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Coronavirus coverage in North Carolina, April 28, 2020: Sixth Butner inmate dies

Posted April 28, 2020 4:14 a.m. EDT
Updated April 30, 2020 5:24 p.m. EDT

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

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Latest updates:

9:20 p.m.: A sixth inmate at the federal prison complex in Butner has died of coronavirus-related complications, officials said.

William Walker Minto, 73, went into respiratory failure on April 15 and was transferred to a nearby hospital. He was placed on a ventilator on April 21 and died Tuesday. Officials said he had previous health problems that put him at higher risk from the virus.

Minto was serving a 20-year drug sentence at the time of his death.

7:25 p.m.: A 17th Durham County resident has died of COVID-19, officials said. Person County also reported its first coronavirus-related death.

7:20 p.m.: Mass coronavirus testing at Mountaire Farms' poultry processing plant in Siler City resulted in 74 positive tests, according to Piedmont Health, which conducted the testing. This testing was open to employees and their family members, so it is unclear how many employees tested positive, but Piedmont Health said very few family members were tested.

6:35 p.m.: An 8-week-old infant in Robeson County has tested positive for the new coronavirus, officials said. The child is among 33 new infections in the county.

6:22 p.m.: Nine staff members at the Harnett Woods Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Dunn have tested positive for the new coronavirus. Officials said no residents have tested positive.

6:10 p.m.: Police have confirmed that ReOpenNC protesters broke a lock on the back gate to the Executive Mansion and tried to pull the gate off its hinges during a Tuesday protest. They also threatened to do the same to the mansion's front gate.

State Capitol Police officers, Raleigh police officers and State Highway Patrol troopers surrounded the mansion and ordered everyone off the sidewalk, and four protesters, including one of the founders of the ReOpenNC movement, were subsequently arrested.

6:05 p.m.: Wrightsville Beach officials said the town will continue limited beach access for exercise – no tanning or fishing allowed – until May 8. All parking for beach access will remain closed, and all short-term rentals are prohibited until then.

6 p.m.: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded nearly $16.6 million to local housing authorities across North Carolina in response to the pandemic. The money is part of the CARES Act that Congress passed last month.

The Durham Housing Authority will receive $1.2 million, while the Raleigh Housing Authority will get about $775,000.

3:55 p.m.: The state Court of Appeals will hold oral arguments on Thursday via the Webex video-conferencing platform for the first time in the history of the court.

"The court has modernized to process its caseload while safely providing access to justice during the pandemic," Chief Judge Linda McGee said in a statement. "We hope that leveraging the use of technology available to us during these exceptional times will help us to continue building the public’s trust and confidence in our judicial system."

The public can watch oral arguments in the case on the Court of Appeals website.

3:45 p.m.: Coronavirus outbreaks have been reported at 13 food processing plants in North Carolina, totaling 479 infections, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The plants are in Bertie, Bladen, Chatham, Duplin, Lee, Lenoir, Robeson, Sampson, Union, Wilkes and Wilson counties.

President Donald Trump said he plans to sign an executive order Tuesday that would use the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing as critical infrastructure to keep production plants open amid outbreaks and prevent a shortage of meat at supermarkets nationwide.

3:35 p.m.: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said any business that received more than $2 million from the Paycheck Protection Program will undergo a review to determine whether the money will be forgiven or be required to be repaid.

A number of large businesses, including national restaurant chains, have come under criticism for taking money from the program, which was designed to keep workers on the payroll at small businesses hit hard by closures tied to the coronavirus outbreak.

3:25 p.m.: Bitty & Beau's, a Wilmington-based coffee shop chain that hires developmentally disabled workers, was among the small businesses honored at a White House ceremony for the Paycheck Protection Program. The $600 billion program provides money to small businesses to help keep workers on the payroll during the coronavirus pandemic.

3:05 p.m.: A state Department of Revenue employee has tested positive for the new coronavirus, officials said. The employee was last in the agency's Raleigh headquarters building last Thursday, and officials learned of the positive test on Friday. The building was closed immediately, and officials are identifying and notifying anyone in close contact with the employee while in the building.

