1,341 new COVID-19 cases bring state total to 125,219; hospitalizations dip again to 1,142

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

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SUNDAY

10:18 p.m.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, there have been 4,657,207 confirmed cases of COVID-19 throughout the United States.

9:37 p.m.
Durham County health officials report 5,889 total cases of COVID-19 as of Saturday evening, up 54 from Saturday

Health officials said one additional person has died from the virus.

1:50 p.m.
North Carolina health officials are reporting 1,341 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 125,219 statewide.

There have been five more deaths, bringing the total to 1,969.

Hospitalizations have decreased by nine, bringing the total to 1,142.

Throughout the state, 27,098 more tests have been completed. In total, there have been 1,813,510 completed since March.

The percent positive test rate is currently 8 percent, up from the past few days where it was 7 percent.

8 a.m.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, there have been 4,620,502 confirmed cases of COVID-19 throughout the United States.

SATURDAY

7:15 p.m.
Durham County health officials report 5,845 total COVID-19 cases as of Saturday evening, up 54 from Friday.

In the last day, one person has died from virus-related complications.

5:02 p.m.
Wake County has surpassed the 11,000 mark of total COVID-19 cases.

As of Saturday evening, the county sits at 11,037 total confirmed cases, up 92 from Friday.

3:25 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,730 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 123,878 statewide.

In the last day, an additional 40 people have died from virus-related complications, bringing the total number of deaths within the state to 1,964.

Hospitalizations have decreased 78 to 1,151.

Throughout North Carolina, 29,310 more COVID-19 tests have been completed which brings the total amount of state tests to 1,786,412. Seven percent of those testing positive for the virus.

With 91 percent of hospitals reporting, 520 ICU beds are empty and 5,006 inpatient hospital beds are empty.

10:45 a.m.
Halifax County health officials are reporting 650 positive COVID-19 cases and six deaths.

8 a.m.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, there are 4,563,262 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States.

FRIDAY
7:15 p.m.
Durham County health officials report 5,789 total COVID-19 cases, up 56 from Wednesday.

7:05 p.m.
Duke University said it has administered 700 tests to 309 student-athletes, coaches and staff in the first three weeks since student-athletes began returning to campus for voluntary practice.

As of July 31, nine student-athletes are in mandatory isolation because of positive COVID-19 tests. Sixteen others who earlier tested positive went through the required isolation period and have been cleared by physicians for return to regular activity.

No coaches or staff have tested positive, and no teams have paused team-related activities because of testing results.

The majority of student-athletes testing positive were positive upon arrival. All were asymptomatic or experienced minor symptoms, and no student-athletes required additional medical care. Treatment consisted of symptom monitoring, rest and over the counter medication.

"We are foremost concerned for player safety, and with finding ways to balance the desire to have a vibrant athletic culture on campus, with the reality that COVID-19 is a highly transmissible infection," said infectious disease specialist Dr. Cameron Wolfe, associate professor of medicine at Duke and chair of the Atlantic Coast Conference's Medical Advisory Group for COVID-19. "To that end, an aggressive testing strategy is paramount -- identifying positive asymptomatic student-athletes, who may be capable of inadvertently transmitting the virus, is crucial. Duke is finding and isolating cases early in the season, prepared to quarantine when necessary, and by combining a regular batch testing program with multi-pronged mitigation strategies, we believe athletics can and will be successful at Duke."

5:03 p.m.
Wake County health officials report 10,913 total COVID-19 cases as of Friday evening, up 161 cases from Wednesday.

4:35 p.m.
State officials took part in a Coronavirus Task Force meeting Friday afternoon, highlighting signs of progress and areas of concern.

"We're not out of the woods and we'd like to see all those numbers going down, but this is the first time that we have seen in a while that we are maybe starting to see stabilization," said Dr. Betsy Tilson, the State Health Director.

As for the numbers, the positivity rate is in the 7-8 percent range, down from previous weeks, but still above the state's goal of 5 percent. Though hospitalization numbers have set several record-highs in July, Tilson said emergency room use is recently beginning to drop and the state continues to have ample hospital space.

"We did not see a big first wave and we have not seen a big second wave as we see the rest of the South and the Southeast in particular struggling with a lot of really high viral rates of transmission," said Dr. Mandy Cohen, the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

At the beginning of the meeting, Gov. Roy Cooper credited the state's mask mandate and greater compliance as reason behind the stabilization.

"I think it's evidence that our 'go slow' approach and making sure that we're emphasizing prevention is making a real difference," Cooper said.

That will be tested during the next few weeks, as tens of thousands of college students return to college campuses across the state. Dr. Bill Roper, the former director of the CDC, who is serving his final day of Interim President of the UNC system, shared some details on how schools are planning to handle COVID-19.

"We know that we will have cases of people who are Coronavirus-positive and we'll have some that are ill. And we are at each institution they are setting aside space in dorms for quarantine," Roper said.

The pandemic has also severely affected the state's unemployment rate, though Secretary of Commerce Tony Copeland explained the tide is beginning to turn.

