Wake County suspends high school sports, extracurricular activities indefinitely

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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7:10 p.m.
High school sports in Wake County have been suspended indefinitely, the county public school system said, citing a rise in COVID-19 cases and extensive precautions that would be required.

The decision comes after a subcommittee of Wake County athletic and education officials monitored the rise in COVID-19 trends in both Wake County and the state.

"Due to a rise in COVID-19 cases and the extensive precautions that would be required to resume practices, we have determined that it is not prudent to resume athletic and co-curricular activities at this time, nor for the foreseeable future," WCPSS said in a written statement.

The suspension includes voluntary workouts, practices, band activities and extracurriculars (teacher-sponsored clubs/organizations, ROTC and national honor societies).

The subcommittee plans to revisit the suspension later this month after state officials make recommendations for school reopening.

7:20 p.m.
An NC lawmaker confirmed that his fellow colleague Republican Sen. Danny E. Britt Jr. tested positive for COVID-19.

Britt represents District 13 which includes both Columbus and Robeson County.

5 p.m.
Wake County health officials identified COVID-19 outbreaks at three care facilities in Raleigh.

According to a news release, two residents and staff tested positive at Universal Healthcare located at 5201 Clark Fork Drive. Two staff tested positive at the Raleigh Rehabilitation Center located at 616 Wade Ave. One resident and staff member tested positive at Wake Assisted Living located at 2800 Kidd Road.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services defines an outbreak as two or more people-- residents or employees-- testing positive for the virus.

WATCH: Here are the latest COVID-19 trends in the state from Dr. Mandy Cohen
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She said North Carolina has 'reason to be concerned' and needs to 'stay vigilant.'



4:38 p.m.
The Wayne County Health Department has received notification of 1,971 total positive cases of COVID-19. Of those, 93 cases are attributed to congregate living facilities and 1,426 are cases from outside any type of congregate facility. A total of 1,714 of cases are of people who have recovered, leaving an estimated total of 227 active cases.

There was one additional death this week. The person died July 3 and was in their late 60s with underlying medical conditions. This death was not attributed to a congregate care facility. The total number of COVID-19 related deaths in Wayne County is 30.

2:32 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department said 2,374 confirmed tests have been performed on residents. There are 390 positive cases , including four deaths.

12:50 p.m.
A Republican in the North Carolina General Assembly has tested positive for COVID-19.

Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said the lawmaker who tested positive has not been in Raleigh.

"Prior to coming to Raleigh this week, the member took a test in his district and it came back negative. At that time, he didn't have any symptoms but wanted to be proactive before coming to the General Assembly. Because his spouse was scheduled for a medical procedure, he took a second test on Thursday to be certain. He was not symptomatic when he took the second test. He is staying home and feels well," Berger said in a statement.

12:35 p.m.
Ticket sales for Raleigh's Holiday Express will be postponed, according to a news release from the City of Raleigh.

The sales were originally scheduled to begin July 28, but the city cited uncertainty around COVID-19 and large gathering guidelines in its announcement.

Updates on ticket sales and the Holiday Express event will be shared online here and on Raleigh Parks' social media pages.

12:10 p.m.
For the fifth straight day, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported a record high number of people hospitalized with COVID-19--1,046 patients, with 92% of hospitals reporting.

The new record comes as the state reports 18 deaths and 1,982 new COVID-19 cases--the third highest increase since the pandemic began. The state saw its second highest increase in cases Thursday, with 2,039 new cases reported.

NCDHHS reported 22,399 tests completed since Friday, with 10% of tests positive. Though the number of positive tests has remained roughly level between 8 and 10%, DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said Thursday she would like to see this number fall to 5%.

Though hospitalizations have steadily increased since Monday, 22% of inpatient beds and 22% of intensive care unit beds are still available statewide. However, Cohen said Thursday that increased hospitalizations in certain areas of the state, like Charlotte, are concerning to her and other health leaders.

11:15 a.m.
North Carolina moved up one spot in the ranking of states by the number of completed COVID-19 tests per million residents.

Our state now ranks 27th after having tested 106,961 people per million residents (ppm). At the start of the pandemic, our state was testing just 44,651 ppm.

How our neighbors are doing:
  • Virginia -- 39th; 88,270 ppm
  • South Carolina -- 37th; 90,074 ppm
  • Tennessee -- 12th; 142,435 ppm
  • Georgia -- 33rd; 96,014 ppm


New York is testing the most per million residents with 229,676.

