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Coronavirus coverage in North Carolina, April 21, 2020: NC sees biggest daily spike in deaths

Posted April 21, 2020 4:00 a.m. EDT
Updated April 23, 2020 12:11 p.m. EDT

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

What you need to know:

Where are cases, deaths in NC?

Latest updates:

6:40 p.m.: A worker at the Douglas Byrd Middle School meal site for Cumberland County Schools has tested positive for the new coronavirus, prompting the district to close the site for 14 days.

The individual was wearing gloves and a face mask during food distribution. The site was set up for drive-thru distribution only, and health officials said the exposure risk is low to anyone coming through the line because close contact was limited to less than 10 minutes.

6:35 p.m.: President Donald Trump said his immigration "pause" won't affect seasonal farmworkers. He said he plans to make it easier for farmers to get the workers they need.

6:10 p.m.: Coronavirus cases are dropping in U.S. metro areas, from Chicago to New Orleans, according to Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Birx said governors and local officials need to decide for themselve when and how to reopen businesses, and public health experts will maintain surveillance in case the virus makes a comeback in the fall.

6:05 p.m.: President Donald Trump said he will "pause" immigration to the U.S. for at least 60 days as the economy tries to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

"We must take care of the American worker," Trump said, adding that temporarily halting efforts by people seeking green cards will conserve health care resources for U.S. citizens.

The executive order was being drafted Tuesday evening and will be signed Wednesday, he said.

6 p.m.: The first installment of the Paycheck Protection Program has benefited 30 million jobs nationwide, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said.

5:55 p.m.: More Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools employees have tested positive for the new coronavirus, Acting Superintendent Patrick Abele said in a statement. Although none of the cases are among our food preparation staff, the district is modifying its Food for Students initiative, he said.

Buses will no longer be used to deliver food. Instead, volunteers will pick up meals at Northside Elementary or McDougle Elementary and take them directly to the sites where they are stationed to reduce the number of people involved in the process, Abele said.

"We will be working with additional partners to help support meal delivery to the community sites over the next two weeks," he said. "We will keep in touch with our families who are depending on the feeding operation in case of additional changes to the schedule."

5:50 p.m.: North Carolina has reported 29 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday, the biggest daily total yet during the pandemic. Overall, the state is approaching 7,200 infections, which is about 40 percent higher than a week ago.

5:45 p.m.: A $482 billion pandemic-related stimulus package is moving through Congress. President Donald Trump said $382 billion would replenish the Paycheck Protection Program to provide money to small businesses to keep workers on the payroll. About $75 billion will go to hospitals hard hit by the pandemic, and the remaining $25 billion would expand coronavirus testing.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he will ask large businesses who obtained funds in the first round of PPP loans to give the money back. National restaurant chain Shake Shack has already returned $10 million.

Trump said he will insist Harvard University return money it received from the program.

5:40 p.m.: Another resident at Springbrook Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Clayton has died of coronavirus-related complications. Eight residents of the nursing home have died so far, and 44 current or former residents and 21 staffers are infected.

5 p.m.: The Dare County Board of Commissioners has voted to allow non-resident property owners back into the county in early May. They must first obtain an entry permit, and they will allowed back, starting May 4, May 6 or May 8, depending on their last names. They must abide by local and state stay-at-home orders, including covering up their faces in public when other people are nearby, officials said.

Dare County has blocked access to all non-residents, except people working in essential businesses, since mid-March in an effort to keep the coronavirus out. Officials said no new virus cases have been reported in the last week, and testing and contact tracing resources are readily available.

Meanwhile, the Currituck County Board of Commissioners has voted to allow all non-resident property owners to gain access into Corolla, beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday. The board also set a date of May 15 to begin allowing visitors to access Corolla, but that date will be re-evaluated during the next Board of Commissioners meeting on May 4.

4:05 p.m.: U.S. stocks closed 3 percent lower as oil prices continue to collapse amid shriveling demand for energy during the pandemic and a global glut of crude.

4 p.m.: The Wayne County Board of Commissioners has sent a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper, asking that economic consequences be considered before extending any virus-related restrictions in the state.

"The restrictions that are now in place have caused unprecedented disruption among our businesses and will have dramatic effects on our economy for years to come," board Chairman E. Ray Mayo wrote in the letter. "Many Wayne County business leaders have expressed concerns about how smaller businesses have been disproportionately affected by these regulations."

Wayne County has close to 600 virus cases, with about three-quarters of them inmates at Neuse Correctional Institution.

3:05 p.m.: Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins, who was a Green Beret and won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam, has died of coronavirus-related complications.

2:25 p.m.: State Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has issued an emergency directive ordering North Carolina magistrates to continue to perform marriage ceremonies in accordance with appropriate social distancing practices. The directive allows the chief district court judge in each county to restrict the times during which the ceremonies are conducted and restrict attendance at the ceremonies.

