Fayetteville mayor to lift citywide curfew on Friday as Gov. Roy Cooper eases state restrictions

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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11:00 p.m.
In conjunction with Governor Cooper's ease of restrictions on the pandemic, Mayor Mitch McColvin announced Wednesday evening that he will lift the citywide curfew on Friday.

Colvin implemented the curfew on April 1 to help stop large gatherings from occurring shortly after Cooper executed the stay-at-home order.

The curfew was met with critique from Councilman Johnny Dawkins, District 5, who believed the curfew was a little too strict.

8:30 p.m.
An inmate in her late 60s at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh has died because of complications from COVID-19. This marks the fourth coronavirus-related death of an inmate at North Carolina state prison and the first woman.

According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, the woman tested positive for COVID-19 on April 18. She was hospitalized on April 19 where her condition worsened and she died at the hospital Wednesday.

"Any death is deeply saddening, and we continue to work hard to deal with COVID-19 in our prisons," Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons, said in a news release. "The safety and health of the staff and the offenders in our custody remain our top priority."

6:12 p.m.
The Durham County Department of Public Health has confirmed two new COVID-19-related deaths of Durham County residents, for a total of 30 COVID-19-related deaths confirmed within the county to date. Health officials said the residents were over 65 years old and had multiple underlying health conditions, putting them at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the CDC.

5:10 p.m.
Cumberland County reported its ninth death after a person in their 70s died from COVID-19 related complications.

The county now reports 12 new positive cases of the novel coronavirus, raising the county total to 342.

In addition, a Lee County Sheriff's Office employee tested positive for the virus. County officials said the employee began exhibiting symptoms while at home and alerted their supervisor so they did not have to report to work. The person now remains in isolation at home.

"We continue to follow safety protocols among our staff and the population of the jail to protect the health and well-being of those that work and are housed within our facilities," said Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter. "Our employee followed proper procedure in reporting their illness and minimizing the risk to our employees and inmates by staying home."

5:05 p.m.
Wake County reports 958 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, 26 more than Tuesday.

4:45 p.m.
Three people have died from COVID-19 in Moore County, raising the county total number of deaths to nine.

According to health officials, one of the deaths was a resident of the Pinehurst Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center, marking fourth death related to the long-term health care facility.

To date, the Moore County Health Department reports 150 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

4:40 p.m.
Twenty-two new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Lee County, raising the counties total to 228.

Of those 228 cases, 44 people have returned to normal activities while 183 are still being monitored. So far, Lee County has counted one COVID-19 death.

4 p.m.
Halifax County reported three new COVID-19 cases, bringing the county total to 77 cases. A health official for the county said 499 people in the county have been tested--389 of which are negative and 33 are still pending. One person has died from COVID-19 in the county.

The health official said there are no "hot spot" outbreaks in Halifax County.

2 p.m.
In a news conference, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the state is looking to the federal government for guidelines concerning travel and mass gatherings.

When asked about welcoming tourists from other states, Cohen said the most important thing to remember is to continue wearing face coverings while in close proximity with others and to continue to practice good hygiene and stay socially distant from others. Cohen also added that short term rentals and hotels are not limited by the stay-at-home order.

And when asked about when gatherings will be allowed to increase past 100 people, Cohen said she would not be able to provide an exact date, but said there will continue to be modifications to how people gather until a COVID-19 vaccine is available. She explained that while people may be allowed to gather in increasingly larger goups, they would need to be able to space apart--for example, a gathering of 100 people in a 10,000 person arena is a different issue than 100 people in a 200 person room.

"We're going to base that information on as much of the data and science as we possibly can," Cohen said.

Cohen also explained why retail stores would be allowed to reopen while other businesses, like bars and restaurants could not.

"Given the nature of the virus--that it's highly contagious and it can be very dangerous for some--we wanted to ease restrictions in a measured way," Cohen said. That's why, she added, retail stores would be allowed to open because people can move around while keeping physically distant from others, and outdoor worship services and protests would be allowed because people can stay in the same place and keep apart.

"We wanted to acclimate to things that are lower risk at first," Cohen said, adding that in two weeks, more high risk businesses, like salons and bars would be allowed to reopen.

Cohen also reminded North Carolinians that face coverings will be highly recommended as the state enters Phase 1, and encouraged residents to continue to wash their hands frequently and stay six feet from other people while in public.

12 p.m.
Starting Wednesday, North Carolina Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) participants will be able to buy groceries online using their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.

North Carolina is the 10th state to implement this program, which will remain permanently in place even after the coronavirus pandemic is over, the NC Department of Health and Human Services announced.

Read more about that here.

11 p.m.
Starting this week, additional school buses will be bringing internet access to more communities around North Carolina so that students can connect to school online.

