FRIDAY MORNING STORYLINES
A detention officer in Mecklenburg County died Wednesday from COVID-19 complications. Coretta Downing died after last having worked in Mecklenburg County on July 26. Downing was hospitalized on July 30, according to WSOC.
Downing was 51 years old and a 20-year employee of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office. No inmates were exposed.
Teens from Durham Public Schools will host a mask giveaway Friday at the Durham Rescue Mission from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Around 1,500 people are expected.
Wake County Public School System announced that all middle school athletic activities would be suspended until the spring semester.
District leaders said they would continue to monitor local health trends and plan for all middle school teams to have condensed seasons so all sports can be played between January and May 2021.
RELATED: Wake County Public School System postpones middle school sports until spring
“Delaying athletic activity will allow schools to start the school year focused on establishing health and safety protocols, school schedules and routines, academic plans, and transportation procedures,” the district said in a written statement.
Wednesday, the North Carolina High School Athletics Association opted to postpone fall athletics until at least November. High school football teams will have their first practices in February.
Durham Public Schools said the first week of classes for traditional and year-round calendar students will be an orientation week to allow families, teachers and students to prepare for the remote learning environment.
A spokesperson for the district said teachers and students will use online tools to complete relationship building and wellness activities.
Attendance will be taken for all students on August 17.
Durham Public Schools will use remote learning only for at least the first nine weeks of classes.
Click here to find your district’s reopening plans
The Durham County Public Health Department reports 48 additional cases since Wednesday, raising the county total to 6,319 as of Thursday evening.
Wake County health officials report 12,452 total cases of COVID-19 within the county as of Thursday evening, up 68 from Wednesday.
Governor Roy Cooper announced on Thursday a new state grant program for businesses and nonprofit organizations in North Carolina hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Job Retention Grant Program is supported by $15 million in federal COVID-19 funds, which the General Assembly appropriated for this use.
Both for-profit and certain types of nonprofit employers may apply for grants through the program, which has a strict application deadline of September 1, 2020.
They can qualify for up to $250,000.
To qualify for a grant award, applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements, which include:
The applicant cannot have participated in the federal Paycheck Protection Program, the federal Main Street Loan Program, or the state Rapid Recovery Loan Program.The applicant must have maintained at least 90 percent of the number of full-time employees in North Carolina at the end of June 2020 as it did as the end of February 2020.The applicant must have had a reduction in sales (in the case of a for-profit business) or receipts (for nonprofits) of more than 10 percent when comparing March-May 2020 to March-May 2019 levels.
Applicants are eligible for a grant up to 125 percent of two months of its 2019 average monthly payroll costs, up to a maximum of $250,000. All applicants that apply and are eligible may expect to receive some level of assistance, but the actual amount of the grant will depend on the total number of eligible requests received by the program. If requests exceed the $15 million that’s available, then individual grant amounts will be lowered on a prorated basis.
The Department hopes to award grants by early October. All grantees will have to comply with federal and state reporting requirements as a condition of the grant.
More information can be found here.
RELATED: Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin to recommend that all special events up to and including the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration be canceled this year
Gov. Roy Cooper and his Coronavirus Task Force urged North Carolinians to “keep on this course” to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said she and her team were concerned as we get close to fall and the onset of flu season.
However, Cohen said the state’s key metrics for tracking the spread of COVID-19 are stabilizing, and even beginning to decline a bit.
“Our trends tell the story of sacrifice and hard work,” Cohen said.
Both emergency room visits for COVID-19-like symptoms and the trajectory of new cases are declining, however, Cohen said both are higher than she would like to see. Cohen also noted a slight decrease in the percentage of positive tests, which has dropped to 6-7% from 8-10% in July, though Cohen said she would like to see this number at 5% or less.
Hospitalizations are also stabilizing–a lagging indicator Cohen said is reflective of stabilizing cases a couple weeks ago.
Additionally, while Cohen said testing has slowed in the last 7-10 days, she said testing turnaround times have improved, and North Carolinians should find a free testing site near them if they have COVID-19 symptoms, work in high-risk settings or have been in large groups recently.
“We will continue this hard-fought progress with three simple acts of kindess–our three w’s,” Cohen said.
Both Cooper and Cohen emphasized that as some schools resume in-person learning and universities begin classes, North Carolinians should continue their focus on slowing the spread of COVID-19.
