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Coronavirus coverage in North Carolina, March 23, 2020: Trump to use law to prevent medical supply hoarding, price-gouging

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

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Here are the latest updates on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in North Carolina and across the globe:

What you need to know:

Important links:

Get details on NC cases:

Latest updates:

Monday, March 23
10:05 p.m.: A graduate student in the Shaw University School of Divinity tested positive for COVID-19, the school said. The student is in home quarantine.

The student was last on campus on March 9 to attend a performance by the Virginia Commonwealth University Black Awakening Choir.

Anyone who attended the event and who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should contact their primary care physician, Shaw University said.

7:50 p.m.: Wake County has reported 14 more coronavirus cases, bringing the county total to 66.
7 p.m.: The North Carolina Board of Nursing says reports are circulating of physicians prescribing hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, azithromycin and other medications "often in large quantities with a high number of refills" for themselves and family members amid the coronavirus outbreak. The drugs are being investigated as treatments for COVID-19, the illness associated with the virus.

"Board staff and public health officials are aware that some prescription drug wholesalers are reporting shortages of these drugs," the nursing board said in a statement posted online. "Pharmacists are reminded of their ability to refuse to fill prescriptions that, in the pharmacist’s professional judgment, are not clinically appropriate."

6:45 p.m.: Durham County reported 30 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the county total to 71. No details about the cases were released.
6:40 p.m.: Fort Bragg reports a fifth person has tested positive for the new coronavirus. The person is a famility member of a retired veteran and is in isolation at Womack Army Medical Center, officials said.
6:25 p.m.: President Donald Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act to prevent the hoarding of scarce medical supplies and price-gouging.

"We will not allow anyone to exploit the suffering of American citizens for their own profit," Trump said.

Attorney General William Barr said people who have stockpiled toilet paper don't have to worry, but anyone with a warehouse full of surgical masks will face consequences.

6:20 p.m.: About 6.5 million surgical masks have been donated to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help meet the needs of health care providers, President Donald Trump said. The government has shipped pallets of supplies to New York City and Washington state, he said.
6:15 p.m.: President Donald Trump said his administration is working on ways to restart the nation amid the coronavirus outbreak.

"Our country was not built to be shut down," Trump said. "We're not going to let the cure be worse than the problem."

6:10 p.m.: Cape Fear Valley Medical Center reported its first case of COVID-19, a Cumberland County resident who is the fourth person in the county to test positive for the new coronavirus.
5:40 p.m.: The North Carolina Healthcare Association has asked Gov. Roy Cooper to issue a shelter in place order, as numerous other states have already done, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"We cannot afford to be led by a false sense of security created by a low number of confirmed cases. We do not have the luxury to think and act based on human time. COVID-19 follows its own timeline and pathway," association President and CEO Steve Lawler wrote in the letter.

"Because of limited availability of tests and high-throughput technology, we do not have the data to fully understand the magnitude or timing of the surge," Lawler wrote. "It is imperative that we move quickly, as it will take at least two weeks after a shelter in place order is issued before we see a change in the trajectory of cases. Hospitals and physicians throughout the state believe this is the only resort left to immediately impact the growth and spread of the virus."

Over the weekend, the North Carolina Chamber said shelter in place should be a "last resort" because of the economic impact it would have.

“The disruption a shelter-in-place order would generate for the private sector, and for North Carolina citizens whose financial well-being and overall welfare depends on their ability to work, cannot be underestimated,” Chamber President and CEO Gary Salamido told chamber members.

5:30 p.m.: Congress continues to negotiate a potential $1 trillion economic stimulus package to help the battered U.S. economy move ahead during the pandemic.
4:30 p.m.: British Prime Minster Boris Johnson has ordered the closure of most stores in the U.K. and has banned gatherings for three weeks to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
4:05 p.m.: Carolina Dentistry, part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Adams School of Dentistry, has started offering tele-dentistry services through a virtual helpline to patients and oral health care providers across the state.