As many as 280 more school buses will be equipped with Wi-Fi thanks to donations from AT&T, Google and Duke Energy Foundation.

Read more about that here.

10:50 a.m.
Twenty-five more COVID-19 deaths have been reported in North Carolina.

New numbers from the Department of Health and Human Services show the death toll at 477. All of those deaths have happened in six weeks--the first death was reported on March 25. Nearly half, 229, of the state's reported COVID-19 deaths are patients who were living in nursing homes.

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

The number of laboratory-confirmed cases is now at 12,758. That is an increase of 502 cases since Tuesday.

While that increase may seem high, the state performed 12,682 more tests--a new single-day record. Tuesday morning's reported number of tests for the previous day was just over 5,000.

So while the number of confirmed cases did increase, with the massive increase in number of tests, the percentage of positive COVID-19 cases actually went down.

In addition, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 decreased slightly from 534 to 516.

NCDHHS is also tracking outbreaks of the virus in meat processing plants. As of Wednesday morning, meat processing plants in Bertie, Bladen, Chatham, Duplin, Lee, Lenoir, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson, Union, Wilkes and Wilson counties have all reported positive tests.

Those tests make up 20 outbreaks and 982 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

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

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? We decreased in the last 24 hours. 3 percent of tests came back positive in the last 24 hours. It has been previously hovering around 8 percent.
Hospitalizations decreasing? We are level. The number decreased from Tuesday to Wednesday.
Testing capacity? The state exceeded this benchmark with 12,682 tests reported in the last 24 hours.
Contract tracers? The state still only has 250 and is working to double this workforce to 500.
PPE Supplies? The state does not have enough gowns to handle 30 days, however, the state now reports it does have enough N-95 masks.



10:20 a.m.
More than 450,000 North Carolinians have now been paid unemployment since March 15, the approximate beginning of layoffs related to COVID-19.

The 459,807 people who have received assistance account for just under 44% of those who have applied for unemployement. Gov. Roy Cooper said the Department of Employment Security is working to expand its processing capabilities, in order to serve more people.

All told, the department has paid out $1,386,907,703 in unemployment benefits. Nearly $500 million of that has come from state unemployment insurance.

WEDNESDAY MORNING STORYLINES

North Carolina will enter Phase 1 of the reopening process this week as some restrictions will ease. It's part of a three-part plan to restart the economy; the stay-at-home order will remain in place during the first phase, and North Carolinians still may not gather in groups of 10 or more people.

The state will enter Phase 1 on Friday at 5 p.m. Phase 1 means retail businesses can open at 50 percent capacity with social distancing practices in place. Restaurants will continue take-out and to-go orders only. Gyms, salons, bars and theaters will remain closed. State parks and trails are permitted to reopen.

It was previously advised that customers only leave home for essential purposes like buying food and medicine. In Phase 1, leaving home for other commercial activity is now permitted.

North Carolina has registered at least 12,256 confirmed cases of the virus and 452 deaths. Wake County has at least 928 cases and 21 deaths. In Durham County, there are 800 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Cumberland County has 330 cases.

U.S. deaths from the coronavirus have now topped 71,000. The White House will hold a media briefing Wednesday at 4 p.m.

As the nation faces a meat shortage, there's more bulk chicken sales in the area Wednesday - one at the state fairgrounds in Raleigh and one in Zebulon.

TUESDAY HEADLINES
10 p.m.

ABC11 spoke to businesses ahead of the state's phase one reopening Friday. Some businesses are ready to open up shop while some are going to wait a little longer.

Laura Gerenser of Adventures in Bloom decided not to reopen right away even though she could've. Her store is aiming for June 1.

"There's literally nothing that says I couldn't have opened," said Gerenser. "However talking to my staff, talking to my own family we just didn't feel it was the right time to open back up. You just have to take everything day by day. Let's see what tomorrow brings."

Mandy Becker of Swagger Boutique opened up shop this week with limited capacity, hand sanitizer at checkout and closed dressing rooms.

"It was just time to just get back to work, to have our employees back making money so we could pay our rent and all the items we have in our store," said Becker. "I'm not fearful of being open. I feel like we're taking all the precautions that we can. People have been at big box stores all this time and I feel like we can do a better job of making sure everything is clean and making sure people are the right distance apart so no I'm not fearful."

7:45 p.m.
The total number of COVID-19 cases confirmed among Durham County residents is 800.

The Durham County Department of Public Health also confirmed two more COVID-19-related deaths of residents, for a total of 28 in Durham County.

The residents who died were both older than 65 and had multiple underlying health conditions.

6:45 p.m.

Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, questioned what he called Gov. Roy Cooper's blanket statewide order.

