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Coronavirus coverage in North Carolina, April 9, 2020: Outbreaks expand in nursing homes across Triangle

Posted April 9, 2020 4:03 a.m. EDT
Updated April 13, 2020 4:12 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:

8 p.m.: Two nurses and two residents have tested positive for the coronavirus at Wellington Rehabilitation and Healthcare in Knightdale, the first long-term care facility in Wake County with an outbreak.

The two residents are hospitalized at WakeMed.

"We’re concerned about the potential for COVID-19 to spread rapidly among residents at the facility because many of the residents are older and have additional health conditions that put them at risk of serious illness if they contract the virus,” Wake County Medical Director Dr. Kim McDonald said in a statement.

Public health officials are testing all patients and staff who were in close contact with the four infected individuals, but the results likely won't be back for seven to 10 days. Until then, staff are advised to wear personal protective equipment at all times, practice appropriate social distancing and frequently clean surfaces with disinfectant.

6:55 p.m.: Federal officials are looking at the feasability of allowing hospitals to use cloth gowns that can be cleaned during procedures to help with the shortage of disposable gowns during the pandemic, Vice President Mike Pence said.

6:50 p.m.: Vice President Mike Pence said $125 billion in loans to small businesses have been processed through the Paycheck Protection Program, and officials are working on rules to allow seasonal businesses to participate in the program.

6:25 p.m.: President Donald Trump said his administration will roll out a package this weekend to help the airline industry weather the fallout of the pandemic.

Nineteen therapies to treat COVID-19 are being tested, and another 26 are in the pipeline, he said.

6:20 p.m.: The Durham Board of County Commissioners has approved a $1.6 million contract with the Durham Marriott-RTP, which will allow housing of homeless individuals, getting them out of shelters, to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

6:10 p.m.: Raleigh has suspended curbside yard waste collection to limit the spread of the coronavirus, but the city is allowing people to buy mulch and compost products from the city yard Waste Center, starting next Monday.

"The sale of these products comprises only 13 percent of the center’s normal activity, so we believe we’re able to provide this particular service while posing a minimal risk to the public and our employees," officials said in a news release.

Residents can purchase mulch and compost from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, and the center will remain closed for all incoming yard waste.

5:35 p.m.: The North Carolina State Board of Education is asking state lawmakers to waive some accountability requirements for the current academic year because of statewide school closures to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The board also approved a measure asking the legislature to ease licensure testing requirements for beginning teachers who are face a June deadline for gaining a continuing license.

The board’s request for relief from state testing and accountability requirements follows its request last month to the U.S. Department of Education for a waiver from federal accountability rules. As with other states, that waiver has been approved.

5:30 p.m.: Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina says it will speed up payments to providers as they deal with potential short-term cash flow challenges from the pandemic. Blue Cross also is suspended many administrative requirements, such as prior authorization for inpatient hospitalization, speeding its credentialing process to help meet the demand for clinicians and giving its medical staff up to two weeks off to assist with caring for COVID-19 patients.

"The COVID-19 pandemic requires everyone in the health care community to work together and do their part," Rahul Rajkumar, chief medical officer at Blue Cross, said in a statement. "For Blue Cross NC, supporting our members means supporting our front-line health care providers."

5:10 p.m.: Four cases of coronavirus have been reported at The Laurels of Chatham Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Pittsboro, but county health officials declined to say whether they are residents or staff members.

4:55 p.m.: State Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey said he is working with insurance companies so they can provide financial assistance to consumers during the coronavirus outbreak. Many automobile insurers are announcing rebates and discounts due to the statewide stay-at-home order, but rebates are not allowed in North Carolina, and discounts must be filed in advance with the Department of Insurance for approval.

Causey said the DOI has developed a filing mechanism that will quickly allow companies to legally offer discounts to help their policyholders.

"This plan provides companies with an expedited way to bring economic relief to our residents," he said in a statement. "I cannot ignore our laws that do not allow monies to be given to policyholders that are not tied to a decrease or cancellation of coverage. I can, however, assist companies in offering legal discounts."

