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NC coronavirus updates: Colleges grapple with new clusters

We’re tracking the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus in North Carolina. Check back for updates.

Sharp increase in average new cases

At least 149,904 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 2,465 have died, according to state health officials.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday reported 1,972 new cases of COVID-19.

Officials reported 34 additional deaths Thursday — down from 35 the day before. Fatalities in the state reached a single-day high on Tuesday with 48 new deaths.

The rate of positive test results was 8% on Thursday, one percentage point higher than they were Wednesday. State health officials have said that rate should be 5% or lower.

Hospitalizations have been trending downward for several weeks. On Thursday, health officials reported 22 new hospitalizations for a total of 1,023 with 92% of North Carolina hospitals reporting.

NC State moves online

N.C. State University announced Thursday that classes will move online for the rest of the semester beginning Aug. 24.

The announcement comes after officials reported two new coronavirus clusters at sororities on Wednesday. The clusters were found at Alpha Delta Pi, which has seven cases, and Kappa Delta, which has six, The News & Observer reported.

School officials reported the first COVID-19 cluster on Tuesday at an off-campus house in Raleigh. State health officials define a cluster as five or more cases in close proximity.

University chancellor Randy Woodson said more than 500 students were in quarantine and isolation as of Thursday.

Outbreak at Wake County jail

The Wake County Detention Center reported a coronavirus outbreak on Thursday.

At least 21 inmates in a single pod have tested positive for COVID-19, The News & Observer reported. Durham and Orange County jails have already reported outbreaks of their own.

There are 26 active jail cases in Durham County and 4 cases among staff members and inmates in Orange County.

Wake reassigns hundreds of school workers

Hundreds of employees in one Triangle-area district will get temporary jobs so they can continue working while students take classes remotely.

Some Wake County staff members will help with health screenings, and others will take care of school employee’s children. Layoffs could be possible for cafeteria workers, as online learning takes a hit on meal revenues.

“I think we’re all concerned and supportive about being able to keep our hourly folks employed because we will need them when we return,” school board member Bill Fletcher said, according to The News & Observer.

UNC Wilmington asks for names of students at big parties

The University of North Carolina Wilmington contacted off-campus housing complexes and asked them to report students at large parties.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s coronavirus-related restrictions ban indoor gatherings of 10 people or more. The state also has a 25-person limit for outdoor gatherings.

The university in a letter asked apartments and landlords to reveal the names of students who hold or attend large parties in violation of the statewide order.

UNCW has started a combination of in-person and online classes as coronavirus clusters were reported at other North Carolina universities. Gatherings were reported near at least two schools, N.C. State University and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Video shows face mask brawl on Charlotte flight

Punches were thrown after an American Airlines passenger refused to wear a face covering on a North Carolina-bound flight, video shows.

The plane hadn’t taken off before the customer “became disruptive, resulting in an altercation with other passengers,” said airline spokesperson Crystal Byrd.

Footage of the brawl was recorded Monday on a flight from Las Vegas to Charlotte. The passenger in the alleged altercation went onto an “’internal refuse list,’ pending an investigation,” McClatchy News reported.

UNC shuts down athletics for a day

An additional two coronavirus clusters were reported Wednesday at UNC-Chapel Hill — one at the Morrison residence hall and another at the Zeta Psi fraternity house, The News & Observer reported.

They are the fifth and sixth clusters at the university since classes started last week.

The university said Wednesday it was shutting down athletics for 24 hours due to an “upward trend in positive COVID-19 test on campus.” The announcement came two days after the university said it was sending students home from campus and switching to all-virtual classes.

Orange County, where UNC-Chapel Hill is located, on Wednesday extended its state of emergency through Oct. 31.

School of Science and Math looks to move online

Faculty at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics in Durham asked to move all instruction online in a letter sent Wednesday to their chancellor, the UNC System president and the chair of the UNC Board of Governors.

The letter cites UNC-Chapel Hill’s recent decision to transition to online classes following clusters of COVID-19 cases on and off campus, The News & Observer reported.

The school houses 680 students from across North Carolina.

In the letter, the faculty said it “believes that despite the time, energy and money invested by NCSSM to create a safe environment, the risks posed by the virus are still too great to bring students, faculty, and staff to campus even in a low-density model of face-to-face instruction.”

Cooper to fund extended internet access

Gov. Roy Cooper announced a $12 million fund on Wednesday to help expand internet access as K-12 and college students start their fall semesters online.

The money will go toward making broadband accessible to 8,000 families and 250 businesses, farms and institutions in 11 counties across North Carolina, The News & Observer reported.

“Now that we’re living in a socially distanced world, reliable internet is more important than ever, particularly for students learning remotely and people working from home,” Cooper said.

COVID-19 impact on state budget still unknown

North Carolina legislators won’t have a clear idea of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on state revenue when they return to session next month — meaning they also won’t know if “budget adjustments are needed,” The News & Observer reported.

“Unfortunately, we are still facing significant economic uncertainty along with new uncertainty about federal policy and the Fiscal Research Division does not expect to have the information necessary to issue a revised, line-item forecast until late September,” division leaders Barry Boardman and Emma Turner wrote in an email to legislators last week.

Multiple unknowns — including whether the number of COVID-19 cases in the state will increase or decrease and how many businesses will be able to reopen — are impacting the forecast.

Boardman and Turner said it could also be pushed back again if “the pandemic has not subsided in some measurable amount to where we can sort out the economic effects on the state.”

Ventilators have gone unused in NC

North Carolina has more ventilators than it has needed to respond to the coronavirus.

As COVID-19 started its spread, the N.C. Division of Emergency Management ordered 500 of the machines, adding to roughly 250 officials already had on hand.

But less than 30% of ventilators at North Carolina hospitals have been used, and the state’s stockpile hasn’t been touched, The News & Observer reported Wednesday.

The state stocked up when it feared there would be a shortage of ventilators, but doctors have gotten better at treating patients without the machines. North Carolina also didn’t have coronavirus spikes that were seen in other places, such as the Northeast.

Follow more of our reporting on Coronavirus in North Carolina

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Hayley Fowler is a reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking and real-time news across North and South Carolina. She has a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously worked as a legal reporter in New York City before joining the Observer in 2019.

Simone Jasper is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer and real-time news in the Carolinas.


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