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Coronavirus coverage in North Carolina, April 7, 2020: NC records deadliest day yet during pandemic

Posted April 7, 2020 3:59 a.m. EDT
Updated April 8, 2020 12:02 p.m. EDT

— Here are the latest updates on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in North Carolina and across the globe:

What you need to know:

Latest updates:

10:47 p.m.: The Federal Bureau of Prisons has begun reviewing all inmates at the Federal Correctional Complex at Butner who have COVID-19 risk factors with the possibility of home confinement during the cornavirus outbreak.

Inmates do not need to apply to be considered for home confinement. Officials said case management staff are urgently reviewing all inmates to determine which ones meet the criteria established by the attorney general. The department has also increased resources to review and make appropriate determinations as soon as possible.

Officials said they do not have an estimate of the number of inmates from Butner who might be eligible.

7:15 p.m.: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will issue new guidelines on Wednesday for people who were "in proximity" to someone who later tested positive for the coronavirus that will allow them to continue working, Vice President Mike Pence said.

6:40 p.m.: Vice President Mike Pence said coronavirus cases are starting to stabilize in New York City and other hotspots, showing the progress of stay-at-home orders and social distancing.

"I see glimmers of hope," Pence said.

6:30 p.m.: Duke University researchers are exploring how data collected by smartphones, FitBits, Apple Watches and other devices may help determine whether device users have COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

The project, led by assistant professor of biomedical engineering Jessilyn Dunn and Ryan Shaw, associate professor of nursing and director of the Health Innovation Lab, will assess whether information about smartwatch wearers’ health, such as sleep schedules, oxygen levels, activity levels and heart rate, can detect early symptoms of COVID-19. In previous work, Dunn and her team had shown that biometric data collected from wearable devices could indicate if a person was susceptible to various health issues, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, or if they had an infection.

The study, dubbed CovIdentify, is recruiting participants at covidentify.org

6:25 p.m.: A Mecklenburg County resident has become the 10th coronavirus-related death reported statewide on Tuesday, making the day the deadliest to date for North Carolina in the pandemic.

Fifty-five deaths statewide have been linked to the virus.

6:15 p.m.: The state Division of Motor Vehicles has asked state lawmakers to extend deadlines for new driver's licenses and vehicle inspections during the pandemic.

The DMV earlier closed dozens of offices and moved to appointments for people to obtain or renew licenses.

6:05 p.m.: President Donald Trump said he could possibly "put a hold" on U.S. funding to the World Health Organization, saying "they missed the call" on the pandemic.

"They really called, I would say, every aspect of it wrong," Trump said, noting the WHO opposed his decision to halt flights from China to the U.S. before the coronavirus took hold in this country.

5:55 p.m.: Banks have processed $70 billion in loans to small businesses hurt by the pandemic as part of the Paycheck Protection Program, President Donald Trump said.

5:25 p.m.: An employee at an Advance Auto Parts store in Benson has tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said. The store was temporarily closed to thoroughly clean and sanitize it, and other employees who may have been exposed to the virus are in quarantine.

5:20 p.m.: The Raleigh City Council has agreed to provide $50,000 each to Passage Home and Triangle Family Services to assist families with children living in hotels during the pandemic.

4:55 p.m.: The State Employees Association of North Carolina has asked Gov. Roy Cooper and legislative leaders to provide state workers with hazard pay while working "in essential jobs where social distancing is impossible or impractical" and to allow non-essential workers to work from home during the pandemic.

"[H]azard pay for our state employees should cover, at a minimum, workers within the walls of our state prisons, workers at state mental health and drug treatment facilities, parole and probation officers, the State Highway Patrol and workers in the unemployment section of the Employment Security Commission," SEANC Executive Director Ardis Watkins said in a letter to Cooper, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

"We continue to hear reports from our members that departments and supervisors are prohibiting state workers from working from home, continuing to require non-essential state workers who could work from home to come into workplaces where social distancing is impossible. This creates an unacceptable risk of COVID-19 transmission within the state government workforce," Watkins wrote.

4:35 p.m.: A resident at Louisburg Nursing Center has tested positive for the coronavirus, and several other residents have symptoms of COVID-19, the illness associated with the virus, although they aren't yet confirmed cases, officials said.

Eleven nursing homes or assisted living facilities statewide have reported virus cases.

4:30 p.m.: Four Dare County property owners have sued the county over its blockade restricting access to the county to limit the spread of the coronavirus. County officials last month set up checkpoints at all entrances to the county, allowing only residents and non-residents who work in essential businesses access.

