 p.m.

President Trump will talk with state governors about the COVID-19 response and the country's economic revival during a video conference at 2 p.m. The nation's Coronavirus Task Force will address the nation at 5 p.m.

American Airlines is responding to video of a crowded Charlotte-bound flight on Saturday. Passenger Erin Strine said she was "stunned" to be on a flight that appeared to be almost completely full, and became overwhelmed with fear in her assigned middle seat. The flight left from JFK Airport in New York.

Restaurants, movie theaters and private social clubs are allowed to reopen on Monday in Georgia. The state's guidelines are allowing restaurants to open for dine-in service. Oklahoma and South Carolina are also lifting restrictions on Monday. Tennessee's stay-at-home order expires on Thursday but the state is allowing some businesses to reopen on Monday.

In North Carolina, the state is reporting 299 coronavirus-related deaths and 8,830 confirmed cases.

SUNDAY
6:20 p.m.
The Durham County Department of Health is monitoring COVID-19 outbreaks at two more health care facilities within the county. The facilities being: Hillcrest Convalescent Center and Durham Recovery Response Center.

In total, the county is now monitoring outbreaks at four Durham long-term care facilities and one crisis and assessment center. The totals are as follow:
  • 111 at Durham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
  • 47 at Treyburn Rehabilitation Center
  • 5 at Durham Recovery Response Center
  • 4 at Durham VA Healthcare System Community Nursing Home
  • 2 at Hillcrest Convalescent Center


The DCoDPH also reports four new COVID-19 related deaths, raising the county total to 15. Health officials said all of the residents were over 65-years-old and had multiple underlying health conditions.

Since Saturday, Durham County has seen nine new COVID-19 cases, raising the county total to 555.

5:00 p.m.
Wake County reports 668 COVID-19 cases in the county, 12 more than Saturday.

3 p.m.
Halifax County health officials said Edgecombe and Halifax Counties Communicable Disease Teams discovered the Vidant Health discrepancies versus what was reported by the state lab.

Both teams reached out to the State Lab, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Communicable Disease Branch, Vidant North, Vidant Edgecombe and the main Vidant Hospital. The issue was found and corrected.

Vidant issued the following statement:

"On April 25, Vidant Health sent an electronic update to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) which contained inaccurate COVID-19 test results. We determined this was a technical error affecting 122 results and the data feed issue has since been corrected. It is important to point out that the actual lab test results in Vidant's electronic medical record were correct; there was a technical issue with transmitting data to the state. We are currently working with NCDHHS to update the data. We apologize for any confusion this has caused the state, local health departments and patients."

11:10 a.m.
North Carolina health officials are now reporting 8,830 cases in North Carolina. That's up 288 from Saturday. Saturday's numbers were revised to 8,542 cases after an error in reporting.

As of Sunday, 299 deaths have been reported, an increase of 10 from Saturday.

According to the health department, 107,894 tests have been completed and 451 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

10:15 a.m.
NCDHHS officials said some COVID-19 test results reported by Vidant Health were incorrectly reported as positive. Vidant is currently working to fix the transmission problem. The total revised case count for Saturday, April 25 is 8,542. It was previously reported as 8,623.

9:30 a.m.
The CDC has added six new symptoms to its list including chills, shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.

Coronavirus: Headache, loss of taste among list of 6 new possible COVID-19 symptoms, according to CDC

As of Sunday morning, data from Johns Hopkins University shows the total number of coronavirus cases in the United States is 939,249.



Wake County is reporting 661 COVID-19 cases while Durham County is reporting 546.

SATURDAY

6:45 p.m.
One more Durham County resident has died from COVID-19 related complications. This marks the eleventh death in the county.

Durham officials said the person was over the age of 65 and had multiple underlying health conditions, putting them at high risk for severe illness from the virus.

Since Friday, five new people have tested positive for COVID-19, raising the county total to 546.

The Durham County Department of Public Health continues to monitor COVID-19 outbreaks at three long-term care facilities:
  • 111 cases at Durham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
  • 43 at Treyburn Rehabilitation Center
  • 4 at Durham VA Health Care System Community Nursing Home


5:35 p.m.
The Cumberland County Health Department reports 200 total positive cases of COVID-19 within the county. Since Friday, the county has seen an 11 case increase.

