North Carolina COVID-19 cases jump 571 to 8,623; 20 more deaths reported

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

SATURDAY

6:45 p.m.
One more Durham County resident has died from COVID-19 related complications. This marks the eleventh death in the county.

Durham officials said the person was over the age of 65 and had multiple underlying health conditions, putting them at high risk for severe illness from the virus.

Since Friday, five new people have tested positive for COVID-19, raising the county total to 546.

The Durham County Department of Public Health continues to monitor COVID-19 outbreaks at three long-term care facilities:
  • 111 cases at Durham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
  • 43 at Treyburn Rehabilitation Center
  • 4 at Durham VA Health Care System Community Nursing Home


5:35 p.m.
The Cumberland County Health Department reports 200 total positive cases of COVID-19 within the county. Since Friday, the county has seen an 11 case increase.

2:45 p.m.
Halifax County health officials said there are 53 COVID-19 cases including one death. 24 of these cases have recovered.

2 p.m.
The death toll for coronavirus infections has topped 200,000 worldwide according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

1 p.m.
Wake County officials said there are 651 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths.

11 a.m.

North Carolina health officials reported 8,623 cases of COVID-19 in 95 counties, up 571 from Friday. There have been 289 deaths, up 20 from Friday.

456 of the cases are currently hospitalized. 105,265 tests have been completed.

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

As of Saturday morning, data from Johns Hopkins University shows the total number of coronavirus cases in the United States is over 905,000.



RELATED: One of the world's largest suppliers says this is reason behind the toilet paper shortage

FRIDAY

6:50 p.m.
Eleven more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Wake County, raising the county total to 642.

Wake County Department of Health reports 13 people have died from COVID-19 related complications.

6:40 p.m.
One Durham County resident has died from COVID-19 related complications, raising the total number of deaths to 10, according to the Durham County Department of Public Health.

Health officials said the person was over the age of 65-years-old and had multiple underlying health conditions.

Durham County health officials reported an increase of 41 new cases of COVID-19 raising the total number of cases in the county to 541.

The DCoDPH said it is continuing to respond to COVID-19 outbreaks at three Durham long-term care facilities. As of now, the following COVID-19 case totals have been confirmed for all residents and staff at the facilities:
  • 111 at Durham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
  • 41 at Treyburn Rehabilitation Center
  • 4 at Durham VA Healthcare System Community Nursing Home


5:05 p.m.
Cumberland County reported 16 more COVID-19 cases, bringing the county total to 189.

"Health department staff continue to work diligently to conduct case investigations for each positive case in Cumberland County. Contact tracing is a key public health strategy to identify and notify close contacts of positive cases so they can be quarantined," said Health Director Dr. Jennifer Green in a written statement.

5:00 p.m.
Three more residents at the Louisburg Nursing Center in Franklin County have died from complications related to the novel coronavirus, county health officials said.

Out of 61 residents at the nursing home, 53 have tested positive for COVID-19 and 14 have died from the virus. Nine residents are in the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms.

4:00 p.m.
Lee County health officials confirmed 12 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the county total to 92. Of those cases, seven have resumed their normal daily activities.

This is why North Carolina does not report coronavirus recoveries

3:15 p.m.
The Halifax County Department of health is monitoring three additional cases of COVID-19, raising the county total to 47.

According to officials, of those 47 positive results, 1 person has died from COVID-19 related complications. 24 of the positive cases have recovered.

3:05 p.m.
In a joint statement, the Durham City and County announced Friday that they plan to lift some restrictions placed on business while extending its stay-at-home order until May 15.

"Thanks to the efforts of the Durham community we are flattening the curve, slowing the spread of the virus and not overwhelming our healthcare system," Durham board of County Commissioners Chair Wendy Jacobs said in a news release. "But we must continue to stay the course as our numbers of positive cases continue to rise."

During the extended period, businesses in Durham will be able to offer delivery or curbside pick-up as long as they follow safety precautions such as social distancing. The extension comes a day after North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper extended the state's stay-at-home order until May 8.

Like the state, Durham City and County plans to monitor the metrics of testing, tracing and trends to guide how the county and city will plan to reopen.

In the meantime, the extended order has set new guidelines that encourage safety precautions such as social distancing, sanitation requirements as well as health screenings for businesses:
1. Employers shall conduct basic health screenings at the beginning of every employee's shift, which shall include:
a) Discussion about any shortness of breath, coughing, or sore throat;
b) Employers are strongly encouraged, to the extent they are able, to also take the temperature of each employee.

If an employee exhibits any of the listed symptoms or has a temperature above 100.4 degrees, the employer should provide the employee with a face mask, and the employee will be required to leave the workplace.

