RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Here are the latest updates about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in North Carolina.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Two Fayetteville men who were hospitalized with COVID-19 spoke with ABC11's Michael Lozano on how they feel months after their battles with the virus.
Durham County health officials are reporting 63 more COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 4,176. There have been 67 deaths county-wide.
Wake County health officials are reporting 143 more COVID-19 cases since Sunday, bringing the total to 6,265. There have been 49 deaths county-wide.
Lee County health officials are reporting 55 new cases of COVID-19 since last week, bringing the total to 861. There have been eight deaths countywide.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety is continuing its efforts to contain and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in state prisons by conducting testing of the offender population statewide. This week mass offender population testing will be conducted at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women (NCCIW) in Raleigh.
Testing for the entire facility will be conducted after multiple offenders in one housing unit at NCCIW last week showed symptoms of virus, were immediately isolated, tested for the virus and had positive test results. The next day, July 2, all 227 offenders in that housing unit were tested for the COVID-19. The results came in during the weekend and showed 45 were positive for the virus.
The positive offenders were separated and placed in medical isolation, and the negative offenders who were potentially exposed to the virus were placed under medical quarantine, with close observation and twice daily temperature checks. This was done in keeping with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
An estimated 90 offenders at a different housing unit at the prison had tested positive for the virus at the end of April. Since the pandemic began, a total of 877 of the 31,500 offender population have tested positive for COVID-19 and a total of 764 are presumed recovered under criteria established by the CDC and DHHS.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 55,318 patients are presumed to be recovered from COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 9,780 people from last week.
Because North Carolinians, hospitals and health care workers aren't required to report recoveries to the state, NCDHHS uses an estimated median recovery time to calculate the number of people who are considered recovered from the novel coronavirus. Patients who were not hospitalized are considered recovered after 14 days. The estimated recovery time for patients who were hospitalized is 28 days.
However, individual patients' recovery times could be longer or shorter depending on the severity of their illness. It's currently unknown whether patients who have recovered from COVID-19 are susceptible to catching the virus again.
Cumberland County health officials are reporting 157 new COVID-19 cases since Thursday, bringing the total case count to 1,484. There have been 41 deaths county-wide.
Sampson County health officials are reporting 1,122 COVID-19 cases, up 37. There have been seven deaths county-wide. Of the total cases, 837 are recovered.
Gov. Roy Cooper tweeted on Monday: "Today there are 982 people hospitalized with COVID-19, a concerning new high for our state.
This virus can be deadly, and we must take it seriously - wearing our masks, washing our hands & waiting 6 ft. apart - so we don't overwhelm our hospitals. We don't want to go backward."
Halifax County said that out of 1,991 confirmed tests performed on residents, there are 338 positive COVID-19 cases, including four deaths.
A total of 261 patients have recovered.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Monday reported another record high in hospitalizations with 982 people currently hospitalized due to complications associated with COVID-19.
The previous record high was 951.
Monday's number was up 33 from Sunday. 81 percent of hospitals are currently reporting, according to NCDHHS.
Last week, Dr. Cohen said the state still has the capacity to meet demand, however, hospitalizations are a lagging indicator and it takes longer to see the impact of viral spread on hospitalizations than it does on other metrics.
1,546 new cases were reported Monday after a lower than average day of testing. 13,060 were reported as completed in the last 24 hours. That's down from an average around 20,000 daily last week.
The percent positive in the state has remained around 9 percent. Dr. Cohen has said she wants this number to be closer to 5 percent.
Two more deaths were reported in the state, bringing the total to 1,398 so far in the pandemic.
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"This was the best news I've had in months," Linda Esler said as she entered Millbrook Exchange Park ready to enjoy the swimming pool.
Raleigh public pools opened Monday for the first time this year. All swimmers have to undergo temperature checks, answer a COVID-19 questionnaire and adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Esler said she's not too worried about the virus.
"Oh come on! I'm healthy, I've been fine for months and I'm older," she said. "I think people who are sick should stay home and everyolne else should be able to go on with their lives."
All swimmers are encouraged to register online before arriving at the pool, because limited capacity is being enforced.
Someone at a Raleigh summer camp has tested positive for COVID-19, according to an email sent to parents from Raleigh's Recreation and Cultural Resources Department. The letter warns that children attending the camp could have contracted the virus.
"We have been made aware that a participant or employee attending summer camp at your child's location has tested positive for COVID-19," the email read in part. "Exposure began on June 29, 2020. Your child had exposure to the individual who tested positive and it is possible that your child could have contracted the virus."
The email was sent to 24 families, according to the city.
The letter asks parents to contact Wake County Health and Human Services (firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 856-7044) for further guidance. The effected camper(s) must be isolated for 14 days from the time of exposure with no development of symptoms.
MONDAY MORNING STORYLINES
Raleigh pools will reopen Monday with restrictions. The CDC says COVID-19 cannot spread in the water, but swimmers still need to be cautious. Health officials say pools can be safe, as long as swimmers stick to social distancing guidelines in and out of the water.
All facilities will have reduced capacity with social distancing rules in place. Guests must reserve spots online and sessions will be reduced to 75 minutes. Masks are required and guests are subject to wellness checks at the gate.