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Coronavirus in NC: Live updates for May 19, 2020: NC hospitals report highest number of patients yet

Posted May 19, 2020 4:22 a.m. EDT
Updated May 20, 2020 11:14 a.m. EDT

— Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus from North Carolina and across the globe showing the pandemic’s impact on health, jobs, schools and more:

At least 19,869 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, at least 707 people have died and another 585 or so remain in the hospital. State officials estimate that more than 11,600 people have recovered from COVID-19, the illness associated with the virus.

Latest updates

9:59 p.m.: NBC affiliate WXII in Winston-Salem reports a hospital there is reporting COVID-19 cases of people trying to infect themselves with the virus.

"Over the last few days, we have heard from a lot of patients and the community that they’re unafraid of getting the virus," Yolanda Enrich, a Novant nurse practitioner, told WXII. "People are actually out and about trying to get the virus, so attending gatherings, parties trying to maximize their chances of exposure."

Enrich said patients say they are trying to develop an immunity to the virus, speeding up their ability to go about their day-to-day lives without having to take precautions against COVID-19.

8:47 p.m.: The Barenaked Ladies announced the postponement of its 2020 "Last Summer on Earth" concert. It will now be held in 2021. The group along with Gin Blossoms and Toad the Wet Sprocket were scheduled to stop in Raleigh. The tour stop will now be held July 17 at the Red Hat Amphitheatre. Tickets for the 2020 show will be honored for the 2021 event.

8:44 p.m.: The City of Raleigh is considering relaxing regulations for outdoor dining. Officials discussed it at Tuesday's meeting and will revisit the idea. This could allow some restaurants to put tables outside on the side walks or in parking lots. Some streets could also be blocked to allow more people to sit outside.

7:50 p.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper will take part in a 5 p.m. coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, during which he is expected to announce North Carolina will move into the second phase of the three-part program to restart business and social activities during the pandemic.

Restaurants, bars, salons, gyms and other businesses that have been closed or severely limited in recent weeks will be allowed to reopen with restrictions in Phase 2.

7:30 p.m.: The coronavirus outbreak continues to spread at Carver Rehabilitation and Living Center in Durham. Fourteen new infections were reported Tuesday, bringing the total at the nursing home to 30.

6:20 p.m.: Wrightsville Beach will reopen its beaches for all activities at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Previously, fishing and sunbathing weren't allowed. The town also will lift restrictions on short-term rentals.

6 p.m.: The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration plan to work together to prevent interruptions at FDA-regulated food facilities, including fruit and vegetable processing. The agencies will decide the circumstances under which the USDA could exercise its authority under the Defense Production Act to keep plants that manufacture, process, pack, or hold foods, as well as to those that grow or harvest food that fall within the FDA’s jurisdiction, running during the pandemic.

5:50 p.m.: A new study suggests 6 feet of social distancing may not be enough in breezy weather. Scientists from France and Cyprus created a simulation to see how saliva droplets move through the air when someone coughs.

The model considered the effects of humidity, temperature, force and how droplets change from liquid to vapor and found, even at wind speeds of just 2.5 mph, saliva travels 18 feet in five seconds.

5:45 p.m.: State Farm is rolling out a second round of pandemic rebates for auto insurance customers. The company is reducing its six-month policy rate by an average of 11 percent, which amounts to $2.3 billion in savings.

Overall, State Farm will refund customers $4.3 billion during the pandemic began as people drastically cut back their time behind the wheel.

5:05 p.m.: Delta Airlines says it will not fly full planes through at least July. According to Reuters, the carrier is capping main cabin plane capacity at 60 percent to ensure passengers can practice social distancing. First-class seating will be capped at 50 percent.

Delta will add more flights than demand would usually justify so it can make that happen.

5 p.m.: Traditionally the final leg of horse racing's Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes will be run on June 20 as the first leg. The Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes have been moved to the fall because of coronavirus concerns.

The Belmont will be run at a mile and an eighth rather than its usual mile-and-a-half distance, and its purse has been reduced by a third, to $1 million, with no spectators allowed at the track.

4:55 p.m.: The state Department of Health and Human Services has issued preliminary guidance to the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association about how to operate safely when stay-at-home restrictions are eased to allow them to resume dine-in service, which could come as early as Friday.

According to the guidance, restaurants shouldn't seat more than six people at a table, unless it's a large family. Tables should be at least 6 feet apart, and customers waiting to be seated should either be outside at 6-foot intervals or in their cars.

All employees and customers should wear masks, wait staff should try to maintain some distance from customers and plastic shields should be placed near cash registers.

Restaurants should use disposable menus or a menu board, put condiments on a table only upon request and avoid self-serve options, such as buffets and salad bars.