Additionally, the order provides "safety precautions applicable to all activities" by realtors during the extended period:
1. Anyone entering a home pursuant to this section must wear a mask and gloves and must not touch surfaces inside the home to the greatest extent possible. Lights must be turned on and interior doors opened prior to entry. Hand sanitizer or sanitized wipes must be provided to anyone entering a home before and after entering a home; and
2. Anyone entering a home pursuant to this section must assert that to the best of their knowledge, they are not currently ill with a cold or flu, do not have a fever, persistent cough, shortness of breath, or exhibit other COVID-19 symptoms; and have not been in contact with a person with COVID-19, and will adhere to and follow all precautions required for entering the property at all times.

3 p.m.
A Moore County deputy tested positive for COVID-19 late Thursday night.

Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said the Sheriff's Office is working with the Moore County Health Department to notify anyone who has been in contact with the deputy.

2 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced at a media briefing that North Carolina's schools will not reopen this school year.

"Today, we've had to make another tough choice. Together with Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson and School Board Chairman Eric Davis, we decided to continue remote learning for the rest of the school year for our K-12 public schools," Cooper said.

With remote learning set to continue through the end of this school year, Cooper announced that the state had entered into partnerships with AT&T and Duke Energy Foundation to provide 100 and 80 wi-fi hotspots, respectively, to school buses.

Cooper said these hotspots will help students who do not have home internet access.

Looking ahead, the governor said the jury was still out on summer school and summer camps.

"The opening of schools in the summer and fall and the availability of summer camps are going to depend on meeting health guidelines that will be established later," Cooper said.

He added, "I have every confidence that we will find a way to get schools open safely in the new school year."

10:45 a.m.
There were 444 more coronavirus cases confirmed in North Carolina by the state's Department of Health and Human Services. The new figures showed an additional 16 deaths to bring the total to 269.

There have now been 8,052 cases in the state across 93 counties.

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



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

10:40 a.m.
Wake County Public School System is prepared to continue remote learning with students "for as long as needed."

Superintendent Kathy Moore said the district believes it's critical to offer remote learning opportunities to all students.

"It's beneficial but should not be a cause of undue strain (to families)," she said.

Moore said the district was awaiting Gov. Roy Cooper's Friday announcement about the next steps for public schools in the state. Cooper is scheduled to speak at 2 p.m.; ABC11 will carry the news conference live on ABC11.com.

Moore also went over the district's grading policy for this year. The policy falls right in line with what North Carolina Department of Public Instruction recommended--full details can be found here.

According to the policy, students in grades 9-11 can request numerical grades. However, it's unclear at this time how those grades will be calculated.

"State education officials have promised additional guidance on this topic--and posted an FAQ just today. Once that information is received an processed we will provide more details about how grades will be handled in Wake County," Moore said.

10:30 a.m.
733,917 unemployment claims have been filed in North Carolina since March 15, according to the state. 628,244 were related to job losses from COVID-19.

Self-employed workers and independent contractors can file for unemployment starting Friday.

9:10 a.m.
The state confirms an inmate at Neuse Correctional Institution has died from pre-existing conditions complicated by COVID-19. This marks the second coronavirus-related death in the North Carolina prison system.

On Wednesday, it was confirmed an offender at Pender Correctional Institution died at the hospital from COVID-19.

Currently, there are 465 inmates that have tested positive for COVID-19 at Neuse Correctional.

All healthy offenders have been separated from those who have tested positive in order to stop the further spread of the virus at the facility, according to Wayne County officials. While they may be contagious, around 98 percent of the offenders who have tested positive at the prison have shown no symptoms.

"This situation is concerning but not a cause for panic," said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons. "We are working in conjunction with our great partners in Wayne County and with the excellent team at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. We have quarantine and isolation protocols in place, operating in keeping with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. And we have dispatched reinforcements for the staff at Neuse Correctional. The security and medical teams are providing top-notch service in the face of the what are likely some of the most challenging times in their professional lives. They are the unsung heroes of North Carolina's law enforcement community."

FRIDAY MORNING STORYLINES

On Thursday, Gov. Roy Cooper extended the North Carolina stay-at-home order until May 8--the order was initially set to expire on April 29. Cooper also announced a three-phase plan to reopen the state.

Cooper feels that before the order can be lifted, there needs to be a sustained decrease in cases, testing needs to be increased by double the current level and the state needs adequate personal protective equipment.

On Friday, Wake County school leaders believe Cooper will announce a delayed opening or cancellation of classes through the school year. The Wake County School Board is scheduled to meet virtually at 10 a.m., and Cooper will give his plan for the state's public schools at 2 p.m.