“This virus won’t go away on its own. North Carolinians have made sacrifices big and small to help slow the spread and protect each other,” Cooper said. “As school goes back into session, now is the time to double down on these efforts.”
Cooper and Department of Public Safety Secretary Erik Hook also said state leaders have encouraged local law enforcement agencies to increase enforcement of the mask requirement and the ban on large gatherings. While neither said they wanted local officers to arrest anyone for violations, Hooks said citations may be necessary for repeat offenders or flagrant violators.
After several days of lower-than-average case increases in North Carolina, the state health department on Thursday reported 1,763 new cases.
That’s the highest daily increase since Aug. 8. In recent days, the daily increases have been less than 1,200 per day.
In a news conference on Wednesday about a discrepancy in total reported tests, Dr.Mandy Cohen said the low number of new cases reported this week was not due to the error, but to the hard work of North Carolinians to slow the spread of the virus.
On Thursday, the state also reported 20,329 completed tests.
With 90 percent of hospitals reporting, 1,070 people are currently hospitalized in the state with COVID-19.
38 deaths were also reported on Thursday, bringing the total in North Carolina since the start of the pandemic to 2,287.
Congregate care settings saw 299 new cases, with 21 new deaths and seven new outbreaks.
A spokesperson for the city of Raleigh says Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin will recommend to the city council that all special events up to and including the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration be canceled.
The council will consider her recommendation at a meeting next week.
According to the spokesperson, this would only include special events and not include things at the Raleigh Convention Center, Performing Arts Center, or any recreation programming by Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources.
Last week, ABC11 reported at least 227 conventions, meetings and group sporting events in Wake County have been canceled this year-an immediate loss of $118.5 million.
THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES
Free COVID-19 testing is available in Raleigh on Thursday at the Sunnybrook Building parking deck behind WakeMed on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh. You can sign up on the Wake County website. The testing is available Thursday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper will provide an update on the state’s response to the coronavirus Thursday at 2 p.m. You can watch the briefing on ABC11 and abc11.com.
The Durham County Public Health Department reports a total of 6,273 total cases within the county as of Wednesday evening, up 31 from Tuesday.
A child enrolled at First Adventures Child Development has tested positive for COVID-19, however, the child had not been in attendance at the center.
Officials say the child had not been in attendance at the center for more than two weeks and will not return until being cleared by the family physician.
Wake County health officials report 12,360 total COVID-19 cases within the county as of Wednesday evening, up 93 from Tuesday.
One additional person has died from virus-related complications., raising the total number of deaths within the county to 180.
After eight recent positive COVID-19 cases among inmates, the Durham County Detention Center decided to test the entire inmate population and staff for the novel coronavirus. The testing found that 12 inmates have tested positive; bringing the total number of cases to 20.
However, one positive case was discovered from a detainee in intake quarantine and is not connected to any other cases. The remaining detainees with positive test results were housed in a single area of the detention center. Per protocol, they are in isolation until they are cleared by medical staff.
“The facility is undergoing additional cleaning and we will continue to monitor all detainees,” said Durham County Sheriff Clarence F. Birkhead. “While I am relieved the coronavirus has not spread throughout the entire facility, I want to emphasize one case is still too many. I am impressing upon staff that we must continue being vigilant in order to protect the health of inmates and themselves.”
Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order extending– but not eliminating– deadlines for families to submit proof-of-immunization and health assessment documents to schools and child care facilities.
“With kids headed back to school and flu season right around the corner, it’s more important than ever this year for all North Carolinians to get their recommended immunizations,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D in a written statement. “Childhood immunizations keep kids safe and protect public health by lowering the likelihood of an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease like measles.”
Typically, students must provide proof of required immunizations and health assessments within 30 days from the first day of school, after which students are not allowed in classes until their guardians provide the necessary documents. However, the order and an adjoining state health director memo from Dr. Betsey Tilson moves the state date for that grace period up to October 1.
State law requires that students, whether they are learning from home or attending in-person classes, must have the appropriate age-based immunizations as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cooper also declared August Immunization Awareness Month in North Carolina.
WATCH: Why experts say getting your flu shot is even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 45 more COVID-19 deaths — matching the previous daily record for the metric.
However, the state also reported a relatively low increase in new cases with 1,166–a slight increase from Tuesday, but a decrease from previous weeks. In a news conference about the discrepancy in total reported tests, Cohen said the low number of new cases reported every day this week was not due to the error, but to the hard work of North Carolinians to slow the spread of the virus.
