North Carolina sees record COVID-19 hospitalizations for 4th day in a row, large increase in cases also reported

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

What can we help you with? View our COVID-19 information and resources page here



2:22 p.m.
Halifax County has two deaths and 240 cases of COVID-19.

The county is aware of 1,381 confirmed tests on residents. Of those, 174 patients are considered recovered.

2:22 p.m.
Sampson County Health Department is reporting 44 new cases, which bring the total to 681 positive cases of COVID-19.

Four people in Sampson County have died from COVID-19.

2:13 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced on social media that his COVID-19 test results have come back negative. The governor said he has had no symptoms.

The governor said Wednesday that he would take the test after he went out in a crowd to meet with protesters a few days earlier.

1:06 p.m.
The NC General Assembly approved and sent to Gov. Roy Cooper a bipartisan bill to temporarily waive the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) road tests to allow teen drivers to receive their level two limited provisional license during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The applicant must still meet all other requirements to obtain the license, which includes passing driver's education and at least 60 hours of supervised driving. Furthermore, any driver who receives a waiver must pass a road test to obtain their full level three provisional license in the future.

The waiver does not affect anyone older than 18 and would expire once the DMV resumes road tests.

"I have heard from countless parents and students who are asking for help due to the DMV no longer offering road tests," said House Majority Leader John Bell. "After talking with officials at the DMV, insurance commissioners and representatives for insurance companies and others, we believe this is the right approach to help those impacted and prevent a growing backlog at the DMV while still requiring driver's education programs and behind-the-wheel instruction for these students."

The bill now goes to the governor's desk for a signature or veto.

12:24 p.m.
An Alamance County Superior Court judge has granted a temporary restraining order to the state, barring Ace Speedway from holding races or other events, pending a follow-up hearing.

There is an "imminent health hazard" in our state," judge Tom Lambeth said.

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Judge sides with state in ruling against Ace Speedway on Thursday.



In his ruling, the judge lamented the "contentious" mentality that has developed as state leaders try to balance public health with economic viability.

The next hearing will be in the same Alamance County courtroom at 9:30 a.m. June 19. Ace does not have any races on its event schedule until that evening.

In a statement on its Facebook page, Ace Speedway said that because of the temporary restraining order, Thursday open practice has been canceled.

"Also our June 13th and June 19th Events have been canceled," Robert Turner and his son, Jason Turner, said in the statement. "We want to thank everyone for their unwavering support. We will resume our season as soon as possible."

They noted that private track rentals will still be scheduled by appointment only so that they can maintain 25 people or fewer.

"Thank you to our local officials who have stood by their beliefs. Thank you to our fans, our employees, our sponsors and our race teams who have expressed their support through the good and the bad. Continue to stick with us, this does not mean 2020 is over, just on hold," the Turners said.

12 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting one of the highest daily increases in reported cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

1,310 cases were reported in the last 24 hours. The largest increase ever was last week, on June 6, when 1,370 cases were reported.

The state also saw its second-highest day of tests ever reported. 19,027 tests were completed, well over the goal of 5,000 to 7,000 per day.

The percent positive during the last few days has been around 8 to 9 percent.

Dr. Mandy Cohen said during a news conference earlier this week that the percentage of positive tests in North Carolina is among the highest in the U.S.

For the fourth day in a row, North Carolina set a record high for the number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 complications. 812 people are currently hospitalized, an increase of 32 since Wednesday.

With 86 percent of hospitals reporting, 20 percent of inpatient hospital beds and 13 percent of ICU beds are available.

ABC11 asked Dr. Betsey Tilson, the state health director, on Wednesday whether the increase in cases might indicate that we are reaching a peak in the state.

"I don't know if we're at a peak ... nobody wants to go back to having more stringent restrictions and so again, this is the really important piece -- if we're not going to have that urgent stay-at-home if we're going to ease restrictions, and we know there's a chance of spread ... wearing that face covering is extremely important."

