NC reports highest increase in COVID-19 cases in 2 weeks as percentage of positive tests climbs to 8%

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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8:52 p.m.
After seeing an increase in on-campus cases, UNC-Chapel Hill announced that it will begin COVID-19 testing at three of its residence halls on Friday: Ehringhaus, Hinton James and Granville Towers. The testing will last until Sunday.

The university will also extend its suspension of all athletic-related activities through Friday. The suspension was originally set to expire Thursday at 5 p.m.
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The university will also extend its suspension of all athletic-related activities through Friday. The suspension was originally set to expire Thursday at 5 p.m.



7:12 p.m.
Durham County reports 45 additional cases of COVID-19, raising the county total to 6,557.

7:10 p.m.
UNC-Chapel Hill health officials report 528 total COVID-19 cases on campus as of Thursday evening, up 91 from Wednesday. All of them were students.

Out of the 2,620 total tests completed since February, 279 (10.6 percent) have tested positive for the virus.

6:47 p.m.
NC State has identified two additional clusters of COVID-19 cases; one at a fraternity house and another connected to two homes near the campus.

The first was identified at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house in Greek Village, where there are currently seven positive cases.

The second cluster is connected to two homes near Park and Bagwell Avenues, the homes currently have five positives cases between them.

A "cluster" is defined as five or more cases that are deemed close proximity in location, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

All students who tested positive have since been isolated and are being quarantined.

5;02 p.m.
Wake County health officials report 13,313 total COVID-19 cases as of Thursday evening, up 176 from Wednesday.

3:30 p.m.
North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson announced the school will move all undergraduate classes online on Monday, Aug. 24.

Read more about his announcement here.

2 p.m.
At least 21 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Wake County Detention Center on Hammond Road, according to a news release from the Wake County Sheriff's Office.

WCSO said many of the inmates who tested positive were asymptomatic and all were detained in the same pod. Inmates who tested positive have been quarantined in single cells, WCSO said, and those who are waiting for test results are in single cells until they test negative.

"The Wake County Sheriff's Office's detention center medical staff continues to work with Wake County health officials to reduce increased exposure within the facility," said Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker in a written statement. "At the onset of this pandemic, our staff has put protocols in place to prevent exposure to both, our employees and residents. We will continue to progressively prevent further exposure of the virus."

1:30 p.m.
At least 41 more students have tested positive for COVID-19 at North Carolina State University since Wednesday.

According to the university's dashboard, 95 students and two employees have tested positive since August 10, when classes began.

Currently, 403 students, faculty members and staff are in quarantine or isolation off campus, and 39 of the school's on-campus isolation units are being used.

12:30 p.m.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,972 new COVID-19 cases, the highest single-day increase since August 6 when the state reported 1,979 new cases. However, the 7-day rolling average of new cases continues to decline from previous weeks.

To date, 8% of tests are positive--the highest rate since July 23. Since then, the percentage of positive cases has remained steady at 6-7%.
Currently, 1,023 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, with 92% of hospitals reporting. Across the state, 511 intensive care unit beds and 5,528 inpatient beds are currently available.

THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES

New COVID-19 clusters have been identified at N.C. State University, where in-person classes are still going on. Two clusters are in the Greek Village with another at an off-campus residence on Clark Avenue. NCSU has about 170 isolation rooms for students who test positive. Around 40 of those rooms are currently occupied.

Seven cases at NCSU were identified at the Alpha Delta Pi sorority house and six were identified at the Kappa Delta house.

NCSU's troubles come after UNC-Chapel Hill has drawn national attention for multiple COVID-19 clusters. UNC has suspended undergraduate in-person instruction and shifted to remote learning.
UNC-Chapel Hill announced that it will be suspending athletic activities for all sports teams until 5 p.m. on Thursday due to an "upward trend" in on-campus COVID-19 cases. UNC Wilmington students returned to classes on Wednesday with an extra emphasis on social distancing. UNCW is reporting seven cases of COVID-19.

The U.S. has more than 5,529,933 cases of the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

WEDNESDAY
7:43 p.m.
Durham County health officials report 6,512 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday night, up 35 from Tuesday.

5:03 p.m.
Wake County health surpassed 13,000 total confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday evening.

Health officials report 136 additional cases, raising the county total to 13,062.

5:25 p.m.
Two additional COVID-19 clusters have been identified on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus; one at the Morrison residence hall, the other at the Zeta Psi fraternity house.

