Coronavirus: Tracking North Carolina COVID-19 cases

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As COVID-19 continues to spread through North Carolina, ABC11 is breaking down the data behind the impact of the virus on the Tar Heel state.

Testing Numbers

To date, 659,840 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, have been reported in North Carolina.

As numbers continue to spike, the number of those who have died are climbing. And while a large percentage of patients had recovered from the virus in September and October, the rapidly increasing number of infections in November meant active cases began to outpace recoveries.

State labs are working with universities and private labs to test COVID-19 patients across the state.

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

While state health offiicials initially prioritized health care workers, first responders and those at high-risk for severe complications from COVID-19 for testing, North Carolina has since revised its testing guidelines as the state seeks to test between 5,000 and 7,000 people daily. Under the new guidelines, anyone showing COVID-19 symptoms or who has had exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 can be tested for the virus. State health officials recommend getting a test if you:

  • Have symptoms of COVID-19
  • Have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, regardless of symptoms
  • If you are at high risk for severe disease from COVID-19
  • :Live or work in a congregate living facility, such as a nursing home, assisted living facility, migrant farm worker camp, homeless shelter or prison
  • Are a health care worker or first responder
  • Work in an essential business where you have frequent contact with the public (i.e. grocery store employees)
  • Have attended a protest, rally or mass gathering
  • Plan to travel for the holidays to visit extended family or friends

Around the world, people older than 65 and those with underlying medical conditions--such as heart conditions, lung conditions, asthma and diabetes--are at greater risk of severe illness and death.

This is how North Carolina reports COVID-19 deaths

Across the country, epidemiologists noted that members of the Black community are dying from COVID-19 at a higher rate than people of other races. North Carolina is no exception.

In addition, members of the Latinx and Hispanic community account for about a quarter of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina, despite making up less than 10% of the state's population.

WATCH | The Racial Divide: How minorities are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in NC


On December 11, the US Food and Drug Administration authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. The vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech, needs to be kept at ultracold temperatures of -80C. North Carolina was allocated 89,800 doses in the first week, though the state expects many more doses to follow each week.

However, not everyone can get a vaccine to start. Health care workers that care for or clean areas occupied by COVID-19 patients are in the first round of vaccinations, followed shortly by staff and residents in long term care facilities. Dr. Anthony Fauci estimates the vaccine won't be available for the general public until late March or early April, at the soonest.

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Click here to see how many vaccine doses have been administered in North Carolina and where you can get your shot.

Hospital Response

As COVID-19 surges in North Carolina, hospitals are feeling the strain with fewer beds available each week. In several counties, hospitals are "highly impacted" by the volume of COVID-19 patients, according to a North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services report.

An ABC11 investigation showed that hospitals could run out of available beds if just 1.5 percent of the state population gets COVID-19.

And of course, available beds are not the only challenge hospitals are facing. After months of sustained efforts to source and obtain personal protective equipment from private companies, the federal stockpile and other organizations, the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management finally has enough of each type of necessary equipment to last for at least 30 days.

But health officials are worried that those supplies could dwindle as COVID-19 continues to spike across the nation.

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


According to national data updated Thursday, 965,000 people sought unemployment aid across the US last week. North Carolina is not immune to the economic crisis. As of January 13, 1,408,056 people had filed for unemployment benefits in the state, according to a news release from the Department of Employment Security, with 3,189,527 total claims filed. The state has paid more than $9.2 billion in unemployment assistance.

RESOURCE LIST: Financial information during the COVID-19 pandemic

Social Distancing

While North Carolinians seemed to follow Gov. Roy Cooper's Stay-at-Home order and similar county orders in late March and early April, by mid-April--weeks before the order was lifted--data showed North Carolinians starting to get antsy. Eight months later, those numbers have almost returned to normal.

According to anonymized cellphone location data, in the days following the order, North Carolinians drastically reduced their movement. By March 30, the average North Carolinian had reduced the distance they traveled each day by 68 percent since the outbreak began. In Durham County, residents were traveling just 0.06 miles each day.

However, anonymous cellphone location data analyzed by Safegraph shows that the percentage of North Carolinians staying at home started to peak in mid-April. By April 24, residents began to leave home more often. The changed behavior aligns with the time President Donald Trump began talking about reopening the country more often and Gov. Roy Cooper laid out his phased plan to reopen the state's economy.

By mid-June, mobility data from Google shows North Carolinians began venturing out to retail and restaurant locations more often than they did at the start of the pandemic, but less often than in the weeks before the pandemic began. That movement more or less stabilized over the next few months, even as COVID-19 cases began to creep back up in October and spike in November.

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