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Coronavirus in NC: Live updates for May 27, 2020: US coronavirus cases top 100,000

Posted May 27, 2020 4:00 a.m. EDT
Updated May 28, 2020 12:02 p.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 24,805 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, at least 835 people have died and another 702 or so remain in the hospital. State officials estimate 14,954 people have recovered from coronavirus infections.

Latest updates

6 p.m.: Two more residents of the N.C. State Veterans Nursing Home in Fayetteville have died from coronavirus-related complications, bringing the total for the facility to five deaths. Cumberland County has 20 virus-related deaths total.

5:30 p.m.: The death toll during the coronavirus pandemic has passed the 100,000 mark, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

The U.S. has by far the highest number of deaths and infections in the world. The U.K. has the second-highest number of deaths at 37,000, while Brazil trails the U.S. in infections, 1.7 million to 412,000, according to Johns Hopkins.

In North Carolina, nearly 25,000 people have been infected with the virus, and 835 have died. Residents in Durham, Orange and Wayne (two) counties are among some of the latest deaths.

5:05 p.m.: In the wake of a back and forth between state health officials and Alamance County officials over a car race last weeked that attracted hundreds of people, Carteret County Speedway has announced plans to hold a race on Saturday with fans.

5 p.m.: Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger proclaimed Wednesday as the launch of the “Safer for Everyone in Chapel Hill” campaign. The campaign urges everyone over 12 years old to wear masks or face coverings when indoors in a public place and whenever social distancing is difficult outdoors.

Orange County recommends wearing masks in business settings and in public to keep the community safe. Masks are required only for employees of businesses in close contact with customers.

"By wearing a mask or face covering, each of us is taking care of one another so we can all stay as healthy as possible," Hemminger said in a statement.

Chapel Hill is designing a plan to share face masks to any community members in need, officials said.

4:55 p.m.: While many officials are recommending or even requiring masks in public, one Texas bar has banned face coverings, according to NBC.

The owner of Liberty Tree Tavern in Elgin says he is taking proper safety precautions, so masks are not necessary. He posted a sign on the door that states: "If you feel the need to wear a mask inside this bar, then you should probably stay home."

Some people are upset by the sign, saying that wearing a mask can protect both you and other people from spreading the virus.

4:50 p.m.: North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall used her diplomatic experience and international partnerships to obtain 100,000 face masks from the Taipai Economic and Cultural Office in Atlanta. The donation was shipped directly from Taiwan to the state Department of Public Safety warehouse, where it will be distributed to medical personnel statewide.

4:45 p.m.: Despite caring for so many people during the pandemic, U.S. hospitals and health systems are suffering financially, projecting combined losses of $202 billion from March to June. Many can't perform elective surgeries and outpatient services that drive profits, in addition to their increased costs for protective gear for workers.

Experts say some hospitals may have to cut back on services such as maternity care.

4:35 p.m.: North Carolinians rank No. 1 when it comes to searching for relief loans during the pandemic, according to the website WalletHub.

With nearly 1 million people statewide filing for unemployment, searches for payday loans, home equity loans and other types are rising, WalletHub says, noting that taking out a loan right now could be a risk.

4:30 p.m.: Casinos are cleared to open in Las Vegas. as Nevada's governor is allowing slot machines and table games to resume June 4.

Casinos across the Vegas strip were closed 10 weeks ago because of the pandemic, and tourists returning to the gambling mecca will see some changes. Dice will be disinfected between shooters, chips cleaned periodically and card decks changed frequently.

4:20 p.m.: Officials shouldn't use results from coronavirus antibody tests to make important policy decisions, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency says the test results shouldn't be used to make decisions about returning people to work or to determine immunity in individuals until further research is done.

3:30 p.m.: The state Department of Health and Human Services has fired back at Alamance County officials after county officials said they tried to work with state health officials to plan a race last weekend at Ace Speedway but then never got answers to their questions.

DHHS spokeswoman Kelly Haight Connor said provided two sets of proposed rules that the agency supplied to county and racetrack officials. The first one was based on rules created for Hickory Motor Speedway to run a race without fans. It states at the top that the rules are tentative and contingent on any executive order spelling out Phase 2 regulations.

"Limits on participant capacity have yet to be determined. When determined, ACE is expected to adhere to the capacity limitation set by the Governor," the proposal states.

The second set of rules was provided to Alamance County and Ace Speedway officials on May 20, when Cooper announced his Phase 2 plan, according to Haight Connor. Rule No. 1 states: "Per Governor Executive Order 141, spectator attendance cannot exceed 25 participants."

