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Coronavirus in NC: Live updates for May 8, 2020: Death toll climbs in nursing homes

Posted May 8, 2020 4:33 a.m. EDT
Updated May 11, 2020 4:47 p.m. EDT

— Here are the latest North Carolina coronavirus updates on cases and the pandemic’s impact on our health, jobs, schools and more:

What you need to know:

Where are infections, deaths in NC?

6:40 p.m.: Two more residents of Pelican Health Care, a Vance County nursing home, have died of coronavirus-related complications. That brings the facility's death toll in the pandemic to nine.

6:35 p.m.: Thirteen more inmates at the federal prison complex in Butner have tested positive for the coronavirus. The complex has one of largest outbreaks in the federal prison system, with about 250 inmates and 20 staffers infected.

5:45 p.m.: North Carolina's death toll during the pandemic has hit 550, with residents of Harnett and Wayne counties among some of the most recent fatalities. Virus-related deaths have jumped by 30 percent since last Friday.

More than 14,100 people are infected with the coronavirus, up 25 percent since last week.

5:40 p.m.: Starting June 1, Frontier Airlines will become the first U.S. carrier to require temperature checks for passengers and crew members. If someone's temperature is 100.4 degrees or higher, they will have to wait at least 10 minutes and be screened again. If the second check is still that high, they won't be allowed to board.

The move comes after Frontier dropped plans to charge passengers $39 extra to guarantee they'd have an empty middle seat in their row.

5:35 p.m.: Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said UNC-Chapel Hill expects to resume classes in August and is looking at different ways to operate that will keep students and staff safe and limit the spread of the coronavirus.

"There will likely be smaller classroom environments, perhaps longer days in order to meet the credit hour requirements. But we’re even looking at the way in which we might shift the academic calendar to make sure we can avoid the second wave of this pandemic," Guskiewicz said.

5:30 p.m.: North Carolina's historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions are getting an extra $65 million from the CARES Act to cover the cost of technology associated with a transition to distance education, grants to cover the costs of attendance for eligible students and training for faculty and staff. Th emoney also may be used to cover operational costs, such as lost revenue, reimbursements for prior expenses and payroll.

5:20 p.m.: As businesses started reopening Friday evening under the first stage of the state's three-phase plan to resume activities during the pandemic, it's clear that not everyone is following the rules in place.

NBC affiliate WCNC in Charlotte has video of long lines of people heading into a mall in Gastonia. People aren't exercising any social distancing, and many don't have their faces covered.

5:15 p.m.: The Robeson County Health Department and the Lumbee Tribe are opening two drive-thru sites for free coronavirus tests, one next Wednesday and one May 17.

5 p.m.: North Carolina has entered the first stage of a three-phase plan to resume business and social activities during the pandemic. Numerous businesses that have been closed for weeks can now reopen, provided they exercise social distancing for customers and staff and adhere to strict cleaning protocols.

4:55 p.m.: Four Cumberland County detention officers have tested positive for coronavirus, officials said. No inmates at the county jail have tested positive.

The employees are at home recuperating, and the Sheriff’s Office has worked with the Cumberland County Health Department to complete contact tracing and has quarantined those who were in close contact with the employees.

4:45 p.m.: Lyft is requiring both riders and drivers to wear face masks. Customers will have to confirm on the app that they are wearing a mask and are not showing any COVID-19 symptoms. If they are dishonest, they risk being barred from using Lyft.

Drivers must also frequently sanitize their cars and keep windows open as much as possible to ensure good air circulation.

4:35 p.m.: Fayetteville Technical Community College will turn on the lights at its baseball stadium Friday for 20 minutes and 20 seconds, starting at 8:20 p.m. – 20:20 in military time – to show solidarity with high schools in Cumberland County and other locations as they honor the class of 2020.

"Sports are about relationships," Fayetteville Tech baseball Coach Billy Gaskins said in a statement. "This is a tight-knit community, and we want to support our high schools any way we can."

The school also will light Trojan Field at J.P. Riddle Stadium at the same time on May 15 and on May 20.

