North Carolina reports 994 COVID-19 hospitalizations, a record for the third day in a row

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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10 p.m.
Health officials are trying to offer more COVID-19 testing in minority communities and easing restrictions. As of Tuesday, North Carolinians no longer need a doctor's order for a test.

That doesn't mean it's any easier for most people to get in somewhere for swabbing. While some folks can afford to go to a doctor, others are struggling to secure an appointment.

READ MORE: As state eases COVID-19 testing restrictions, some still struggle to secure an appointment

8 p.m.
Four year-round schools within the Cumberland County School district will be following a traditional calendar starting with the 2020-21 school year on August 17.

At the same time, the Durham Public Schools (DPS) superintendent plans to recommend that year-round schools make the transition to the traditional calendar for the 2020-21 school year.

REEAD MORE HERE: Durham Public Schools superintendent to recommend year-round schools operate on traditional schedule; Cumberland County year-round schools delayed

7:15 p.m.
Durham health officials report a total of 4,277 COVID-19 cases, up 70 from Tuesday.

5:30 p.m.
You can apply for the WCPSS Virtual Academy starting this week.

The Wake County Board of Education approved a plan last week that would include options for students to return to school part-time and learn from home part-time.

The Board also approved another option, the WCPSS Virtual Academy, which will provide fully-online learning for students whose parents wish for them to remain home full-time.

Students must be enrolled in a WCPSS school in order to take part in the Virtual Academy.

The Virtual Academy will not be like remote learning from spring 2020. Students will be assigned teachers from their school or region. Attendance will be taken. Grades will be administered. Students will be expected to meet standards and master subjects.

Students will be able to participate in athletics and other co-curricular activities, once this is deemed safe in accordance with social-distance guidelines.

The application window for the WCPSS Virtual Academy is July 10-20, 2020. You may apply and find more information at www.wcpss.net/Virtual-Academy. Applications will be available beginning Friday, July 10.

5:02 p.m.
Wake County health officials report 187 new COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday night, raising the county total to 6,605.

4:10 p.m.
Since welcoming back student-athletes, coaches and athletic staff to campus on June 1, UNC has conducted 429 COVID-19 tests. Of those, 37 have tested positive.

As a precaution, the UNC football team will pause voluntary workouts for at least a week and will resume at a later date.

According to UNC, the Orange County Health Department identified a cluster, defined as five or more cases.

2:10 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department said 2,098 confirmed tests have been performed and there have been 365 positive cases of COVID-19, including four deaths.

1 p.m.
Wake County confirmed a COVID-19 outbreak has happened at long-term care facility in Raleigh.

An outbreak is defined by the health department as an area with two or more confirmed cases of the virus.

According to Wake County, there is an outbreak at The Oaks at Whitaker Glen-Mayview. Test results show that multiple staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

No further information was released about the number of cases or if residents have contracted the illness.

12:25 p.m.
The Sampson County Health Department is reporting 15 new cases, which brings the total to 1,149 positive cases of COVID-19 in the county. The county has had seven deaths.

Noon
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 994 people are currently hospitalized with the novel coronavirus, an increase of five people from Tuesday. That total set a record high in the state for the third consecutive day.

The state reported 1,435 new COVID-19 cases and 25,392 tests, a decrease in testing from the past week, but well above the state's goal to test between 5,000 and 7,000 people daily. According to the state's calculations, the most recent day of testing returned 10% of all tests as positive cases. NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen has previously said she would like to see that number drop to five percent.

To date, the state has seen 77,310 lab-confirmed cases and 1,441 deaths, an increase of 21 from Tuesday. There have now been 1,096,682 completed tests in the state.

Takeaway: 89% of hospitals are reporting so this number is likely higher. 20% of ICU beds and 24% of regular hospital beds are available.

Johns Hopkins University confirmed there have been 3 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

WEDNESDAY MORNING STORYLINES

North Carolinians will no longer need to get an order from their doctor to receive a coronavirus test. The state announced the change Tuesday in a move to boost testing in minority communities that are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

ReOpen NC, a group that advocated for the state to reopen businesses amid the pandemic, is calling for Gov. Roy Cooper to be impeached. The group is holding a rally Wednesday morning at 8:30 in downtown Raleigh.

The state's top health official, Mandy Cohen, warned that North Carolina lacks the chemical reagents it needs to conduct tests faster. This has caused the state to see delays of up to a week for residents to get back their COVID test results. North Carolina on Tuesday recorded its highest day of current coronavirus-related hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic.

