North Carolina has one of the highest percent positive test rates in the US, health leaders say

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



5 p.m.
Lee County reports its fifth COVID-19 related death.

In the meantime, the county department of health reports 575 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, up 10 from Thursday. Of those 575 cases, 416 people have returned to 'normal activities' while 154 continue to be monitored.

4:45 p.m.
The Cumberland County Department of Health reports 78 new cases of COVID-19 within the county, raising the county's total cases to 880.

Four people have died since the beginning of the week, raising the county's total of deaths to 30. According to the health department, all four of those patients who died from complications with the virus were in their 60s and 80s.

4:02 p.m.
Halifax County has reported six new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 246 positive cases.

There have been 1,424 confirmed tests performed on Halifax County residents. 1,161 were negative. Two people have died and 187 patients have recovered.

2:42 p.m.
Wayne County reports 1,444 total positive cases of COVID-19. Of those, 74 cases are attributed to congregate living facilities and 901 are cases from outside any type of congregate facility.

All 469 offenders at Neuse Correctional Institute who tested positive for COVID-19 are considered recovered.

The county said there are 521 active COVID-19 cases.

The health department received notice of one additional death this week. The person died June 5 and was in their early 70s with underlying medical conditions. This death was not attributed to a congregate or long term care facility.

A total of 22 people have died of COVID-19 complications in Wayne County.

2 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper and state officials held a media briefing with the latest developments on COVID-19 efforts in North Carolina.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state health secretary, reiterated at the briefing that after three weeks into Phase 2 reopening, she remains concerned about trends in the state.

"North Carolina is not alone. Many other states are seeing increases in COVID-19 cases as well," Cohen said. "This virus is still a serious threat."

Cooper said the numbers are "sobering."

The governor said he knows people are anxious to get outside, especially as school ends and summer breaks begin.

"Everyone should remember that North Carolina is still under a safer-at-home recommendation," Cooper said. "Just because we can leave home doesn't mean we always should."



Cohen outlined where North Carolina stands on four major metrics, indicating that the state isn't where it should be on any metric.

COVID-like syndromic cases in emergency rooms, hospitalizations and percentage of positive tests are all increasing slightly. In addition, the number of cases reported each day is rapidly increasing -- Cohen pointed out that more than 1,000 cases were reported on four days in the last week.

While the state has tripled its testing capacity, Cohen said that an increase in testing alone could not account for the rapid increase in cases, citing both the percentage of positive tests and increasing hospitalizations as signs that the virus is spreading in North Carolina.

Cohen also said that North Carolina is one of the states where the percentage of positive tests is highest in the nation. While that number currently sits at 10%, Cohen said she'd like to see it reduce to 5%.

"We have those tools to respond to this crisis, but we all have to work together on this," Cohen said. "Early on, North Carolinians came together and proved we can flatten the curve, and we can do it again."

She and Cooper repeatedly recommended staying home when possible, wearing face coverings, washing hands often and staying six feet apart from people outside your household.

While Cooper said he hadn't made any further decisions on additional easing of restrictions in a Phase 2.5 or Phase 3, he did say neither option was off the table, and the state could still possibly move into Phase 3 in two weeks as scheduled.

Cooper said his priority is to get kids back into classrooms in August, but the current trends would need to reverse directions for that to be possible.

"Nothing is set in stone," Cohen said. "These trends don't mean that our fate is sealed."

Cohen said continuing to ramp up testing across the state will continue to be a focus in the efforts to identify where the virus is and where it is spreading.

1:03 p.m.
Orange County said that as of 9 a.m. it had 427 cases of COVID-19 and 40 deaths. By comparison, neighboring Alamance County, which has roughly 20,000 more residents, has 681 cases, but fewer deaths, at 31.

Orange County noted that it is missing race and ethnicity data for between 32 and 36 percent of confirmed cases.

12:25 p.m.
Sampson County is reporting 26 new cases, which bring the total to 707 positive cases of COVID-19.

Of those, 440 people have recovered. There have been four deaths countywide attributed to COVID-19.

12:20 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Friday reported a significant increase in cases -- the largest one-day jump by far during the pandemic.

1,768 cases were reported on Friday. The largest increase in one day before that was last week when 1,370 new cases were reported in one day.

The state also saw its largest number of tests completed in one day. 21,442 completed tests were reported in the last 24 hours, well exceeding the state's goal of 5,000 to 7,000 per day.

The number of people hospitalized due to complications of coronavirus decreased for the first time since Sunday, with 760 people now hospitalized. That's down 52 people from Thursday.

During the past day, NCDHHS has reported that 10 percent of the completed tests have come back positive. 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.

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

11:15 a.m.
Officials of the City of Durham and Durham County announced an amendment to the Safer At Home Order. This amendment focuses on two areas: Outdoor Exercise Classes along with changes for Real Estate.

Outdoor Exercise Classes may now be conducted in accordance with the Order's Social Distancing and Sanitation Requirements and the requirements of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

"We are glad to be able to open up outdoor fitness classes to a maximum of 25 people. Public Health guidance tells us that this is safe as long as there is ten feet of distance between participants and other sanitation measures are carefully observed," Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said.

Realtors should note that in the amended Order, open houses of any homes for sale are strongly discouraged but may occur so long as they do not exceed the mass gathering limit of 10 persons and comply with the Social Distancing and Sanitation Requirements noted in the document. All realtors and their clients should use safety precautions when entering both vacant and occupied properties.

FRIDAY MORNING STORYLINES

North Carolina saw a record number of COVID-19 related hospitalizations for the fourth consecutive day Thursday. A total of 1,310 new positive cases were reported Thursday and 812 people are currently in the hospital. The largest increase in positive cases happened last week, on June 6, when 1,370 cases were reported. New numbers will come out around noon Friday.

Cooper and the state's coronavirus task force is scheduled to talk at 2 p.m. ABC11 will carry the briefing live on-air and online at abc11.com.

Outdoor seating expansion for restaurants begins Friday in Raleigh. Restaurants can apply for a free temporary license to expand outdoor seating onto city property like sidewalks. Leaders say outdoor seating will allow restaurants to have more customers, giving the economy a much-needed boost--while still following social distancing guidelines.

CVS Pharmacy is hosting more testing sites for COVID-19 in the area, including in Durham (MLK Jr. Parkway), Lumberton (Fayetteville Road), Rocky Mount (Sunset Avenue) and Benson (NC Highway 210). There are 55 locations already open in North Carolina.

In a salute to healthcare workers who are on the front lines of this pandemic, a U.S. Army special operations parachute demonstration team will perform two jumps Friday.

The first will happen around noon at UNC-Chapel Hill. Members of the Black Daggers will land at Kenan Memorial Stadium.

The second jump will end at Fayetteville's Cape Fear Valley Medical Center at 2:30 p.m.

Wake County Public School System leaders will give an update on the reopening of their member schools at 10 a.m.

THURSDAY
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.

EMBED More News Videos

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:
EMBED More News Videos

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.
Copyright © 2020 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.