4:30 p.m.: Dozens of coronavirus infections and deaths are linked to area nursing homes, according to state Department of Health and Human Services data:

  • PruittHealth-Carolina Point in Durham has 111 cases and 20 deaths
  • Wellington Rehabilitation and Healthcare in Knightdale has 57 cases and 11 deaths
  • The Laurels of Chatham in Pittsboro has 106 cases and nine deaths
  • Durham Nursing & Rehabilitation Center has 111 cases and 14 deaths
  • Louisburg Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center​ in Louisburg has 69 cases and 18 deaths
  • Springbrook Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Clayton has 79 cases and 14 deaths

3:00 p.m.: An aide to Vice President Mike Pence has tested positive for the coronavirus, marking the second person in the White House known to test positive this week.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Friday confirmed the results but said the White House continues to operate safely despite two cases cropping up in two days.

"As America reopens safely, the White House is continuing to operate safely,” she said.

On Thursday, White House officials confirmed that a member of the military serving as one of President Donald Trump’s valets tested positive.

2:30 p.m.: North Carolina is conducting about 6,000 coronavirus tests each day and now ranks 15th nationally in the number of tests completed, said Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services.

North Carolina ranks ninth nationally in terms of population.

After Walgreens opened a testing site in Durham last week, Cohen said Walmart opened one in Pitt County this week. Walmart and Harris Teeter plan to open testing sites in number of counties in the coming weeks, she said.

2:05 p.m.: Durham Public Schools is offering high schools three options for graduation because traditional ceremonies cannot be held this year due to coronavirus concerns

  • A drive-in ceremony at The Streets of Southpoint, with large projected screens and amplification
  • A drive-thru ceremony that takes families through a pre-determined route at the school campus to receive their diplomas
  • A combined virtual and drive-thru ceremony that would add pre-recorded speeches and photos online prior to receiving diplomas

"We know our students would prefer the same kind of graduation ceremony we have always had, in a crowded gymnasium with cheering families and constant hugging," Deputy Superintendent Nakia Hardy said in a statement. "We are working with our schools and partners to provide a memorable experience for our students and their families that will celebrate their achievements as one proud graduating class, while ensuring their health and safety at every step."

District staff are helping with the ceremonies by providing streaming and sound systems, security and items like tents, tables and chairs. The district also is providing celebratory yard signs for each graduate’s family.

1:35 p.m.: Starting Saturday, nature parks in Raleigh will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, including Durant Nature Park, Annie Louise Wilkerson M.D. Nature Preserve, Forest Ridge Park and Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve. Park offices will remain closed, and dog parks in the city also remain closed.

1:15 p.m.: Public libraries were never ordered closed under the statewide stay-at-home order, but many communities closed them anyway to limit the spread of coronavirus. So, it's unclear when they might reopen as restrictions are eased to resume business and social activities.

The situation in Wake County is complicated by the fact that 110 librarians are helping track the contacts of infected individuals as the county tries to expand testing for the virus, county spokeswoman Dara Demi said.

"We can’t open the library system without the staff needed to run the facilities," Demi said in an email.

Librarians in Cumberland County are heading back to work on Monday, but the libraries themselves will remain closed to the public.

1:10 p.m.: Three staff members at Rocky Mount Rehabilitation Center have tested positive for the coronavirus, but no residents have tested positive, officials said. The cases were found after the facility conducted mass testing on all residents and staff.

1:05 p.m.: In a video produced by Wake County, Public Health Director Regina Petteway provides guidance for area churches on steps they can take to limit the spread of the coronavirus when they eventually reopen for services.

12:35 p.m.: Golden Corral is permanently closing company-operated restaurants on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh and in Henderson due to the business impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We appreciate the support of these communities and the guests who have dined with us at these locations," spokeswoman Shelley Wolford said in an email. "Our thoughts and prayers are with our restaurant team members and their families. As other area Golden Corral franchise restaurants reopen, we will help our team members who are not yet employed transition to another opportunity."