A South Carolina man, a Virginia couple, a Maryland couple and a Virginia man, all of whom own property in Dare County either as second homes or as rental properties, filed a federal lawsuit against the county on Tuesday, alleging the county is violating their civil rights. They want a judge to void the county's emergency order.

4:15 p.m.: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is awarding more than $34 million in grants to North Carolina health care centers to assist efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The funding comes from the CARES Act that Congress approved last month.

4:10 p.m.: Two residents and a staff member at Liberty Commons Nursing and Rehab Center in Whiteville have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said.

The residents tested positive over the weekend.

"Both of the residents are doing well. They are without fever, and neither has experienced respiratory distress. Each of these residents continues to be treated in-place and are isolated in private rooms on a designated hall of the facility," officials said ina statement.

The staffer, who last worked on March 29 and tested positive on April 2, is recuperating at home. All other staff have been wearing masks, gowns, gloves and goggles when caring for residents, and they remain symptom free and are screened before their shifts begin.

3:50 p.m.: The Raleigh City Council is pulling a proposed bond to pay for Dix Park infrastructure off the November ballot because of the economic fallout from the pandemic. The council still plans to ask voters for approval to issue bonds to pay for more affordable housing in Raleigh.

"The ironic thing in all of this is that our parks and greenways have become our refuge during this crisis," Mayor MaryAnn Baldwin said during the video-conference meeting. "I think people will recognize that and appreciate it."

Baldwin said city leaders will look to put the Dix Park bond before local voters in 2021.

3:30 p.m.: Deaths in North Carolina linked to the coronavirus have more than quadrupled in the last week, going from 12 to 53. Meanwhile, the number of people infected with the virus has doubled, from about 1,500 a week ago to more than 3,250.

The number of hospitalizations linked to the virus have jumped by 31 percent since Monday, to 354 from 270, according to state figures.

3:20 p.m.: Perfume and skin care products manufacturer Coty has given thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer to area hospitals and first responders. The company, which has a plant in Sanford, announced last week that it would begin manufacturing hydro-alcoholic gel to help in the fight against coronavirus.

"We are proud to do our small part to help in the fight against COVID-19,” Enric Prat Codina, Coty’s Sanford plant manager, said in a statement.

3:05 p.m.: An employee of the Lowe’s Home Improvement store in Garner has tested positive for the new coronavirus, a company spokeswoman said. The worker, who was last at the store on April 2, has been quarantined and is receiving care.

The store remains open and has been extensively cleaned per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the spokeswoman said. All employees who worked closely with the infected employee over a period of time have been put on a paid leave.

2:25 p.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper said some stores "have way too many people inside," while some have taken extra steps to ensure proper "social distancing" between customers and staff, such as limiting how many customers are allowed at any one time, installing plastic shields to separate customers from cashiers and setting up one-way aisles.

"We need to make that kind of thing more uniform," Cooper said, adding that details of what might be demanded of retailers under a statewide executive order are still in flux. "We think this is an important signal to send as well."

2:15 p.m.: Sandhills Regional Medical Center in Hamlet, which closed in 2017, is being readied to handle a potential surge in coronavirus patients, state Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said.

2:10 p.m.: Crime victim advocates have contacted North Carolina’s 100 sheriffs asking them to notify victims of the impending or early release of inmates in response to the potential spread of COVID-19.

Hundreds of inmates nationwide are receiving early releases in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19 within jails. Should that be needed in North Carolina, Marsy’s Law for North Carolina is asking for sheriffs to continue prioritizing their constitutional duty to notify crime victims. North Carolina voters approved Marsy's Law, a crime victims bill of rights, as an amendment to the state constitution in 2018.

"The safety of crime victims is paramount, especially in a time of such crisis," Frances Battle, executive director of the North Carolina Victims Assistance Network, said in a statement. "We applaud our law enforcement for all they do to protect our communities and understand the difficult decisions that must be made to prevent the spread of COVID-19. To help ensure the protection of crime victims, we implore sheriffs to prioritize the interest of victims before deciding to release inmates."

2 p.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper said it's too early to determine whether his statewide stay-at-home order will extend past April 30. A statistical model published Monday showed that continuing the aspects of the order through May would significantly reduce the number of coronavirus infections and deaths in North Carolina, but the governor said that is only one piece of data to review.

Cooper said he plans to sign an executive order later this week to make more COVID-19 treatment beds available as quickly as possible and to mandate customer limits inside retailers. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also has given the state approval to seek housing options, such as hotels, for homeless people needing to be quarantined so they aren't in shelters with others, he said.

1 p.m.: A critical White House unit that is getting, shipping and distributing goods to fight the spread of the coronavirus has been ordered to vacate its war room and begin working remotely after a "partner" of the group tested positive for COVID-19, NBC News reports.

