NC reports highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases since start of pandemic

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

What can we help you with? View our COVID-19 information and resources page here

4:30 p.m.
Durham Public Schools has developed a Plan B Recommendation that will be presented to the school board on November 19. Parts of this COVID-19 plan are in place now and preparations are underway for when our students can return to in-person learning in January or later if necessary.

Plan B recommends that students Pre-K through 5th grade attend in-person learning two days a week. The students will be placed in a cohort group - Cohort A will attend Mondays and Tuesdays and Cohort B will attend Thursdays and Fridays. Pre-K through 12 Self-Contained (DHH/VI) students will attend face to face learning four days per week with a modified schedule to increase to a full day of in-person learning. Optional academies for 6th and 9th grade students would begin on February 15.

For students who wish to remain in remote learning, the district is going to launch Ignite! Online Academy. DPS is developing a COVID-19 dashboard to share information with our community, operational support, teachers, and staff should there be a positive case or potential exposure within a school or facility.

12:15 p.m.
3,885 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Saturday. That would mark the highest single-day increase in new cases since the start of the pandemic. However, on Friday, NCDHHS modified the time that the data was pulled for the dashboards. As a result, there was a one-time artificial decrease in the number of tests, cases and deaths on Friday because the data only covered 10 hours as opposed to the standard 24 hours.

It's unclear if Saturday's numbers were impacted by the reporting change. ABC11 has reached out to the NCDHHS for clarification.

Gov. Roy Cooper on Saturday tweeted: "COVID-19 is surging across the country and today in North Carolina we have our highest daily case count at 3,885 new cases. We can slow the spread if we do what we know works - wear a mask and keep social distance."

The percentage positive in the state is 7.9 percent -- that's above the health department's goal of 5 percent.

1,425 are currently hospitalized in the state with COVID-19. Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its criteria for reporting COVID-19 hospitalizations, the state must now report all patients hospitalized with COVID-19, not just those under isolation.

In the past 24 hours, 316 people suspected of having COVID-19 were admitted to hospitals in the state. 118 people with confirmed cases were admitted.

Since the start of the pandemic, 4,756 people in North Carolina have died from the virus.

SATURDAY MORNING HEADLINES
The 27610 zip code, which stretches from east to southeast Raleigh and down into parts of Garner, has the highest COVID-19 numbers in the state. Local health experts believe this to be a result of the number of low-income essential workers living in the area.

"We know that a lot of the minorities in our communities don't have the option to work from home, so they're having to work and be exposed more often," said Kelly Wright at Advance Community Health, a southeast Raleigh-based community health center dedicated to serving patients no matter their income. "So we think maybe that's the reason cases are skewing high because of essential care that people need."

READ THE FULL STORY HERE: Southeast Raleigh zip code leading the state in COVID-19 cases

As the holidays approach, local experts continue to emphasize that families get a COVID-19 test or avoid gatherings this year. Previous holidays like the Fourth of July and Halloween have meant a large increase in cases.

Also on Friday, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced that the agency will begin making two updates to its dashboard with the latest COVID-19 metrics.

5 p.m.
Beginning in January 2021, some Cumberland County Schools students will return to the classroom for in-person learning. Contingent upon positive COVID-19 metrics, Cumberland County Schools will transition to Plan B (Blended-Remote and In-Person Learning) following a staggered entry approach beginning January 7, 2021, for traditional calendar schools and January 11, 2021, for year-round schools.

Pending positive COVID-19 metrics, CCS will transition to Plan A (Traditional Face-to-Face Learning with Minimal Social Distancing) for K-5 students beginning February 1, 2021.

The county's board of education voted 6-3 in favor of the proposal on Friday.

During Friday's special meeting, Cumberland County School officials shared their results from a survey they made available to parents earlier in the week.

In it, 13,644 people responded: 60.2% shared they felt comfortable returning to a blended in-person option, while another 39.8% expressed that they were uncomfortable with the notion.

"We are excited about the possibility of welcoming all our children back to school for in-person learning," said Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr.

Staff will report to work on January 4, with high school teachers and staff involved in testing reporting to work beginning December 11.

3 p.m.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has announced new measures aimed at combatting the spread of coronavirus in the commonwealth

  • All public and private in-person gatherings must be limited to 25 individuals, down from the current cap of 250 people. This includes outdoor and indoor settings.
  • Expansion of mask mandate to all Virginians aged five and over, down from 10 years and older
  • Tightened retail requirements for physical distances, face coverings and cleaning, now enforceable as a Class One misdemeanor.
  • On-site alcohol curfew: The on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol is prohibited after 10:00 p.m. in any restaurant, dining establishment, food court, brewery, microbrewery, distillery, winery, or tasting room.


2:30 p.m.
On Friday, NC State announced plans to significantly increase testing and expand surveillance programs. After winter break, NC State will require proof of a negative COVID-19 test for returning students, faculty and staff. In addition, the school will expand ongoing testing for students living in residence halls, on-campus apartments and Greek Village, and for other students who regularly use campus facilities.

NC State's Student Health Services will continue to provide free COVID-19 testing for all students (symptomatic or asymptomatic) who request a test.