“We’ve been working hard on our trends,” Cohen said. “Our trends have been going down, and that’s a good thing.”
However, the percentage of positive tests increased slightly, back up to 7%. It had been at 6% for a number of days.
Currently, 1,062 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, with 91% of hospitals reporting. To date, 560 intensive care unit beds and 5,307 inpatient beds are currently available across the state.
Governor Roy Cooper on Wednesday sent a letter to North Carolina Speaker of the House Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger urging them to expand unemployment benefits for North Carolinians.
Cooper said in the letter that his administration has begun steps to accept the additional $300 weekly unemployment support from the federal government.
However, he said, it is imperative that Congress and the President provide more reliable help for the unemployed. Cooper said he believes the state’s $100 share should be applied through North Carolina’s Unemployment Trust Fund and not CARES Act funds.
“North Carolina has among the worst state unemployment benefits in the country but you have failed to remedy that in the middle of this pandemic,” he wrote. “When you return on Sept. 2, you should extend state unemployment benefits to at least 24 weeks (it’s now the lowest in the country at 12 weeks) and increase the maximum weekly state benefit to at least $500 (it’s now $350).”
On Tuesday, North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders told Cooper to get on board with extending the unemployment benefits that President Donald Trump offered in an executive order.
House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger told Cooper that the General Assembly plans to approve matching state dollars to receive the partially extended benefits when it reconvenes in September.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is adjusting its total of completed COVID-19 tests and daily testing increases after an error in reporting from one of the state’s industry partners.
In a news release Wednesday, NCDHHS said health officials found a discrepancy between the electronic and manual reporting of testing data from Burlington, N.C.-based company Labcorp, resulting in a higher number of total COVID-19 tests performed.
The error drops the total number of cumulative COVID-19 tests performed by more than 200,000, from 2,044,727 to 1,823,283. Labcorp Chief Medical Officer and President Brian Cavey said the company found that since April, at-home test collection kits had been included in the manual data sent to state health officials, regardless of where the kits had originated.
In the release, health officials said the adjusted reporting does not affect the state’s key COVID-19 metrics, which include the number of COVID-like syndromic emergency room visits, the trajectory of new cases, percentage of tests that are positive and current hospitalizations.
“Although this reporting error impacts our count of total tests completed, it does not alter our key metrics or change our understanding of COVID-19 transmission in North Carolina, which shows stabilization over the last few weeks,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D., in a written statement.
Health officials explained that the discrepancy did not affect the state’s key metrics because while the total number of cases and percentage of positive tests are calculated from patient-level data, the total number of completed tests is an aggregate number sent manually to NCDHHS from labs. Aggregate test data is not included in the calculation for the percentage of positive tests or the total number of cases.
Additionally, NCDHHS said the state is working to move all labs to report through the state’s Electronic Disease Surveillance System, which officials said will minimize redundancies and improve data accuracy.
For more information on the error, click here.
High school sports are being postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As it stands right now, high school football will not begin until February.
NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker explained that the newly released athletics calendar remains dependent on the reduction of COVID-19 metrics in North Carolina.
Four Duke University students who were tested upon their arrival back to campus this month tested positive for COVID-19.
A total of 3,116 were tested. That accounts for a .12 percent infection rate for students who have returned to campus. The affected students are in isolation.
Duke students who are living off-campus and won’t be taking classes on campus did not have to be tested.
Duke said it has 300 rooms set aside for isolation and various safety measures. Students arrived over a weeklong period. Duke recently reported 26 student-athletes tested positive for COVID-19.
All incoming Duke students are required to get a COVID-19 test before they are permitted to enter university housing or attend class on campus.
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association will announce an amended athletic calendar for the 2020-2021 school year this afternoon at 2. The announcement will be streamed on the association’s Facebook page and website.
A Durham County Clerk’s Office employee tested positive for COVID-19, according to local health officials.
A release said the employee was last in the building on Aug. 7 and there was minimal courthouse exposure. Between Aug. 3 and Aug. 11, the employee’s duties were confined to their division on the second floor of the building.
WEDNESDAY MORNING STORYLINES
The state reported 1,051 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, a higher amount than Monday’s report, but generally lower than what’s been reported in recent weeks. Six percent of new tests came back positive, which is also relatively low compared to recent statistics. Thirty-two more deaths and 11 more hospitalizations were reported. New numbers will be announced Wednesday afternoon.