According to an email that Federal Emergency Management Agency officials sent to staff members late Monday night, all personnel in the Supply Chain Resilience task force, which works to find and allocate personal protective equipment and other materials needed to combat the spread of coronavirus, must telework until further notice.

A FEMA spokesperson told NBC News that the agency has determined that "at no time" did the person who tested positive "or any other known to have contact with them, come within six feet of any other Task Force principal for a prolonged period of time."

11:50 a.m.: Cinemark, which operates the Raleigh Grande movie theater, has notified the state Commerce Department that it has permanently closed the theater, as well as theaters in Greensboro, Charlotte, Asheville, Asheboro, Matthews and Salisbury, laying off more than 270 workers combined. The closures were effective March 26 – the day after Gov. Roy Cooper ordered all theaters statewide to close to limit the spread of the coronavirus – but the layoff notices weren't filed with the state until Monday.

A Cinemark spokeswoman said, however, that the closures are merely temporary, not permanent as the state notices indicate. The company listed them as permanent to help former workers claim unemployment, she said.

11:40 a.m.: The state Department of Health and Human Services is providing financial assistance to help essential workers afford child care and bonuses to child care teachers and staff who provide care during the COVID-19 crisis.

"Child care is an essential service as we respond to the COVID-19 crisis,” DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said in a statement. "Our health care professionals caring for those who are sick, grocery workers who are restocking shelves and truck drivers delivering packages to our doors all need child care so that they can go to work – and we want to be sure child care teachers and programs have support in providing safe, quality care."

DHHS has established an Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program for essential workers. Essential worker emergency child care financial assistance will be offered through May and may be extended.

11:35 a.m.: The U.S. Treasury Department is working on securing more than $200 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, according to the Washington Post.

The request to Congress could come as soon as Tuesday and would be to backstop the $349 billion loan program for small businesses that has been overwhelmed with applications. The program launched last Friday with the goal of helping small businesses avoid layoffs during the pandemic.

11:30 a.m.: Eight more coronavirus-related deaths have been reported in North Carolina – one each in Burke, Davidson, Guilford, Hertford, Johnston, Macon, Mecklenburg and Wilson counties – pushing the state total to 53 deaths. More than 3,250 cases have been reported statewide.

11:20 a.m.: Wrightsville Beach residents and visitors could face $500 fines for not abiding by the town's virus-related regulations. The town's Board of Alderman is expected to discuss the issue during an emergency meeting Tuesday.

11:15 a.m.: "The Lost Colony" has canceled its summer season because of coronavirus concerns. The outdoor drama has run for more than 80 years on Roanoke Island.

11:10 a.m.: In a press conference on Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York had 731 people die from coronavirus-related complications on Monday, marking the state's worst day yet of the outbreak.

11 a.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper said North Carolina now has 3,221 confirmed coronavirus cases and 46 related deaths.

10:45 a.m.: To keep connected to its customers, the Durham cocktail bar Kingfisher has started a virtual happy hour every day at 4:30 p.m. on its Instagram page.

10:30 a.m.: The state Department of Commerce is reporting 445,101 unemployment insurance claims in North Carolina between March 16 and April 6. On Monday, more than 21,000 unemployment insurance were filed in a single day.

10:15 a.m.: With fewer people and cars out and about, more wild animals are taking over spaces usually populated with humans. A bear was seen in downtown Asheville last week, and in Colorado, a man got a photo of a herd of elk in the middle of a football field.

10 a.m.: Effective Tuesday, all 600 Sheetz locations will feature "scan and go" options for customers purchasing food and drinks through the Sheetz app. According to the CEO, the process limits interaction during the checkout process.

9:45 a.m.: More data reveals a troubling trend that African-Americans are disproportionately dying from COVID-19. Louisiana says 70 percent of its 512 deaths were African-Americans, even though African-Americans make up just 32 percent of the population. One victim is the father of Durham musician Branford Marsalis.

In Milwaukee, African-Americans are 26 percent of the population but account for 81 percent of deaths. Health experts say it's too early to tell the exact reason for this disparity, but lack of access to medical care is likely one reason.

9:40 a.m.: U.S. stocks opened higher as hope builds that global shutdown measures are showing early promise for reopening economies.

9:30 a.m.: Halifax County reported two new positive cases of coronavirus, bringing the county's total up to 13. Five of those 13 have recovered, officials said. Twenty people are being monitored.

9:15 a.m.: Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling tweeted that, although she was never tested or diagnosed with COVID-19, she recovered from coronavirus-like symptoms.