Self-employed workers in North Carolina can now apply for unemployment. Independent contractors and self-employed workers who lost jobs due to COVID-19 can apply for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance starting Friday. Those interested can apply at des.nc.gov.

On Thursday, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction recommended new grading policies for students. Under the recommendations, no students would receive a failing grade for the spring semester.

Many students would also be able to determine if they wanted their numerical grade to count, or if they wanted the class to be judge as pass/withdrawal. Click here for specifics about the NCDPI's recommendations, but know that NCDPI recommendations are not official unless approved by the North Carolina Board of Education.

SEE ALSO: WCPSS seniors to be graded pass/fail for semester, decision not yet made for other students

As for COVID-19, the state is reporting 7,608 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 253 deaths. Although the state's medical experts say those numbers are surely lower than the reality.

A $484 billion stimulus package is heading to President Trump's desk that includes $310 billion to replenish the tapped-out loan program for small businesses. The bill comes as 26 million people have filed for unemployment since mid-March.

THURSDAY UPDATES
7:10 p.m.
Durham County Department of Health reports two additional COVID-19 related deaths, raising the county total to nine. Officials said both residents were over the age of 65 and had underlying health conditions.

In the meantime, 500 Durham County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, a 31 case increase since Wednesday night.

6:55 p.m.
Wake County reported 633 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 11 deaths across the county. The average age of COVID-19 patients in the county is 49 years old.

6:40 p.m.
Orange County extended its stay-at-home order through May 8, the same day Gov. Roy Cooper's order is set to expire.

"We are monitoring the stats for Orange County and the state daily, and when the data indicates it is safe for us to ease these restrictions, we will do so," said Orange County Board of Commissioners Chair Penny Rich in a written statement.

6:30 p.m.
Cumberland County health officials reported an increase of 19 COVID-19 cases since Wednesday, bringing the county total to 173 cases.

In order to reduce the spread of the virus, county departments, including the Department of Public Health, will be closed Friday.

5:40 p.m.
Alamance County has reported its first COVID-19 related death. The patient, who was older than 65 and had underlying medical issues, had been hospitalized.

"We are deeply saddened by this news and our hearts are with their precious family who have lost someone they love and cherish. This loss affects our entire community," said Health Director Stacie Saunders. "It is so important that each of us take steps to protect ourselves and others to prevent the spread of this virus, especially to our most vulnerable populations. We urge the community to continue to practice social distancing and the recommended general precautions in order to protect themselves, their loved ones, and our neighbors."

5:20 p.m.
Sixteen additional cases were reported in Lee County, raising the overall number of cases to 80.

Of those 80 cases, the Lee County Health Department continues to monitor 73 of them. Seven of which have returned to normal activities.

4:10 p.m.
In agreement with Gov. Cooper's stay-at-home order extension, the Mayor of Fayetteville has extended the citywide curfew until May 8. Curfew hours remain the same.

4:10 p.m.
The Harnett County Health Department is monitoring a COVID-19 outbreak at a long-term care facility after 50 residents and staff tested positive.

According to the health department, 45 of those residents and 5 employees tested positive for COVID-19.

The county has since seen 113 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 48 of those have since recovered. Five have died.

3:25 p.m.
Gov. Cooper announced that North Carolina's Stay-at-Home order will be extended by eight days.

Cooper's initial order, which went into effect March 30, was set to expire on April 29. The new order will expire on May 8.

More information here.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen outlined the trends surrounding COVID-19 in North Carolina, including what needs to happen for the state to reopen.

First, Cohen explained that the number of COVID-like syndromic cases has been decreasing for the past 14 days. However, the number of laboratory-confirmed cases is still increasing, albeit more slowly than at the start of the outbreak.

"We want to see a decrease or a sustained leveling of cases," Cohen said, explaining that there may not be a peak of cases in North Carolina, but the number of cases reported daily may level out, and that sustained leveling would allow North Carolina to begin to reopen.

Additionally, Cohen said the percentage of positive tests has been leveling, if not decreasing slightly, but health officials would like to see that number decrease significantly over the next 14 days.

"A lot of positive signs, but we're not there yet," Cohen said.

Cohen also said the number of people in the hospital has stayed relatively level since the start of the outbreak.

"We would love to see this trend downward, but leveling is a good sign," Cohen said. "We know we aren't seeing an upward trend in hospitalizations."