A cluster is defined as five or more cases that are deemed close proximity in location, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

"The individuals in these clusters have been identified and are isolating and receiving medical monitoring. We have also notified the Orange County Health Department and are working with them to identify additional potential exposures," the university wrote in a campus alert.

5:20 p.m.
North Carolina State University announced two COVID-19 clusters at two sorority houses within the school's Greek Village.

According to a news release from NCSU, seven cases were identified at the Alpha Delta Pi sorority house and six were identified at the Kappa Delta house.

The university said all students of both houses are being quarantined, and any student who tests postive will be isolated.

5:10 p.m.
UNC-Chapel Hill announced that it will be suspending athletic activities for all sports teams until 5 p.m. on Thursday due to an "upward trend" in on-campus COVID-19 cases.

"After consulting with our health experts and University leadership, we are taking this action to protect our students, coaches and staff,'' Carolina Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham wrote in a statement. "We want to make sure we continue to do everything we can to ensure that that our teams, campus and community remain healthy.''

The campus will also be closing recreation facilities.

3 p.m.

In a news conference, Gov. Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced state officials are pushing for more free testing events and locations as fewer North Carolinians seek COVID-19 tests.
"Cost should not prevent people from getting a test," Cooper said.

Cohen also announced a new partnership with StarMed Urgent Care and Family Care, a North Carolina company launching free testing sites in Forsyth, Guilford, Iredell, Mecklenburg, Onslow, Orange and Randolph counties.
"We anticipate continuing to expand our testing partners in the weeks ahead," Cohen added.

In addition, as students and teachers return to classrooms, Cohen announced that teachers and school staff members could call the Hope For Healers helpline, previously only available to health care and child care workers, for mental health resources. The helpline number is 919-226-2002.

Both Cohen and Cooper also urged North Carolina's universities to follow the lessons of UNC-Chapel Hill and emphasize enforcement of prevention measures on campus, particularly face coverings and limits on gatherings.

"Protection of students and faculty has to be the number one priority," Cooper said. "We want learning to be productive, but we want it to be safe."

Cohen said her office provided guidelines to universities about how and when to open dorms and classrooms, but universities were put in charge of creating their own policies and plans. However, she and Cooper both said the Department of Health and Human Services would work with any schools seeking additional help in implementing preventative measures on campus.

Cooper said if necessary, an executive order mandating strict enforcement of social distancing guidelines on college campuses is a possibility, though he and other officials are currently working closely with universities to help them come up with a plan to protect students and faculty.

Overall, Cohen and Cooper noted that North Carolina's key metrics are stabilizing and starting to decline, but the good news is a sign that North Carolinians need to keep up their prevention efforts.

"While we're encouraged by the numbers, just remember this is because many North Carolinians are doing the right thing, taking the right precautions and making the right decisions," Cooper said.

1:15 p.m.
North Carolina reported 1,153 more COVID-19 cases--a smaller increase than yesterday. However, the state also reported at least 26,323 completed tests--more than double the numbers for both Tuesday and Monday and more in line with reported numbers from previous weeks. To date, 7% of tests are positive.

At least 35 more people died following severe complications from COVID-19, bringing the state death toll to 2,431.

Currently, 1,001 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in North Carolina with 91% of hospitals reporting. Across the state, 580 intensive care unit beds and 5,744 inpatient beds are available.

1 p.m.
Sampson County health officials are reporting eight new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 1,755 cases county-wide with 21 deaths.
12:15 p.m.
The technical issues with NCEdCloud have been fixed and the service is available to all users again.

11 a.m.
Technical issues for NCEdCloud, the system used to access PowerSchool and Canvas, are being reported across the state. Some staff and students are struggling to log in. System representatives said they're working to resolve the problem.



WEDNESDAY MORNING STORYLINES

Colleges and Universities in North Carolina are struggling with controlling the coronavirus among their student bodies.

The all-virtual learning slate at UNC begins Wednesday, just days after the school year began with hopes of having in-person instruction. Duke is investigating seven instances of what they describe as 'flagrant misconduct and persistent non-compliance" of COVID-19 rules. In Raleigh, NC State identified a cluster of COVID-19 cases at an off-campus residence.

At UNC, all undergraduate in-person instruction is shifting to remote learning.

Appalachian State University has identified a cluster of 11 (7 students and 4 staff) active COVID-19 cases linked to the university's football team. Multiple clusters have been reported in Chapel Hill, forcing UNC to take action weeks after students moved in.

Gov. Roy Cooper and the state's coronavirus task force team will speak Wednesday at 2 p.m. ABC11 will carry the briefing on-air and online at abc11.com.
Copyright © 2020 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.