2:45 p.m.
Halifax County health officials said there are 53 COVID-19 cases including one death. 24 of these cases have recovered.

2 p.m.
The death toll for coronavirus infections has topped 200,000 worldwide according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

1 p.m.
Wake County officials said there are 651 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths.

11 a.m.

North Carolina health officials reported 8,623 cases of COVID-19 in 95 counties, up 571 from Friday. There have been 289 deaths, up 20 from Friday.

456 of the cases are currently hospitalized. 105,265 tests have been completed.

RELATED: Why you might see different numbers of COVID-19 cases depending where you look

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FRIDAY

6:50 p.m.
Eleven more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Wake County, raising the county total to 642.

Wake County Department of Health reports 13 people have died from COVID-19 related complications.

6:40 p.m.
One Durham County resident has died from COVID-19 related complications, raising the total number of deaths to 10, according to the Durham County Department of Public Health.

Health officials said the person was over the age of 65-years-old and had multiple underlying health conditions.

Durham County health officials reported an increase of 41 new cases of COVID-19 raising the total number of cases in the county to 541.

The DCoDPH said it is continuing to respond to COVID-19 outbreaks at three Durham long-term care facilities. As of now, the following COVID-19 case totals have been confirmed for all residents and staff at the facilities:
  • 111 at Durham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
  • 41 at Treyburn Rehabilitation Center
  • 4 at Durham VA Healthcare System Community Nursing Home


5:05 p.m.
Cumberland County reported 16 more COVID-19 cases, bringing the county total to 189.

"Health department staff continue to work diligently to conduct case investigations for each positive case in Cumberland County. Contact tracing is a key public health strategy to identify and notify close contacts of positive cases so they can be quarantined," said Health Director Dr. Jennifer Green in a written statement.

5:00 p.m.
Three more residents at the Louisburg Nursing Center in Franklin County have died from complications related to the novel coronavirus, county health officials said.

Out of 61 residents at the nursing home, 53 have tested positive for COVID-19 and 14 have died from the virus. Nine residents are in the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms.

4:00 p.m.
Lee County health officials confirmed 12 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the county total to 92. Of those cases, seven have resumed their normal daily activities.

This is why North Carolina does not report coronavirus recoveries

3:15 p.m.
The Halifax County Department of health is monitoring three additional cases of COVID-19, raising the county total to 47.

According to officials, of those 47 positive results, 1 person has died from COVID-19 related complications. 24 of the positive cases have recovered.

3:05 p.m.
In a joint statement, the Durham City and County announced Friday that they plan to lift some restrictions placed on business while extending its stay-at-home order until May 15.

"Thanks to the efforts of the Durham community we are flattening the curve, slowing the spread of the virus and not overwhelming our healthcare system," Durham board of County Commissioners Chair Wendy Jacobs said in a news release. "But we must continue to stay the course as our numbers of positive cases continue to rise."

During the extended period, businesses in Durham will be able to offer delivery or curbside pick-up as long as they follow safety precautions such as social distancing. The extension comes a day after North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper extended the state's stay-at-home order until May 8.

Like the state, Durham City and County plans to monitor the metrics of testing, tracing and trends to guide how the county and city will plan to reopen.

In the meantime, the extended order has set new guidelines that encourage safety precautions such as social distancing, sanitation requirements as well as health screenings for businesses:
1. Employers shall conduct basic health screenings at the beginning of every employee's shift, which shall include:
a) Discussion about any shortness of breath, coughing, or sore throat;
b) Employers are strongly encouraged, to the extent they are able, to also take the temperature of each employee.

If an employee exhibits any of the listed symptoms or has a temperature above 100.4 degrees, the employer should provide the employee with a face mask, and the employee will be required to leave the workplace.

Additionally, the order provides "safety precautions applicable to all activities" by realtors during the extended period:
1. Anyone entering a home pursuant to this section must wear a mask and gloves and must not touch surfaces inside the home to the greatest extent possible. Lights must be turned on and interior doors opened prior to entry. Hand sanitizer or sanitized wipes must be provided to anyone entering a home before and after entering a home; and
2. Anyone entering a home pursuant to this section must assert that to the best of their knowledge, they are not currently ill with a cold or flu, do not have a fever, persistent cough, shortness of breath, or exhibit other COVID-19 symptoms; and have not been in contact with a person with COVID-19, and will adhere to and follow all precautions required for entering the property at all times.