Read more about the plan here.

2 p.m.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced that the agency would make two updates to its dashboard, affecting the numbers of cases, tests, hospitalizations and deaths reported Friday. Because the agency changed the time at which it pulls data for dashboards, data was only observed over a 10-hour period instead of 24 hours, meaning the number of cases, deaths and tests reported Friday was lower than normal. Additionally, because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its criteria for reporting COVID-19 hospitalizations, the state must now report all patients hospitalized with COVID-19, not just those under isolation.

Even with the artificial decline in positive tests, North Carolina reported 1,779 new COVID-19 cases--more than the state recorded Monday. The state also reported 35,184 completed tests and 14 more deaths.

The percentage of positive tests remains high at 8%.

Under the new reporting system, 1,423 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in North Carolina. In the past 24 hours, 288 suspected COVID-19 patients have been admitted to hospitals state wide.

FRIDAY MORNING STORYLINES

North Carolina health officials are worried about a rapid spike in COVID-19 cases, and they are especially concerned for the rural communities that have seen the bulk of the surge. White patients under the age of 49 have accounted for the majority of new cases.

Nearly twice as many new cases have been reported in rural counties since the beginning of September. COVID-19-related deaths have also been significantly higher in rural counties.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen explained that that increase was likely because those communities were largely spared during the first wave of the virus. It's believed some of the state's citizens are letting their guard down at events such as gatherings at churches and social events.

At 5 p.m., Gov. Roy Cooper's newest executive order will go into effect, increasing restrictions on indoor gatherings. As of this evening, indoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people, though outdoor gatherings can be as large as 50 people.

You should see significant changes to the COVID-19 hospitalization, death and testing numbers starting Friday, due to changes coming to the COVID-19 reporting dashboard.

One change is due to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revising the criteria for reporting COVID-19 hospitalizations. Another is happening because the state is changing the time data is uploaded into the system.

The new reporting criteria means we can expect to see a jump in the number of hospitalizations and a one-time artificial decrease in testing, new cases and deaths.

The state reported 2,893 more people with positive tests on Wednesday for a total of 303,454 people since the pandemic began in March. The statewide test positivity rate for Wednesday was 7.9%.

THURSDAY
4 p.m.
Wake County Schools announced the following changes in social distancing expectations for elementary school and guidance about going home sick:
Changes in social distancing expectations for elementary school
On Monday, November 16, the first cohort of grades 4 and 5 will return to campus, along with all K-3 and regional program students. On this date, the number of students in K-3 classroom will increase. All schools will continue to social distance whenever possible, but K-3 classrooms are not expected to maintain six feet of space between desks or students if space does not allow. All students should continue to stay apart from other students, employees, and visitors, to maintain as much social distancing as possible.

Did a student go home sick? All household members must also go home.
Effective immediately, if a WCPSS student or employee does not pass the health screening or if they stay home or are sent home because they are experiencing a symptom of illness, their household members must also stay home. This means that any WCPSS student or employee living in the same house must quarantine for 14 days. The household members may return sooner than 14 days if the person experiencing a symptom of illness receives confirmation of an alternate diagnosis or a negative PCR/Molecular test.

2:10 p.m.
NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen called the recent uptick in COVID-19 metrics "troubling" during her Thursday briefing.

"Yesterday, we hit a troubling milestone. For the first time there were more than 3,000 COVID-19 cases reported here in North Carolina. That is not a number I hoped we would see," Cohen said.

She reminded everybody that with colder weather and holidays coming up, people will likely be spending more time inside. That could be a recipe for even more spread of COVID-19.

"None of what I said today is insurmountable," Cohen said. "We have had more time to learn about this devastating virus and study after study shows that three things can help (wearing a mask, waiting more than 6 feet apart, and washing your hands)."

Cohen said the largest increase in cases is being seen in rural communities among white people under the age of 49.

Cohen explained that that increase was likely because those communities were largely spared during the first wave of the virus and because folks are letting down their guard--especially at social and religious gatherings.

Hospitals in rural communities often do not have the same capacity and capability to handle major upticks in patients. Because of that, Cohen said it is vitally important all North Carolinians take precautions and follow the three Ws--wear a mask, wait at least six feet apart, and wash your hands.

With colleges soon dismissing students for the holidays, NCDHHS is sending 75,000 COVID-19 testing kits to public and private schools across the state.

Those tests are designed to supplement the schools' already existing testing capabilities. The schools and the state health department suggest all students get tested before heading back home for the holidays.

A positive takeaway from Cohen's briefing came when she was asked about infections at schools. Many schools in North Carolina have allowed some students back in the classrooms for several weeks now, and that return has not coincided with a large increase in COVID-19 cases.

"Our schools are not driving our infections," Cohen explained. "What we see as driving our infections is when people are not following the three Ws. Often that can be in informal gatherings, religious gatherings."
During her briefing, Cohen also talked about changes that would be coming to the state's dashboard Friday.