WATCH: DHHS Secretary Cohen explains trends surrounding COVID-19 outbreak in North Carolina
EMBED More News Videos



Cohen laid out plans to increase the state's testing capacity from 2,500-3,000 tests per day to 5,000-7,000 tests per day, as seen over the past two days.

Cohen also said the department would double the number of contact tracers employed to identify close contacts of infected individuals. The state currently has 250 tracers and hopes to increase that number to 500.

In addition, Cohen said the state would continue to get personal protective equipment-particularly surgical gowns and N95 masks-so the state has enough to supply health care workers, nursing home staff, prison staff and first responders with equipment for 30 days.

2:30 p.m.
Halifax County reports four more positive cases of COVID-19, raising the county total to 44. One person has died from COVID-19 related struggles.

Twenty-two residents have since recovered from the virus, according to the Halifax County Health Department.

1:10 p.m.
Eight more COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Wake County, and one more person has died of the virus.

The update brings Wake County up to 630 confirmed cases and 11 deaths.

Those numbers were reported after the state health department update its website to show at least 7,608 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 253 deaths attributed to the virus.

12:30 p.m.
North Carolina independent contractors and self-employed workers out of work because of COVID-19 can start applying for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance beginning Friday, April 24, DES announced. Read more about how to apply here.

State health director talks reopening economy, COVID-19 testing
EMBED More News Videos

Dr. Betsey Tilson answers COVID-19 questions for ABC11.



11:00 a.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 388 more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 7,608 cases. At least 253 deaths have been reported statewide.

This is how North Carolina reports COVID-19 deaths

As North Carolina emphasizes testing as a major pillar of Gov. Roy Cooper's plan to reopen the state, public and private laboratories have completed at least 96,185 tests, an increase of nearly 6,000 tests from the previous day.

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

At least 1,133 reported cases were in nursing homes from 40 ongoing outbreaks, nearly 1 out of every 6 cases. At least 95 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19.

While the majority of laboratory-confirmed cases are in people between the ages of 25 and 49, the majority of those who have died from complications related to the disease are 65 years and older. Additionally, though roughly the same number of men and women have tested positive for the virus, more men have died from COVID-19.

CORONAVIRUS MAP: Tracking COVID-19 across North Carolina

10:05 a.m.
More than 14,000 more people filed for unemployment in North Carolina on April 22.

The state's Division of Employment Security said that brings the total of unemployment claims to 719,452 since COVID-19 layoffs began on March 15. The group said 617,422 of the unemployment claims are directly related to COVID-19.

'I'm desperately in need of help:' Some in North Carolina still haven't been able to get unemployment benefits

So far, the state has only paid 281,050 people--that's less than 40 percent of those who have filed.

The division is overwhelmed, since it previously only handled a few thousand claims per week. State leaders are working to increase the divisions capability to handle and service all of the unemployment claims.

SEE ALSO: NC Unemployment FAQs

9:15 a.m.
To reopen or remain closed: That is the question on everybody's mind as stay-at-home orders across the country begin coming to their initial expiration dates.

Thousands of ABC11 viewers have responded to unofficial online polls asking if they think the state is ready to reopen. The overwhelming response has been against reopening.

That response is in line with national polls that show 80 percent of Americans believe stay-at-home orders are working and should continue, at least for a little while longer.

Gov. Roy Cooper is slated to speak at 3 p.m. Sources tell ABC11 that Cooper will talk about his plan for reopening the state.

State Health Director Dr. Betsey Tilson, one of Cooper's advisors, said nobody wants to reopen the state more than Cooper. She said he continues to look at trends in the state's COVID-19 cases, fatalities, hospitalizations, etc. to determine the safest course for North Carolina.

WATCH: State health director talks reopening economy, COVID-19 testing

8:40 a.m.
More than 4.4 million applied for unemployment benefits last week, as more than 26 million have applied for aid since the coronavirus pandemic began forcing American businesses to close.

In North Carolina, more than 700,000 have filed unemployment claims since March 15.

THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES
North Carolina reported its first coronavirus death within a prison. The inmate was housed at the Pender Correctional Institution in Burgaw. The facility is one of 12 in the state reporting outbreaks.

Fayetteville's city-wide curfew is expected to be rescinded on April 29, the same date the state's stay-at-home order expires. Councilman Johnny Dawkins wrote a letter to Mayor Mitch Colvin, highlighting the need to remove the curfew.

In Durham County, a resident older than 65 has died of COVID-19, marking the seventh death in the county.

Wake and Mecklenburg counties account for more than 25 percent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state. ABC11 broke down the numbers from each county to see how the virus is affecting each area differently.