North Carolina magistrates perform about 25,000 marriages a year. In recent weeks, with many wedding venues closed, couples seeking to be married brought large groups of witnesses and attendees to local magistrates’ offices to be married there instead, prompting several counties to cease performing marriages altogether.

Wake County magistrates resumed performing marriages on Monday.

2:20 p.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper said he is developing a plan to ease restrictions under his stay-at-home order, but he said the changes must be made "in a responsible way, in a staged way."

About 1,000 people took part in the ReOpenNC protest in downtown Raleigh on Tuesday, saying the restrictions need to go away by May 1 so businesses can reopen.

Cooper said he plans to announce changes to his stay-at-home order later this week and may also announce plans for public schools, which are closed through May 15.

2:10 p.m.: Protective gear is being sent to long-term care facilities statewide, although gowns remain in short supply, state Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said.

Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities account for 40 percent of North Carolina's coronavirus-related deaths, although they are only about 17 percent of overall infections.

2:05 p.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper said he is working with state lawmakers on a "three-pronged budget proposal" that would address immediate public health and safety needs, fund schools and other core state government services and provide assistance to small businesses and local governments. He said he would recommend funding for more workers to trace contacts of virus patients, food for schools and other assistance for schools as they teach online.

2 p.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper said he has signed an executive order to make furloughed workers eligible for unemployment benefits.

To date the state has paid about $580 million in benefits to 257,000 people since mid-March, the vast majority who lost their jobs because of coronavirus-related shutdowns.

1:30 p.m.: The White House and Congress have agreed on a new pandemic relief plan providing funds for a tapped-out small business aid program and aid for coronavirus testing and overwhelmed hospitals, according to Bloomberg News. President Donald Trump said he’d sign the measure and begin discussions on a next round of stimulus.

1:05 p.m.: The North Carolina National Guard will begin providing personnel and vehicles to assist food banks statewide on Wednesday. Each food bank will receive approximately 40 people and 15 cargo vehicles, tailored to the needs of the food bank and those they serve, and National Guard members will help with warehouse and forklift operations and meal distribution, as well as food transportation and delivery to area agencies on aging and school nutrition programs.

“Food banks are doing great work right now to help people who need assistance,” North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said in a statement. “But demand is very high, and food banks need your support.”

1 p.m.: Coronavirus outbreaks have been reported in five food processing facilities in Bladen, Chatham, Duplin, Lee and Robeson counties, state officials said. So the state Department of Health and Human Services and the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have devised plans to limit the spread of the virus in food plants.

The plans include screening employees before they start their shifts, providing more protective gear for workers, separating people more on production lines and tracing the close contacts of anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 to quarantine other workers as needed.

"Agriculture and agribusinesses are on the front lines of this crisis just like hospital workers, first responders, grocery store staff, truck drivers and many more. Their work is different, but every bit as critically important," Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in a statement. "We are in contact with the companies, public health officials and our federal inspection partners. The companies are working to implement recommendations of the CDC and state public health and local officials to keep these facilities operating and producing a stable supply of safe and nutritious food."

12:55 p.m.: Lenoir County has reported its first coronavirus-related death. The person was older than 65 and had other health issues, officials said.

12:10 p.m.: People lined up outside a Latino supermarket in north Raleigh to get free face masks passed out by the Diamante Arts & Cultural Center. The Hispanic/Latino art and cultural nonprofit organization partnered with Asian Focus’ Project Unity to distribute masks to Latinos in Raleigh to help limit the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We understand the stresses and constraints that families are going through right now. We just want to serve the community in the best way we know how, by sharing the art and culture of the diverse Latino/Hispanic community and help keep them as safe as possible by providing masks. We will distribute masks as long as funds are available to secure their purchase," Diamante Chirman Roberto Perez said in a statement.

12 p.m.: Stay-at-home orders have blown a $300 million hole in the state Department of Transportation budget, forcing the agency to delay all but about 50 major highway projects that were scheduled to start in the next 12 months.

The delay doesn't affect construction projects already underway or that have already been awarded. The only new ones moving forward are funded by GARVEE bonds, BUILD NC bonds and federal grants.

DOT is funded through the Motor Fuels Tax, Highway Use Tax and Division of Motor Vehicles fees, all of which are seeing less revenue as people drive less and inspection and registration deadlines have been pushed back during the pandemic.

The agency also is laying off consultants, implementing a hiring freeze – positions that impact public safety won't be affected – and is readying plans to furlough employees, if needed.

11:55 a.m.: The state Department of Health and Human Services has received approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to temporarily waive certain Medicaid policies as part of North Carolina’s response to the pandemic.

The changes include removing certain dollar and stay limits, expanding the type of location where services can be delivered and easing requirements for reviews of personalized care plans and in-person meetings and are retroactive to March 13. They will continue until March 12, 2021, the end of the public health emergency or when the state determines the flexibilities are no longer necessary, whichever is first.

11:50 a.m.: A man who walked away from the federal prison complex in Butner three weeks ago as the coronavirus outbreak started growing there is back in custody.