4:50 p.m.: Thirty residents and three staff members at Louisburg Nursing Center have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said. On Wednesday, only five virus cases were reported – two residents and three staffers.

4:30 p.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper said many retailers back the new guidelines to keep people apart inside stores, so he doesn't expect many violations. But law enforcement can issue citations for Class 2 misdemeanors for any violations, he said.

"We believe that our retail stores understand the importance of this and will abide by this rule," he said.

4:25 p.m.: The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners has voted to extend the deadline for all individual and business personal property tax listings without penalty to June 30.

"We hope this extension will assist our residents during these trying times,” Chairman Marshall Faircloth said in a statement. "We hope it will take another layer of financial and other pressure off business owners in particular."

4:20 p.m.: State Department of Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks said state officials are reviewing steps to take to limit the spread of coronavirus in state prisons, but he wouldn't say whether any inmates would be released earlier to reduce the population in prisons.

4:15 p.m.: Fort Bragg will require, starting Friday, face coverings be worn by anyone entering a commissary, exchange or any other public area or work area facility where a minimum of 6 feet of social distance cannot easily be maintained. Individuals who don't have a face covering of some type will be turned away until they are able to return with one, officials said.

"We know this is an inconvenience for many of you, but it is being implemented out of an abundance of caution," officials said in an online post. "Remember, the wearing of a mask is not to protect you from infection, but to prevent the spread of the virus to others. These measures are meant to alleviate the risk of contamination from those without symptoms who may not know their status."

Bandanas, scarves, cloth, neck gaiters or "medical type" masks are allowed under the new regulation.

4:05 p.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper said he is signing an executive order to place new "social distancing" rules on retailers, starting at 5 p.m. Monday.

Retailers will have to take the following steps:

  • Limit the number of customers inside at any one time to 20 percent of allowed capacity under fire regulations, or five people per 1,000 square feet.
  • Maintain 6-foot separation between customers at checkout lines and other areas where customers congregate.
  • Routinely disinfect stores.

Retailers also are encouraged to take the following steps:

  • Limit aisles to one-way traffic.
  • Install plastic shields to separate cashiers from customers.
  • Set aside specific hours for senior citizens to shop.
  • Make hand sanitizer available for customers and staff.

"This should make shopping safer," Cooper said, "and help prevent stores from becoming flashpoints of the virus."

The executive order also will help the state to process unemployment claims more quickly by allowing employees file batch claims for workers who have lost their jobs because of pandemic-related closures. Cooper said the state has received 497,000 claims for jobless benefits since mid-March.

4 p.m.: The S&P 500 index closes out its best week since 1974 after the Federal Reserve takes more aggressive action to support the economy.

3:10 p.m.: The number of residents at Pinehurst Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center who have tested positive for coronavirus is now at 45, officials said. Twenty-four were listed as positive on Wednesday, but not all test results were back at the time.

Eight staff members also have tested positive, but not all test results on staff have been returned, officials said.

Infected residents have been isolated from others at the facility, while infected staff are in isolation at home, officials said. None of the residents that have so far been diagnosed has exhibited severe symptoms or signs of respiratory distress.

3 p.m.: To limit the spread of coronavirus, the Wake County Animal Shelter will require appointments for all visits to the animal center until further notice, including visits for adoptions and to look for lost pets, bring in strays or surrender a pet.

Call 919-212-PETS to make an appointment. Scheduling visits will reduce the interactions among visitors and give staff time to sanitize the center between trips. Appointments are available noon to 6 p.m. seven days a week, but same-day appointments may not be available.

2:45 p.m.: An employee at the Holly Springs plant of vaccine maker Seqirus has tested positive for the coronavirus, a company spokeswoman said.

2:40 p.m.: The Bridgestone plant in Wilson won't reopen until April 27, company officials said. On Wednesday, the company announced its commercial tire plants in North America would reopen on April 13, but officials said the Wilson plant doesn't make commercial tires.

All Bridgestone plants shut down last month as business slowed during the coronavirus outbreak.

2:20 p.m.: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved out of intensive care as his condition improves after contracting COVID-19.

2 p.m.: Several staff members of Rose Hill Medical Center in Duplin County have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said. All of them are in isolation at home, and their close contacts have been quarantined.

