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

Cases top 175,000

At least 175,815 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 2,889 have died, according to state health officials.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Saturday reported 1,561 new COVID-19 cases, down from 2,045 the day before.

The health department also reported 50 additional deaths Saturday.

On Saturday, about 6% of COVID-19 tests were reported positive, down from 7.6% the day before. State health officials have said that percentage should be 5% or lower.

At least 831 people in North Carolina were reportedly hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Saturday, down from the 955 the state reported the day before.

It’s been six months since North Carolina reported its first coronavirus case on March 3.

Saturday marked the first full day of Phase 2.5 of Gov. Cooper’s reopening plan. Gyms, playgrounds and museums are allowed to operate with restrictions.

Hospitalizations drop despite student outbreaks

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has continued to drop in North Carolina despite an increase in cases and clusters among students across the state.

It’s likely because young people are less likely to have underlying health problems that are more likely to cause a coronavirus patient to require hospitalization, doctors say.

“We’re seeing a younger group becoming infected, and those younger individuals tend not to require hospitalization,” Dr. William Fischer, a viral disease specialist at UNC Health in Chapel Hill, told The News & Observer. “And that’s great for them, because they’re not as sick. But the more that we have positive people interacting with others, the greater chance we have of community transmission.”

Dr. Cameron Wolfe, an infectious disease specialist at Duke University Health System, said health officials are watching for signs that young people, who may not even know they have the virus, will spread it to others who are more likely to get seriously sick.

“What will be important is whether those positive cases cause secondary infections in more at-risk groups — such as parents or grandparents, janitorial staff, etc.,” Wolfe wrote in an email to the N&O. “In those cases, the risk of getting sick enough to need the hospital goes up again. So far we have NOT seen that sort of spill-over event to any great extent.”

Mail-in voting starts

North Carolina began sending out mail-in ballots Friday, three months ahead of Election Day, to voters who have requested them, The N&O reported Saturday.

Request forms can be filled out online at at votebymail.ncsbe.gov. Blank forms can also be found at ncsbe.gov/voting/vote-mail and returned by hand, fax or mail.

This year’s election has been complicated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Oct. 27.

But voters may want to request one ahead of time as those who wait until the last minute could run into problems, especially if the Postal Service experiences slowdowns this fall.

Cluster reported at Raleigh daycare

Kreepers-N-Krawlers daycare in Raleigh has reported a coronavirus cluster, according to state health department.

At least four staff members and six children have tested positive. A cluster is defined as five or more cases.

A representative from Kreepers-N-Krawlers did not respond to The N&O’s request for comment.

It’s the second daycare in Wake County to report an outbreak after Goddard School of Holly Springs. The state recorded its first coronavirus-related death connected with a daycare center in August, at Grace Filled Beginnings in Washington County.

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Bailey Aldridge is a reporter covering real-time news in North and South Carolina. She has a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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