Richard Cephas, of Wilmington, Del., surrendered on Monday in Delaware and has been charged with escape. Butner has the largest virus outbreak in the federal prison system, with at least 70 inmates and two dozen staffers testing positive.

11:10 a.m.: Legislative leaders have a bipartisan agreement in place to provide additional funds to Golden LEAF, a Rocky Mount-based economic development foundation, for its bridge loan program for North Carolina businesses. The program provides low-interest loans of up to $50,000 with no payments for six months.

10:30 a.m.: Over 150 protesters were already waiting in their cars in downtown Raleigh for the ReOpenNC protest. Meanwhile, over 150 police officers were waiting, prepared to respond.

10 a.m.: A 5-year-old girl in Michigan has become the youngest person in that state to die of COVID-19. Her parents, who are a firefighter and a police officer, said they want others to know the virus can affect any member of the family.

Skylar Herbert first complained of a headache. Her parents, first responders themselves, took her to the hospital. She was ultimately placed on a ventilator and died from the virus over the weekend.

9:30 a.m.: Stock futures are down, with the Dow futures down by over 600 points and NASDAQ down by 109. One of the main factors in the drop is the low oil prices.

9 a.m.: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he believes there is a deal on a nearly $500 billion virus aid package that would provide more loans to small businesses, as well as help hospitals, which are also facing some financial strain. He said he believes this new bill will be passed at some point Tuesday afternoon.

8:30 a.m.: COVID-19 has taken over heart disease as the leading cause of death in America since April 7, causing more than 1,800 deaths nearly every day since then, while heart disease follows closely behind at 1,774 daily deaths.

In just seven weeks, deaths from COVID-19 have spiked from just six deaths to over 42,000.

8 a.m.: Health services giant LabCorp will begin selling an at-home test for the COVID-19 virusafter receiving emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Called Pixel, the test will cost $119.

The test will include collection of specimens via nasal swabs. However, consumers will be able to buy the test only if recommended by a health care provider and after they have filled out a questionnaire.

7:30 a.m.: The death toll in England is significantly higher than previously reported. New statistics show the true death toll is 41% higher, according to CNN.

The new numbers come from the U.K.'s largest independent producer of statistics. As of April 10, they believe more than 13,000 have died, as opposed to the originally reported death toll at the time, which was 9,200.

Revised numbers were also reported in China, and experts believe similar revisions with higher death tolls will also happen in the United States.

7 a.m.: The line for a bulk chicken sale in Knightdale reportedly began forming at 8 p.m. Monday, as some people slept in their vehicles to ensure a good spot in line.

On Wednesday, the House of Raeford Farms chicken sale comes to Raleigh. Long lines are expected to form at the State Fairgrounds, where the chicken drive-thru will begin at 9 a.m.

5:45 a.m.: The Knightdale Police Department said its officers are expecting hundreds of cars to line up for another bulk chicken sale on Tuesday.

House of Raeford Farms has been selling its chicken quickly. To keep people from waiting in line for hours, they are asking customers to be prepared with cash and in line early. The chicken will be sold in 40-pound cases for about $45.

A sale will take place in Raleigh on Wednesday.

5:30 a.m.: More testing is needed before North Carolina can reopen, according to state health officials. On average, North Carolina is testing about 2,500 cases a day, but state health officials say more testing and data collection is needed before the state lifts the stay-at-home order. The state is also working to set up additional testing sites to target minority communities. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said it will likely be weeks, not months, before the state reopens.

5:15 a.m.: Leaders will announce a plan on Tuesday to gradually lift restrictions in the Outer Banks. Dare County has been closed to visitors for more than a month to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Officials say the plan will not go into effect immediately, but it will eventually allow visitors to access Kitty Hawk, Nags Head and Hatteras Island.

Wrightsville Beach reopened Monday, but only water sports and walking and jogging are allowed. Visitors can't read on the beach, sunbathe or gather in groups.

5 a.m.: President Donald Trump is placing a temporary suspension on immigration to the U.S. due to the coronavirus outbreak. In a tweet, Trump said the suspension was because of an "attack from the invisible enemy" and a "need to protect the jobs of our great American citizens."

Th3 immigration suspension comes after the president banned some travelers to and from China and Europe in January and March.

4:30 a.m.: Harris Teeter has started to require workers to wear masks or other face coverings at work. The order applies to all stores and distribution centers. Harris Teeter will provide all staffers with a face covering, or they can make or provide their own.

Walmart made a similar move Monday, and Fresh Market made the mandate for employees last week while also requiring shoppers to cover their faces.

4 a.m.: In less than seven hours, ReopenNC protesters will gather in Raleigh for a second time to demand Gov. Roy Cooper lift restrictions in the state. Their rally comes as global leaders warn people not to get complacent even though outbreaks appear to be slowing. The World Health Organization has even warned people that the worst is still ahead of us.

“This is not the time to be lax. Instead, we need to ready ourselves for a new way of living for the foreseeable future,” said Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the WHO regional director.

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