NCDHHS clarifies requirements around face coverings during Phase 2 of reopening

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

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7:25 p.m.
Durham County officials report 48 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday evening, raising the county total to 1,169.

Wake County also reports 1,379 total cases of COVID-19, the county is up 45 new cases from Wednesday.

3:15 p.m.
Halifax County said it is aware of 811 confirmed tests performed on residents. Of those, 143 have tested positive for COVID-19. One person has died. A total of 91 patients are considered recovered.

2:30 p.m.
During a news conference, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen updated the number of COVID-19 cases reported in North Carolina. Cohen said 20,860 cases have been reported in North Carolina, an increase of 698 cases reported today.

Cohen also clarified the guidelines around face coverings in phase 2 of the state's reopening plan. For the general public, Cohen said face coverings are not required, but are strongly recommended.

"Face coverings protect your loved ones and your neighbors," Cohen said.

However, employees at salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors and other personal care businesses must wear face coverings. Customers are encouraged to do the same.

Cohen also addressed why gyms, fitness centers, bars and breweries will not be allowed to open during phase two, clarifying that all activities allowed in phase 2 are higher risk activities, but the state wanted to take a modest approach and allow a few things at a time instead of everything at once.

For gyms in particular, Cohen said the main concern is that people breathe harder when working out--and are less likely to wear a mask when exercising--and could expel the virus more forcefully.

Cohen said the best way North Carolinians can ensure the state will reopen more quickly is for eveyone to practice their three w's: wearing a face covering, waiting six feet apart and washing hands frequently.

"If we do all of those things and we all do this together, that's what's going to get us through," Cohen said.

2 p.m.
RDU announced on Monday new measures aimed at protecting travelers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The new measures will include:
  • More frequent cleaning and disinfecting of ParkRDU shuttle buses and common areas including bathrooms and high-touch surfaces such as ticket counters and kiosks
  • More detailed cleaning and disinfecting using EPA-approved products for surfaces such as hand rails and underneath seats
  • Hand sanitizing stations throughout the terminals with more on the way
  • Digital signage and intercom announcements promoting adherence to public health best practices to help prevent the spread of viruses like COVID-19
  • New physical and digital signage to remind passengers to maintain six feet of distance, wear a face covering and practice good hygiene
  • New stanchion signage in the ticket lobby, boarding queues and on the concourse to encourage physical distancing and one-way directional flow
  • Sneeze guards in common areas including ticket counters, information desks, gate counters and baggage service offices
  • Seat covers in gate waiting areas and floor decals in baggage claim that show appropriate physical distancing


RDU is also conducting a capacity analysis in the terminals to determine what space constraints may result from physical distancing in areas like security checkpoints. Many of the new measures are visible now, with the rest expected to be in place by the end of June.

Many of RDU's airline partners now require passengers to wear face coverings during their flight. Masks are available for sale in post-security stores in Terminal 2.

Beginning June 1, Frontier will implement temperature screenings for all passengers and airline employees prior to boarding flights. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will be denied boarding.

1:30 p.m.
Sampson County reported 12 new cases which brings the total to 314 positive cases of COVID-19 countywide.

Health officials said the totals this week reflect the results of the mass testing event that was held this past Saturday. Some test results are still pending.

1:05 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting its first case of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19.

While children generally experience mild symptoms with COVID-19, recently a possible link has been found between COVID-19 and a serious inflammatory disease in some children and teenagers who have current or recent infections, the NCDHHS said. The first reports of this syndrome came from the United Kingdom in late April. Cases in the United States were first reported in New York City in early May.

Read more about that here.

11:45 a.m.
UNC and NC State University both announced that the fall 2020 semester will start nine days earlier than originally planned, on August 10, and end before Thanksgiving break.

Both UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewiez and NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson cited public health concerns about a potential second wave of COVID-19 in the late fall or early winter.

Click here to read more.

11 a.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services initially reporting 788 more COVID-19 cases and 14 more deaths in the state, but later revised those numbers to 698 more cases.

That brings the total to 20,860 cases and 716 deaths.