"Gov. Cooper's announcement today is largely a continuation of the existing lockdown," Berger said in a statement. "A statewide stay-at-home order still remains in place, and nearly every business that applied for essential status has already been operating at limited capacity so long as they practice social distancing."

The governor outlined his Phase 1 reopening plan in a media briefing Tuesday afternoon.

"We were told 'flattening the curve' to prevent overloading hospitals justified a lockdown. Hospitals are not overloaded, and in fact, they're laying people off," Berger said.

He also noted that in North Carolina right now, more than half of the state's 100 counties comprise less than 10 percent of confirmed cases.

"So what is the theory to support this plan - eliminate infections or just delay them? Gov. Cooper apparently disagrees with Colorado's Democratic Governor and others who say that a continuing shutdown will not cause a peak in COVID-19 cases to be any less severe, it will only push it down the line," Berger said. "Why is a blanket, one-size-fits-all statewide order justified? I'm concerned that Gov. Cooper is ignoring more reasonable approaches and the experiences of the majority of states."

5:45 p.m.
Regarding schools, Gov. Cooper said officials are hopeful that North Carolina's schools and universities will be operating in the Fall.

"We know that most likely COVID-19 will still be here but we hope that we will have flattened the curve and will have instituted safety measures, social distancing, sanitizing to make schools and universities as safe as possible and people are working on those plans right now to make sure that can happen," he said.

5:30 p.m.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, North Carolina's Secretary of Health and Human Services, outlined where the state is currently on those four metrics.

First, Cohen said the number of COVID-like syndromic cases in North Carolina emergency rooms is declining again after a small peak.

Cohen also said the state was continuing to see the number of COVID-19 cases announced each day increase, but there are signs that number may be leveling out. Cohen said this was the only benchmark the state had yet to meet, but added that because the state had doubled the number of tests it is doing each day, the number of cases would logically increase.

Additionally, Cohen said the percentage of positive tests out of total completed tests is decreasing--another positive sign.

Finally, Cohen also noted the number of hospitalizations in the state continues to stay roughly level.

Cohen said more than 4,000 people applied to be contact tracers in the state, and the state supply chain for personal protective equipment is finding larger supplies of all PPE except surgical gowns.
"We're not perfect, but we're stable," Cohen said.

5:12 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina will enter Phase One of the state's three-part plan to "reignite" its economy, allowing most stores and parks to open but keep businesses like bars and salons closed.

In a news conference Tuesday, Cooper said his new Executive Order will officially enact Phase One as of 5 p.m. on Friday, May 8.

"I have seen countless stories of North Carolinians looking out for each other as we work to make it through day by day," he said. "Whenever you stay home, sanitize a grocery cart, go out wearing a face covering and stay physically distant, you are looking out for your neighbor."

The revised stay-at-home order will allow retail stores that were previously designated as "nonessential"--including clothing, sporting goods and houseware stores--to welcome customers for the first time since March. The businesses, however, must screen their employees for symptoms, ensure capacity never exceeds 50 percent of the building's total fire capacity, maintain social distancing among shoppers, and conduct routine maintenance and sanitation.

Read more about that here.

3:27 p.m.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians released a statement regarding the announcement that an agreement had been struck to begin immediately distributing $4.8 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds to Native American tribes.

"We are grateful to President Trump, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Secretary Bernhardt and Secretary Mnuchin for their efforts to disburse these funds to Tribal Nations," said Principal Chief Richard Sneed. "While much work remains to be done, we appreciate their thoughtful approach to navigating a thorny issue and look forward to working with them to resolve other outstanding issues."

3:24 p.m.
In the Council of the State meeting on Monday, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall warned residents about buying from online pharmacies. She said a major announcement is coming Wednesday with the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies about the risks of buying from them. According to Marshall, research shows a whopping 97 percent of online pharmacies are fake or operating outside of the U.S. law.

Consumers can go to verifybeforeyoubuy.org to find out if the online pharmacy they are considering working with is legit.

North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell was also in the meeting. He is getting over his own battle with COVID-19.

He said he was in the hospital for several days but was alert the whole time. He had this warning about the FDA rushing to approve products: "What I'll tell you as a survivor of that is that there are a lot of products being sold right now or a lot of things are being said right now about the efficacy of certain products and they simply don't work. The FDA will give preliminary approval to certain things and then a few days later, they pull that approval back."

11:30 a.m.
Approximately 100 people turned out in Raleigh for a ReOpen NC protest.

The protesters gathered outside NC General Assembly and allowed several speakers to talk about why they thought it was time to reopen business and repeal stay-at-home orders designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

11 a.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is now reporting 12,256 confirmed cases in the state. That's an increase of 408 from Monday.

