Raleigh DMV headquarters closed for cleaning, employee tests positive for COVID-19

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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8:15 p.m.
Durham County reported one new COVID-19 death--a resident who was over 65 years old and had multiple underlying conditions, according to county health officials. To date, 31 people have died from COVID-19 in Durham County.

Durham health officials are tracking outbreaks at four congregate living settings: Durham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Treyburn Rehabilitation Center, Durham Recovery Response Center and Hillcrest Convalescent Center. Health officials said a previous outbreak at the Durham VA Healthcare System Community Nursing Home has ended, since more than 28 days had passed since the last identified case began having symptoms.

8:10 p.m.
Wake County health officials have confirmed 981 COVID-19 cases and 21 deaths in the county.

6:10 p.m.
Cumberland County has seen an increase of 14 positive COVID-19 cases since Wednesday, raising the county total to 356.

Health officials say nine people in total have died from virus related complications in the county.

5:45 p.m.
Health officials report 31 additional people in Robeson County have tested positive for COVID-19, raising the county total to 354. Of those cases, 6 people have died from virus-related complications.

5:40 p.m.
A 58-year-old inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution Butner I has died from COVID-19 related complications on Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Justice said William E. Miller, who had long-term, pre-existing medical conditions, died at a local hospital after testing positive on April 5, his condition continued to decline before dying on May 6.

5 p.m.
Lee County health officials report nine more people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the county total to 237.

Of the 237 cases, 44 people have returned to normal activities.

4:55 p.m.
The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles headquarters in Raleigh will be closed for cleaning for an unknown amount of time after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, according to a news release from the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

In the release, officials said the employee did not work in a part of the office that was open to the public and was last in the building May 6.

Health officials will work with the employee to determine with whom they were in close contact while at the office on New Bern Avenue. The office will undergo a thorough, professional cleaning, the division said in the release.

Officials said the License Plate Agency at the headquarters has been closed for several weeks.

2:30 p.m.
In a news conference, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said while North Carolina parks are encouraged to reopen this weekend, they are not required to do so.

"There are all places where we need to be cautious as we go forward," Cohen said. While she said the health department wants North Carolinians to be able to get fresh air and exercise, she encouraged them to stick to low-risk activities like walking or running and to keep physical distance from others.

"If you go to a park and you notice it's very crowded and you feel uncomfortable, maybe there's another spot for you to check out and explore," Cohen said.

Cohen added that park areas where people may gather for longer periods of time, like playgrounds and swimming pools, must remain closed.

"As we know, we often sit around by the pool," Cohen said. "It's a slightly higher-risk activity."

Cohen said officials are contemplating allowing pools to reopen in Phase 2 of reopening, which will start May 22 at the earliest.

As North Carolina looks to begin loosening stay-at-home restrictions, Cohen said, "I feel comfortable where we are in terms of moving forward starting tomorrow."

However, she acknowledged that cases continue to rise, and even as restrictions loosen, North Carolinians should continue to wear masks, wash their hands often and keep 6 feet of separation between themselves and others.

"We aren't perfect here," Cohen said. "We have to take precautions as we go."

A report from NC DHHS earlier this week showed 51% of North Carolinians are at high-risk for severe complications from COVID-19. Cohen asked those at low risk to continue to keep social distancing to protect others.

"If you aren't 65, if you don't have chronic disease, your actions are protecting your neighbor, your friend," Cohen said. "If there's less virus around, it's going to be less likely that those folks catch it."

Cohen also urged North Carolinians to stay up to date on their immunizations, particularly for children.

"Vaccine preventable diseases such as measles and mumps are still a threat to our kids and can cause serious illnesses and hospitalizations in children," Cohen said.

2 p.m.
Amtrak says it will require all customers to wear a face covering at stations and on trains and thruway buses starting May 11.

"Service will be restored on select trains and routes once circumstances improve and demand returns," Amtrak said. "We will continue to monitor and make changes to our procedures, policies and operations as necessary."

Amtrak said it is also taking extra steps to sanitize its stations and trains.

11 a.m.
North Carolina is reporting 639 new cases of COVID-19, the largest single-day increase so far as the state prepares to move into Phase 1 of reopening on Friday. Since March, there have now been 13,397 confirmed cases across the North Carolina.

10 percent of the new cases (68) are attributed to congregate living facilities.

30 more people have died, bringing the total number of deaths so far in the pandemic to 507. 70 percent of the new deaths (21) are from outbreaks at nursing homes.

One-third of the new deaths (10) from Orange County.

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

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? In the last 24 hours we've seen 7 percent positive tests. This is level with what we've been seeing this week.
Hospitalizations decreasing? We are level. The number increased by 9 from Wednesday to Thursday but Dr. Cohen has said we are level.
Testing capacity? The state did meet it's goal in the last 24 hours with 6,846 test.
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.

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

THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES

Fayetteville's curfew will be lifted Friday, the same day the state will enter Phase 1 of reopening.

The women's prison in Raleigh reported its first COVID-19-related death. Authorities say an inmate in her late 60s died from a preexisting condition complicated by the virus. Cumberland County reported its ninth death after a person in their 70s died. The state is nearing 13,000 COVID-19 cases. Wake County reported at least 958 confirmed positive cases.

The coronavirus has killed more than 73,000 Americans. Unemployment numbers due out Thursday morning are expected to show another 3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, which would mean 33 million have applied since mid-March. The Labor Department's monthly jobs report, which comes out Friday, is expected to show a 15 to 20 percent unemployment rate, according to ABC News.

The North Carolina Air National Guard will flyover local hospitals and medical centers Thursday morning in a show of support for frontline workers. Operation American Resolve will reach Chapel Hill at approximately 11:39 a.m. The tour will continue through Durham, Butner, Raleigh, Wilson and Greenville. More information here.

WEDNESDAY
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.
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