3 p.m.

A Moore County deputy tested positive for COVID-19 late Thursday night.

Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said the Sheriff's Office is working with the Moore County Health Department to notify anyone who has been in contact with the deputy.

2 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced at a media briefing that North Carolina's schools will not reopen this school year.

"Today, we've had to make another tough choice. Together with Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson and School Board Chairman Eric Davis, we decided to continue remote learning for the rest of the school year for our K-12 public schools," Cooper said.

With remote learning set to continue through the end of this school year, Cooper announced that the state had entered into partnerships with AT&T and Duke Energy Foundation to provide 100 and 80 wi-fi hotspots, respectively, to school buses.

Cooper said these hotspots will help students who do not have home internet access.

Looking ahead, the governor said the jury was still out on summer school and summer camps.

"The opening of schools in the summer and fall and the availability of summer camps are going to depend on meeting health guidelines that will be established later," Cooper said.

He added, "I have every confidence that we will find a way to get schools open safely in the new school year."

10:45 a.m.
There were 444 more coronavirus cases confirmed in North Carolina by the state's Department of Health and Human Services. The new figures showed an additional 16 deaths to bring the total to 269.

There have now been 8,052 cases in the state across 93 counties.

RELATED: Why you might see different numbers of COVID-19 cases depending where you look



RELATED | Here's how North Carolina health officials determine and report coronavirus deaths

10:40 a.m.
Wake County Public School System is prepared to continue remote learning with students "for as long as needed."

Superintendent Kathy Moore said the district believes it's critical to offer remote learning opportunities to all students.

"It's beneficial but should not be a cause of undue strain (to families)," she said.

Moore said the district was awaiting Gov. Roy Cooper's Friday announcement about the next steps for public schools in the state. Cooper is scheduled to speak at 2 p.m.; ABC11 will carry the news conference live on ABC11.com.

Moore also went over the district's grading policy for this year. The policy falls right in line with what North Carolina Department of Public Instruction recommended--full details can be found here.

According to the policy, students in grades 9-11 can request numerical grades. However, it's unclear at this time how those grades will be calculated.

"State education officials have promised additional guidance on this topic--and posted an FAQ just today. Once that information is received an processed we will provide more details about how grades will be handled in Wake County," Moore said.

10:30 a.m.
733,917 unemployment claims have been filed in North Carolina since March 15, according to the state. 628,244 were related to job losses from COVID-19.

Self-employed workers and independent contractors can file for unemployment starting Friday.

9:10 a.m.
The state confirms an inmate at Neuse Correctional Institution has died from pre-existing conditions complicated by COVID-19. This marks the second coronavirus-related death in the North Carolina prison system.

On Wednesday, it was confirmed an offender at Pender Correctional Institution died at the hospital from COVID-19.

Currently, there are 465 inmates that have tested positive for COVID-19 at Neuse Correctional.

All healthy offenders have been separated from those who have tested positive in order to stop the further spread of the virus at the facility, according to Wayne County officials. While they may be contagious, around 98 percent of the offenders who have tested positive at the prison have shown no symptoms.

"This situation is concerning but not a cause for panic," said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons. "We are working in conjunction with our great partners in Wayne County and with the excellent team at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. We have quarantine and isolation protocols in place, operating in keeping with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. And we have dispatched reinforcements for the staff at Neuse Correctional. The security and medical teams are providing top-notch service in the face of the what are likely some of the most challenging times in their professional lives. They are the unsung heroes of North Carolina's law enforcement community."

FRIDAY MORNING STORYLINES

On Thursday, Gov. Roy Cooper extended the North Carolina stay-at-home order until May 8--the order was initially set to expire on April 29. Cooper also announced a three-phase plan to reopen the state.

Cooper feels that before the order can be lifted, there needs to be a sustained decrease in cases, testing needs to be increased by double the current level and the state needs adequate personal protective equipment.

On Friday, Wake County school leaders believe Cooper will announce a delayed opening or cancellation of classes through the school year. The Wake County School Board is scheduled to meet virtually at 10 a.m., and Cooper will give his plan for the state's public schools at 2 p.m.