Gov. Roy Cooper will speak at 3 p.m. today to share a plan for reopening the state's economy. On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters huddled around the General Assembly to rally for businesses to reopen. North Carolina has requested $280 million worth of personal protective equipment.

The U.S. House is expected to pass a fourth spending bill for nearly $500 billion to refuel the Payroll Protection Program and help small businesses, hospitals and struggling workers. President Trump's Task Force plans to speak at 5 p.m. ABC11 will carry Cooper and Trump's briefings on-air and online.

SEE ALSO: CDC head warns 2nd wave of COVID-19 could be worse; Birx isn't sure

WEDNESDAY
10 p.m.
Facing a growing chorus of complaints from business owners and stir-crazy North Carolina families, Governor Roy Cooper is expected Thursday to unveil his plan to begin easing the stay-at-home restrictions put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.

In an interview on ABC 11 Eyewitness News at 5:30, the state's health director, Dr. Betsey Tilson said the governor's reopen plan would be guided by the data.

READ MORE: State health director talks reopening economy, COVID-19 testing

"The governor is always saying we want to be looking at our trends: our cases, our hospitalizations, our deaths -- looking at all our trends to let us know when we think it may be safe to be able to start reopening the economy. Nobody more than governor wants to reopen the economy," Tilson said.

It's not just ReOpen NC demonstrators pressuring the governor. The top Republican in the state senate, Phil Berger sent a letter to Cooper, signed by every member of the GOP leadership, demanding answers on what the governor's reopen plan is; when the plan would be released; and seeking more detailed statistics on the infection and death rates.

And Republican State House Rep. Jake Johnson from western North Carolina penned a separate letter to Cooper expressing his support for "returning decision-making authority back to the counties once the current stay-at-home order expires at the end of April."

At Wednesday's state briefing, the governor's Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Mandy Cohen, said a regional reopening of the state's economy may be reasonable -- but not a county by county strategy.

"I think making decisions at the county level is incredibly challenging given how people move through the county. The virus certainly doesn't respect county borders," Cohen said.

To illustrate her point about the potential for spread if every county had the power to decide on its own when to reopen, Dr. Cohen pointed to data showing the workforce that comes in and out of Charlotte every day travels from 32 different counties. It's one more factor that will inform Governor Cooper's reopen plan that he's expected to roll out Thursday at 3 pm.

9:15 p.m.
A Durham County resident over the age of 65, with multiple underlying health conditions, has died; marking the seventh death for the county.

The Durham County Department of Public Health (DCoDPH) has also seen an increase of 30 COVID-19 cases, raising the county total to 469.

The DCoDPH said it is continuing to respond to COVID-19 outbreaks at three Durham long-term care facilities. As of now, the following COVID-19 case totals have been confirmed for all residents and staff at the facilities:
  • 91 at Durham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
  • 20 at Treyburn Rehabilitation Center
  • 4 at Durham VA Healthcare System Community Nursing Home


6:30 p.m.
Cumberland County reported 154 COVID-19 cases, an increase of 21 cases since Tuesday and the largest daily jump since the county reported its first cases.

"As local providers and labs increase their capacity for testing and decrease the turnaround time for results, it is not surprising to see a jump in the number of cases," said Health Director Dr. Jennifer Green in a written statement.

Cumberland County officials said hospitalized patients, health care workers, first responders, patients who live in or have regular contact with congregate settings or people at high risk of severe illness can call 910-433-3655 or 910-433-3645 for an assessment to be tested at the Health Deaprtment.

Lee County also reported 16 new COVID-19 cases for a total of 64 cases in the county, 57 of which are being monitored by local health officials.

"I recognize that the increase in reported numbers today may cause some alarm in the community," said Health Director Heath Cain in a written statement. "While our first case was reported at just over a month ago on March 20th, our community has seen a significant increase in cases over the past two weeks as we climbed from 4 confirmed cases on April 8th to 64 confirmed cases today. While the department is not able to provide additional details, I want to stress that the health and well-being of our community is the department's priority. Remember, COVID-19 is widespread in the community. This is not a case of knowing where the virus is and avoiding those places to avoid getting sick; the virus is everywhere, there are no safe spots and anytime you leave your home, you risk infection. If you must leave your home for essential work or activities, be smart - complete your tasks quickly and return home. When you are out, wear your face masks, maintain social distancing, and practice good hygiene. These are difficult times but we will get through this together."

Halifax County also reported one more COVID-19 case in the county. Of 231 tests reported to county officials, 40 have been positive and 10 are still awaiting results.

2:00 p.m.
In a news conference, North Carolina Director of Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry addressed the state's shortage of personal protective equipment, reporting that the state has requested $280 million in protective equipment but has only received a little more than five percent of what has been ordered.