The building is undergoing a thorough cleaning before reopening to any on-site employees. The vast majority of Revenue Department employees are working remotely, but a small number of essential employees work on-site.

2:25 p.m.: More than 1,000 people have already expressed interest in becoming contact tracers for county public health departments to help identify and track down people in contact with individuals who have tested positive for the new coronavirus, according to Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The state wants to hire 250 tracers to help prevent more coronavirus outbreaks as testing expands and identifies newly infected people. Some smaller counties may need extra help if they have a hotspot at a nursing home, and some metro areas also need assistance, Cohen said.

2:20 p.m.: Unless health trends reverse in the coming weeks, the Coca-Cola 600 race will be held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 27, Gov. Roy Cooper said. NASCAR officials have submitted a plan to maintain social distancing during the event, he said.

The race would be the first public sporting event in North Carolina since the early rounds of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro in mid-March.

2:15 p.m.: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is distributing masks, gowns and other protective gear to 15,000 nursing homes nationwide, including 430 in North Carolina, state Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said.

2:10 p.m.: Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said she has written to her federal counterpart, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, to call for for financial support for health care providers who care for patients on Medicaid or who have no insurance. She said the first $100 billion from the CARES Act allocated to providers "greatly advantaged" those who care for patients with private insurance or Medicare.

2 p.m.: The seven-day rolling average of coronavirus cases in North Carolina continues to rise, hitting 374 new cases per day, which is more than 30 cases per day above the previous high. The rolling average of deaths remains steady at 18 per day over the past seven days.

1:45 p.m.: The U.S. has more than 1 million coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

1:25 p.m.: North Carolina National Guard members are assisting with sorting food at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina for future distribution.

1:10 p.m.: Atlantic Beach is reopening beach access to people from outside Carteret County on Wednesday, although public bathrooms at some public parking near beach access points will remain closed until May 15. Atlantic Beach will lift its ban on short-term hotel stays and room rentals on May 8. But local restaurants will continue to be limited to drive-thru, takeout or delivery services until the statewide stay-at-home order is lifted.

1:05 p.m.: The Wake County Sheriff's Office plans to caravan to WakeMed, Duke Raleigh Hospital and UNC Rex Hospital on Wednesday morning, circling each facility in the "Badges and Blue Lights Laps of Love" effort. Deputies will drop off goodie bags for staff at each location as a token of appreciation.

"We are tremendously grateful to our health care providers who are not only taking care of those in the community, but many are also trying to balance their personal lives as well, which is not easy," Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker said in a statement. "We hope this small display of our gratitude brings some sunshine to their lives as they continue to take care for those in need of medical care."

12:40 p.m.: The North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources is collecting digital and physical materials that reflect the experiences of North Carolina residents, organizations, businesses, and caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the "Your Story is North Carolina's Story" community-based initiative to document personal experiences during the pandemic.

The State Archives of North Carolina is seeking original, first-person materials that document this pandemic, including personal accounts and journals; photographs and videos; ephemera, such as signage about store closures or shortages of supplies, home lesson plans, or advertisements; and oral histories.

The North Carolina Museum of History is seeking objects to help tell the story of the pandemic such as personal protective equipment (particularly items manufactured in North Carolina); items associated with frontline “essential” workers; and objects associated with life during quarantine, volunteer efforts, medical research, social distancing and more.

Physical objects cannot be collected while the facilities are closed, so people are asked to save items for future collection but record and submit information about them now.

12:20 p.m.: Due to health concerns, the time to complete the 2020 U.S. census has been extended to Oct. 31. The count will be done online, by phone or by email.

The data help determine congressional representation and how federal funding is divvied up among states and communities for the next decade.

12:15 p.m.: Few lawmakers were in the House and Senate chambers as the General Assembly gaveled in. Many of those who were wore masks. The House approved special rules to account for social distancing during the session, including closing the gallery to the public and allowing more time for votes as lawmakers come in and out of the chamber.