Self-employed workers in North Carolina can now apply for unemployment. Independent contractors and self-employed workers who lost jobs due to COVID-19 can apply for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance starting Friday. Those interested can apply at des.nc.gov.

On Thursday, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction recommended new grading policies for students. Under the recommendations, no students would receive a failing grade for the spring semester.

Many students would also be able to determine if they wanted their numerical grade to count, or if they wanted the class to be judge as pass/withdrawal. Click here for specifics about the NCDPI's recommendations, but know that NCDPI recommendations are not official unless approved by the North Carolina Board of Education.

SEE ALSO: WCPSS seniors to be graded pass/fail for semester, decision not yet made for other students

As for COVID-19, the state is reporting 7,608 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 253 deaths. Although the state's medical experts say those numbers are surely lower than the reality.

A $484 billion stimulus package is heading to President Trump's desk that includes $310 billion to replenish the tapped-out loan program for small businesses. The bill comes as 26 million people have filed for unemployment since mid-March.

THURSDAY UPDATES
7:10 p.m.
Durham County Department of Health reports two additional COVID-19 related deaths, raising the county total to nine. Officials said both residents were over the age of 65 and had underlying health conditions.

In the meantime, 500 Durham County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, a 31 case increase since Wednesday night.

6:55 p.m.
Wake County reported 633 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 11 deaths across the county. The average age of COVID-19 patients in the county is 49 years old.

6:40 p.m.
Orange County extended its stay-at-home order through May 8, the same day Gov. Roy Cooper's order is set to expire.

"We are monitoring the stats for Orange County and the state daily, and when the data indicates it is safe for us to ease these restrictions, we will do so," said Orange County Board of Commissioners Chair Penny Rich in a written statement.

6:30 p.m.
Cumberland County health officials reported an increase of 19 COVID-19 cases since Wednesday, bringing the county total to 173 cases.

In order to reduce the spread of the virus, county departments, including the Department of Public Health, will be closed Friday.

5:40 p.m.
Alamance County has reported its first COVID-19 related death. The patient, who was older than 65 and had underlying medical issues, had been hospitalized.

"We are deeply saddened by this news and our hearts are with their precious family who have lost someone they love and cherish. This loss affects our entire community," said Health Director Stacie Saunders. "It is so important that each of us take steps to protect ourselves and others to prevent the spread of this virus, especially to our most vulnerable populations. We urge the community to continue to practice social distancing and the recommended general precautions in order to protect themselves, their loved ones, and our neighbors."

5:20 p.m.

Sixteen additional cases were reported in Lee County, raising the overall number of cases to 80.

Of those 80 cases, the Lee County Health Department continues to monitor 73 of them. Seven of which have returned to normal activities.

4:10 p.m.
In agreement with Gov. Cooper's stay-at-home order extension, the Mayor of Fayetteville has extended the citywide curfew until May 8. Curfew hours remain the same.

4:10 p.m.
The Harnett County Health Department is monitoring a COVID-19 outbreak at a long-term care facility after 50 residents and staff tested positive.

According to the health department, 45 of those residents and 5 employees tested positive for COVID-19.

The county has since seen 113 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 48 of those have since recovered. Five have died.

3:25 p.m.
Gov. Cooper announced that North Carolina's Stay-at-Home order will be extended by eight days.

Cooper's initial order, which went into effect March 30, was set to expire on April 29. The new order will expire on May 8.

More information here.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen outlined the trends surrounding COVID-19 in North Carolina, including what needs to happen for the state to reopen.

WATCH: Full NCDHHS media briefing Monday
EMBED More News Videos

Full media briefing: State officials discuss the latest developments on COVID-19 in NC



First, Cohen explained that the number of COVID-like syndromic cases has been decreasing for the past 14 days. However, the number of laboratory-confirmed cases is still increasing, albeit more slowly than at the start of the outbreak.

"We want to see a decrease or a sustained leveling of cases," Cohen said, explaining that there may not be a peak of cases in North Carolina, but the number of cases reported daily may level out, and that sustained leveling would allow North Carolina to begin to reopen.

Additionally, Cohen said the percentage of positive tests has been leveling, if not decreasing slightly, but health officials would like to see that number decrease significantly over the next 14 days.

"A lot of positive signs, but we're not there yet," Cohen said.