"The unemployment rate today in North Carolina is below 8 percent. While that's not acceptable, that's a remarkable change in people going back to work," Copeland said, and he added that it was above 12 percent a couple of months into the pandemic. However, the current level is still well-above the 3.5 percent unemployment rate in North Carolina in February.

Copeland said the state has paid unemployment benefits to more than 1.2 million claimants, though last week that number was 440,000.

The decreasing unemployment rates are even more important in light of the expiration of $600 weekly federal unemployment benefits, as Republicans and Democrats in Washington have been unable to agree on an extension or replacement plan.

"That is coming to a screeching halt today. So we're ready for that deluge, or I guess we're probably not ready for it. So that's going to be impossible thing for us to deal with," Copeland said.

-- Michael Perchick

Noon
The number of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in North Carolina dropped for the second day in a row to 1,229 with 91% of hospitals reporting. However, in the region including Wake, Johnston, Franklin, Harnett and Lee counties, hospitalizations have increased slightly to 107 people, up from 99 on Wednesday.

Currently, across the state, 520 Intensive Care Unit beds are currently available and 5,006 inpatient beds are available.

North Carolina reported 1,954 new COVID-19 cases and 21 new deaths. The percent of positive tests remains steady at 8%.

FRIDAY MORNING STORYLINES

Last call in North Carolina will be 11 p.m. starting tonight with the enforcement of Executive Order 153.

Gov. Roy Cooper says the state's alcohol curfew at restaurants, which he announced on Tuesday, is critical to reducing late-night crowds and limiting mass gatherings, even at restaurants which by previous orders cannot exceed 50 percent capacity. The curfew goes into effect Friday night.

"We want to prevent restaurants from turning into bars after hours," Cooper said. "We're hopeful that this new rule can help drive down cases."

The curfew will last through at least Aug. 31. 44% of positive COVID-19 cases in the state belong to people ages 25-49, according to the latest statistics from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Raleigh announced a similar mandate earlier this month, as did Orange County. Orange County also announced that it would be limiting alcohol sales and in-person dining at restaurants as early as 10 p.m.

North Carolina regulators have told the state's big for-profit electric, natural gas and water utilities like Duke Energy to keep delaying disconnections through August as customers still struggle financially from COVID-19. The state Utilities Commission issued an order late Wednesday, the same day a provision expired in Gov. Roy Cooper's separate executive order that prevented shutoffs for all residential customers.

The expiration meant local governments and cooperatives could resume disconnections, but the commission wrote to say for-profit companies like Duke Energy and Dominion Energy must wait until at least Sept. 1. Unpaid utility bill expenses statewide at the end of June were at least $258 million.

Free face masks will be given out Saturday afternoon at The Point at Midtown Apartments on Navaho Drive from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Friday in Southern Pines, the Moore County Health Department is giving away free face masks and the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina is collecting food donations to help families in need.

THURSDAY
7:15 p.m.
Durham County health officials report 62 new cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday evening, raising the county total to 5719 cases.

5:03 p.m.
Wake County health officials report 10,767 total cases of COVID-19 within the county as of Thursday evening, up 192 from Wednesday.

3:52 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced that an additional $150 million in federal funds provided for COVID-19 relief to counties has been disbursed this week. These funds are from the state-administered Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) that was passed by Congress. The funds represent the second half of $300 million appropriated by statute to county governments. Counties are required to offer a minimum of 25% of their total allocation of the funds to municipalities.

"During this pandemic, people across North Carolina rely on their local governments for essential health and safety help close to home. Local governments need stability and funding to cover the costs of Covid-19 response and we are working quickly to get these resources where they are needed," Cooper said.

The full distribution of funds is listed here by county.

"The North Carolina Pandemic Recovery Office appreciates everything local government leaders are doing to submit county plans and utilize these funds to respond to the COVID-19 crisis with testing, personal protection equipment, medical supplies, and much more," said Stephanie McGarrah, Director of NC PRO.

The CRF funds may be used for:
  • Medical needs including the COVID-19 related expenses of public hospitals and clinics, including testing;
  • Public health needs, such as personal protective equipment and other medical supplies, as well as the cost of cleaning public areas and facilities such as nursing homes;
  • Payroll expenses for public safety or health-care employees dedicated to responding to the COVID-19 emergency; and
  • Expenses to protect public health, including teleworking, distance learning, food delivery, paid leave for public employees, expenses for maintaining prisons, and protecting the homeless population.


Under state law, 97 counties received a base amount of $250,000, with more distributed by population. Three large counties - Guilford, Mecklenburg, and Wake - received funds directly from the federal government.

3 p.m.
In a news conference, NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen stressed mental health awareness and access to resources for anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

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Dr, Mandy Cohen gives an update on COVID-19 in NC, and warns that depression is up, especially among younger residents.



NCDHHS Director of the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Substance Abuse Services Victor Armstrong said symptoms of anxiety and depression have tripled, and North Carolina has seen a 15% increase in emergency room visits for opioid overdoses.

