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Coronavirus in NC: Live updates for May 28, 2020: Lawmakers vote to reopen NC bars

Posted May 28, 2020 3:52 a.m. EDT
Updated May 29, 2020 11:45 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 25,757 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, at least 878 people have died and another 710 or so remain in the hospital. State officials estimate 14,954 people have recovered from coronavirus infections.

Latest updates

10:33 p.m.: Wake County health officials have confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 at Brookridge Assisted Living, a long-term care facility in Apex. No additional information about whether the outbreak involved residents or employees was released.

“We continue to see that COVID-19 can spread quickly in places where people live in close quarters,” said Dr. Jose Cabanas, who is overseeing the Wake County Emergency Operations Center’s public health branch. “We’re working closely with Brookridge to test residents, as well as staff, and we’re providing guidance to help keep their people safe.”

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services defines an outbreak at a long-term care facility as being two or more people who test positive for COVID-19.

9 p.m.: Four employees of the Bridgestone tire plant in Wilson have tested positive for coronavirus, a spokeswoman said, noting that one tested positive while the plant was shut down and, therefore, wasn't at work.

8:40 p.m.: A third resident of Kerr Lake Nursing Home in Vance County has died of coronavirus-related complications, officials said.

8 p.m.: Garner Town Hall will reopen to the public at 8 a.m. Monday after being closed for more than two months due to the pandemic. Officials said floor markings in the lobby will indicate 6 feet of separation for people waiting in line to pay bills.

Garner officials said staff will regularly clean and sanitize frequently touched surfaces throughout the building and will also be encouraged to wear face coverings. Some staff, especially personnel who work at the Bill Payment windows, may also wear gloves, officials said.

Other safety measures include barriers between staff and visitors at the Bill Payment windows and the Development Services intake area, chairs in lobby spaced out to 6 feet apart, hand sanitizer stations and limiting the number of people allowed in the Development Services intake area.

6:45 p.m.: An 11th inmate at the federal prison complex in Butner has died of coronavirus-related complications. Dongfan "Greg" Chung, 84, had other health problems that put him at higher risk from the virus, officials said.

Chung was serving a 15-year sentence selling for Boeing trade secrets, including information related to the Space Shuttle program and Delta IV rocket, to China.

Butner continues to have one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in the federal prison system, with 157 inmates and 12 staffers infected. Hundreds of others at the complex have recovered from earlier infections, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

6:20 p.m.: Duke University has released its plans for international first-year students who cannot make it to campus for the start of the fall semester. WRAL News has learned they will be allowed to begin their classes in China at Duke Kunshan University. The plan is also available to certain master’s degree students, but Duke officials say they aren't sure how many students will need that option yet.

5:50 p.m.: A coalition of more than two dozen media outlets filed a lawsuit on Thursday seeking the release of a list of records related to the coronavirus pandemic that the state has, so far, refused to provide.

5:35 p.m.: Two more residents of the North Carolina State Veterans Nursing Home in Fayetteville have died of coronavirus-related complications, bringing the total for the facility to seven – all in the last week.

A third Cumberland County resident also died from the virus on Thursday, bringing the county total to 23.

5:30 p.m.: McDonald’s of North Carolina and local area owner-operators Jeff and Ana Endrusick plan to donate 83,000 pounds of food to support the Oxford community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are so grateful to McDonald's for their donation of food to our pantry," Susan Hinman, executive director of Area Congregation in Ministry of Granville County, said in a statement. "This donation will help ACIM provide food to our residents so that they will not have to worry about how to pay their grocery bill."

4:50 p.m.: Forty-two Durham ministers have signed a "letter of solidarity," pledging not to hold indoor worship services during the pandemic until health officials say it's safe to do so.

"Our responsibility to promote physical distancing during this pandemic is a sacred duty," they wrote in the letter. "Our obligation to promote public health during this pandemic is part and parcel of our core beliefs, inextricable with our sense of what God demands of us. For this reason, we reject the notion that houses of worship ought to be exempt from orders that limit large gatherings. Lest our churches, temples and mosques become incubators for COVID-19, houses of worship are the very places that must model safety and promote wellness."

3:55 p.m.: Orange County has canceled all recreational summer camps for 2020 because of coronavirus concerns, officials said. The county plans to offer summer enrichment virtual program opportunities, and officials said opportunities may arise as the summer progresses to create new offerings.