Rose Hill Medical Center is closed until all of those who tested positive are released from isolation, officials said. All patients seen at the clinic from March 23 through April 3 are being contacted by office staff, and follow-up surveillance will be conducted by Duplin County Health Department.

Staff also will contact patients with appointments scheduled in the next two weeks to discuss options.

1:55 p.m.: An inmate escaped from the federal prison in Butner last week amid a coronavirus outbreak at the prison complex. Richard Cephas, 54, of Delaware, was serving a sentence for drug offenses and is considered a non-violent offender, Creedmoor police said in an online post.

1:45 p.m.: Fewer than 100 migrants are in custody at the U.S.-Mexico border, down from 20,000 a year ago, as the Trump administration is expelling crossers amid the pandemic, according to the Washington Post.

Map: Virus outbreaks in NC long-term care facilities

1:10 p.m.: Sixty-five patients and 18 staff members at PruittHealth's Carolina Point nursing home in Durham (Orange County) have tested positive for the coronavirus, as infections continue to spread there. Another 35 staffers have tested negative for the virus, officials said.

The Carolina Point outbreak prompted state officials to enact new restrictions on long-term care facilities on Wednesday to curb the spread of the virus.

12:50 p.m.: The coronavirus continues to spread at a Clayton nursing home. Twenty-one residents and 14 staff members ar Springbrook Rehabilitation & Nursing Center are now infected, up from 15 total cases on Wednesday.

12:35 p.m.: Reps. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, Rachel Hunt, D-Mecklenburg, Marcia Morey, D-Durham, and Robert Reives, D-Chatham, are among 346 legislators from 45 states to ask the country’s top online marketplaces to crack down on price gouging during the pandemic. The lawmakers sent letters Tuesday urging Amazon, Craigslist, eBay, Facebook and Walmart to quickly implement preventive measures on their platforms to ensure that consumers don’t get taken advantage of during a public health crisis.

"We believe you have an ethical obligation and patriotic duty to help your fellow citizens in this time of need by doing everything in your power to stop price gouging in real-time," the letters state.

12:30 p.m.: Kingsdown has shifted production at its plant in Mebane and at two plants in Canada from regular mattresses to manufacture beds for use in health care facilities, temporary health care outposts and treatment facilities to assist during the COVID-19 pandemic. Company officials said the switch will help keep about 40 percent of their workers at the plants on the job.

12:10 p.m.: Orange, Wilson and Edgecombe counties have reported coronavirus-related deaths, pushing the state total to 73.

11:55 a.m.: Health care leaders in the state House have called for state budget funds to pay for personal protective equipment and testing to help medical professionals serve patients in North Carolina during the coronavirus pandemic.

"To keep our vital medical professionals serving patients in need across North Carolina, state support is critical to increase their supplies for testing and protective equipment," Reps. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, and Perrin Jones, R-Pitt, said in a joint statement.

Jones is an anesthesiologist, while Lambeth is a former hospital executive and a top budget writer in the House.

11:45 a.m.: Two deaths in Gaston County and one each in Johnston, Rockingham, Union and Washington counties has pushed North Carolina's virus-related death toll to 70. Nearly 3,700 people statewide have tested positive for the new coronavirus, and some 190 people have recovered from their infections.

11:35 a.m.: The coronavirus has claimed more than 7,000 lives in New York state, almost triple the number of deaths as during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

11:20 a.m.: The WakeEd Partnership has asked state lawmakers to continue the pay and benefits for all Wake County Public School System employees during the pandemic and for greater operational and spending flexibility until normal operations resume.

"WCPSS is Wake County’s third largest employer, and a major driver of spending in local businesses," the group's board members said in a letter to lawmakers. "Our region can’t afford to lose that kind of economic support at this time. Any public school employee who is laid off will be forced into the already overwhelmed unemployment system and will lose critical medical benefits when they need them most. The money to pay these employees was already part of the FY20 budget and planned as part of the FY21 budget."