"Many vendors do not have stock immediately available," Sprayberry said. The state most needs surgical gowns, N95 masks and procedure masks, according to Sprayberry.

While the state has received a substantial percentage of the equipment it requested from the National Strategic Stockpile, private vendors are slowly filling additional requests.

"Yesterday was one of the highest requests for PPE to date," Sprayberry said, citing 76 requests from hospitals, individual medical providers, first responders, nursing homes and other groups. In addition, Sprayberry said his team has received 161 requests from local law enforcement and fire departments.

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, Sprayberry said his team has received 6,399 requests for resources--primarily personal protective equipment--and 3,833 of those requests have been filled.

Sprayberry encouraged vendors who sell personal protective equipment to visit the state's website and input their company's information.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen also said two workgroups--one that represents large gatherings and another that represents the business community--are meeting to discuss how to reopen North Carolina's economy while keeping its residents safe.

Cohen said the groups are communicating about how to optimize social distancing and combat misinformation about the virus while taking into account the economic realiites many venues and businesses face.

"They're going to help us navigate through this very uncertain time," Cohen said.

Cohen also addressed the idea of reopening the state county by county, saying the approach would be challenging because not everyone lives in the county whre they work.

"This virus certainly doesn't respect county borders," Cohen said.

She said any decisions about reopening North Carolina will be made on a state level, though health officials may look at individual regions.

Additionally, Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee stressed his team is working to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus within prisons.

"The health and safety of our staff and the men and women in our custody are of the utmost importance to us," Ishee said.

When asked about the outbreak at Neuse Correctional Institution, Ishee said nearly all of the offenders who have tested positive are asymptomatic.

Ishee said while all correctional facility staff across the state will be tested for COVID-19, inmates will continue to be tested as an individualized decision.

1:40 p.m.
The Durham County Sheriff's Office confirmed six employees tested positive for COVID-19 and are now at home.

All inmates have been tested and are negative for the virus, officials said.

11:50 a.m.
The first coronavirus death of a North Carolina state inmate was reported Wednesday.

An inmate at Pender Correctional Institution died at the hospital on April 21. The offender first had symptoms on April 8, received a positive test on April 10 and was hospitalized on April 13.

The man was in his late 50s and had underlying health conditions that were complicated by COVID-19.

"Any death is a tragedy, and we must continue our efforts to do all we can to try and flatten the curve of COVID-19 in Prisons," said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons. "The health and safety of the staff and the men and women in our custody is of paramount importance."

11:45 a.m.
GoDurham is limiting the number of bus passengers to 16 in order to maintain social distancing.

Once 16 people are on the bus, the operator may change the sign to "Bus Full" to alert riders on the street to wait for the next bus.

11 a.m.
Twenty-nine additional coronavirus deaths in North Carolina have brought the total to 242 since the state's first death was reported on March 25.

There are now more than 7,000 cases of COVID-19 in the state. There are 434 people hospitalized across 93 counties. More than 90,000 tests have been administered.

Here's why you might see different case counts depending on where you look.



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

9:35 a.m.
The number of unemployment claims surpassed 700,000 in North Carolina according to the state's division of employment security.

From March 15 through Tuesday, there were 705,339 claims filed with 606,081 claims filed because of COVID-19. The highest one-day total came on March 20 when 34,706 claims were filed. More than 15,000 claims were filed on Tuesday.

9:15 a.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services received a $2 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to support the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grant will support the department's efforts to aid people with mental health issues and substance use disorder as it relates to the COVID-19 crisis.

The money is part of a program that's awarded $110 million to states.

7 a.m.
North Carolina-based LabCorp says it's expanding serological testing for COVID-19 to more hospitals and healthcare organizations.

The serological tests are in addition to the company's existing molecular test for COVID-19, and to healthcare workers and emergency responders through its Pixel at-home test kit. The at-home kit gained FDA authorization on Tuesday.

WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES

Hundreds of protesters called for the reopening of North Carolina on Tuesday. Gov. Roy Cooper said he will make an announcement this week about whether he plans to extend the stay-at-home order set to expire next week.

"We are working to ease restrictions in a responsible way, in a staged way," Cooper said. "We understand that we can't stay at home forever and this is not something that is sustainable long term. But what we have to do is ease back into it to make sure that this virus does not spike, which it very easily could do."

He'll also announce plans for public schools, currently closed through May 15.