9: 30 a.m.

Volunteers will be passing out meal boxes in Durham at Lakewood Shopping Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for free. The boxes will be given out in the parking lot along Shoppers Street. Pre-registration is required.

FRIDAY MORNING STORYLINES

A North Carolina county has set a cutoff for restaurant dining and alcohol sales in hopes of limiting the spread of COVID-19. Officials in Orange County announced Thursday that restaurants and private clubs will be closed for onsite consumption of food and beverages at 10 p.m. beginning Friday.

The county also said restaurants may continue drive-through, delivery, and pick-up services after 10 p.m. as long as there is no onsite consumption of food and beverages. Penny Rich, chairman of the Orange County Commissioners, said the county's COVID-19 cases have tripled since Memorial Day, and the measures enacted will help protect the community.

Free drive-thru COVID-19 testing is being offered in Garner at Avery Street Recreation Center on Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. No appointment is needed. The tests are offered through a partnership with the North Carolina Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Gov. Roy Cooper will make an announcement on reopening schools next week. State officials said they are making their reopening decision based on the best ways to protect students, teachers and school staff.

"It's going to be something that follows the law," Cooper said. "It's going to be something that gets our kids back into school safely. I believe that kind of getting back into school is going to require some in-person but also some remote learning."

Yesterday the state reported a new high in current COVID-19 hospitalizations: 1,034 people. Thursday also saw an increase of more than 2,000 cases in the state. A new set of numbers will be made public Friday around noon.

THURSDAY
5:45 p.m.
The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association voted to suspend all National Collegiate Athletic Association sports for Fall 2020.

In a news release, the agency said the decision was due to rising COVID-19 concerns in many states where schools participate in NCAA athletics.

"This was a difficult decision but remains consistent with our long-standing priority of always acting in the best interest of our student-athletes, coaches, and support staff," said CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams in a written statement. "While there will be no athletic competition in the fall, we will continue to support opportunities that enhance the experiences of our student-athletes, member institutions, and partners."

The CIAA and the Athletic Directors Association will discuss the possibility of allowing football, volleyball and cross country teams compete in spring 2021 on a modified schedule.

Students on fall sports teams will still have their athletic scholarships honored, CIAA said.

5:03 p.m.
Wake County health officials report a total of 6,826 COVID-19 cases within the county as of Thursday evening, up 178 from Wednesday.

4 p.m.
Chatham County said it has more than 1,000 positive cases and 43 deaths from COVID-19. The county health department said this highlights the need for continued vigilance as the novel coronavirus continues to spread.

3:45 p.m.
According to a news release, Orange County will no longer allow restaurants and private clubs to serve food or alcohol onsite past 10 p.m. or earlier than 5 a.m, starting Friday. However, restaurants can offer food via drive through, delivery or takeout after 10 p.m.

In addition, alcoholic beverages cannot be sold in the county between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. That includes restaurants, breweries, wine shops, bars, and other businesses that sell alcohol for consumption on-site.
Restaurants and other businesses also cannot allow customers to stand at bars, and can't allow customers to touch shared surfaces such as bar counters, pool tables, dart boards and pinball machines.

"Cases in Orange County have tripled since Memorial Day," Penny Rich, Chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, said in a written statement. "These additional measures will help protect our community by reducing group settings where the virus can easily spread. We must be vigilant in practicing physical distancing and wearing masks. It is more important than ever that we look out for each other."

WATCH: Governor Cooper's opening remarks from his Thursday press briefing
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2:30 p.m.
Officials of Durham County and the City of Durham announced an update to the Safer-At- Home Order. The amendment will go into effect at 5 p.m.

One of the major changes to the order requires businesses to post signage advising people of the need to wear a mask. Specifically the Order reads, "All businesses shall have prominently displayed at their entrance a sign, clearly legible at a distance of at least fifteen (15) feet, advising those who enter of the requirement to wear a face covering while on their premises."

The definition of mass gatherings now will align with what is contained in the Governor's Executive Orders: a limit of 10 persons for indoor gatherings and 25 for outdoors.

Employer screenings noted in the order will now include the additional COVID-19 symptoms identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Order maintains Durham's more stringent mask requirements which state "persons in the City and County of Durham are required to wear a clean face covering any time they are, or will be, in contact with other people who are not household members in public or private spaces where it is not possible to maintain social distance."