Three major college football conferences, the ACC, SEC and Big XII are moving forward with plans to play football this season. On Tuesday, the Big Ten and the Pac-12 postponed fall sports with hopes to resume play in the spring.
A case of the novel coronavirus was discovered in a dog in North Carolina who died. The dog passed away after demonstrating signs of respiratory distress. The dog’s cause of death has not yet been determined.
North Carolina’s largest community college is unveiling campus preparations as it prepares for the fall semester to begin Monday.
Wake Tech has more than 21,000 students enrolled in hybrid and fully online classes.
Courses on-campus have reduced capacity to maintain social distancing. Wake Tech has announced that certain policies are in place to protect students and staff from COVID-19:
Tuesday’s meeting of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services brought lawmakers and leaders of NCDHHS together virtually for updates of the state’s battle against COVID-19.
Dr. Mandy Cohen thanked the legislators for “$345 million; that’s money you appropriated by you to us, money that has to be spent by December.”
That money is part of what Dr. Cohen called three “buckets of funding” designated for medical equipment, personnel and more resources to keep North Carolinians safe and aware of preventative measures such as wearing masks.
Pediatric specialist Dr. David Hill said, “I think there was a lot of confusion early on because the CDC said, that’s not a big deal. We now understand that it’s probably critical to reopening our schools and economy.”
“I am proud that our early intervention program operated through DHHS has continued to serve children birth through 3 and their families throughout the COVID pandemics,” said Chief Deputy Secretary Susan Perry.
State Sen. Mike Woodard of Durham asked, “With the opening of our K-12 schools here in the next week or so, I have a concern about the shortage of school nurses, social workers and counselors as well as support of students with disabilities and our at risk students. Do you and the administration have plans to provide funding for nurses, social workers, counselors and our special needs students?”
Perry said NCDHHS continues to serve children and their families during the pandemic, and schools are working to address the needs of children with disabilities.
She also told Woodard: “I can’t deny, no great answers, there is additional need there for certain, sir, yes.”
— Anthony Wilson
NCDHHS reported its lowest number of COVID-19 tests completed in a day for the past month–with just 10,098 tests completed Tuesday. Of those tests, 6% were positive.
The state also reported 1,051 new COVID-19 cases, an increase from Monday’s low number, but still the second-lowest reported daily increase since the end of June. North Carolina also reported an increase of 32 deaths, bringing the state total to 2,204 since the end of March.
Currently, 1,122 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms, with 92% of hospitals reporting. Across the state, 569 intensive care unit beds and 5,789 inpatient beds are currently available.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services created a child care hotline to connect families with options in their communities.
The hotline will provide North Carolinians with information about child care centers for children up to 12 years old.
Parents and caregivers can call 1-855-600-1685, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. for assistance.
“We know that families may need extra help finding school-age care options right now, as many schools have started the school year with remote learning only, and others are operating with children onsite on alternate days or weeks to meet social distancing requirements,” said Susan Gale Perry, chief deputy secretary for NCDHHS in a written statement. “The Child Care Hotline can help families fill that child care gap by providing referrals to available school-age programs.”
According to NCDHHS, there are approximately 30,000 available slots for school-aged children in child care centers across North Carolina.
WATCH: How to keep children safe as COVID-19 cases increase in child care centers
Sampson County health officials reported 27 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths, bringing the county total to 1,665 cases and 19 deaths. To date, 1,429 patients are presumed to have recovered from the virus, and 4,779 COVID-19 tests have been performed across the county.
TUESDAY MORNING STORYLINES.
The state’s COVID-19 testing data trended positive on Monday, as just 5% of tests were positive–meeting NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen’s goal. The percentage of positive tests has been dropping in recent weeks, from 8-10% in early and mid-July to 7-8% over the last two weeks.
It’s important to note the state also reported a relatively low number of new completed tests–15,371, the lowest since July 6. The state’s latest COVID-19 statistics will come out around noon on Tuesday.
North Carolina health officials have announced more than 30 upcoming community testing events in an initiative to increase access to free testing in rural and underserved communities. Some of the sites include towns in Wake, Cumberland and Wilson counties. You can go to the NCDHHS website to find out more.
Russia has become the first country to officially register a coronavirus vaccine and declare it ready for use. President Vladimir Putin said that one of his daughters has already been inoculated.
Copyright © 2020 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved – The Associated Press contributed to this report.