22 more deaths were reported, bringing the total to 452.

Here are the 3 phases of Gov. Roy Cooper's reopening plan

Robeson(45), Wake(28) and Rowan(25) counties saw the biggest increases in cases.

63 of the new cases and 11 of the deaths were associated with congregate living settings.

80 percent of the state reported no new deaths in the last 24 hours.

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

After a day of missing the testing benchmark, the state hit it once again in the last 24 hours with 5,361. The state aims to test 5,000 to 7,000 patients each day.

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

HOW ARE WE DOING?

Gov. Roy Cooper has previously outlined his plan for the three phases of reopening for North Carolina. But before that can happen, the state needs to meet certain benchmarks, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen has said.

Here's how we're doing on some of those:
Decrease in percent of positive tests? We decreased in the last 24 hours. 6 percent of tests came back positive in the last 24 hours. It has been previously hovering around 8 percent.
Hospitalizations decreasing? We are leveling out. The state saw a 7 percent increase from Monday but Cohen said the numbers we're seeing have been considered level.
Testing capacity? The state hit this benchmark with 5,361 tests reported in the last 24 hours. This comes after two days of not meeting that threshold.
Contract tracers? The state still only has 250 and is working to double this workforce to 500.
PPE Supplies? The state does not have enough gowns to handle 30 days, however, the state now reports it does have enough N-95 masks.
10:00 a.m.
Another increase in unemployment filings brings North Carolina's total to 1,032,117--866,570 of those claims are directly related to COVID-19.

The state has paid out $1,335,391,588 to 449,988 people since March 15. That means more than half of the people who have filed for unemployment still have not received any compensation.

SEE ALSO: Gov. Roy Cooper responds to frustrations as nearly 1 million North Carolinians file for unemployment

8:00 a.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper will hold a public briefing at 5 p.m. He's expected to talk more about moving North Carolina into the first phase of his reopening plan.

The state's stay-at-home order has been in effect since March 30, but it is scheduled to expire Friday, May 8.

Cooper's three part approach to reopening the state falls in line with recommendations from the federal government. During each phase, officials will be monitoring the number of positive cases and any noticeable spike in cases, the percentage of positive tests and the number of overall hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

Phase 1 of the reopen plan includes opening more retail businesses, but requiring them to adhere to social distancing policies and heightened sanitation precautions.

We explain more about the reopening phases here:
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Gatherings will still be limited to no more than 10 people and restaurants and bars will not yet be allowed to have dine-in services. Likewise, salons, barbershops and gyms must remain closed.

Parks will likely be allowed to reopen.

SEE ALSO: What must happen in order for North Carolina to reopen

Phase 2 of the reopening plan can likely happen 2-3 weeks after phase 1. Phase 2 includes a lifting of the stay-at-home order and allowing limited dine-in services at restaurants.

Cooper is expected to lay out more specifics of this plan at 5 p.m. ABC11 will stream his briefing live on ABC11.com.

WATCH: May 3 marked two months since North Carolina's first COVID-19 case. Here's a timeline of what has happened since
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TUESDAY MORNING STORYLINES

Two protests and a press conference are scheduled for Tuesday morning in Raleigh as North Carolinians with conflicting views on the reopening of the state make their voices heard.

North Carolina medical professionals are going to be protesting what they believe is a "premature opening up" at the legislative building in Raleigh at 9:30 a.m.

Then at 10:30 a.m., ReOpen NC is holding a press conference and a protest contained to a parking lot.

"In the interest of Public Safety, Tuesday's protest rally will be primarily contained to the public parking lot at 16 W. Jones. No scheduled march is planned at this time," the activist group said in a statement.

The state could see the first phase of easing restrictions by the end of the week. The stay-at-home order is currently scheduled to last through Friday.

Gov. Roy Cooper and members of the Coronavirus Task Force will hold a briefing on COVID-19 updates at 5 p.m. On Monday, Cooper signed a bill with more than $1.5 billion in emergency relief funding for the state.

Wake County saw its fourth outbreak at a long-term care facility. County health leaders said several employees and residents at UNC Rex Rehabilitation and Nursing Care Center of Apex have COVID-19. An outbreak is considered two or more positive cases.

The death toll in the state sits at at least 430 after eight more deaths were announced Monday. On Monday, the state announced 184 new cases, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 11,848.

More than 1 million unemployment claims have been filed in North Carolina since mid-March. More than 840,000 of those claims are related to COVID-19.

Carlie C's will be giving out up to 40,000 pounds of chicken Tuesday morning in conjunction with House of Raeford Farms at Manna Church on Cliffdale Road in Fayetteville. The giveaway starts at 8 a.m.
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