The Carolina Dentistry Virtual Oral Health Care Helpline, available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 919-537-3088, will provide advice for non-emergency oral health needs and referrals for dental emergencies that must be addressed in person.

Oral health care providers across North Carolina may also call to speak with a specialist for patient consultations and referring patients with dental emergencies.

For after-hours urgent care, patients should call 919-537-3364.

4 p.m.: Investors worried about the ongoing economic impact of the pandemic trimmed another 600 points off the Dow Jones average on Monday, or about 3 percent.
3:55 p.m.: South Carolina has reported its fourth and fifth coronavirus-related deaths. Both were elderly people with underlying health problems, officials said.
3:50 p.m.: The North Carolina High School Athletic Association has suspended all school athletic activities until at least May 18, following Gov. Roy Cooper's order keep schools statewide closed through May 15.
2:50 p.m.: The state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources has gathered everything from the North Carolina Zoo to the State Archives into one website, NCLearn@Home, for students and teachers to use as educational materials during the prolonged school closure during the pandemic.

"During this time of uncertainty – and when we have to be more physically separated from one another – it’s important that we are able to connect with art, culture, history and nature in a tangible and meaningful way,” DNCR Secretary Susi Hamilton said in a statement. “Until we’re able to welcome visitors back to our museums, historic sites, zoo, aquariums and other North Carolina cultural institutions, we hope that these resources will help keep North Carolinians informed, engaged and entertained.”

2:45 p.m.: The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in RTP has launched a worker training website to prevent and reduce exposure of hospital employees, first responders and other workers who are at risk from coronavirus.

"These men and women are so dedicated, and as they work so hard to serve and protect the public during this COVID-19 pandemic, I want to make sure they know how to protect their own health too. We don’t need them getting sick or taking the virus back to their families or their communities," Chip Hughes, who has led the NIEHS Worker Training Program for 31 years, said in a statement.

2:25 p.m.: South Africa will become on Thursday the third African country to go into nationwide lockdown to fight the spread of coronavirus.
2:05 p.m.: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered schools in that state to remain closed for the rest of the school year.
1:55 p.m.: Canada's most populous province, Ontario, has ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses.
1:45 p.m.: More than 8,400 coronavirus tests have been run in North Carolina, with another 10,000 in the queue, GOv. Roy Cooper said. But shortages of supplies needed for the tests have created a backlog that is delaying test results for days.
1:35 p.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper has asked the State Board of Education and the state Department of Public Instruction to develop a plan to ensure all school employees continue to get paid during the prolonged closure of public schools.
1:30 p.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper said there are no current plans to issue a statewide order for people to remain at home, as has been done in other states.
1:10 p.m.: Duke University Health System officials have sent a letter to President Donald Trump, asking that he use the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of needed medical supplies, including personal protective equipment for providers, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Without access to this critical medical and personal protective equipment, our ability to respond is threatened, and the well-being of patients in need and the provider teams who care for them is at grave risk," Dr. William Fulkerson, executive vice president of Duke Health, and Dr. Mary Klotman, dean of Duke's School of Medicine, wrote in the letter. "Within days, we expect our hospital system to be flooded with COVID-19 patients, and health experts suggest that this public health crisis may continue at unprecedented levels for months."

1:05 p.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order, which takes effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday, lowers the cap on mass gatherings to 50 people and closes theaters, bowling alleys, bingo and sweepstakes parlors and gyms and fitness centers. Also, because of a difficulty in "social distancing," the order closes barbershops, hair and nail salons and tattoo and massage parlors.

Long-term care facilities will have to bar visits by everyone except essential health care personnel under the order, except for certain compassionate care situations, such an end-of-life situation.

"Throughout this crisis, we have taken early and aggressive action to flatten the curve," he said. "I know that these actions cause hardship and heartache for a lot of people, but they're necessary to save lives."

1 p.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper has ordered that schools statewide remain closed until at least May 15 because of the coronavirus outbreak. He previously ordered them to remain closed through this week.