11:15 a.m.: Coronavirus cases at Neuse Correctional Institution in Goldsboro have jumped from four to 13 inmates, according to figures from the state Department of Public Safety. Only three other prisons – Pasquotank Correctional in Elizabeth City with one, Johnston Correctional in Smithfield with two and Caledonia Correctional in Halifax County with four – have reported coronavirus cases among inmates.

About 50 tests at various prisons are still awaiting results.

11:10 a.m.: A petition on Change.org is asking Wake County Public School System officials to give students the option of pass/fail grades or to record their third-quarter grades as the final grade for the spring semester.

"During this difficult time, everyone is making much needed sacrifices. Therefore, we should not have to make the additional and unnecessary sacrifice of not being able to earn our best possible GPA. Indeed, the grade would not fully reflect the entire semester’s course-work, but it is the best possible measurable reflection available," the petition states.

11 a.m.: A Nevada man is behind bars after allegedly stealing hundreds of surgical masks from a local veterans' affairs medical center. Authorities say the 35-year-old man stole at least four boxes of surgical masks from supply carts in Reno. Each box contained 50 masks.

Police say surveillance cameras captured him hiding the boxes under his jacket before leaving the hospital. The suspect is charged with one count of theft of health care property.

10:45 a.m.: President Donald Trump’s request for $250 billion to supplement the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses crippled by the coronavirus outbreak hit a roadblock Thursday in the Senate when Democrats demanded protections for minority-owned businesses and matching money for health care providers and state and local governments.

10:30 a.m.: A survey from the National Association of Realtors shows that, as spring activity decreases during the pandemic, buyers and sellers are expected to return to the market after the crisis ends. About 59 percent of real estate agents said buyers are delaying home purchases for a couple of months, while 57 percent said sellers are delaying home sales for a couple of months.

Even though home sales are expected to decline this spring, experts say home prices won't change. Seventy-two percent of respondents said sellers have not reduced prices to attract buyers.

10:20 a.m.: Several shows expected to round out this year's Broadway season at Durham Performing Arts Center have been rescheduled.

Season ticket holders were notified Thursday that "The Band's Visit" has been moved from April to Jan. 26-31, 2021. "Escape to Margaritaville," which was also set for this month, was moved to to Feb. 2-7, 2021. "My Fair Lady" is now set for May 25-30, 2021, instead of this May. Tickets for the original dates will be honored at the rescheduled shows.

In New York City, Broadway is extending its shutdown through June as the pandemic continues to hit the U.S. Forty-one theaters in New York City have been shut down since March 12. The initial target of reopening next Monday has become impossible as COVID-19 cases continue to surge. Ticket holders for the canceled shows should receive an email with information regarding exchanges or refunds.

10:15 a.m.: With a group of volunteers, a bar owner in Georgia spent weeks taking down $3,714 worth of bills stapled to her walls to help pay her employees.

10 a.m.: If you need to get your car inspected but are worried about doing so during the pandemic – don't. House Speaker Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger put out a statement promising that the General Assembly will "retroactively extend vehicle inspection deadlines." They also noted that the State Highway Patrol is "not prioritizing enforcement."

9:55 a.m.: Georgia has pushed back its elections for the second time in response to the coronavirus, postponing its May primaries until June.

9:50 a.m.: Nearly 90 percent of tech companies have at least half of their employees working from home, executives told the North Carolina Technology Association in a survey. Over half say all of their employees are now working online.

9:35 a.m.: At least 3,540 people now test positive for coronavirus in North Carolina. Halifax County has reported two more cases, bringing its total to 19.

9:30 a.m.: Another 6.6 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. It was the second largest number of initial unemployment claims in history since the Department of Labor started tracking the data in 1967. Altogether, more than 14 million American workers have sought aid in the form of jobless benefits since mid-March.

9:15 a.m.: A California nursing home had to be evacuated after employees didn't show up to care for sick patients for a second day. Dozens of the center's residents have contracted the coronavirus, as well as five employees. Public health officials in Riverside, say only one of the 13 scheduled nursing assistants came to work. Nurses were sent to fill in, but ultimately, more than 80 patients had to be moved to other care centers.