3:45 p.m.: The House has voted 65-53 in favor of a bill that would allow bars to reopen and restaurants to expand service through the use of outdoor seating. The measure now heads to Gov. Roy Cooper, who is openly critical of the move. The governor last week allowed restaurants to open at half capacity but said bars must remain closed for several weeks to limit the spread of coronavirus.

2:45 p.m.: The Franklin County Health Department will start drive-thru coronavirus testing on Tuesdays, starting next week. The tests will be done 1-2 p.m. only by appointment, with priority given to people without health insurance. Call 919-496-2533 to make an appointment.

2:40 p.m.: The Boston Marathon has been canceled after earlier being postponed from April to Sept. 14 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

2:20 p.m.: The record number of people hospitalized with COVID-19, the illness associated with the coronavirus, is concerning, according to Gov. Roy Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services.

"The virus is here. It's in our communities, and our job is to keep the viral spread low," Cohen said at a news conference, noting that the state needs to continue moving slowly on plans to resume business and social activities.

2:15 p.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper said a bill moving through the legislature that would allow bars to operate with outdoor seating is misguided, especially since it would preclude him or others from shutting the establishments down again if there's a spike in coronavirus infections.

"There will be a time when we can open bars, but that time is not now," Cooper said at a news conference. "We've got to keep the health and safety of North Carolinians as the No. 1 priority."

2:10 p.m.: 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Durham has laid off 124 workers amid the pandemic, according to a notice filed with the state Department of Commerce.

2:05 p.m.: North Carolina has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to assist with job training programs during the pandemic, Gov. Roy Cooper said.

2 p.m.: North Carolina has filled almost all of the 250 contact tracing positions created during the pandemic in order to better track infections and get ahead of outbreaks, Gov. Roy Cooper said.

1 p.m.: The House has voted 116-3 in favor of a measure that changes rules for absentee voting and polling site operations for the fall elections because of the coronavirus pandemic. The bill now heads to the Senate.

12:45 p.m.: Research is expanding into whether wearable devices such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit could track a person with coronavirus. Fitbit has announced its own COVID-19 study, but it's also partnering with Apple and the Stanford Healthcare Innovation Lab on a separate research project.

More than one in five Americans already wear some type of smartwatch or fitness tracker.

12:35 p.m.: The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony scheduled for late August has been moved to next spring because of coronavirus concerns.

Meanwhile, all signs are pointing to an NBA return this summer, with all games being played in Orlando, Fla., according to NBC The NBA is reportedly working on multi-phase medical and safety protocols aimed at restarting play.

12:30 p.m.: The N.C. Coaches Association Board of Directors has voted unanimously to cancel the 2020 East-West All-Star Games scheduled for July, according to HighSchoolOT.

The games feature the top high school seniors in boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer and football. The board plans to resume the games in 2021.

12:25 p.m.: An employee of the Sheetz gas station and convenience store at 1600 Aviation Parkway in Morrisville has tested positive for coronavirus. The employee last worked on Monday, officials said. Sheetz has shut down the station for a professional cleaning.

11:45 a.m.: Researchers from UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University, East Carolina University and the state Division of Public Health are studying coronavirus trends in Cabarrus, Chatham and Pitt counties and how the virus affects physical and mental health, family, economy and other factors in those counties. Survey participants will also submit samples to be tested for coronavirus.

11:40 a.m.: Believing that artificial intelligence can improve contact tracing while protecting people’s privacy in the battle against COVID-19, Raleigh-based startup Diveplane is rolling out a program called “Aware.”

Crucial to the program, according to WRALTechWire, is the use of Diveplane-developed “Geminai,”through which the company “creates a verifiable synthetic ‘twin’ dataset with the same statistical properties of the original data, but without including the real-world confidential or personal information.”

11:15 a.m.: UNC Police and the Chapel Hill Police Department decided to show their gratitude to frontline workers with a special display of thanks. A video posted on Facebook shows officers working together to set up a display in a parking lot. The completed work of art is best viewed from above -- it shows police cruisers lined up in the shape of a heart, with the message "We Thank You," spelled out by officers.

11 a.m.: Confirmed coronavirus infections in North Carolina surpassed 25,000, and a record number of people are hospitalized.

The state added more than 650 cases since Wednesday, and 25 more people have died, including three people in Harnett County, two each in Wake and Warren counties and one in Durham County.

The rolling, seven-day average of people hospitalized with COVID-19, the illness associated with the virus, topped 700 for the second day in a row, even with fewer hospitals statewide reporting.