"I'm not ready to give up on this year of school. However, we know that this pandemic will not subside anytime soon," Cooper said in announcing his executive order. "We must maximize the time left in the year as possible."

The May 15 date is based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and could change again, he said.

12:55 p.m.: Durham police say a man driving a white Nissan has been going door to door in a north Durham neighborhood asking residents for personal information. He said he needed the information in order for them to get testing for the new coronavirus at the Durham Police Department. Police said it's a scam, noting the department isn't doing any testing and wouldn't go door to door and ask for information for testing.
12:15 p.m.: GoRaleigh has become the latest area transit system to stop collecting fares during the coronavirus outbreak and to encourage riders to board at the rear of the bus for better distancing between driver and passengers. GoDurham and GoTriangle announced similar moves Sunday.
11:55 p.m.: Inter-Faith Food Shuttle has told all of its volunteers to stay away during the pandemic and is reassigning employees to help prepare and distribute meals, pack Grocery Bags for Seniors and emergency boxes to be distributed to community members in need.
11:35 a.m.: Manna Church plans to deliver more than 7,000 N95 masks to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, which has a shortage of the masks, on Monday afternoon, church officials said. The N95 masks were left over from disaster relief efforts the church was involved in after Hurricane Florence.
11:30 a.m.: Mecklenburg County reports 17 more coronavirus cases, bringing them to a state-high of 97. Statewide, 331 cases have been reported.
11:20 a.m.: The state Division of Employment Security has processed more than 113,000 applications for unemployment benefits in the past week. At least 87 percent of applicants noted they had lost their jobs because of the coronavirus outbreak.
11 a.m.: The State Board of Education is requesting a federal waiver for required testing and accountability measures because schools statewide remain closed during the coronavirus outbreak.
10:45 a.m.: Northampton County has reported its first positive test of coronavirus, bringing the state total to 312.
10:20 a.m.: The coronavirus is forcing some employers to lay off their workers.
On Monday, GE Aviation, which operates a plant in Durham employing some 400 people and another facility in Asheville, said it is cutting 10 percent of its workforce, according to WRAL TechWire.

Neomonde, a Mediterranean restaurant with locations in Raleigh and Morrisville, said it would have to lay off a "majority" of its staff in order to remain in business. The Morrisville location is closing during the outbreak, and the location on Beryl Road in Raleigh will be offering takeout, pickup and delivery.

10 a.m.: The Durham VA Health Care System has temporarily suspended all non-critical clinic visits and procedures in efforts to limit coronavirus exposure. Veterans seeking non-emergency care can access the telehealth program at telehealth.va.gov.
9:30 a.m. People left without jobs during the coronavirus pandemic may be able to find work elsewhere. Dollar General on Monday announced they are looking to double rates of hiring by adding up to 50,000 employers in stores across the country through April. The increase in staffing will help them keep shelves stocked and serve the community.

Other stores have announced similar iniatives.

9:10 a.m.: At least 311 people now test positive for the new coronavirus in North Carolina, according to data shared with WRAL by county and state leaders. The number is up from 306, which was reported Sunday night, and is expected to rise daily as more people get tested for COVID-19.
9 a.m.: Harnett County's first coronavirus patient, who was hospitalized last week, is back home and recovering, according to a Facebook post from a family member.

"Jeff is tired and weak and still short of breath but he will be recovering at home with his personal home nurse," the post read.

Raleigh Children and Adolescent Medicine will reopen their Duraleigh Road office Monday after the office closed Friday when a patient believed to have coronavirus passed through. The Wake County Health Department cleared them to reopen, the pediatrician said.

8:30 a.m.: People around the world are sending messages of joy and hope during the coronavirus outbreak.

Several homeowners in downtown Cary hung inspirational signs reading, "Stay strong! You can do hard things," and, "Together we can make it through." Others have put up their Christmas lights.