12 p.m.: ReOpenNC protesters are gathered outside the Legislative Building as the General Assembly convenes a session to address pandemic-related needs. Lawmakers are expected to vote on spending bills on Thursday.

11:20 a.m.: North Carolina has received another $1.5 billion from the federal government as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. State officials received a $2 billion installment through the CARES Act on April 15.

North Carolina is slated to receive more than $4 billion, with Wake, Guilford, and Mecklenburg counties, as well as the city of Charlotte, getting more than $480 million.

11:15 a.m.: The Hope4Healers Helpline (919-226-2002) is being expanded to support people working in North Carolina’s child care programs, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. DHHS started Hope4Healers in partnership with the North Carolina Psychological Foundation to provide mental health support for health care professionals, other staff who work in health care settings, first responders and their families who are experiencing stress from being on the front lines of the state’s pandemic response.

"North Carolina’s child care staff are the essential workforce supporting other essential personnel, working each day to provide safe, stable and nurturing care for children and families experiencing stress in their lives while coping with their own stress," DHHS Chief Deputy Secretary Susan Gale Perry said in a statement. "We want to make sure that they have access to the mental health and resilience supports they may need during this crisis."

Hope4Healers also is now equipped with 24/7 call line support, so callers can speak to a live person who will listen, offer emotional support and make connections, including referral for follow-up supports.

11 a.m.: Hundreds of people are gathering in downtown Raleigh for the third ReOpenNC rally, calling on state leaders to lift stay-at-home restrictions that have closed businesses for more than a month during the pandemic. More health care workers are expected to take part in a counter-protest Tuesday, arguing that reopening the state too soon would endanger everyone.

10:45 a.m.: Four more people have died at the Louisburg Nursing Center in Franklin County, bringing the community's total virus-related deaths to 18. Thirteen staff members have tested positive for coronavirus, and five residents remain hospitalized with virus complications.

10:30 a.m.: Due to coronavirus, the state Department of Transportation has canceled its 2020 contract for the Ocracoke Express passenger ferry. The ferry was introduced in 2019 for people traveling between Hatteras and Ocracoke islands in the Outer Banks. More than 28,600 people used the passenger ferry last summer.

10:15 a.m.: The Department of Commerce reports 875,632 unemployment claims have been filed in North Carolina between March 15 and April 27.

10 a.m.: The Carolina Hurricanes Foundation has donated $478,000 to 26 local nonprofits and youth hockey organizations during the 2019-20 season. Among those groups are the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle and other nonprofits that need extra assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

9:45 a.m.: A WalletHub study ranks North Carolina dead last among the 50 states for COVID-19 financial support. The study says North Carolina is not providing support to the degree other states are based on a review of 17 data metrics. The state received an overall score of 17.68, while Massachusetts had the top score, 69.94 out of a possible 100.

9:30 a.m.: Southwest Airlines has reported its first quarterly loss in almost a decade due to the pandemic, according to CNN.

9:15 a.m.: Friends of Cumberland County Animals will host a pet food drive Wednesday, and all requests for help should be in by Tuesday night, the group says.

The pet food drive will be held from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the parking lot at the Cumberland County Animal Shelter in Fayetteville. People struggling to afford food for their pets during the pandemic are asked to send a direct message to Friends of Cumberland County Animals on Facebook. They will be asked to provide their name and the number and type of animals they need food for. Cat litter can also be requested. Donations are welcome.

9 a.m.: Unemployment benefits may be available to some self-employed, independent contractors and so-called “gig” workers, according to WRAL TechWire.

8:30 a.m.: Counter-protestors are already planning their response to a ReOpenNC rally. Many of the counter-protestors are health care workers. In a press release, the group "Health Workers Defend NC" said people need to stay home to reduce the spread of the virus and protect frontline workers.