Everybody can expect to see an increase in hospitalizations and a decrease in cases Friday. That's because of changes to how the data is being reported, not actual changes from the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously only required hospitalizations be reported for the first 21 days a patient was in the hospital. That requirement is changing Friday, so patients currently in the hospital for COVID-19 for more than 21 days will be added back to the current count in North Carolina.

In addition, the state is changing the time when data is uploaded to it's system. So Friday's cases numbers will only reflect a 10-hour period. That means the single-day cases will likely be much lower than previous days.

1:45 p.m.
With college and university students two weeks away from Thanksgiving break and the end of the fall semester, North Carolina is sending campuses across the state nearly 75,000 additional rapid COVID-19 tests to monitor students for active infections before they go home for the holidays or celebrate with people outside their school-year household.

Additionally, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is standing up community testing events near college and university campuses in Guilford, Harnett, New Hanover, Mecklenburg and Pitt counties for students who need to get a test before the end of the semester.

"Getting COVID-19 tests to college campuses is one way we can prevent more viral spread across the state as students go home," Gov. Roy Cooper said in a written statement. "However, wearing a mask and maintaining social distance continue to be our strongest weapons against this virus as we approach the winter holidays."

NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen added that a negative test is not a free pass--especially because rapid tests have a higher rate of false negatives. Anyone who receives a negative test should still wear a face covering and stay socially distant from others.

NCDHHS recommends anyone planning to travel over the holiday season get a COVID-19 screening test three or four days before they leave.

12:30 p.m.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 2,893 new COVID-19 cases, 220 cases fewer than yesterday's record high, but still the third highest daily increase since the pandemic began.

The continued spike in new cases was accompanied by 39,181 more completed tests, an increase from the past two days. However, the percentage of positive tests remains high at 7.9%--among the highest level in the past month.

Currently, 1,279 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, the third day in a row that hospitalizations have remained above 1,200.

THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES

Dr. Michael Osterholm, a member of projected president-elect Joe Biden's advisory board, has discussed implementing a four-to-six week economic lockdown with a government package compensating workers and small to mid-size companies for lost wages.

"We could pay for a package right now to cover all of the wages, lost wages for individual workers, for losses to small companies, to medium-sized companies or city, state, county governments. We could do all of that," Osterholm said in an interview with Yahoo Finance.

Osterholm is an infectious disease expert and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Public health officials warn that the U.S. could be entering the worst stretch yet for COVID-19 as winter sets in and the holiday season approaches, increasing the risk of rapid transmission as Americans travel, shop and celebrate with loved ones.

"The next two months are going to be rough, difficult ones," said Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious disease specialist and department chairman at the Yale School of Public Health. "We could see another 100,000 deaths by January."
Biden has pledged to make testing free and widely available, to hire thousands of health workers to help implement contact-tracing programs and to instruct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide clear, expert advice.

North Carolina is coming off its highest single day increase in COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. Plus, the state's percent positive number ticked up to 7.9%--significantly above the state's 5% goal.

At least eight college football games initially scheduled for this weekend, including LSU/Alabama and Texas A&M/Tennessee, are postponed

WEDNESDAY
1:40 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper took to Twitter to release a statement about the uptick in COVID-19 cases.



Cooper said high case count is one of several metrics the state looks at when determining what steps to take. He said that's why he decided the state would remain in Phase 3 of his reopening plan but also reduce the number of people allowed at indoor gatherings.

11:55 a.m.
North Carolina health officials are reporting the single-highest day increase in COVID-19 cases. The state is reporting an increase of 3,119 cases. North Carolina has now reported a total of 300,561 COVID-19 cases since March.

"This is not the milestone we want to be hitting, particularly as we head into holidays where people want to come together. I am asking North Carolinians to do what they do best, look out for each other. Wear a mask. Wait six feet apart. Wash your hands often. We've had more time to learn about this devastating virus and study after study shows that these three simple actions can help keep our family, friends and neighbors from getting sick," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.

With 97 percent of hospitals reporting, hospitalizations are up 16 to 1,246 and the percent of positive tests climbed to 7.9%.

There have been 38 more deaths, bringing the total to 4,698 statewide.

NCDHHS reported 29,886 new tests were completed.
WEDNESDAY MORNING STORYLINES

North Carolina will not reopen the economy further as coronavirus cases rise and a higher percentage of COVID tests are coming back positive.

The Tar Heel state is 30th in the nation in new cases, according to a new report from the White House. The report shows North Carolina is reporting between 101 and 199 new cases per 100,000 people. The state's test positivity rate is ranked 32nd in the country, and the state is ranked 21st in deaths.

In anticipation of the Thanksgiving holiday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that indoor gathering limits will be tightened from 25 people to 10 people in what's being called an extension of Phase 3 of the state's reopening plan. Cooper also ruled out any consideration for a position in Democratic President-elect Joe Biden's administration.

Cooper praised state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen amid speculation she could be a top contender for a cabinet-level position. Cohen did not say whether that is something she would be interested in pursuing.

The World Health Organization finds itself both under intense pressure to reform and holding out hope that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will reverse a decision by Washington to leave the health agency. With its annual meeting underway this week, WHO has been sharply criticized for not taking a stronger and more vocal role in handling the pandemic.
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