4:25 p.m.: Graham County Sheriff Joseph Jones says he's not enforcing the statewide stay-at-home order and will allow restaurants and bars in the mountain county to reopen their dining areas immediately.

"This is an effort to help some of our folks to recover and give our citizens an opportunity to go eat inside while sitting with family, friends and/or coworkers," Jones wrote in a letter delivered to dining establishments in the county, a copy of which was posted on the sheriff's office's Facebook page.

Jones urged restaurant staff to take appropriate safety measures and for customers to practice social distancing.

4:15 p.m.: Home building in the U.S. dropped to a five-year low in April. Housing starts tumbled more than 30 percent as people worried that the pandemic would lead to the worst economic climate since the Great Depression.

Many states considered home building as essential when they enforced lockdown orders. But some companies struggled to get the building supplies they needed.

4:10 p.m.: COVID-19 is now a reportable workplace illness, according to the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Employers must record cases of illness if they are workplace-related and if requires an employee to mis days of work.

"Given the nature of the disease and community spread, however, in many instances it remains difficult to determine whether a coronavirus illness is work-related, especially when an employee has experienced potential exposure both in and out of the workplace," the U.S. Department of Labor said in a news release. "OSHA’s guidance emphasizes that employers must make reasonable efforts, based on the evidence available to the employer, to ascertain whether a particular case of coronavirus is work-related."

4:05 p.m.: Action Pathways Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina will conduct a drive-thru food distribution for Robeson County residents at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Southeastern Agricultural Center, 1027 U.S. Highway 74 Alternate in Lumberton. The distribution will run until the food is gone.

4 p.m.: Fayetteville native and NFL player Oli Udoh will be delivering meals to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center at 11:30 a.m. Friday to help give back to his hometown during the pandemic. A former Terry Sanford High School standout, Udoh played offensive tackle at Elon University and was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings last year.

His father, Benjamin, is a doctor and his mother, Rita, is a nurse in their own medical practice, Hanora Medical Center, in Fayetteville.

3:40 p.m.: Durham Bulls Athletic Park has partnered with Mountaire Farms for another drive-thru chicken sale. People need to order online and select a pick-up time. The sale will be held 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday in the former University Ford parking lot downtown.

A 40-pound case of boneless chicken breasts costs $63, while a 40-pound case of drumsticks is $25.

3:25 p.m.: The Wake County Board of Commissioners has voted to allocate $5 million in federal funds to create a relief program for local small businesses that have lost revenue due to the pandemic.

Called Wake Forward, the program will provide loans of up to $50,000 to small businesses in the county with up to 100 employees. At least $1 million in the fund will support independent contractors and sole proprietors. Applications open at noon Wednesday.

3:10 p.m.: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has used CARES Act money, private gifts to the Carolina Student Impact Fund and other funds to fulfill more than 1,500 student requests for emergency financial help for the spring semester, officials said. More money will be doled out to help students during summer school and the fall semester.

"CARES Act grants are awarded directly to students for qualifying expenses such as food, housing, technology, childcare, medical needs and other expenses resulting from the disruption to campus," Rachelle Feldman, associate provost and director of scholarships and student aid, and Dean of Students Desirée Rieckenberg said in a statement. "While we are incredibly grateful for the CARES Act funding, we expect it to only meet a portion of the total needs of our students. We continue to work to secure additional funding from private and other institutional sources."

3 p.m.: Raleigh has canceled its annual July 4th fireworks show because of coronavirus concerns.

2:50 p.m.: North Carolina has recorded its 700th coronavirus-related death. Residents in Wake (two), Durham, Orange and Wayne counties were among the 17 latest deaths reported Tuesday.

Statewide, nealry 19,800 people have been infected with the virus.

2:45 p.m.: The Federal Trade Commission is warning people about contact tracing scams during the pandemic, according to CNBC. Scammers are pretending to be contact tracers working for public health departments to steal private information, officials said, adding that they worry people won't trust actual contact tracers when they call or text unexpectedly.

2:25 p.m.: North Carolina is trying to determine how many contact tracing people are needed to really curb the spread of coronavirus, according to Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services. The state wants to hire 250 people, and counties are also deploying other workers to help in the effort, she said.

Cohen said the state is focused on training bilingual people to reach the Latino community and is looking at ways to reach people other than with a phone call, noting that many people won't pick up if they don't recognize the caller's number.

2:20 p.m.: The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has hit its highest level since April, but Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said North Carolina hospitals have the capacity to handle the influx of cases. Also, she said, the numbers have been fairly stable for weeks.

2:10 p.m.: An employee for a vendor that supports Dollar General's warehouse in Clayton tested positive for the coronavirus last week, a Dollar General spokeswoman said. The facility was shut down for a thorough cleaning but has resumed operations, she said.

