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Coronavirus coverage in North Carolina, April 24, 2020: Durham records 10th death, more infections at nursing homes

Posted April 24, 2020 4:56 a.m. EDT
Updated April 25, 2020 10:00 a.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?

Tracking the virus curve

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Latest updates:

6:40 p.m.: Coronavirus outbreaks continue to expand at Durham nursing homes. Durham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center now has 111 cases, up from 97 on Wednesday, while Treyburn Rehabilitation Center has gone from 29 to 41 cases, county officials said.

Separately, Durham County reported its 10th virus related death.

6:10 p.m.: Kure Beach officials will reopen beach access at noon Monday for individual exercise, including jogging, swimming and water sports. Fishing and sunbathing will not be allowed. Blanekts, chairs, umbrellas and coolers also won't be allowed on the beaches.

People must observe social distancing guidelines, and groups are limited to no more than 10 people.

6:05 p.m.: Wake County officials say churches can still provide sacraments, collect offerings and keep their congregations informed under the county's stay-at-home order.

Financial support can be collected online, through the mail or via a system that lets people drop off donations in a drive-thru fashion. Weekly bulletins can be emailed, put online or on unattended tables where people can grab them while maintaining distance from others.

As for communion, officials suggested allowing church members to bring their own sacraments to the [drive-in] service, place the sacraments in self-serve packages for easy pickup prior to the day of the service and/or put the sacraments in self-serve packages and leave them on a table for convenient drive-by pickup right before the service begins."

The guidance came after the Alliance Defending Freedom group sent a letter to county officials calling restrictions on churches under the stay-at-home order unconstitutional. The group noted businesses are allowed to serve food and collect payments through curbside pick-up or delivery, so churches should have similar flexibility.

Late Friday night, ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker said in a press release "We commend Wake County for taking action this evening. We look forward to churches being able to conduct drive-in services with the freedom to safely serve communion and receive donations this Sunday without fear of government punishment."

5:50 p.m.: Some employees at a Butterball poultry processing plant in Mount Olive have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said, declining to disclose the exact number. They said they have strict protocols for cleaning the plant and ensuring sick employees don't come to work.

4:30 p.m.: Three more residents of Louisburg Nursing Center have died of coronavirus-related complications, bringing the total at the facility to 14. Nine other residents remain hospitalized.

Overall, 53 of the 61 residents in Louisburg Nursing Center have tested positive for the virus, as have 12 staff members.

Louisburg Nursing Center has, by far, the highest death toll from the virus of any assisted living center in central North Carolina.

3:50 p.m.: Moore County public health authorities are offering coronavirus testing supplies to any long-term care facility in the county that wants to undertake mass testing of its residents and staff in an effort to get ahead of a potential outbreak.

3 p.m.: A Moore County deputy has tested positive for the new coronavirus, Sheriff Ronnie Fields said. The sheriff’s office and the Moore County Health Department are working to notify anyone who may have been in contact with the deputy, he said.

2:45 p.m.: Butterball will donate 500,000 meals to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina on Monday to help feed people affected by COVID-19 in the communities where the company operates, officials said.

2:40 p.m.: A resident of the Brookdale Pinehurst assisted living facility has tested positive for the new coronavirus, officials said. No details were provided.

2:35 p.m.: Following the decision by state officials to keep schools closed for the rest of the 2019-20 school year, the N.C. High School Athletic Association has canceled the previously postponed state basketball championships and all spring sports.

2:30 p.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper said he is concerned with the decisions by governors in Georgia and South Carolina to start reopening businesses during the pandemic, fearing that it could create more coronavirus cases in North Carolina.

"The virus, like it doesn't respect county lines, it doesn't respect state lines either," Cooper said, noting that he planned to speak with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp later Friday afternoon.

2:20 p.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper said he has put together a budget proposal to direct $1.4 billion in federal funds from the CARES Act to meet public health and safety needs, fund ongoing education and government services and provide assistance to small businesses and local government.

2:05 p.m.: Public schools across North Carolina will remain closed for the rest of the school year because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Roy Cooper said. When schools open next fall will depend on public health data in the coming months, he said.

The state has formed partnerships with AT&T to provide 100 Wi-Fi hotspots on school buses and with the Duke Energy Foundation for another 80 hotspots to help students without internet access continue with online learning, Cooper said.

1:45 p.m.: Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry said her office won't prosecute anyone who wears a mask in public to prevent the spread of coronavirus. State law prohibits individuals in certain situations from wearing masks to conceal their identities.

"We don't want there to be any confusion about whether residents should be taking proper measures to protect their health," Deberry said in a statement. "Individuals who cover their faces to intimidate others or as part of a criminal act or enterprise will continue to be held accountable."

1:35 p.m.: A worker at a Target store in Holly Springs has tested positive foe the coronavirus. No information was provided on when the person was last in the store.

Officials said the store has undergone a deep cleaning and sanitization.

1:30 p.m.: The U.S. Department of Education has awarded $396.3 million to North Carolina school districts to support continued learning for K-12 students whose educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

1:25 p.m.: President Donald Trump says he will block emergency coronavirus aid for U.S. Postal Service if the agency doesn’t increase prices immediately, according to The Washington Post.

One of the recent emergency spending laws authorized the Treasury Department to extend a $10 billion loan to the Postal Service, and the newspaper reports that the president wants to use the loan as a means to extract major changes at the organization.

1:20 p.m.: The Congressional Budget Office says coronavirus aid and a likely recession caused by the pandemic will cause the U.S. deficit to reach $3.7 trillion this year, according to The Associated Press.