10:30 a.m.: The state Senate has voted to allow bars to reopen in outdoor spaces, overriding Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order that has closed them since March. It would allow bars to serve patrons in outdoor spaces, permanent or temporary, at 50% of the capacity of their indoor area, with social distancing guidelines from the CDC and the state Department of Health and Human Services.

House Bill 536 would also allow restaurants to set up temporary outdoor spaces to serve customers in the same way.

10 a.m.: Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it is transferring detainees to other facilities without testing all of them. The Miami Herald is reporting the agency is only testing immigrants who are showing symptoms of a coronavirus infection before moving them.

Experts say this is contributing to the spread of the disease, as those who are asymptomatic are causing outbreaks at several ICE facilities, but an attorney representing ICE says there are not enough tests to screen every immigrant.

9:30 a.m.: Dr. Anthony Fauci said he is optimistic there could be a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year.

"When we first developed the vaccine, I said it would be about a year to a year and a half, and that was in January," he said. "I still think that we have a good chance, if all the things fall in the right place, that we might have a vaccine that would be deployable, by the end of the year, by November or December."

9 a.m.: Fuquay-Varina has canceled its July 3 Independence Day celebration, which dates back to the 1980s. Past events brought more than 15,000 people to South Park to watch fireworks and enjoy a free concert.

On June 1, the Fuquay-Varina Arts Center and the Fuquay-Varina Community Center will reopen along with restrooms at Fleming Loop Park and water fountains at all town parks. The Fuquay-Varina dog park and picnic shelters will also reopen.

8:30 a.m.: 2.1 million U.S. workers sought jobless aid last week, raising total layoffs since virus struck to nearly 41 million.

8 a.m.: CVS will open 55 drive-thru testing sites in North Carolina on Friday. People must register in advance at cvs.com to qualify for a test.

Patients will be required to stay in their cars and will be directed to the pharmacy drive-thru window, where they will be provided with a test kit and given instructions, and a CVS Pharmacy team member will observe the self-swab process to ensure it is done properly. Tests will be sent to an independent, third-party lab for processing and the results will be available in approximately three days.

The list of testing sites includes dozens of stores in Raleigh, Cary, Durham, Chapel Hill, Garner, Clayton, Fayetteville and Wake Forest, among others.

7:45 a.m.: Tuesday Morning is the latest retailer to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The discount retailer is looking to close more than 200 of its nearly 700 stores. Company officials say it will start with 132 under performing stores, or stores located in areas where another store is nearby.

7:30 a.m.: American Airlines will let travelers decide whether they want to board a full flight. The company says it will let people know if their flight is expected to be full, and if they're not comfortable, it will let them switch flights for free. This new policy is in effect through the end of June.

6:30 a.m.: 5 On Your Side is teaming up with the North Carolina Bar Foundation for a COVID-19-related Attorneys on Call phone bank. From employment law to landlord issues and small-business concerns, experts will talk to you for free Friday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Look for the number to call on WRAL's Morning News.

5:30 a.m.: Nissan says it's closing auto plants in Spain and Indonesia as it sinks into annual loss amid coronavirus pandemic.

5 a.m.: Five residents of a nursing home for veterans in Fayetteville have died from coronavirus. Two more deaths were reported Wednesday at the North Carolina State Veterans Nursing Home, and with more than 35 conformed cases, the facility says it continues to implement safety measures. Right now, visitors and non-essential workers are not allowed to come inside.

Across Cumberland County, there are 633 coronavirus cases and 20 deaths.

4:45 a.m.: The state Senate will vote Thursday on a measure that could override Gov. Roy Cooper's order and allow bars to reopen outdoors. The vote comes on the same day that more than 60 bar owners across the state are expected to file a lawsuit demanding that their businesses be allowed to reopen. The owners don’t believe the Phase 2 restrictions are fair, specifically because restaurants, breweries and wineries were allowed to reopen last week.

4:30 a.m.: The Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency approval of the antiviral medication remdesivir. Cape Fear Valley is one of several hospitals across the country that received remdesivir to test its most critical patients. A man who was given the drug on May 18 said he felt better by May 20 and was taken off of oxygen. On May 22, he was released from the hospital. The man experienced no side effects.

4:15 a.m.: Two nonprofits are teaming to help distribute face masks to Latino, Asian and other minority community members in Durham on Thursday. The Diamante Arts Cultural Center and the group Asian Focus are putting on the event at the Edison Johnson Aquatics Center on Murray Avenue from 5 to 7 p.m.

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