1:55 p.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper has sent a letter to Golden LEAF officials to encourage them to ensure women- and minority-owned businesses receive an equitable portion of recently approved pandemic relief funding. The Rocky Mount-based economic development foundation is managing the distribution of $125 million in loans for small businesses that are struggling as a result of the crisis.

12:45 p.m.: Plexiglass is the latest product in high demand because of the pandemic as businesses work to erect shields to separate their workers from customers.

Before the pandemic, Plastic Man Inc. in Las Vegas got 25 to 50 requests a day for plexiglass, but office manager Sonia Leyva told CNN that range has tripled, with almost all of the calls for protective shields.

12:40 p.m.: The NFL is testing new face-mask prototypes to protect players from coronavirus, according to NBC. The modified breathable coverings for helmets are made from the same material as N95 masks and are expected to cover a player's entire facemask.

12:35 p.m.: Johns Hopkins University is offering a free, five-hour online course for anyone interested in becoming a contact tracer and help in the fight against coronavirus.

As many as 300,000 people may be needed nationwide in the upcoming weeks and months as health departments work to track the people contacted by infected individuals so outbreaks can be kept in check.

North Carolina received thousands of applications for the 250 contact tracers the state wants to hire.

12:30 p.m.: Data indicates that fewer children are being vaccinated as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at immunization records from the state of Michigan for children age 2 and younger and found vaccination rates declined across all age groups with the exception of hepatitis B, which is given at the hospital after birth.

Scientists recommend doctors check in with parents by phone or have children receive their vaccinations from their vehicles.

12:25 p.m.: Wake Forest Downtown Inc. has canceled this year’s Wake Forest Charity Car Show, which had been scheduled for June 20. The annual event typically draws thousands of people from across the area to downtown Wake Forest.

12:10 p.m.: The U.S. Treasury Department will begin mailing some stimulus payments on debit cards. Until now, payments had been either directly deposited in an individual's bank account or mailed as a paper check.

About 4 million payments will be sent on debit cards that can be used to make purchases, get cash at an ATM or to transfer funds into a bank account without being charged a fee.

12 p.m.: The State Fairgrounds will host Drive-Thru Fair Food Days on the next two weekends for anyone hankering for a funnel cake, candy apple or an assortment of fried delicacies. People can enter the fairgrounds from Trinity Road and order from their cars.

The event will be held noon to 8 p.m. on May 22-25 and May 29-31. All sales are cash only.

11:50 a.m.: The Count on Me NC initiative will help people identify restaurants, hotels and attractions committed to best safety practices as North Carolina businesses reopen during the pandemic.

The effort is led by the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, in partnership with Visit North Carolina, the state Department of Health and Human Services and North Carolina State Extension and centers on an evidence-based training program with specific guidance for sanitation and service. Upon completing the voluntary training, businesses will receive a certificate for display plus access to logos to use for signage, name badges and tabletop items.

Count on Me NC also includes a consumer pledge to use best practices for protecting the health of companions, fellow customers and hospitality workers. The pledge includes wearing a face covering, waiting at a distance of 6 feet from others and washing hands frequently.

11:45 a.m.: Farmers can begin applying on May 26 for the $16 billion in federal aid available to help the agriculture industry weather the pandemic. To be eligible, farmers must have suffered at least a 5 percent decline in business due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production and disruptions to shipping patterns.

The aid comes from two sources: $9.5 billion from the CARES Act to compensate farmers for losses due to price declines between mid-January and mid-April or because crops shipped during that time spoiled due to loss of marketing channels, and $6.5 billion from the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act to compensate producers for losses due to ongoing market disruptions.

Payments will be capped at $250,000 per person, and farmers must meet certain certification guidelines.

11:40 a.m.: Nearly three dozen public interest and social justice organizations have sent a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper urging him to extend and strengthen the existing moratorium on utility disconnections and late payment fees to protect families who are suffering economic hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic. The moratorium was enacted through an executive order on March 31 and is set to expire at the end of this month.

11:05 a.m.: Global greenhouse gas emissions have dropped 17 percent in recent weeks, as lockdowns, reduced driving and flying and industrial cutbacks drove emissions down to 2006 levels, according to The Washington Post.

The plunge is equivalent to more than a billion tons of carbon dioxide that never made its way into the atmosphere. But the drop in emissions, which reached its lowest level in early April, is believed to be temporary. Experts see greenhouse gas levels bouncing back later this year as the world gradually resumes business and social activities.

11 a.m.: The United States and Canada agreed Tuesday to keep the border closed to non-essential travel until June 21.

10:50 a.m.: Gap Inc has reopened several of its central North Carolina stores, opening after many other retailers in North Carolina to implement health and safety measures.