Cohen also said the number of people in the hospital has stayed relatively level since the start of the outbreak.

"We would love to see this trend downward, but leveling is a good sign," Cohen said. "We know we aren't seeing an upward trend in hospitalizations."

WATCH: DHHS Secretary Cohen explains trends surrounding COVID-19 outbreak in North Carolina
EMBED More News Videos



Cohen laid out plans to increase the state's testing capacity from 2,500-3,000 tests per day to 5,000-7,000 tests per day, as seen over the past two days.

Cohen also said the department would double the number of contact tracers employed to identify close contacts of infected individuals. The state currently has 250 tracers and hopes to increase that number to 500.

In addition, Cohen said the state would continue to get personal protective equipment-particularly surgical gowns and N95 masks-so the state has enough to supply health care workers, nursing home staff, prison staff and first responders with equipment for 30 days.

2:30 p.m.
Halifax County reports four more positive cases of COVID-19, raising the county total to 44. One person has died from COVID-19 related struggles.

Twenty-two residents have since recovered from the virus, according to the Halifax County Health Department.

1:10 p.m.
Eight more COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Wake County, and one more person has died of the virus.

The update brings Wake County up to 630 confirmed cases and 11 deaths.

Those numbers were reported after the state health department update its website to show at least 7,608 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 253 deaths attributed to the virus.

12:30 p.m.
North Carolina independent contractors and self-employed workers out of work because of COVID-19 can start applying for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance beginning Friday, April 24, DES announced. Read more about how to apply here.

State health director talks reopening economy, COVID-19 testing
EMBED More News Videos

Dr. Betsey Tilson answers COVID-19 questions for ABC11.



11 a.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 388 more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 7,608 cases. At least 253 deaths have been reported statewide.

This is how North Carolina reports COVID-19 deaths

As North Carolina emphasizes testing as a major pillar of Gov. Roy Cooper's plan to reopen the state, public and private laboratories have completed at least 96,185 tests, an increase of nearly 6,000 tests from the previous day.

RELATED: Why you might see different numbers of COVID-19 cases depending where you look

At least 1,133 reported cases were in nursing homes from 40 ongoing outbreaks, nearly 1 out of every 6 cases. At least 95 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19.

While the majority of laboratory-confirmed cases are in people between the ages of 25 and 49, the majority of those who have died from complications related to the disease are 65 years and older. Additionally, though roughly the same number of men and women have tested positive for the virus, more men have died from COVID-19.

CORONAVIRUS MAP: Tracking COVID-19 across North Carolina

10:05 a.m.
More than 14,000 more people filed for unemployment in North Carolina on April 22.

The state's Division of Employment Security said that brings the total of unemployment claims to 719,452 since COVID-19 layoffs began on March 15. The group said 617,422 of the unemployment claims are directly related to COVID-19.

'I'm desperately in need of help:' Some in North Carolina still haven't been able to get unemployment benefits

So far, the state has only paid 281,050 people--that's less than 40 percent of those who have filed.

The division is overwhelmed, since it previously only handled a few thousand claims per week. State leaders are working to increase the divisions capability to handle and service all of the unemployment claims.

SEE ALSO: NC Unemployment FAQs

9:15 a.m.
To reopen or remain closed: That is the question on everybody's mind as stay-at-home orders across the country begin coming to their initial expiration dates.

Thousands of ABC11 viewers have responded to unofficial online polls asking if they think the state is ready to reopen. The overwhelming response has been against reopening.

That response is in line with national polls that show 80 percent of Americans believe stay-at-home orders are working and should continue, at least for a little while longer.

Gov. Roy Cooper is slated to speak at 3 p.m. Sources tell ABC11 that Cooper will talk about his plan for reopening the state.

State Health Director Dr. Betsey Tilson, one of Cooper's advisors, said nobody wants to reopen the state more than Cooper. She said he continues to look at trends in the state's COVID-19 cases, fatalities, hospitalizations, etc. to determine the safest course for North Carolina.

WATCH: State health director talks reopening economy, COVID-19 testing

8:40 a.m.
More than 4.4 million applied for unemployment benefits last week, as more than 26 million have applied for aid since the coronavirus pandemic began forcing American businesses to close.

In North Carolina, more than 700,000 have filed unemployment claims since March 15.
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