"Dressed in scrubs, masks and with signs reading 'I Can’t Believe I Have to Show Up Here Too' and 'Stay Home For ME,' they will point out that the ReOpen protesters’ actions are making health care workers and their patients less safe, and are undermining the efforts of over 10 million North Carolinians who are doing all they can to flatten the curve and stop the loss of life," a statement read.

In last week's protest, dozens of masked nurses stood in downtown Raleigh to protest ReOpenNC in silence.

8 a.m.: More than 9,500 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus. At least 346 people have died. Right now, North Carolina is reporting an average of 340 new cases a day. That's the second-highest average so far, although it is important to keep in mind that the state is testing more people now.

7:30 a.m.: A top emergency room doctor at a Manhattan hospital that treated many coronavirus patients died by suicide Sunday, her father and the police said. Dr. Lorna M. Breen, medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, died in Charlottesville, Va.

7 a.m.: The North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh prison is dealing with 70 new COVID-19 cases. The state Department of Public Safety said Monday that 161 offenders were tested over the weekend. All of the positive cases are in one housing unit and the majority of those that tested positive don’t have any symptoms. Everyone inside the prison now has a mask, and staff will be offered a COVID-19 test.

6:45 a.m.: UNC wants people to wear Carolina blue, take a selfie and post it on social media using the hashtag #CarolinaHeroes to show support for "Carolina superheroes." On Tuesday, video boards at athletic venues across UNC's campus will feature the Carolina Heroes Day image as a thank you health care and essential workers. UNC said it's small way to show appreciation to people committed to helping stop the spread of the virus.

6:30 a.m.: President Donald Trump said states should “seriously consider” reopening their public schools before the end of the academic year, even though dozens already have said it would be unsafe for students to return until the summer or fall. North Carolina already made the decision to keep schools closed for the rest of the academic year.

6:15 a.m.: A report by the University of Washington predicts the U.S. will see 74,000 COVID-19 deaths by early August, up from the 67,000 predicted on April 22. The country is already at more than 56,000 deaths.

6 a.m.: Japan said the Olympic Games, now rescheduled for 2021, could be “scrapped” if they still can’t take place by then, according to a Reuters report citing Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori. With infections on the rise and a vaccine still some time away, Mori said that the Games would be called off instead if another postponement was needed.

5:45 a.m.: Starting this week, there will be self-swab COVID-19 tests at community health clinics in New York City. The test involves a person going to a clinic, getting instructions on how to perform the tests and taking their own nasal swab and spitting into a cup under the supervision of a health care worker.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the new test is simpler and faster and allows the person being tested and the health care worker to remain at a safe distance.

5:30 a.m.: A COVID-19 outbreak has been confirmed at a Butterball plant in eastern North Carolina. The company says more than 50 employees at the plant near Mount Olive have tested positive. Butterball's CEO sent out nine memos, the first on April 13 and the last one on April 24, updating employees on the positive cases.

5:15 a.m.: A worker at the Lowe's Home Improvement store in Pittsboro has tested positive for coronavirus. The employee, who was last in the store on April 19, is quarantined and being treated. The store has been extensively cleaned and will be open Tuesday.

4:45 a.m.: UNC-Wilmington has rescheduled its spring graduation ceremony in hopes it can occur as it normally would.

“We are happy to share that we have scheduled commencement for August 7-8, 2020," the school released in a statement. "Based on the information we have at this point, we do not expect that to change.”

4:30 a.m.: Flushed wipes caused a 2,000-gallon sewer spill on Chimney Rise Drive Monday night, according to the Town of Cary. The spill flowed into Lake Pine, but no fish kill was observed. Town staff cleared the blockage, cleaned the site and applied powdered lime to the ground to treat the soil.

While it becomes more difficult to find toilet paper in stores, more people are using baby wipes, napkins and other items in the bathroom. But only human waste and toilet paper should be flushed, even if a product claims to be "flushable."

4 a.m.: Wake County had its largest one-day jump in COVID-19 cases Monday, reporting 101 new positive cases for a total of 764. Deaths in the county have risen to 15.

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