North Carolina first responders, nursing home workers feeling the effects of PPE shortages, officials say

The Wayne County Board of Commissioners wrote Gov. Cooper a letter, asking Cooper to consider the economic consequences before extending any restrictions. The letter reads, "The restrictions that are in place right now have caused an unprecedented disruption among our businesses and will have dramatic effects on our economy for years to come."

Tuesday's COVID-19 update from state Department of Health and Human Services was grim as 34 deaths were reported, the highest single-day total for North Carolina. Two workers at a Smithfield Foods plant in Tar Heel tested positive for coronavirus.

In Cumberland County, the school district has temporarily closed its drive-thru food distribution site at Douglas Byrd Middle School after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. The site will shut down for 14 days while other sites will stay open.

Raeford Farms is scheduled to hold another surplus chicken sale on Wednesday morning at the State Fairgrounds. Previous sales at the State Farmers Market and Knightdale High School drew huge crowds and this one will likely be no different.

The Graybeard Distillery in Durham is selling hand sanitizer to the public through their website. Customers who have already purchased sanitizer can pick up sanitizer Wednesday starting at 9 a.m.

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

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he will be placing a 60-day pause on the issuance of certain immigration green cards in an effort to limit competition for jobs in a U.S. economy wrecked by the coronavirus. Trump said that the move would not impact those in the country on a temporary basis and would apply only to those looking for green cards in hopes of staying.

TUESDAY
7 p.m.
Cumberland County Schools is closing the meal site at Douglas Byrd Middle School for 14 days after a person who worked at the site tested positive for COVID-19.

Cumberland County health officials said they are tracing any close contacts of the patient and will alert anyone who was within a 6-foot radius of the patient for more than 10 minutes.

Cumberland County Schools said the worker was wearing gloves and a face mask during food distribution, and the risk of exposure to anyone who came through the drive-thru line is low because close contact was limited.

School officials said all staff and volunteers are wearing face masks, keeping six feet of separation when possible, not leaning into families' cars when delivering food, washing their hands, minimizing contact with cars and doorknobs, providing pre-wrapped utensils and disinfecting common surfaces regularly.

"I am grateful to all of our Child Nutrition staff and volunteers for working hard to provide meals for our students," said CCS Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr. in a written statement. "Our thoughts are with the individual, and we are hopeful for a full recovery. We will continue to follow the guidance of local health officials and take the necessary precautions to keep our staff, volunteers and families safe."

All other meal sites will continue to operate.

6:40 p.m.
Durham County now has 439 COVID-19 cases.

The Durham County Department of Public Health has also confirmed two COVID-19-related deaths, for a total of six COVID-19-related deaths confirmed within the county to date.

The residents were younger than 65 years old and had multiple underlying health conditions.

The Durham County Department of Public Health said it is continuing to respond to COVID-19 outbreaks at three Durham long-term care facilities. As of now, the following COVID-19 case totals have been confirmed for all residents and staff at the facilities:
  • 91 at Durham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
  • 20 at Treyburn Rehabilitation Center
  • 4 at Durham VA Healthcare System Community Nursing Home


6 p.m.
As North Carolina reports more than 200 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 deaths, state health officials on Tuesday explained how they report that statistic each day.

In a news conference, Department of Health and Human Services Director Dr. Mandy Cohen said COVID-19 deaths are determined by medical examiners.

Health officials said deaths are reported to the state in two ways: through laboratory-confirmed cases reported by hospitals and through death certificates.

In a written statement, a representative for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said laboratory-confirmed deaths are reported by hospitals and physicians to local and state health departments, usually within hours or days of a patient's death. These deaths only include patients who previously tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, and who died without fully recovering from the disease.

More information here.

4:50 p.m.
Lee County confirmed three more cases of COVID-19. There are 41 active cases, seven previous cases have resumed normal activities. There are no confirmed deaths in the county at this time.

4:10 p.m.
Johnston County reported 119 confirmed cases in total as of 4 p.m.

There are eight people hospitalized, and 101 are recovering at home.

Ten people have died in Johnnston County, and all of them were 65 or older.

4 p.m.
Halifax County officials said three more COVID-19 cases bring the county total up to 39. 20 of the 39 cases are recovered.

2:30 p.m.
During a news conference, Gov. Roy Cooper said he will make an announcement this week about whether he plans to extend the stay-at-home order set to expire next week.

"We are working to ease restrictions in a responsible way, in a staged way," Cooper said. "We understand that we can't stay at home forever and this is not something that is sustainable long term. But what we have to do is ease back into it to make sure that this virus does not spike, which it very easily could do."

Cooper also announced new budget proposals for federal money designated to North Carolina, saying the funds will be allocated to public health and safety, schools and other core state government services, and small businesses and assistance for local governments.