She also talked about asymptomatic spread in the state. Hear more about what she said here:
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How likely is it that you get coronavirus from an asymptomatic person? We asked Dr. Betsey Tilson, the state health director.



THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES

The COVID-19 trends continue to trend up in North Carolina. There's been an increase of 1,000 or more cases in the state four times in the last week. 1,011 new cases were reported on Wednesday. Hospitalizations (780) hit a high for the fifth time this month. Twenty four more deaths were reported Wednesday to bring the total to 1,053 since mid-March.

A new testing site is opening Thursday morning for those at-risk for coronavirus at Hephzibah Baptist Church on Wendell Blvd. in Wendell. Those interested can visit the Wake County public health website to register and sign up for a time slot. The tests will be given out from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

The fight to close Ace Speedway is expected to go to court on Thursday. State Health Secretary Mandy Cohen said during a news conference on Wednesday that she expects a hearing. Cohen said the Alamance County speedway has not confirmed it's complying with an order to close during the pandemic. The state called the speedway an "imminent hazard" for the spread of the novel coronavirus.

WEDNESDAY
4:30 p.m.
The North Carolina House passed a bill that would allow bars and gyms to reopen across the state, with restrictions.

Gov. Cooper has previously been critical of similar legislation, and last week vetoed a bill that would allow bars to open for outdoor service only.

Authors of the bill included what they described as a "fail-safe" that would allow Cooper the authority to increase restrictions by executive order with approval from the council of state -- for example if COVID-19 should spike across the state--but the governor previously said he is wary of signing legislation to this effect.

The bill now heads to Cooper's desk. He has 10 days to sign it into law or veto it.

4:25 p.m.
The Lee County Health Department reports 10 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, raising the total number of cases in the county to 557.

Of those 557 cases, 368 people have returned to 'normal activities' and 167 people are still being monitored at this time.

3:55 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department says it has 231 positive cases of COVID-19, including a new death, which raises the county total to two.

A total of 173 patients are considered recovered.

2 p.m.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said during a news conference on Wednesday that she remains concerned about the direction of the trends in the state.

"We had 1,011 new laboratory-confirmed cases which was our fourth day in the last week where we exceeded 1,000 cases and it was our highest day yet of hospitalizations," she said. "I continue to be concerned."

She noted that other states in the region are seeing similar trends.

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Cohen stressed the importance of the three Ws -- wearing a cloth face covering, waiting 6 feet apart and washing your hands. She said that coronavirus continues to be spread by people who don't realize they have it and wearing a mask prevents people from spreading it when they don't know they have it.

Two ways that the state is responding, she said, is through contact tracing and testing. She encouraged people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 or work in essential businesses to get tested, even if they aren't experiencing symptoms.

Cohen also said that there are particular areas across the state where health officials are working to surge tracing and testing -- including Mecklenburg, Durham, Wake, Forsyth, Duplin, Lee, Johnston, Alamance counties.

She said that some of those counties, particularly Lee County, were flagged as places of possible concern by Dr. Deborah Birx and the White House Coronavirus Task Force when the state talked to them earlier this week about potential trouble spots.

On the topic of higher education, Cohen said health officials are having those conversations with university officials around the state and will be releasing guidance soon, though, she noted the guidance will likely be similar to what the CDC has already put out.

12 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting a record-high number of hospitalizations yet again. 780 people are now hospitalized due to complications of COVID-19, up 6 from Tuesday. This marks the 5th new record high of this metric in June.

With 86 percent of hospitals reporting, 22 percent of inpatient beds and 14 percent of ICU beds are still available.

NCDHHS is reporting 1,011 more cases of COVID-19 in the state, bringing the total to 38,171. 24 more deaths were reported. So far, 1,053 people have died from COVID-19 in North Carolina since the start of the pandemic.

In the last 24 hours, the state has exceeded its testing goal of 5,000-7,000 per day with 17,939 more tests.

11:10 a.m.
Orange County has extended its State of Emergency for COVID-19 through Aug. 31 and mandating the use of face coverings for several situations in public.