12:50 p.m.: Two more people have died of coronavirus-related complications in Wayne County, bringing the county's death toll to eight, officials said.

One was an inmate at Neuse Correctional Institution in Goldsboro, and the second was a person older than 70 in a long-term care facility.

12:30 p.m.: President Donald Trump has signed the latest aid package to help the reeling U.S. economy weather the pandemic. The package includes another $320 billion for a small-business loan program, $75 billion for hospitals hit hard by the crisis and $25 billion to expand coronavirus testing.

12:20 p.m.: Durham County has extended its stay-at-home order to May 15. It had been scheduled to expire on April 30.

Under the new order, "non-essential" businesses can provide curbside pick-up or delivery services, provided they meet certain rules. Also, real estate agents can now show vacant homes up to three times a day instead of just one. In-person showings of occupied homes are still prohibited.

11:20 a.m.: U.S. deaths from the coronavirus have surpassed 50,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

11 a.m.: According to the Washington Post, the Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning about an antimalarial drug, citing serious health effects and death.

The FDA warned Friday that people should not take chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 outside of a hospital or formal clinical trial, citing reports of "serious heart rhythm problems." Many of those adverse effects occurred in patients with the virus who were treated with the malaria drugs, often in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin.

10:30 a.m.: A longtime North Carolina physician's personal post on COVID-19 went viral on Facebook. He wrote it in response to many questions and concerns he'd been seeing.

“Doc, honestly, is the Corona virus stuff for real or is this all overblown?”

“Doc, how long is this going to last, we have to reopen the economy?”

He said, "Facts: Yes, the COVID-19 virus is indeed for real and extremely dangerous. It is dangerous because 1). No human has ever gotten it before. It is new. We have no immunity 2). It is highly contagious. You can get and spread the virus without even being sick, and it is easily spread by coughing and survives on surfaces for days so you can get it without knowing how and 3). Since it is new we in medicine, don’t know how to treat it. We have no proven medicines. It appears to be much more deadly than the flu. The percentage, we don’t know for sure yet, but that really doesn’t matter at this point, does it? It is bad. People are dying in large numbers."

"We can argue percentages and statistics, but we must slow this thing down to give our doctors and researchers time to see what medicine can help prevent deaths and how to best treat the virus. We will figure it out, but it will take some time. We need that time. Please help us save lives by doing your part."

10:15 a.m.: Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina said its pandemic-related costs are projected to reach $593 million.

The state's largest health insurer said its efforts to eliminate co-pays and deductibles for coronavirus testing and treatment and expanding telehealth options will cost about $313 million. Extending grace periods for employers and individuals to pay premiums during a crippled economy and enhancing its claims processing will cost another $275 million.

The company also has provided about $5 million in aid to are nonprofits trying to help people during the crisis.

10 a.m.: Clinical trials are underway for a COVID-19 vaccine in Britain. This is the first human trial in Europe. Of the group of volunteers, half will get a COVID-19 vaccine, while others will get one that protects against meningitis and not COVID-19. The design means volunteers won't know which vaccine they get, only doctors.

9:30 a.m.: Nearly 735,000 people in North Carolina have filed for unemployment since March 15, according to the state Division of Employment Security. The state has paid more than $652 million in jobless benefits in that time.

New unemployment data shows more people are out of work in North Carolina than are working in the Raleigh-Cary metro area, and economists said it'll get worse before it improves.

The Triangle's quick growth and culture of small businesses, start-ups and tech entrepreneurs that typically produces a thriving and creative workforce is part of the reason the area has been so hard hit.

“This is ironic – our faster growth in recent years has attracted numerous small businesses and start-ups. With many of these businesses not being well-established, they don’t have the resources to fall back on during an economic shutdown. Their only option is to dramatically scale back or close," said Mike Walden, a North Carolina State University economist.

9 a.m.: An inmate at Neuse Correctional Institution in Goldsboro has died of COVID-19 complications. The man, who was ion his 70s and had other health problems, tested positive for the coronavirus on April 18, and he was hospitalized two days later. He died on Thursday.

“Any death is a tragedy, and we are doing our best to try and flatten the curve of COVID-19 in prisons,” Todd Ishee, state commissioner of prisons, said in a statement.

Neuse Correctional has the largest coronavirus outbreak in the state prison system, with a total of 458 reported cases. Tensions have been high in the prison due to the number of cases, as inmates complained about lack of masks or protective equipment.

This is the second coronavirus death of an individual in custody at a North Carolina state prison.

8:30 a.m.: Studies are now showing the first cases of COVID-19 in America were spreading through U.S. cities earlier than we thought. Scientists said the first infections came from China in January, more than three weeks earlier than previously thought. Researchers said it spread under the radar because many people weren’t showing symptoms.

8 a.m.: Many businesses in Georgia will be allowed to reopen on Friday, including gyms, bowling alleys, barbershops, salons and tattoo parlors. On Monday, movie theaters, social clubs and dine-in restaurants will be allowed to reopen. The governor of Georgia’s plan has drawn much criticism, even from President Donald Trump.

7:30 a.m.: "Parks and Recreation" fans can get excited about the cast reuniting for a new special, five years after the finale. The special episode will feature Pawnee under a stay-at-home order, as Leslie Knope tries to stay connected with friends while social distancing. The episode will raise money to help feed families in need.

6:30 a.m.: When will parents be able to stop homeschooling their children? Parents, teachers and students alike are awaiting Gov. Roy Cooper's announcement about the plans for North Carolina schools. The governor is expected to provide details this afternoon at 2 p.m.

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