A judge has ruled that dozens of North Carolina bowling alleys closed since March under Gov. Roy Cooper's COVID-19 order can reopen provided they meet sanitizing and social distancing rules. Judge James Gale granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday that would apply to 75 North Carolina establishments within a three-state industry association.

The North Carolina House addressed some COVID-19-related business left behind from two weeks ago on face mask use and alcohol beverage permit fees. The chamber voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for several bills as part of a return to Raleigh for the General Assembly this week.

The Senate also will take up business Wednesday, when the legislature is likely to attempt override votes on several of Gov. Roy Cooper's recent vetoes before going home until September. One bill that cleared the House but still needs Senate support would make permanent a health exception to the state's face mask ban that expires Aug. 1.

North Carolina's agriculture commissioner has announced that the 2020 Mountain State Fair has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The fair was scheduled to take place from Sept. 11-20 at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center in Fletcher.

Plus, Raleigh City Council said large city-sponsored events will not happen until at least Oct. 31.

TUESDAY
6 p.m.
Durham County health officials are reporting a total of 4,208 COVID-19 cases, up 35 since Monday. There have been 67 deaths county-wide.

5 p.m.
Wake County health officials are reporting 141 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 6,416. There have been 52 deaths county-wide.
2:45 p.m.
In a news conference, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced two initiatives intended to increase access to COVID-19 testing, particularly among Latinx and Black communities.

First, Cohen announced that North Carolina Chief Medical Officer Dr. Betsey Tilson issued an order that patients would not need to have a doctor's office or hospital referral in order to get a COVID-19 test. Currently, Cohen said, many testing locations require a previous doctor's visit. However, under the order--which Cohen said she believes would extend until the end of the medical emergency--anyone seeking a COVID-19 test will be able to get one without a prior screening.

Cohen said she hoped the order would allow the testing process to be streamlined--testing sites would be able to report directly to patients, rather than going through a doctor's office.

Additionally, Cohen also announced that 300 temporary free testing sites will pop up throughout July in 100 North Carolina zip codes with limited testing access. These sites--which Cohen said will be a combination of walk-up and drive-thru locations--are meant to increase testing access in historically marginalized communities who are disproportionately contracting and dying of COVID-19, including the Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities. The testing sites will be set up in churches and at non-profits throughout these communities.

"Combined, today's two actions make it easier for North Carolinians to get tested, and for trusted organizations in the community--such as churches and other civic engagement non-profits to provide testing," Cohen said. "And that's important because we know community engagement is one of our most effective strategies to help historically marginalized populations trust and access needed testing and care."

Cohen stressed that anyone at high risk for COVID-19--including historically marginalized communities, people who live or work in congregate care settings, first responders, migrant farm workers, and people who work in essential industries where social distiancing is difficult--should get tested for COVID-19. However, she added that health leaders are still concerned about a growing shortage of laboratory chemicals needed to process the diagnostic test, as well as increased turnaround times for these tests, which she said is approaching six to seven days.

Cohen said she has been asking for federal assistance for the state in getting more supplies for diagnostic tests.

"I'm concerned and I'm raising the alarm that we in North Carolina, our numbers are going up," Cohen said. "And yes, our numbers are not going up as much as others--and I'm very grateful for all the hard work North Carolinians have done to make that possible--but we still have a need here."

In addition to finding more supplies to complete diagnostic tests and shorten turnaround times once again, Cohen also advocated for the scientific community to continue to create rapid diagnostic tests that work more quickly, can be scaled up easily, and require different reagents than the current testing method.
"The time is now, and it is urgent," Cohen said.

2:30 p.m.
Dozens of North Carolina bowling alleys closed since March can reopen provided they meet sanitizing and social distancing rules, a state judge ruled on Tuesday in blocking part of Gov. Roy Cooper's COVID-19 executive orders shuttering them.

Judge James Gale granted a preliminary injunction that would apply to the 75 North Carolina bowling establishments within a three-state industry association. Lawyers for the state immediately asked Gale to delay the effective date of his decision while they appeal on Cooper's behalf.

The Bowling Proprietors Association of the Carolinas and Georgia sued last month. It said a state law Cooper was using to mandate business closings was unconstitutional, and that its members were treated differently than businesses with similar risk factors allowed to reopen.

Cooper has largely won in court during the pandemic against lawsuits filed by other business groups, seek similar reopenings.

The ruling says that the bowling alleys must limit the number of patrons allowed inside, patrons and workers must wear masks, at least one empty lane must be maintained between each group and patrons other than immediate family members cannot share a bowling ball.

