Coronavirus in NC: New COVID-19 cases as universities return

COVID-19’s growth is slowing in the Triangle, but public health officials are now grappling with the added challenge of students returning to local universities.

Students started moving back onto many campuses this week. Local health departments have taken different approaches toward students, the News & Observer previously reported.

In Orange County, Health Director Quintana Stewart sent a memo asking the university to have classes completely online for the fall semester or, if that was not possible, to have online-only classes for the first five weeks of school.

Durham and Wake counties both said their health departments have been advising local universities as necessary, but would not make specific recommendations regarding housing or in-person classes, the News & Observer previously reported. In Durham, a spokeswoman said the health department is advising universities to allow everyone on campus to maintain social distancing.

The average number of new cases in all three Triangle counties is trending down, according to rolling seven-day averages reported by DHHS.

As of Saturday, Wake County had 153 new cases, for a total of 11,906 positive cases, according to data from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, with 168 deaths. In Durham, there were 6,114 confirmed cases and 80 deaths, while Orange County had 1,341 confirmed cases and 47 deaths.

There were 34 new cases in Durham and 12 in Orange on Saturday.

Gov. Roy Cooper and DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen announced this week that North Carolina’s Phase Two will continue through at least September 11. They said they would like to see numbers statewide start to decline instead of stabilizing.

Throughout the Triangle, nursing homes and long-term care facilities continue to struggle with COVID-19. Durham’s Carver Living Center has reported an outbreak with 111 cases, 82 among residents and 29 among staff. There have been 10 resident deaths associated with the outbreak, DHHS reported Friday.

The outbreak is one of six at nursing homes or residential care facilities in Durham. There are 24 such outbreaks in Wake County, with the largest at Wellington Rehabiltiation and Healthcare where 81 people have tested positive and 14 patients have died. Orange County has four outbreaks.

There is also an outbreak at KinderCare in Durham, according to DHHS’ Friday report, with five children testing positive for COVID-19. In Orange County, five children associated with the football team during Christian Leadership Academy’s summer session have tested positive.

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Adam Wagner is a Report for America Corps member covering North Carolina’s recovery from Hurricanes Matthew and Florence, as well as efforts to prepare the state for future storms. He previously worked at the Wilmington StarNews, where he covered multiple beats, including the environment.

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