12 p.m.: Banks may or may not reopen their branches during the first phase of the state's three-part plan to resume business and social activities during the pandemic, according to Peter Gwaltney, president of the North Carolina Bankers Association.

"North Carolina bankers are eager to see and visit with their customers again," Gwaltney said in a statement. "However, not all banks will have the same procedures and policies for reopening lobbies, so we encourage customers to check with their bank for information and instructions on access during Phase 1."

Many banks have limited services in recent weeks to drive-thrus, online and mobile banking and by appointment for customers who need specific services that can't be provided in another way.

11:40 a.m.: North Carolina has reported more than 14,000 coronavirus cases since the pandemic reached the state two months ago. Almost 1,000 of those cases are in Wake County, and almost 2,000 are in Mecklenburg County.

Statewide, 544 people have died from the virus, with a Durham County resident and two in Orange County among the latest fatalities.

11:30 a.m.: Pet adoptions are up 90% in some cities among the coronavirus stay-at-home orders, according to the Humane Society.

11 a.m.: Traditional graduations for the Class of 2020 in the Wake County Public School System have officially been canceled. Given safety concerns, there will be no large-scale, in-person graduation events, school board Chairman Keith Sutton said Friday.

Disappointed graduating seniors have turned to other methods to celebrate, including "drive-by" graduations and video conferences and parties with friends.

10:55 a.m.: Clayton Police Chief Blair Myhand tweeted that he had to drive to Tennessee to get a haircut from his niece. Barbershops and hair salons remain closed in North Carolina under the statewide stay-at-home order until at least May 22.

10:45 a.m.: Durham Public Schools has appointed a task force to ensure a safe return to school for all students and staff.

The Re-Entry Task Force, made up of teachers, principals, central services administration and representatives from the Durham County Public Health Department, will meet for the first time on Monday and will focus on the following areas:

  • Registration and enrollment
  • Calendar and daily operations
  • Before- and after-school care
  • Transportation
  • Mass gatherings
  • Cleaning and disinfecting
  • Illness management

"We will work closely with our partners in public health and city and county government,” Superintendent Pascal Mubenga said in a statement. "We will also follow the lead of the new statewide task force convened by the Department of Public Instruction and State Board of Education, and we will listen to our families and staff."

10:05 a.m.: An employee at a Durham Harris Teeter has tested positive for coronavirus. The employee works at the store in the Willowhaven Shopping Center on Horton Road. According to a company spokesperson, the person is under the care of a physician, and the store has been cleaned.

9:45 a.m.: Under the first stage of North Carolina's three-phase plan to resume business and social activities during the pandemic, which starts at 5 p.m. Friday, churches will be allowed to hold services outdoors. People can either stay in their cars for a drive-in style service or get out of their cars as long as they practice social distancing. People who choose to worship outdoors will have to stay at least 6 feet awayt from others and wear face coverings. Churches won't open their interiors until at least May 22, and at that time, they will have to do so at 50% capacity.

9:30 a.m.: A nonprofit in Rocky Mount is providing antibody tests until noon. Antibodies can improve a person's immunity, but they won't guarantee that someone infected with coronavirus won't get sick again.

9:15 a.m.: State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Tilson talked exclusively to WRAL News about how she feels about the state reopening.

Tilson said she feels North Carolina is ready to enter the first stage of its three-phase plan on Friday, but people can't let their guard down. The stay-at-home order is still in effect, although people can go more places, like non-essential retail stores.

If people must leave home, they should remember the three "W's," Tilson said – wash your hands, wear a cloth face covering and wait in line 6 feet away from other people in public spaces.

"We feel like we are in a stable place. We feel comfortable going to Phase 1," Tilson said. "We know new cases are going up, but that's due to more testing, which is a good thing," she said. According to Tilson, less people are going to the emergency room, and hospitals still have the capacity to take new patients.

Tilson said, once Phase 1 begins, the state will tighten restrictions again if necessary.

9 a.m.: Michael Bublé has rescheduled his 2020 tour to 2021 due to coronavirus. Bublé will perform in Charlotte on March 21 and at PNC Arena on March 23.

