We’re keeping track of the most up-to-date news about the coronavirus in North Carolina. Check back for updates.
Cases top 8,200
North Carolina has at least 8,250 reported cases of the coronavirus as of Friday night, and 293 people have died, according to data collected by The News & Observer from state and county health departments.
N.C. Department of Health and Human Services tally included an additional 444 cases on Friday, the state’s highest daily case count. The total was up from 388 the day before.
But state officials say more people could have the coronavirus because not every resident has been tested for the disease.
Case numbers are now doubling about every 14 days, down from the 13-day rate reported Thursday. The doubling rate is an indication COVID-19 is slowing its spread, The News & Observer reported.
At least 477 North Carolinians were hospitalized with the virus as of Friday morning, compared to 486 on Thursday, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
Mecklenburg County has the highest numbers in the state, with 1,407 reported cases and 37 deaths.
Wake County has 640 cases and 11 deaths and Durham County has 500 cases and nine deaths.
Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday announced North Carolina public schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year. The decision extends an order that originally kept them closed until May 15, The News & Observer reported.
Schools have been closed since March 14.
“Cooper’s announcement means that North Carolina’s 1.5 million public school students will finish the school year taking classes virtually,” The N&O reported.
The announcement comes as public schools in North Carolina are changing how they grade students since coronavirus has stopped in-person instruction.
The State Board of Education on Thursday approved a new policy that won’t allow students in grades K-11 to get a failing grade for the spring semester.
Students should be promoted to the next grade unless plans to retain them were “well underway” on March 13.
Also, a state bill could change the start date for some students, The News & Observer reported. If passed, the proposal would move the first day of the traditional calendar to mid-August.
Stay-at-home order extended
Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday afternoon he is extending the stay-at-home order through May 8.
The order was set to expire on April 29 and keeps nonessential business closed and bans gatherings of 10 or more people in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“It is clear that we are flattening the curve,” Cooper said in Thursday news conference. “But our state is not ready to lift restrictions yet. We need more time to slow the spread of the virus before we can ease the social restrictions.”
The announcement comes after hundreds of people gathered in downtown Raleigh on Tuesday to call for the governor to reopen businesses, and some county leaders have criticized the decision as a “one size fits all approach.”
Some Triangle counties have also extended their stay-at-home orders.
Durham County lifted some restrictions but will keep its order in place through May 15, the N&O reported. Orange County extended its order until May 8 but officials in Wake County haven’t confirmed their plans.
Spring sports canceled
The N.C. High School Athletic Association and the N.C. Independent Schools are canceling all high school athletics for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year after Cooper announced schools will not reopen.
“The changes also means the NCHSAA state basketball championships, which were postponed last month, will not be played,” The N&O reported.
The NCHSAA Board of Directors is slated to decide next week how they will finalize the playoffs, whether it be by declaring Eastern and Western Regional champions or co-state champions.
Atrium resumes some services
Atrium Health in Charlotte will begin expanding healthcare services — including non-emergency surgeries and procedures — starting the week of April 27.
Novant Health has said it will do the same starting May 4, the Charlotte Observer reported.
Procedures will be subject to “extensive safety measures,” such as testing for COVID-19, separating coronavirus patients from non-coronavirus patients and using a COVID-19 virtual hospital.
Cooper’s plan for federal aid
Cooper announced plans Friday for how to spend the $1.4 billion in federal relief North Carolina is slated to receive from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
Under the current proposal:
$313 million would go to public health and safety
$740.4 million would go to education and state government operations
$375 million would be set aside for small business and local government assistance.
Drive-up church services
Mecklenburg County loosened its restrictions on religious services Friday, allowing churches to host drive-up or drive-thru services starting this weekend.
Communion, however, is still barred, the Charlotte Observer reported.
“We have gotten a tremendous amount of cooperation from our faith leaders around not holding drive-up church services but we feel now that the data and the flattening the curve allows us to allow (that),” Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio said.
Unemployment applications open
Unemployed workers in North Carolina who don’t qualify for state aid can start applying for federal assistance Friday.
“Everyone in North Carolina who’s out of work, whether it’s due to coronavirus or not, can apply for unemployment benefits online at des.nc.gov,” the N&O reported. “Then state officials will determine whether they qualify at all, and if so, whether they qualify for the state or federal benefits.”
Here’s how it works.
Lack of testing at state prisons
Only about 2% of inmates at state prison facilities have been tested for the coronavirus and more than a third of those facilities haven’t tested a single inmate, The Charlotte Observer reported.
Neuse Correctional Institution in eastern North Carolina, where more than 460 prisoners have tested positive and two have died, is the exception. State officials have mandated that all 770 inmates there be tested.
At the N.C. Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh, at least 12 inmates have tested positive. But one inmate said there has been no mass testing of other inmates in her dorm, where some of those who tested positive live.
“We feel like targets and shots have been fired and we’re just waiting to see what targets get hit,” Pamela Humphrey, 58, told the Observer.
Jim Bakker requests cash
Jim Bakker, a televangelist with ties to the Charlotte area, said his ministry could face bankruptcy if his viewers don’t send in cash or checks. Bakker said people can’t use credit cards to make donations after he was accused of selling a bogus cure for the coronavirus.
He served prison time after a fraud conviction in 1989, McClatchy News reported.
Outer Banks loosen restrictions
Starting Thursday, some visitors were allowed back to parts of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
People who own property in Currituck County but don’t live there could arrive starting at 9 a.m. Thursday, as long as they have permits. But visitors won’t be allowed until May 15.
Non-resident property owners will also be allowed back in Dare County, home to most of the Outer Banks, in phases starting May 4, but it’s unclear when other visitors will be permitted.
Both counties previously closed to visitors in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Nursing home outbreaks
Eight people who died from coronavirus in Mecklenburg County were nursing home residents, according to data released Friday.
There were 40 nursing homes in North Carolina with ongoing outbreaks as of Thursday morning, the state health department said. More than one-third of the state’s coronavirus-related deaths have been linked to nursing homes, though officials haven’t always shared which facilities have cases of the disease.