Other guidelines include:
  • All bowling balls shall be removed from the lane concourse area after usage
  • When allowing a patron to choose a bowling ball for use, once touched by a patron, the ball shall be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before being allowed to be touched by another patron
  • All unnecessary touch points throughout the concourse shall be eliminated, and those that cannot be eliminated, included seating areas, will be wiped between use by groups and thoroughly cleaned and sanitized each twenty-four hour period
  • Hand sanitizer stations shall be made available throughout each establishment
  • Any employee shall have access to at least two safety classes which teach how to safely work and provide a safe environment for patrons
  • Social distancing throughout the venue shall be encouraged and enforced
  • All employees must answer a health questionnaire and have their temperature taken daily prior to working. Any employee showing symptoms or with a fever shall not be allowed to enter the establishment
  • Adequate precautions shall be taken to guard against the presence of any employee or patron known or reasonably believed either to be exhibiting symptoms of infection with the COVID-19 virus or to have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus within the preceding 14 days


Governor Roy Cooper responded to the order, asking the court for a stay until the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court of North Carolina may decide the appeal.

In the request, he argued that: based on advice of scientific and medical advisors, that allowing entertainment and fitness facilities, including bowling alleys, to reopen at this time of COVID-19, even with safety precautions offered, presents an immediate danger to public health and undermines the "dimmer switch" approach to re-opening of the State's economy currently in place.

In a statement, his spokesperson said: Hospitalizations and positive cases are reaching record highs while the Governor works to get schools open and prevent the state from going backward on restrictions. The Governor will immediately appeal this ruling that harms both of these efforts.

Nancy Schenk, who operates with her husband the B&B Bowling Lanes in Fayetteville, was pleased with the ruling. Schenk said she plans to reopen her lanes Wednesday morning with a half-dozen employees who have already received safety training. The couple was worried that, without revenues, the alleys started by her father more than 60 years ago would have to close for good.

"We have the square footage and the ability to social distance better than most of the business that have been allowed to reopen," said Schenk, an association leader.

Fewer than 20 bowling centers in North Carolina aren't association members, Schenk said, and thus aren't covered by the decision.

12:00 p.m.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported another record-high day of COVID-19 hospitalizations--989 people are currently hospitalized with the novel coronavirus, an increase of seven people from Monday.
The state reported 1,346 new COVID-19 cases and 12,854 tests, a decrease in testing from the past week, but well above the state's goal to test between 5,000 and 7,000 people daily. To date, 10% of tests are positive. NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen has previously said she would like to see that number drop to five percent.

With 89% of the state's hospitals reporting, 29% of North Carolina's inpatient beds and 25% of intensive care unit beds are available. The state still has a large supply of ventilators--73% are currently available.

9:30 a.m.
Wake County residents can get free COVID-19 tests at Wake County Commons next week. The county is offering drive-thru testing on July 13-14 and July 16-18.

7:15 a.m.

On Tuesday, Raleigh city council leaders will consider a recommendation from the city manager to cancel city-permitted special events through October.

City staff is concerned about large gatherings and rising COVID-19 cases. This would mean all events with more than 25 attendees--including festivals, road races, and parades--through at least Oct. 31 would be canceled.

The town said events with 25 people or less would be considered for permitting. This would not impact Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources or Raleigh Convention & Performing Arts Complex programs.

Staff presenting the proposal Tuesday say it is "imperative that we help slow the spread of the virus by limiting mass gatherings."

As for cancellations beyond Oct. 31, city leaders have until Sept. 1 to make that call. City leaders are also expected to discuss safety measures to implement at gatherings once larger events are allowed to return.

TUESDAY MORNING STORYLINES
Two Wake County summer camps are now reporting possible COVID-19 exposure.

A child who attended a camp at Northwest Cary YMCA last month tested positive for the virus. An email sent to parents Monday from the YMCA said the camper attended Camp Outer Limits from June 22 through June 26. The camper was part of the Galaxies and Super Novas huddles.

The YMCA said it planned to 'thoroughly disinfect' all areas the camp used.

Parents whose children attended that camp are encouraged to contact their doctors if their children present with any COVID-19 symptoms.

On Sunday, parents of children who attended the Raleigh Millbrook Exchange Camp were informed that a person at that camp had also tested positive for COVID-19.

Both of those camps had COVID-19 screenings and other precautions in place prior to the positive tests.
Copyright © 2020 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.