8:45 a.m.: Orange County has seen 239 confirmed coronavirus cases and 30 deaths. Wake, Durham and Mecklenburg counties all lead Orange County in number of deaths.

8:30 a.m.: The U.S. unemployment rate hit 14.7% in April, the highest rate since the Great Depression, as 20.5 million jobs vanished in the worst monthly loss on record. Nearly all the job growth achieved during the 11-year recovery from the 2009 recession has been lost in one month.

As recently as February, the unemployment rate was a five-decade low of 3.5%, and employers had added jobs for a record 113 months. In March, the unemployment rate was just 4.4%

Here's a list of what malls are reopening and when.

7:45 a.m.: Graduating high schools seniors in Golden Valley, Minn., are keeping their caps but donating their robes to health care workers so they can be used as much-needed protective gowns.

7:30 a.m.: A small group has been cooking BBQ since 11 p.m. behind UNC Wayne Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro. On Friday afternoon, lunch will be served to 850 doctors, nurses, assistants and other staff in a show of appreciation.

7 a.m.: Big-name artists like Eric Church, Scott Avett of the Avett Brothers Band, Kasey Tyndall, John Teer with Chatham County Line and 2011 American Idol winner and Garner native Scotty McCreery are saluting UNC Health workers with virtual concerts thanks to a partnership with UNC and Deep South Entertainment.

6:30 a.m.: Two more people in North Carolina died from flu-related symptoms last week, raising the death toll to 185 with one week left in the reporting season. The state Department of Health and Human Services says both victims were age 65 or older.

Of the 185 flu deaths this season, 105 were 65 or older. DHHS extended this flu season’s reporting period to the week that ends May 16. Typically, the flu season runs between Oct. 1 through March 31.

6:15 a.m.: Millions of Americans are already working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but some workplaces may consider a permanent change. Researchers say homebound employees are logging three hours more per day than before the lockdowns. Among those considering a permanent shift include Nationwide, Mondelez and Barclays.

6 a.m.: Economists predict April will likely show the worst monthly jobs report in history. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the unemployment rate could be as low as 11% or higher than 20%. More than 30 million people have filed for unemployment benefits over the past six weeks as a result of the pandemic.

5:45 a.m.: In Texas, hair salons, nail salons and barbershops can reopen this weekend, although businesses must have at least 6 feet of social distancing between operating work stations. Other states, including North Carolina, have reopened non-essential stores but not salons.

5 a.m.: On Monday, Toyota will reopen its plant in Texas and slowly ramp up vehicle production. The automaker said it’s spent time making sure employees feel safe returning to work. Toyota saw sales plummet more than 30% in March.

4:45 a.m.: Today, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park will partner with Mountaire Farms for a fresh chicken sale in Durham. Customers have to pre-order online, pay in advance and pick up their chicken at a specified time between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

4:15 a.m.: The Diamante Arts & Cultural Center, a nonprofit, will hand out thousands of free masks Friday at the Holton Career Center in Durham from 4 to 7 p.m. The group says this is the largest distribution of free masks they've ever organized.

4 a.m.: The first phase of a three-step plan to reopen North Carolina to business and social activities goes into effect at 5 p.m. Friday. Among the biggest changes are the reopening of non-essential retail stores and state parks and trails.

At Brier Creek Commons, clothing stores, gift shops and others are preparing for Mother's Day shoppers. For some stores, spring is one of their busiest times of the year. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend more than $200 on Mother’s Day gifts this weekend.

Although they can legally reopen at 5 p.m., many store owners told WRAL News they will wait until Saturday to open their doors. Many malls will also reopen Saturday, including Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh and the Streets at Southpoint in Durham.

Stores must be kept at 50% capacity and enforce social distancing, per Gov. Roy Cooper's order. Under the order, movie theaters, sports and performance venues, bowling alleys, salons, spas and gyms must remain closed.

Places of worship can't reopen until Phase 2, but worshipers can gather outside for services as long as they wear masks and stay 6 feet apart from others.

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