DHHS officials also spoke with local officials on Saturday and "repeatedly said that Ace Speedway needed to adhere to the 25 spectator limit," Haight Connor said in an email.

3:10 p.m.: Durham Public Schools is winding down its Durham FEAST partnership, which has provided more than 375,000 meals to children and families at the height of the pandemic that closed the school district and forced the district to end its own emergency meals program.

"With our essential school nutrition and transportation employees utilizing our state’s leave benefits as concerns about COVID-19 accelerated, Durham FEAST stepped up to fill a crucial gap in services," DPS Superintendent Pascal Mubenga said in a statement. "This has been a historic partnership in Durham County."

The Durham Public Schools Foundation, Food Insight Group, restaurateurs led by Chef Andrea Reusing of The Durham Hotel and Durham County government assisted the district with the effort.

The program will end with the close of the 2019-20 school year, but the school district will start its summer feeding program June, and it will run through July 31. All children in Durham County up to age 18 are eligible.

2:35 p.m.: Harrah's Cherokee Casinos will open to the public at 6 a.m. Thursday. The casinos in western North Carolina will operate at 30% capacity and follow social distancing guidelines, officials said.

Most restaurants on the property are open with limited seating, as well as carryout options. Other amenities will also open in phases as determined by the state and local guidelines.

Casino employee undergo daily health checks and are required to wear masks. Guests will undergo temperature checks before entering the casinos and are also required to wear masks. The casino gaming areas will temporarily be non-smoking.

2:30 p.m.: A fourth resident of Wilson House Assisted Living in Wilson has died of coronavirus-related complications, officials said. Wilson County now has 10 deaths attributed to the virus.

2:25 p.m.: A federal judge has denied a temporary restraining order requested by more than two dozen North Carolina strip clubs. They allege that the state's pandemic-related restrictions, which have kept them closed for two months, violate their constitutional rights.

Although the judge's order doesn't allow the clubs to reopen immediately, their lawsuit against the state proceeds.

2:20 p.m.: Bowling alleys are the latest group threatening to sue Gov. Roy Cooper unless he allows them to reopen, following bars, gyms and strip clubs.

An attorney for the Bowling Proprietors Association of the Carolinas & Georgia said many bowling alleys "face imminent insolvency" because of the two-month shutdown during the pandemic. Anthony Biller said the bowling alleys can operate under the same guidelines that restaurants and personal care businesses are now working under: 50 percent capacity, social distancing guidelines in place and strict cleaning protocols.

"[P]ublic health and allowing our bowling facilities the opportunity to resume operations should not be viewed as mutually exclusive," Biller wrote in a letter to Cooper on Tuesday. "Further, we see no rational let alone compelling reason to close our client’s bowling lanes, but allow their retail shops and restaurant facilities to function. It is an arbitrary distinction that is imposing ongoing irreparable harm to family owned lanes across our state."

2:15 p.m.: Sampson County has reported two more coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the county total to four. One of the latest deaths worked for the county's Adult Day Health Center, officials said.

1:55 p.m.: A second helping of State Fair food will be available this weekend at the fairgrounds. The Drive-Thru Food Days will be open noon to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday. People can enter the fairgrounds off Trinity Road and order funnel cakes, cotton candy and other goodies from their cars. All sales are cash only.

12:40 p.m.: Disney plans to start a phased reopening of its Florida theme parks in July, officials said. Pending local and state approval, Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom will start reopening to the general public on July 11, followed by EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios on July 15.

"This phased reopening will demonstrate a deliberate approach, with limits on attendance and controlled guest density that aligns with guidance on physical distancing. That means certain experiences we know draw large group gatherings – such as parades and nighttime spectaculars – will return at a later date," Disney officials said. "In addition, 'high-touch' experiences such as makeover opportunities, playgrounds and character meet and greets will remain temporarily unavailable, but characters will still be in our parks to entertain and delight our guests."

Attendance will be managed through a new advance reservation system. Existing ticket holders and Annual Passholders will be able to make reservation requests in phases before new tickets are sold.

12:30 p.m.: Alamance County officials said they consulted with state health officials before a race was held Saturday at Ace Speedway in the county. Gov. Roy Cooper criticized the racetrack on Tuesday, after reports showing hundreds of people attending, ignoring social distancing guidelines and not wearing masks in public.