9 a.m.: Paris authorities have banned daytime jogging to slow the spread of coronavirus. The 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. outdoor exercise ban was enforced after hundreds took to the streets over the weekend to enjoy the sunny weather.

8:30 a.m.: In a TODAY Show interview with Savannah Guthrie, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he believes coronavirus-related fatalities in the U.S. will be significantly lower than the 100,000 to 240,000 originally projected.

"I think the American public have done a really terrific job of just buckling down and doing those physical separation and adhering to those guidelines," Fauci said, predicting that the number of fatalities now looks closer to 60,000. "But we better be careful that we don’t say, 'OK, we’re doing so well that we can pull back.' We still have to put our foot on the accelerator when it comes to the mitigation and the physical separation."

8:15 a.m.: One of Ellen DeGeneres' jokes in which she compared self-quarantining during the coronavirus pandemic to "being in jail" is getting backlash. DeGeneres said the comment while broadcasting to viewers from her home on Monday.

7:45 a.m.: The Greensboro Police Department announced an officer tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday, according to WXII. The officer is in quarantine and doing well at this time, according to police.

NBC Charlotte reports a Cleveland County sheriff's deputy has tested positive for COVID-19. The Cleveland County courthouse will be closed for the rest of the week so it can be cleaned and disinfected. According to the sheriff's office, everyone who had contact with the deputy has been quarantined.

7:30 a.m.: Disney+ is nearing its global subscriber goal four years early, largely due to people staying home due to coronavirus. The streaming service has 50 million paid subscribers just five months after it launched. The company had predicted that it would reach 60 to 90 million by 2024.

7 a.m.: A worker at a Food Lion distribution center in Dunn has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee's last day working there was March 28.

Officials from the company that operates the facility say they do not believe the worker had close contact with other employees.

6:45 a.m.: Congress will consider a new bill giving additional help to small businesses. The bill would address the new Paycheck Protection Program, the $350 billion forgivable small-business loan program created by Congress.

This week, the White House requested an additional $250 billion for the program. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he hopes to approve the additional funding by unanimous consent or phone vote. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing to vote on the bill Friday.

6:30 a.m.: Officials in Wrightsville Beach say if people are caught on the beach in violation of the public beach closures, they could face fines of up $650 and potential court costs, WWAY reports. Before the change, offenders faced a misdemeanor that carried a $150 fine. After handing out 18 citations to people violating public beach closures over the weekend, the town said changes were needed.

6:15 a.m.: Air travel has dropped off dramatically since the start of the coronavirus crisis. In the last several weeks, the Transportation Security Administration saw fewer than 100,000 people go through checkpoints. That number is down more than 95 percent compared to the nearly 2.1 million people passing through TSA checkpoints this time last year.

5 a.m.: Signature Health Care in Chapel Hill is reporting an outbreak of coronavirus. The center didn’t say how many residents tested positive but that they are at UNC hospitals.

Patients testing positive have been separated to one side of building with caregivers, while those who tested negative are on the other side of the building with a different set of staff. Currently, no visitors are allowed inside either facility.

4:30 a.m.: Tyler Perry covered grocery bills for senior citizens at dozens of stores in Georgia and Louisiana on Wednesday. The actor-producer picked up all tabs during the senior shopping hour at Kroger and Winn-Dixie grocery stores.

4:15 a.m.: Thursday would have been opening night for the Durham Bulls. There would have been fireworks, food and, of course, baseball. Instead, the Bulls put out a message of unity and thanks.

The Bulls thanked health care workers and asked the public to stay inside to protect everyone. They said "there will come a day we will be able to show our thanks by honoring them at DBAP." In the meantime, the Bulls are offering interactive experiences on Facebook and broadcasting old Bulls games on MeTV each Saturday.

A new opening date has not been announced.

4 a.m.: On Wednesday night, President Donald Trump reassured Americans that our aggressive measures to slow the spread of virus are working. Stimulus checks are also on their way and could be in bank accounts as early as Friday.

In North Carolina, virus cases jumped by 200 in a single day on Wednesday.

More than 3,500 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in North Carolina. Sixty-four people have died, and nearly 400 are hospitalized.

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