Old Navy stores in Raleigh, Durham, Cary, Apex and Fayetteville, Banana Republic stores in Raleigh and Durham and Athleta stores in Raleigh and Durham are now open.

10:10 a.m.: Almost 1 million North Carolinians have filed unemployment claims since March 15. From March 15 through May 18, 907,257 have filed claims, and 549,445 of those claims have been paid at a total topping $2.2 billion.

There is a ray of light for those with technical skills. The NC Technology Association found 23,000 open positions across the state in May. That's a drop from the 30,000 high-tech jobs available in March, but demand remains robust. According to a survey of North Carolina tech executives more than 40 percent of companies continue to hire, the business advocacy group reported as of May 15.

9:30 a.m.: Representatives and leaders from some of North Carolina's largest entertainment venues, including the Duke Energy Center, the Durham Performing Arts Center, Red Hat Amphitheater and the Greensboro Coliseum complex have formed an "NC Live" coalition to plan for the return of concerts, Broadway shows and comedy events after the pandemic.

Large venues were some of the first to close and will be some of the last to open as health leaders work to minimize crowding and slow the spread of COVID-19. The new coalition will work to set guidelines to open entertainment venues safely and effectively when restrictions are lifted. Some procedures being considered include cashless transactions, venue disinfection, staggered fan arrival time and temperature checks.

8:45 a.m.: Analysts found 20 percent of shoppers surveyed switched to a new primary grocery store during the pandemic. Out-of-stock items at their old grocery store was the main driver of the switch, but better delivery services, proximity to home and more affordable prices were also a key factor.

8 a.m.: A mobile free pharmacy operation is back in Granville County to help people get over-the-counter medications during the pandemic. The event will be held on June 19 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Granville County Expo & Convention Center Church in Oxford. Participants must be at least 18 years old to receive medicine.

7:45 a.m.: President Donald Trump is expected to discuss supporting farmers and ranchers Tuesday as the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services launches an app called Visit NC Farms. The app will connect people with nearby farms to buy produce. The Visit NC Farms app can be downloaded for Apple and Android phones.

7:30 a.m.: A Lincoln County restaurant owner was cited Monday night after she opened her restaurant for dine-in customers. NBC Charlotte reports Mitchem's Kitchen opened for full service, defying Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order limiting restaurants to drive-thru, takeout and delivery service. Cooper will announce this week if North Carolina is ready to enter the second part of a three-phase plan to resume business and social activities during the pandemic. Under phase 2, restaurants will be able to open for indoor dining at 50 percent capacity.

6:30 a.m.: The Blood Connection is hoping to have another record-breaking blood drive this week. March 21 marked TBC's largest single-day blood drive in history, with more than 1,200 donors.

This week's blood drive will be held Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at PNC Arena. Donors will get free COVID-19 antibody testing in exchange.

6 a.m.: America is running out of thermometers for those on the front lines to use on patients. Manufacturers and distributors say the devices were already in high demand earlier this year when health care providers started ordering more.

Now that companies require temperature checks, they are also buying thermometers in bulk. Thermometer makers say they simply can't make enough to keep up with demand right now.

5:30 a.m.: On Friday, public beaches in Virginia Beach can reopen. Parking garages and parking lots will be capped at 50 percent capacity, and while relaxing on the beach will be allowed, group sports like volleyball and Frisbee will be against the rules. Other Virginia beaches will remain closed until phase two of that state's reopening plan.

5 a.m: A new drive-thru testing site will open in Fayetteville on Tuesday in the parking lot of Manna Church on Cliffdale Road. Testing will be held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Appointments are required.

4:30 a.m.: Beginning this week, the state Department of Transportation will furlough thousands of employees statewide in an effort to save money. The furloughs will be complete by July, according to to DOT.

According to leaders, less travel on North Carolina roads has created serious consequences for the DOT's bottom line. Stay-at-home orders translate to a big cut in gas tax collections and fees from car sales, adding up to $300 million in projected revenue losses through June.

The DOT said employees will be furloughed in phases, starting with top executives and upper-level management.

The department has not made a decision regarding furloughs for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, but it's already put more than $2 billion in road and bridge projects on hold to save money. DOT officials say they continue to look for other ways to reduce spending.

4 a.m.: Wake County Schools leaders will meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss the budget and schedules for the 2020-21 school year. The current plan is for a traditional year – Aug. 17 to June 11, 2021 – but planners say what it will look like will be determined by the state health guidance and legislative requirements.

Funding is another topic. On Monday, Wake County Manager David Ellis released his proposed budget for the school district for $515.96 million, which is the same historic amount received last year. Superintendent Cathy Moore asked the county for a $545 million contribution.

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