She credited a deep breathing technique and lying on her stomach, not her back, for much of her recovery.

9 a.m.: Morrisville Police Chief Patrice Andrews said officers are disinfecting their work stations and cars regularly. They are also encouraged to maintain good physical and mental health as they continue their essential work.

"That really does make a difference, especially when they go into unknown situations," Andrews said.

The temperatures of all Morrisville police officers are taken daily when they arrive at work. Andrews said officers have had to start paying attention to the medical symptoms of people or suspects they encounter. If they observe coughing, they are encouraged to keep 6 feet away (when possible) and to use personal protective gear.

8:45 a.m.: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will donate 225,000 items of personal protective equipment, or PPE, to medical workers on Tuesday. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the group has a stock of PPE available for responding to chemical, oil, radiological, biological and hazardous incidents.

“After searching our inventory of personal protective equipment, we identified excess supplies and sent them to those on the frontlines of this fight," Wheeler said.

Among the items are protective disposable gloves and full-body protective suits.

8:30 a.m.: The pandemic is hurting nonprofits, like the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which usually holds spring fundraisers to raise money for cancer research.

Organizers say in North Carolina alone, 20 planned shaving events have been canceled, which equals an estimated $400,000 in lost donations that would have provided the funding for cancer research grants.

7:45 a.m.: A website says North Carolina has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to practicing social distancing. Unacast Online updates its "social distancing grade" for each state daily by analyzing cell phone data. North Carolina currently has a D- rating. In March, the state scored a B.

Unacast says restaurants are "non-essential," so North Carolina's score is penalized when people travel to restaurants. The governor's stay-at-home order allows people to order take-out from restaurants.

7:30 a.m.: On Tuesday, the family of a former Durham councilwoman who died from coronavirus will say their final goodbyes.

A private service will held for Judy Harward at Maplewood Cemetery. Harward was a lifetime resident of Durham and passed away on Friday. She was 76.

7:15 a.m.: Hackers are targeting people using Zoom and other video conferencing platforms during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ceri Weber was completing the final step of her doctoral degree at Duke University when echoes and voices interrupted her.

Someone parroted her words. Then Britney Spears music came on, and someone told her to shut up. The harassment lasted 10 minutes — the result of an increasingly common form of cyber attack known as “Zoom bombing.” Now lawmakers are saying Zoom should do more to protect its users.

6:45 a.m.: A bottling company based in New Bern is using two-liter Pepsi bottles to create face shields for medical workers. The shields may be used at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, WITN reports.

6:30 a.m.: The Durham Ritz Car Wash on Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard is offering to decontaminate the Durham Police Department's cars free of charge during the coronavirus pandemic.

6:15 a.m.: The Orange County Board of Commissioners will hold a virtual meeting on Tuesday to vote on rent vouchers and whether to transfer funds to provide financial assistance to low-income residents.

If approved, the move would also provide additional resources for the county’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

6 a.m.: A new report projects that, if North Carolina relaxes current social distancing guidelines, 750,000 people in the state could be infected with COVID-19 by the end of May. At the current rate, researchers from Duke and UNC predict 250,000 infections.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home-order is set to expire April 30. The study shows, if that happens, hospitals will likely run out of space and supplies.

5:15 a.m.: Boeing will suspend production of its 787 planes in South Carolina, putting the manufacturers of commercial airplanes out of work. Boeing has 160,000 employees company-wide with more than 6,800 at the South Carolina facility. Benefits will continue through the suspension period for all employees, Boeing said.

5 a.m.: Japan's Prime Minister declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other regions to fortify defenses against the coronavirus pandemic.

4:45 a.m.: With new stay-at-home orders and a death toll over 10,000 in the United States, officials warn this could be the deadliest stretch of the coronavirus outbreak.

France recorded its highest virus daily death toll on Monday, with more than 800 deaths in 24 hours. Worldwide, more than 1.3 million have been infected with coronavirus, and 74,000 people have died.

4:15 a.m.: NBC News reports that New Zealand's health minister has been demoted after he drove to the beach for a walk with his family.

David Clark said that at a time when the government was asking New Zealanders to make historic sacrifices by staying at home, he had let them down. “I’ve been an idiot, and I understand why people will be angry with me,” he said in a statement.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was stripping Clark of his role as Associate Finance Minister and demoting him to the bottom of the Cabinet rankings.

4 a.m.: North Carolina's confirmed cases stand at 2,947 with 45 deaths. At least 132 people have recovered from coronavirus.

Cumberland County reported eight new cases Monday, with the youngest patient a 1-year-old. There are cases in at least 91 counties of the state's 100 counties.

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