"A document entitled 'Precaution Requirements for ACE Speedway' was developed through collaboration between [the state Depatrment of Health and Human Services], the Alamance County Health Department and ACE Speedway. [Track owner] Jason Turner assured Alamance County on multiple occasions that he intended to follow the recommended protocols at ACE Speedway," county officials said in a news release.

After Cooper announced a week ago that the state would move into the second stage of its pandemic recovery plan, county and track officials asked questions of DHHS Assistant Secretary for Government Affairs Matt Gross, who "promised to forward the county’s concerns to the governor’s staff and that someone would get back to the county. Alamance County has yet to hear directly from anyone with the governor’s staff, NCDHHS or anyone else in state government," the county news release states.

Ace Speedway took various safety measures, county officials said, including spacing out cars and crews in the pit area, installing hand sanitizer stations and plexiglass barriers as needed, marking 6-foot spaces in high-traffic areas for social distancing and creating one-way traffic through restrooms. The raceway also limited its crowd to 2,550 spectators, which was 50 percent of capacity, officials said.

12:05 p.m.: A judge has issued a preliminary injunction against Charlotte-based A1 Towing Solutions Inc. and its owner, David Jewel Satterfield, in North Carolina's first pandemic-related price gouging lawsuit, according to Attorney General Josh Stein.

According to the lawsuit, A1 and Satterfield allegedly booted or towed trucks that were delivering food, water, bleach or needed medical supplies during the pandemic, despite the trucks’ drivers having the permission of property owners to park their trucks on the property. After towing or booting the trucks, A1 and Satterfield allegedly forced drivers to pay up to $4,400 for their release and allegedly engaged in other illegal practices that resulted in the delay of delivery of critical supplies, Stein said in a news release.

12 p.m.: Durham will resume curbside yard waste collection, which was put on hold in March because of the pandemic, next week. The city is moving to collecting leaves, grass clippings and other yard waste only on Fridays until further notice.

For residents who had a regular yard waste collection day on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, it will now be every other Friday beginning June 5. For people who had a regular yard waste collection day on Thursdays or Fridays, it will now be every other Friday beginning June 12.

11:45 a.m.: More than 700 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in North Carolina, the highest total to date during the pandemic. Hospitals across the state report having less than 30 percent of their intensive care unit beds available right now.

Statewide, more than 24,750 people have been infected by coronavirus, and 833 have died. State officials estimate about 15,000 people have recovered from their infections.

Mural in Fuquay-Varina

11:30 a.m.: A mural in downtown Fuquay-Varina is one of many congratulating seniors around the Triangle. The mural, created by two high school seniors, recognizes both high school and college graduates.

11:25 a.m.: The American Red Cross is urging people to donate blood during the pandemic, as hospitals are starting to resume non-urgent and elective procedures, increasing the demand for blood products.

The Red Cross is thanking those who step up to help by providing donors with a special T-shirt through the end of the month and a $5 Amazon gift card during June.

11:15 a.m.: The Durham County Board of Commissioners approved county funding of $21,525 for face coverings being provided by the Cover Durham Project, which works to distribute tens of thousands of free face coverings to those in need.

11:10 a.m.: The state Division of Prisons has resumed a limited number of inmate transfers to make room for others sentenced to state prison, officials said. The movement is being done in phases to prepare for the gradual reopening of the courts and the removal of a moratorium on the acceptance of people now in county jails who have been sentenced to prison.

With limited exceptions, state inmates have remained in place since April 6 to limit the spread of coronavirus.

"The majority of the prison offender population has, in effect, been quarantined for almost two months," Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee said in a statement. "Our staff has worked hard to contain the spread, to implement virus-safety protocols, and we must remain vigilant as we prepare for the next phase of loosened restrictions using all necessary security and medical safety precautions."

"Though other facets of life may be opening up, we are in no way out of the danger zone in our prisons," Jimmy Davis, president of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, said in a statement. "Moving inmates now will lead directly to more outbreaks and unnecessary deaths in our inmate populations, among our staff and in the community at large. Now is not the time to return to normal in our crowded and short-staffed prison system."

11 a.m.: The state Department of Health and Human Services is using radio and video messages to reach minority groups and some of the people hit hardest by COVID-19. DHHS is working with Radio One to air a series of preventive messages from prominent leaders.

African-Americans and Latino communities make up a disproportionate number of North Carolina’s coronavirus cases and deaths. African-Americans make up an estimated 22% percent of North Carolina’s population, 31% of infections and 35% of deaths. Latino populations account for 9.6% of North Carolina's population and 35% of virus cases.