The mask requirement is for:
  • All customers, employees and other users of restaurants and grocery and retail stores while they are indoors.
  • All occupants of public transportation vehicles.
  • Anyone in an indoor or outdoor situation where they cannot maintain a 6-foot physical distance from others.

Face coverings are not required:
  • For people whose religious beliefs prevent them from wearing a face covering.
  • For those who cannot wear a face-covering because of a medical or behavioral condition.
  • For children under 12 years old.
  • For restaurant customers while they are dining.
  • In private offices.
  • When complying with directions of law enforcement officers.
  • In settings where it is not practical or feasible to wear a face-covering when obtaining or rendering goods or services.
  • While with family or household members.
  • Local leaders speak


The face-covering requirement goes into effect Friday at 5 p.m.

"Today's declaration is part of our broader strategy to protect public health and slow the spread of the coronavirus in our community," said Orange County Health Director Quintana Stewart. "By covering your face when you are out in public, you are helping reduce the risk of infecting those around you. Until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, face coverings are a part of our new normal. We know it will take some time to get used to, but it will help save lives."

10:05 a.m.
Raleigh businesses can now apply for an Outdoor Seating Temporary License from the City at no cost. The application is for businesses wanting to extend outdoor seating as part of the state Phase 2 reopening plan. New Raleigh guidelines permit businesses to expand their footprint onto City public rights-of-way such as sidewalks or privately owned parking lots. More info here.

9:45 a.m.
ABC News has found eight states across the country-- including Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah-- are experiencing an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Percent increase in hospitalizations since May 25:
Arkansas: 65.8%
Arizona: 45.1%
Mississippi: 3.5%
North Carolina: 19.3%
South Carolina: 6.6%
Tennessee: 65.1%
Texas: 10.5%
Utah: 10.5%

9:30 a.m.
The Durham Bulls and Durham Parks and Recreation (DPR) have canceled the city's annual July 4th Celebration due to COVID-19. The event draws thousands most years but was canceled to protect the health and safety of residents and visitors.

"This was not an easy decision as we look forward to hosting this family-oriented event each year to include a day of baseball, food, fun, and fireworks," said DPR Interim Director Joy Guy. "However, safety is our number one priority, and we must adhere to the regulations of state and local officials, and the guidance from public health experts, specifically the NCDHHS."

WEDNESDAY MORNING STORYLINES

A bill that would allow bars and gyms to reopen passed the state Senate on Tuesday and is now going to the House. The bill would allow gyms, health clubs and fitness centers to reopen at 50 percent capacity. Bars would also be allowed to reopen and restaurants to double their capacity under the bill.

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in North Carolina hit another high on Tuesday at 774. Twenty-three additional deaths brought the total to 1,029 deaths since mid-March.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released new guidance on Tuesday about who should be tested for COVID-19. North Carolina is now focused on rapidly increasing testing of people who may not currently have symptoms but may have been exposed to COVID-19.

The guidance recommends that doctors conduct or arrange for COVID-19 testing for: Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, close contacts of known positive cases regardless of symptoms, populations with a higher risk of exposure or a higher risk of severe disease if they become infected including people who live in high-risk settings, historically marginalized populations who may be at higher risk for exposure, frontline and essential workers, health care workers or first responders, people who are at high risk of severe illness and people who have attended protests, rallies, or other mass gatherings.

Read more here

Members of the D.C. National Guard have tested positive for COVID-19 in the wake of the massive protests across the city last week over the death of George Floyd.

Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Brooke Davis says they will not release the exact number of infected troops. But U.S. officials say they believe it is not a large number, at least so far. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information publicly.

While some Guard troops responding to the protests wore protective equipment, most were not wearing masks and it was largely impossible to maintain any social distancing.

Davis said in a statement that unit commanders were responsible for ensuring their troops adhered to guidelines calling for Guard members to wear protective equipment and maintain social distancing where practical. Officials said about 5,000 Guard members, including troops from 11 states, were in the nation's capital for the protests.
TUESDAY
6:00 p.m.
The North Carolina Senate passed a bill that would allow gyms and bars to reopen across the state, with some restrictions. Gov. Roy Cooper has repeatedly been critical of similar legislation, saying that signing such bills would make it more difficult for health leaders to impose restrictions again should North Carolina see another spike of COVID-19.