8:20 a.m.: Rep. Ben McAdams of Utah, 45, was hospitalized and receiving oxygen after a coronavirus test came back positive. McAdams said on Twitter that he is starting to feel better but described COVID-19 as the worst cold he ever had.

Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart of Florida and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky have also tested positive for the virus, and several other members of Congress are in quarantine. President Trump was tested for the virus weeks ago, and that test came back negative.

8 a.m.: WRAL has a one-stop resource for people looking to give help and get help. Learn how to support local businesses, donate food, medical supplies and money to hospitals or charities, and seek financial assistance.
7:30 a.m.: Shaw University has postponed its spring commencement ceremony until December. The move comes after Gov. Roy Cooper banned large gatherings, and many other universities have done the same.

"We are postponing, not canceling, our graduation ceremony," said Shaw University president Dr. Paulette Dillard. "Commencement is a momentous occasion for our graduating class and their families. They have worked and sacrificed, and it's important to acknowledge and celebrate their accomplishments."

7 a.m.: On Sunday, Wegmans announced it would increase employees' pay by $2/hour through March and April. Amazon and Target are also increasing pay.

While other businesses are shutting down, grocery stores and truck drivers and working hard to keep up with demand.

Despite their efforts, Triangle shelves are still running low, especially when it comes to toilet paper, meat and dairy products, dry goods and cleaners.

6:30 a.m.: Animal shelters need help! To increase adoptions, the Wake County Animal Center in Raleigh and the Cumberland County Animal Center in Fayetteville have reduced adoption fees to $25 and $28 respectively. Fosters are also needed.

By clearing the kennels, shelter staff can make room for dogs and cats that may be surrendered during the virus pandemic. As a public service, county shelters must remain open so they can take in stray animals.

The SPCA of Wake County is closed but is also encouraging adoptions via a livestream on their Facebook page. Interested adopters should call the shelters and the SPCA to arrange an appointment to visit the animal.

6 a.m.: The Tokyo Olympics may be postponed, officials say.

The IOC will take up to four weeks to consider postponing the Tokyo Olympics, and Canada already said it won't send a team to the games this year.

5:30 a.m.: Effective Monday, UNC will allow a pass/fail grading option to all undergraduate and graduate students. The satisfactory/unsatisfactory option will not affect GPAs.

UNC and other universities extended spring break by one week and are asking students not to return to campus. Online classes will continue this week.

Public schools have sent assignments and resources to parents so they can work with their students at home.

5 a.m.: Many big closures take affect today.

In an effort to make its bus rides safe and easy, GoRaleigh will suspend fares and offer rear door boarding for riders to encourage social distancing. Front door access will still be available for persons with disabilities.

All Wake County playgrounds will close, forcing families to get kids' energy out elsewhere.

Many non-essential small businesses, including some retail stores and department stores, malls, gyms and spas, and others will close.

Grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, gas stations and other essential businesses will remain open. People are advised to stay home whenever possibly, venturing out only if they need food or supplies.

4:30 a.m.: Many businesses are struggling, and many workers are wondering if they qualify for unemployment.
People can apply for unemployment online. To qualify, people must meet at least one of these guidelines:
  • Have you been temporarily laid off?
  • Has your employer shut down because of COVID-19?
  • Are you out of work because a coworker is isolated?
  • Are you forced to quarantine and your employer doesn’t offer paid time off?

Last week alone, 42,000 people filed for unemployment in North Carolina -- that’s how many applications the state usually gets in three months.

Gov. Cooper’s executive order will make it easier for people to file for unemployment and get money. Workers will also not be required to look for new jobs In order to qualify.
4:20 a.m.: Wake County leaders announced Sunday afternoon that, while trails and greenways remain open, public playgrounds are closed. In addition, all fitness centers, gyms, spas, tanning beds and salons -- both hair and nail -- were ordered to close until April 30.

Mary Le, who owns Beverly Nails in Cary, said she doesn’t know how her business will manage.

"We don't know what to do right now because maybe we need to play for rent," Le said. "When we stay home we don't have money."

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