In the last 24 hours, 13,042 tests were completed, which is significantly higher than the average over the last couple of weeks.

The number of hospitalizations in the state rose slightly by 24 to 578 total.

On Wednesday, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said that while North Carolina is in a good spot with many of its key indicators, the continued increase of daily cases is concerning.

"The virus is here in our communities across the state," Cohen said. "I would have liked to see this trend starting to level, but it has not done that."

COVID-like syndromic ER visits--an early indicator of case load in the state--has been steadily decreasing.

The percentage of positive tests out of total tests was decreasing and remains level. Though hospitalizations have spiked in recent days, they are mostly level and Cohen said the state has the capacity to treat more patients should cases spike.

THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES

North Carolina will be making its much-anticipated move into Phase 2 of reopening the state on Friday. The phase is a step toward normalcy for the state's economy, but doesn't open everything and retains several health and safety measures from Phase 1.

On Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper signed a new Executive Order that lifts the stay-at-home order, but proposes a "Safer-At-Home" plan. Gyms, health clubs, bars and nightclubs must remain closed under the new order. Gov. Cooper explained that recent data and metrics compelled them to "back off" further lifting restrictions.

New guidance provided by state officials requires restaurants to operate at 50 percent capacity and have all staff wear masks or face coverings, among other mandates and recommendations. Phase 2 is scheduled to begin Friday at 5 p.m.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport will announce changes to protect passengers Thursday morning. A release from the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority said the new measures are intended to protect passengers and prevent sicknesses from spreading. Authority president Michael Landguth will also talk about the airline industry's expectations for recovering from loss of business from the pandemic.

In Wilkesboro, 570 workers at a Tyson Foods poultry plant tested positive for COVID-19. The majority of the impacted workers did not show symptoms. In April, Sampson County health officials found a COVID-19 outbreak at Smithfield Packing Company in Clinton. There have also been coronavirus-related complaints at a Smithfield Foods Plant in Tar Heel.

Triangle Town Center mall will reopen on Thursday. The Raleigh mall will be open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 6 p.m.

There have been more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases across the U.S. with 93,439 coronavirus-related deaths. The nation's jobless claims have hit nearly 38 million since mid-March.

WEDNESDAY
9:20 p.m.
Tyson Foods announced of 2,244 team members and contractors tested at the Wilkesboro facility, 570 tested positive. The majority did not show symptoms.

6:10 p.m.
Durham County officials said there are 1,131 COVID-19 cases, up 26 from Tuesday. There were two more coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total of deaths to 43 county-wide.

Lee County announced 20 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 343. The county has reported three total deaths county-wide.

5 p.m.
Governor Roy Cooper on Wednesday announced another step toward North Carolina's reopening plan and signed a new Executive Order easing on such businesses restrictions on restaurants and salons.

Read more about that here.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen explained that while North Carolina is in a good spot with many of its key indicators, the continued increase of daily cases is concerning.

"The virus is here in our communities across the state," Cohen said. "I would have liked to see this trend starting to level, but it has not done that."

More specifically, COVID-like syndromic ER visits--an early indicator of case load in the state--has been steadily decreasing. The percentage of positive tests out of total tests was decreasing and is now level. Though hospitalizations have spiked in the last two days, they are mostly level and Cohen said the state has the capacity to treat more patients should cases spike.

Cohen also commended the recent increases in number of tests completed each day and the 152 new contact tracers employed across the state. However, while Cohen said the indicators showed the state was ready to move to phase 2, the increased number of new cases shows the step must be more measured than previously expected.

Cooper and Cohen reminded local governments and business owners that the recommendations in phase 2 are minimum requirements--local governments and individual establishments can do more to protect their citizens.

Cooper also reminded North Carolinians that face coverings allow people to protect others if they have the virus and don't know it yet.

"A face covering signifies strength and compassion for others," Cooper said. "Wearing one shows you care about other people's health."
3:30 p.m.
The town of Garner canceled its in-person Independence Day celebration due to COVID-19 concerns, scheduling a virtual program instead.