During the news conference, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the testing task force is working to increase access to COVID-19 testing in communities of color--stressing the disproportionate numbers of members of the black and African American community who have COVID-19 or have died from COVID-19.

"These disturbing trends are not going unnoticed by me or my team," Cohen said.



Director of Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry emphasized the state's continued mission to acquire personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and first responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When asked by ABC11's Andrea Blanford about the status of the personal protective equipment shortage, Cooper said some hospitals and medical systems have enough equipment, others may not. In addition, Sprayberry and Cooper both stressed that first responders do not have the equipment they need to safely respond to emergencies. Cohen also said nursing homes are requesting protective equipment in large numbers as outbreaks arise in assisted living facilities across the state.

2 p.m.
Cooper announced on Tuesday that he signed an executive order that allows furloughed workers whose employers have paid them a severance or furlough payment to receive unemployment benefits.

Impacted by coronavirus? Here's how to file for unemployment in North Carolina

Cooper said he is working with legislators to try to codify the order into law next week when the General Assembly returns.

12:45 p.m.
As fewer people hit the roads in North Carolina, the Department of Transportation is dealing with a $300 million budget shortage for the fiscal year ending June 30.

In a news release, the department said NCDOT revenue is funded through the Motor Fuels Tax, Highway Use Tax and DMV fees-all of which have dropped.

NCDOT said 50 major projects scheduled to start over the next 12 months have been delayed.

The changes do not affect construction projects currently underway.

In addition, NCDOT said the department is allowing critical purchases only, laying off temporary workers and consultants, suspending or decreasing programs and services, and implementing a hiring freeze except for public safety positions.

NCDOT said it is developing plans for potential furloughs, but no decision has been made at this time to enact them.
11:30 a.m.
Approximately 300 people gathered outside North Carolina General Assembly to protest the safety precautions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 in North Carolina.

ReOpen NC is the group behind the protest. They came out for the second time in the last couple weeks to show support for reopening businesses in the state.

10:55 a.m.
North Carolina reports 34 more people have died of COVID-19, bringing the total death toll of the virus up to 213. That is the largest single-day increase in fatalities so far in the state.

The first death in North Carolina was reported on March 25, meaning COVID-19 is to blame for 213 deaths in 27 days.

The state health department said 6,951 people have tested positive for the virus. Many more are expected to have had the virus and recovered without getting tested.

As of Tuesday morning, 427 people remained in the hospital receiving treatment for the virus.

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

10 a.m.
The state's division of employment security reports that 689,424 unemployment claims have been filed between March 15 and April 20. 593,235 of those claims were related to job loss due to COVID-19.

8 a.m.
LabCorp has received authoritization from the Food and Drug Administration for a COVID-19 At-Home Test Kit.

The kit allows for patients to take a nasal swab sample for testing.

Patients can get the kit if it's recommended by a healthcare provider after completing a COVID-19 questionnaire. LabCorp received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA to issue the kits. The EUA permits nasal swab specimens to be collected at home using LabCorp's "Pixel" kit.

Initially, the test will be available for medical employees with symptoms. It will become available to others in the coming weeks.

TUESDAY HEADLINES
Raleigh City Council is looking into ways to help small businesses that are struggling during the pandemic. Today, city leaders will meet to talk about the small business assistance program. Raleigh will contribute $1 million to the Carolina Small Business fund and Wake Technical Community College, who each have loan programs. The hope is for the program to become a community benefit fund that encourages the public to donate.

The "Reopen NC" group is pushing Gov. Roy Cooper to get the state's economy moving again and a crowd is expected to gather in front of the Governor's mansion for a protest Tuesday. The group believes the economic fallout from the order outweighs the health hazards that experts say it is successfully helping stem. .

Gov. Cooper briefed Vice President Mike Pence on the state's response to the virus. Cooper said "North Carolina has 14 labs able to test for COVID-19, but to continue increasing our testing numbers, we need help from the federal government getting more testing supplies and personal protective equipment." Cooper will provide an update at 2 p.m. on ABC11 and ABC11.com.

Duke University Hospital confirmed an employee tested positive for COVID-19. The hospital is reaching out to potentially affected patients and staff.

Wake County is reporting 605 cases and eight deaths from COVID-19. Durham County reported its fourth death and 435 cases.

Harris Teeter is now requiring masks or other face coverings for its employees working at its stores, distribution centers and facilities. Shoppers are encouraged to cover their faces.

The coronavirus has killed more than 168,000 people worldwide, according to ABC News. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows that more than 2.4 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
The United States now has more than 787,000 diagnosed cases and at least 42,094 deaths.
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