Cohen also said other substance abuse overdoses and binge drinking are on the rise.

"There are resources we can connect you with," Cohen said. "You don't have to go through it alone."

Cohen said the goals of the state's mental health program are to increase access, improve awareness and combat stigma. However, she said North Carolina is at a disadvantage compared to other states because it has not expanded Medicaid, and therefore federal CARES Act money was diverted toward establishing mental health resources for the uninsured and underinsured.

Cohen and Armstrong also noted that the mental health crisis in North Carolina, much like the pandemic, is disproportionately affecting communities of color.

WATCH: DHHS Director of Mental Health Services on stress management and mental health resources
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Victor Armstrong, ‪Director of the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Substance Abuse Services, talks about the need to focus on mental health at this stage of the pandemic.



"Beyond funding, we need to highlight ways to manage the stressors brought about by this pandemic," Armstrong said.

He advocated the "SCOOP" acronym for managing stress individually:
  • S -- Stay connected to family and friends
  • C -- Compassion for self and others
  • O -- Observe use of substances
  • O -- It's OK to ask for help
  • P -- Physical activity to improve mood


Armstrong highlighted both the Hope 4 NC Crisis Line (1-885-587-3463) and the Hope 4 Healers Line (919-226-2002), a line exclusively for health and child care workers.

2:13 p.m.:
The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicle is reminding drivers that expiration dates that start Aug. 1 are not eligible for the five-month extension that was signed into law in May.

That law automatically extended expiration dates from March 1 through July 31. Those extra five months remain in effect for those customers. So, if your registration has a deadline of March 31, 2020, the new due date will be Aug. 31, 2020.
The end of the extension also means the due dates for motor vehicle taxes that are tied to vehicle registrations no longer get extended.

1:46 p.m.:
Town of Chapel Hill staff began installing barriers and bollards on East Franklin Street for temporary lane adjustments to increase sidewalk capacity.

Work will continue on East Franklin Street this week and West Franklin Street next week.

The Town will close one lane of Franklin Street in each direction from Robertson Lane to Graham Street. The Town Council approved this temporary initiative in June to promote physical distancing and to increase capacity for outdoor dining.

All on-street parking, loading zones, and other amenities will be available with small adjustments. Staffers will mark curbside pickup parking spaces so individuals can quickly enter a business to pick up food or other items.

Outdoor dining will only be permitted on the sidewalks; the lane closures will be available to pedestrians to allow more space to get around the additional outdoor dining.

The walkways will be in place until at least mid-September, and the Town will regularly assess the area for use and safety.

Click here to see maps of the lane-adjustment project.

11:45 a.m.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported the third highest daily increase in new COVID-19 cases and deaths today, 2,344 and 38 respectively.

The jump in both metrics occurred as hospitalizations dipped below yesterday's record high to 1,239 people currently in the hospital with COVID-19. In the last 24 hours, 483 suspected COVID-19 patients were admitted to the hospital. With 89% of hospitals reporting, 1,149 intensive care unit beds and 5,660 inpatient beds are available statewide.

To date, 8% of tests have been positive, a metric that has been dropping slightly over the past week to remain stable at 7-8%, but is still higher than the 5% health officials would like to see.

10:20 a.m.
Following the cancellation of the North Carolina State Fair on Wednesday, the Cumberland County Fair has been canceled due to COVID-19. The fair was scheduled Sept. 4 through Sept. 13.

An initial decision was made not to hold any indoor exhibits or agricultural displays. Fair officials say in the best interest of the community's safety, the carnival portion is now canceled.

The fair hopes to return in 2021.

THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES

The Lee County Board of Education will discuss their reentry plan on Thursday. The public can access the meeting at 5 pm via YouTube at 5 p.m. Nash County Public Schools recently announced they will reopen under Plan C, remote learning, for the 2020-2021 school year.

Other school districts such as Johnston and Wake counties chose to reopen virtually and later transition to hybrid learning.

Former North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue and state education leaders will hold a virtual press briefing on Thursday at 10 a.m. to talk about how stimulus funding from Congress could address the state's digital divide and improve students' ability to join online classes during the pandemic and speed the economic recovery.

The North Carolina State Fair has been canceled for this year due to safety, financial and attendance challenges from COVID-19. State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler made the announcement Wednesday. The fair was first held in 1853 is one of the state's largest annual attractions, bringing in roughly 1 million visitors every October.

The fair was last canceled due to World War II. Troxler also cited the uncertainty of whether current mass gathering restrictions will be eased. Otherwise, Troxler says a survey of past fair ticket buyers suggested that this year's fair wouldn't be well attended.

Vice President Mike Pence says schools around the country will have the resources they need to reopen for in-person learning during a visit to a classroom of masked fourth graders at a North Carolina private school. Pence visited Thales Academy in Apex on Wednesday as part of a push to encourage more K-12 schools to reopen with in-person instruction.
Copyright © 2020 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.