However, lawmakers said they included a fail-safe in the legislation that would allow Cooper flexibility to re-close those businesses.

The bill now goes to the North Carolina House for their approval.

5:30 p.m.
ABC11's Gloria Rodriguez sat down with the family of 8-year-old Aurea Soto Morales, the first child to die of COVID-19 in North Carolina.

"It's a nightmare I never imagined living," her mother, Araceli Morales Martinez, said, as she cried. "It's such a large pain. I ask all mothers take care of their children, please."

Watch Gloria's full interview with the Morales family
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After four days at UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, Aurea Soto Morales passed away June 1 from complications associated with COVID-19.



2:13 p.m.

Halifax County has 219 positive cases of COVID-19.. There have been 1,309 confirmed tests performed on residents. Of those, 1,085 were negative and 173 patients have recovered.

There remains just one COVID-19 related death in the county.

What can we help you with? View our COVID-19 information and resources page here


2 p.m.
Cary will not have its annual Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival in 2020.

The town announced Tuesday that the festival would not happen this year due to COVID-19.

The event was scheduled for August 22-23 at Cary's Town Hall Campus on Academy Street.

12:35 p.m.
The state ordered Alamance County's Ace Speedway to close immediately, calling it an "imminent hazard" for the spread of the novel coronavirus.

On Saturday, the track drew a crowd of more than 2,000 spectators in defiance of the state's coronavirus restrictions after declaring the race a "protest."

12:15 p.m.
North Carolina's hospitalizations from coronavirus continue to grow. The state now has 774 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 35 more than the number reported Monday, setting a record for the fourth time in June.

With 84 percent of the hospitals reporting in the state, 25 percent of inpatient beds and 17 percent of ICU beds are still available.

Twenty-three more deaths were included in Tuesday's report, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,029 since mid-March. The state Department of Health and Human Services reported it met its testing goal in the last 24 hours, completing 15,598 new COVID-19 tests. That means 535,711 have been completed in total since the pandemic began.

The state has confirmed at least 37,160 confirmed cases of COVID-19; that's an increase of 676 from Monday.

For the first time since the outbreak began, the state has a full 30-day supply of personal protective equipment.

Six new congregate-care facility outbreaks have been reported since Monday -- including two at nursing homes and three at residential care facilities.

TUESDAY MORNING STORYLINES

The vote on whether gyms can reopen in North Carolina before Phase 3 is set for Tuesday. The state Senate is expected to vote on House Bill 594 that would reopen the businesses early.

The current bill would allow Gov. Roy Cooper to impose restrictions again if there's a second wave of infections. Cooper would have to get approval from the council of the state. In a Tuesday media briefing, Cooper said he'd rather focus on reopening schools than bars and focus on getting the state's number of cases down.

On Monday, state Sen. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance, announced changes to the legislation that would let gyms reopen and said he expects the bill to pass the state Senate and be signed into law.

Cooper is expected to get a COVID-19 test Tuesday. Cooper's office said he interacted with some protesters recently and encourages anyone who has been in a crowd to get tested.

North Carolina has one of the highest rates of positive COVID-19 tests in the country, according to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.

Cohen said she was concerned about the recent upward trend in positive cases. Cooper echoed those concerns but said he was still pursuing a Phase 2.5 opening that would allow bars and gyms to reopen in some capacity ahead of Phase 3.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, 23,653 people are presumed to have recovered from COVID-19 in North Carolina, an increase of 4,793 patients from last week and 64 percent of the total number of cases.

To calculate the number of recovered patients, NCDHHS uses the median recovery time of 14 days for non-hospitalized patients and 28 days for hospitalized patients. Because patient-specific data is not available for every case, these numbers are estimates and not exact totals.
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