Though the usual July 3 event features fireworks, food vendors, kids activites and performances by the North Carolina Symphony, this year, the town plans to work with Show N Tell Ministries to produce a television program featuring Broadway performers, the 82nd Airborne Band, a Salute to the Troops and speeches from Mayor Ken Marshburn and members of the town council. An airplane will also fly over the town in a loop displaying a banner with an Independence Day message.

Fireworks may be rescheduled for a later date.

Garner is the second municipality in Wake County to rethink its July 4 plans. Yesterday, the City of Raleigh canceled its celebration.

3:00 p.m.
Sampson County reported 35 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the county total to 302 positive tests.

Officials said the increased number of cases is due to a mass testing event held Saturday. Of 1,285 total tests performed in the county, 529 are still pending results. One person has died from COVID-19 in Sampson County.

Halifax County reported nine more COVID-19 cases, for a county total of 137 cases. One person has died from COVID-19 in Halifax County. Approximately 87 people are presumed to have recovered from the disease in the county.

Neither Halifax County nor Sampson County have permanent COVID-19 testing locations within the county, according to NCDHHS.



11 a.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting 11 more deaths and 422 more cases since Tuesday. That brings the total number in the state to 20,122 cases and 702 deaths.

Hospitalizations, which had been higher than normal earlier in the week, decreased on Wednesday by 11. There are now 554 people currently hospitalized due to COVID-19.

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

Other data was not immediately available because the NCDHHS rolled out a new dashboard that is not working properly.

HOW ARE WE DOING?
As the state looks to go through the phases of reopening, officials are looking to meet certain benchmarks.
Here's how we're doing on some of those:
Decrease in percent of positive tests? The percent of positive tests has remained roughly level over the past 7-days, though there have been spikes. Today, 6% of cases were positive, with an average of 8% over the last 7 and 14 days.
Hospitalizations decreasing? Hospitalizations hit their highest level since the outbreak began in March on Tuesday but decreased on Wednesday. The number of occupied beds out of total available beds remains roughly level, however, only 26% of inpatient beds and 19% of ICU beds are currently available.
Testing capacity? The state exceeded its testing goal Wednesday with 12,595 tests. The state goal is between 5,000 and 7,000 tests daily. The weekly average has been increasing over the last two weeks. There have only been three days in May where the state did not reach its testing goal.
Contract tracers? The state still only has 250 but has recently hired 152 more through the Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative.
PPE Supplies? The state is still trying to source surgical gowns.

WEDNESDAY MORNING STORYLINES

For the first time in months, North Carolinians may be able to eat at a restaurant or make a hair appointment this weekend. It's possible that the state will move into Phase 2 of the reopening process on Friday at 5 p.m. Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to announce details on starting Phase 2 Wednesday at 5 p.m. ABC11 will air a press briefing with Cooper and the state's Coronavirus Task Force on-air and online.

Under Phase 2, restaurants, bars, houses of worship and entertainment venues can open with reduced capacities and strict safety protocols. Gatherings of more than 10 people will be allowed. Restrictions on nursing homes and congregate living facilities are still in effect.

On Tuesday, the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association released a list of guidelines and recommendations that businesses will have to follow when the state moves into Phase 2. Gyms will also be allowed to open under restrictions.

Wake County will soon give parents a better idea on how to plan for the next school year. Proposed school calendars for the 2020-2021 traditional school year will add five school days to the calendar with an additional five remote learning days. The school board is expected to vote on the proposals on June 2.

A new program titled "Wake Forward" will provide loans of up to $50,000 to small businesses in Wake County that have up to 100 employees. The program begins Wednesday at noon as small business owners can apply for financial relief after COVID-19 devastated businesses.

Triangle Town Center will open Thursday at 11 a.m. The mall will be open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 6 p.m.

Wednesday afternoon, UNC-Chapel Hill professor Steven King will appear on the ABC News show "Pandemic: What you need to know." King will explain how he created a virtual reality experience to keep his students in classrooms as remote learning began. The program will air on ABC11 at 1 p.m.
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