10:45 a.m.: Even more people are counting on online shopping these days, but more deliveries may mean more thefts. According to security.org, one in five Americans report being victims of package theft in the last 90 days, equating to 25 million households.

10:30 a.m.: The assistant secretary in charge of the state's Division of Employment Security has been replaced, Gov. Roy Cooper's administration announced without much explanation.

Lockhart Taylor, a career employee at DES, will move into a different role at the Department of Commerce. Pryor Gibson is the new assistant secretary, effective immediately, the department said.

10:15 a.m.: Marbles Kids Museum, which serves hundreds of families with summer day camps each year, announced that it will offer in-person camps in the coming months, but with some modifications. Camp Marbles, according to its website, will start on June 15 with a revamped line-up of weekly camps that include exclusive play in the museum and outdoor activities.

9:50 a.m.: House Speaker Tim Moore is backing a proposal for a $3.1 billion bond for North Carolina's education communities and transportation needs.

The bill, filed Wednesday, proposes $1.5 billion in bond funding for the state Department of Transportation, $800 million for K-12 public schools, $600 million for the University of North Carolina system and $200 million for the state's community colleges.

"This bond proposal builds on North Carolina's substantial investments in every community to ensure our rapid population and job growth continue as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic," Moore, R-Cleveland, said in a jount statement with the bill's other sponsors, Reps. Jeff Elmore, R-Wilkes, John Torbett, R-Gaston, and Michael Wray, D-Northhampton.

9:45 a.m.: TreeRunner Raleigh will reopen Friday. The adventure park is allowed to open because of its outdoor natural environment, its commitment to following the rules of social distancing and not being an organized sport or activity, a press release said. TreeRunner said it will provide single-use gloves for all climbers, install hand sanitizing stations throughout the park and require guests and staff to have temperature checks before entering.

9:30 a.m.: Starting Friday, there will be new mask requirements in Virginia. Everyone over the age of 10 will be required to wear a mask inside stores, hair and nail salons and restaurants. There are exceptions for people with certain medical conditions and while people are exercising, eating and drinking.

On Thursday, two local nonprofits are teaming up to help distribute face masks to Latino, Asian and other minority community members. The Diamante Arts Cultural Center and the group Asian Focus are putting on the event in Durham at the Edison Johnson Aquatics Center from 5 to 7 p.m.

9:15 a.m.: Shaw University said it expects to provide a timetable for a phased reopening of the campus by June 30.

8 a.m.: Millions of recently unemployed people are dipping into their retirement savings to make ends meet during the pandemic. A new survey found 27% of working or recently unemployed adults with retirements accounts have tapped into that fund as an immediate source of income, while 18% of working or recently unemployed adults are contributing less to their retirement accounts.

7:30 a.m.: Google is planning to reopen offices starting July 6, however, many employees may continue working from home until next year as the coronavirus pandemic has required social distancing. Google's CEO says the company will pay each of its employees $1,000 for equipment and office furniture as they continue to work from home.

7 a.m.: Walt Disney World will present plans Wednesday morning for reopening Disney's central Florida theme parks. Disney will submit a proposal to Orange County, Fla.'s economic recovery task force during a 10 a.m. meeting. If approved, the reopening plan will go to the mayor, who could then send an endorsement letter to the governor.

6:30 a.m.: The YMCA of the Triangle is reopening pools, hosting outdoor fitness classes and launching some summer camp programs. In an email to members, the YMCA says pools will reopen some branches Friday. Starting Monday, summer day camps will be offered. Outdoor fitness classes being held at some branches are limited to 25 people, and reservations are required.

6 a.m.: Over the Memorial Day weekend, RDU experienced its busiest week since the global pandemic devastated air travel. The Transportation Security Administration reported screening just under 15,000 passengers – a 30% increase over last couple weeks but a 90% decline compared to the same time last year.

5:30 a.m.: Lee County has seen nearly 400 coronavirus cases, and a drive-thru testing site there today is expected to increase that number. The drive-thru testing will start at Deep River Elementary School at 8:30 a.m.

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, anyone who has had close contact with a person who has tested positive or anyone at a higher risk of exposure can be tested. The drive-thru is open to the general public, but appointments are requested. Results will be available in three days, and positive tests will be reported to the state.

4 a.m.: The U.S. is close to reporting 100,000 coronavirus deaths, but only about half of Americans say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if the scientists working furiously to create one succeed, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The poll, released Wednesday, found 31% simply weren’t sure if they’d get vaccinated. Another 1 in 5 said they’d refuse.

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