2 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday that he would have an announcement about the next phase of North Carolina's COVID-19 response as well as an update for public schools sometime next week.

"We want our children back in schools safely," Cooper said. "We will have an official announcement next week.

When asked multiple questions about his plan to safely reopen schools, Cooper and DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said they wre taking into account the best ways to protect teachers, students and school employees when reopening classrooms.

"This is a tough call--how to open up school is something that every single state and every single governor is struggling with," Cooper said.

Both Cooper and Cohen acknowledged that while North Carolina isn't seeing a surge in cases--as some other states are--they recognize that could change very quickly and overwhelm the state's hospitals. Cohen said, in particular, state officials are keeping eyes on the Charlotte area, where hospitalizations are ticking up quickly.

"Flattening the curve is not a one-time thing," Cohen said. "It takes constant effort and attention to keep things flat."

Cohen detailed how North Carolina was progressing on its key metrics--COVID-like syndromic emergency room visits, trajectory of confirmed cases, percent positive tests, and trajectory of hospitalizations. And unfortunately, as in the last few weeks, Cohen said she was concerned about the direction these trends were headed.

As an early indicator for COVID-19 cases, Cohen said we should be concerned that COVID-like emergency room visits continue to climb, as they have been for the last few weeks.

Additionally, as the number of new cases rise, the number of tests performed each day--though relatively high--is leveling off due to the national testing delays and shortages of laboratory equipment. To that end, though the percent of positive tests has remained roughly level between eight and 10%, Cohen said she would like this number to drop signficantly to 5%.

Cohen also said hopsitalizations are a lagging indicator, so though hospitals still have capacity, increased cases and increased emergency room visits could mean that hospitals will become overwhelmed soon. While Cohen said there is no need to set up field hospitals or take other actions now, she said health leaders are continuing to assess hospital capacity.
Cooper's current executive order, which sets guidelines and regulations known as the state's Phase 2 response, is scheduled to end July 17. Cooper said he would have an announcement about the ending or extension of that executive order next week as well.

In the meantime, both Cohen and Cooper repeatedly encouraged North Carolinians to wear face coverings to slow the spread of the virus.

"Please continue to treat this virus like the deadly threat it is," Cooper said.

Cooper also announced two new initiatives during the news conference: a community health partnership to bring health workers into underserved communities and a public service internship for students.

In the community health program, 250 workers will help connect people living in historically marginalized communities to testing, healthcare, mental health, food, housing and other resources. In a news release, NCDHHS said the program will run through December.

The internship will allow students to virtually serve local governments and non-profits who may need additional help during the pandemic.

1:32 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department said 2,112 tests have been performed and there are 379 positive COVID-19 cases, including four deaths.

Noon
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday reported hospitalizations over 1,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic -- meaning the state has reached a new record high in that metric.

The health department reported Thursday morning that 1,034 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 86 percent of hospitals reporting. That's up 40 from Wednesday.

There are still 3,967 inpatient beds and 494 ICU beds available in the state.

The state also saw its second-highest single-day increase on Thursday with 2,039 cases. The single-day record in the state was 2,099 on July 3.

20 additional deaths were reported, bringing the total to 1,461.

21,286 tests were reported as completed on Thursday. The percent positive has remained at 9 percent over the last few days.

THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES

A North Carolina judge has refused to delay enforcement of his ruling allowing dozen of bowling alleys to reopen in contradiction to Gov. Roy Cooper's COVID-19 executive order.

On Wednesday, Judge James Gale denied the request from attorneys for the state representing Cooper in a lawsuit filed by an association of bowling lane operators. Now Department of Justice lawyers are asking the state Supreme Court to intervene. Gale decided the association was likely to win on arguments that Cooper's order wrongly treated them differently compared to businesses with similar virus-risk levels allowed to reopen. Bars and gyms remain closed.

SEE ALSO | NC State professor writes letter to chancellor warning of COVID-19 dangers with face-to-face classrooms

The North Carolina General Assembly has again fallen short in overriding several of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's vetoes. Wednesday's unsuccessful votes for the GOP mean directives within the governor's COVID-19 executive orders that keep many businesses closed remain intact.

Gov. Cooper will hold a media briefing at 2 p.m. with an update on the state's response.

The number of COVID-19 cases worldwide has now surpassed 12 million. On Tuesday, the U.S. reported 60,000 new cases over 24 hours.
Copyright © 2020 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.