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Coronavirus coverage in North Carolina, April 29, 2020: Durham hits 20 deaths

Posted April 29, 2020 4:46 a.m. EDT
Updated April 30, 2020 5:21 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?

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Latest updates:

6:30 p.m.: Three more Durham County residents have died of coronavirus-related complications, bringing the county's death toll in the pandemic to 20.

All three were older than 65 and had previous health problems, officials said.

Wake and Orange counties also reported virus-related deaths on Wednesday.

5 p.m.: The Baseball Hall of Fame has canceled its July inductions due to coronavirus concerns. New members Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller will be honored in 2021.

4:50 p.m.: Charlotte-based Belk plans to reopen its stores in South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma at noon Friday. Store managers will limit the number of shoppers allowed inside.

North Carolina stores remain closed for now, but Belk is offering curbside pick-up for online orders daily from noon to 5 p.m.

4:05 p.m.: New Hanover County has begun expanded diagnostic testing for coronavirus, with more than 100 residents scheduled to be tested Wednesday at a drive-thru testing site. Countywide testing is expected to continue through May 22.

4 p.m.: Gaston County officials have backed down from a plan to allow local businesses to reopen Wednesday, acknowledging that the state stay-at-home order remains in effect and take precedence over any actions they take.

3 p.m.: Costco shoppers will have to start wearing masks in the stores on Monday. The company also said most of its U.S. stores will return to normal operating hours on Monday, although some stores will open from 9 to 10 a.m. weekdays for people ages 60 and older and for anyone with a disability.

2:50 p.m.: Remdesivir, a treatment that originated in a UNC-Chapel Hill lab, has shown positive results in a clinical trial for patients with COVID-19, the illness associated with the coronavirus.

The treatment diminished the time to recovery from COVID-19. Animal testing at UNC's Gillings School of Public Health set the stage for clinical trials to begin this spring as the virus spread across the globe.

"This is a game changer for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 and provides hope to many infected," Ralph Baric, an epidemiologist who led lab testing of the antiviral drug.

2:40 p.m.: All amenities in Raleigh parks remain closed through at least May 31, including athletic courts and fields, dog parks, skate parks, playgrounds, lakes, restrooms, shelters and facilities. Open areas of the parks and city greenways remain open.

1:30 p.m.: The University of North Carolina system expects its 17 campuses will reopen this fall, according to Interim President Dr. Bill Roper.

"Our chancellors will have flexibility to determine what local steps they need to take to protect all students, staff and faculty, especially high-risk populations, both on campus and off. They will have the ability to put unique precautions in place," Roper said in a statement.

Some schools might use staggered or shortened academic calendars, while others may try to reduce student density in campus housing and classrooms, Roper said.

"Our plans will ensure that students and parents have the tools they need to stay fully engaged with their home institution, safely and with confidence," he said. "I anticipate that operations at each institution will not be the 'normal' we were all used to prior to COVID-19. But, working together, we will all eventually see our 17 campuses once again operating at full capacity, serving as North Carolina’s most vital hubs for teaching, research, and service."

Students at all UNC campuses have been taking online classes since late March..

12:50 p.m.: The rolling seven-day average of new coronavirus cases in North Carolina hit a new high Wednesday, with 390 cases per day over the last week. The rolling average for virus-related hospitalizations also hit a new high at 480, while the rolling average for virus deaths dropped slightly to 16 per day.

12:05 p.m.: Law enforcement in the Myrtle Beach, S.C., area are using drones to patrol beaches to ensure people are following social distancing guidelines.

11:45 p.m.: Gaston County officials are allowing businesses there to reopen, despite a statewide stay-at-home order.

A spokesman for Gov. Roy Cooper said the statewide order remains in effect and urged people to abide by it.

11:35 a.m.: Coronavirus has infected more than 10,000 people in North Carolina. Statewide, 10,074 cases have been reported, including 374 deaths. Nearly 1,500 people have recovered from COVID-19, the illness associated with the virus.

11:25 a.m.: Avery County and Yancey County in the North Carolina mountains are the only two of the state's 100 counties not to report a single coronavirus case so far. Hyde County in the east and Swain County in the west also were on that virus-free list until Wednesday.

11:20 a.m.: A task force appointed by officials in Orange County, Fla., has developed a preliminary set of guidelines for the phased reopening of Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resorts, among other theme parks, when they eventually resume operations, according to Fox News.

All employees will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms before their shifts and will be required to wear masks. The parks must provide hand sanitizer at the entrance and exit to each ride and at ticketing areas and turnstiles. Parks also are encouraged to mark off 6-foot areas in lines for rides so visitors can exercise social distancing.

11:10 a.m.: Pinehurst-based FirstHealth of the Carolinas has joined the convalescent plasma expanded access program at Mayo Clinic to provide plasma transfusion treatment for hospitalized patients with severe or life-threatening COVID-19.

Patients who have recovered from COVID-19 are encouraged to donate convalescent plasma through OneBlood. The plasma, also called serum, is then processed and tested for antibodies that help fight against the virus.

The Mayo Clinic program includes protocols and regulatory assistance, but it does not supply the plasma. Sites are encouraged to establish local channels and work with blood banks to identify and recruit donors. To be eligible for donation, individuals must have recovered from coronavirus, become completely free of symptoms for 14 days, and test negative for the virus.

"We’re really excited about this treatment and think it could really help people," Dr. Gretchen Shaughnessy Arnoczy, an infectious diseases physician with FirstHealth, said in a statement. "Having recovered patients participate in serum donation is a great aid."

11:05 a.m.: The Coastal Plain League collegiate summer baseball league and its member teams, including the Holly Springs Salamanders, have delayed the start of the 2020 season until July 1. Pending local government guidance, teams may begin to gather in mid-June with the opportunity to play exhibition games prior to the season’s start.

The Salamanders' home schedule has been reduced to 21 games because of the shorter season, and stadium seating capacity will be reduced for social distancing.

The 2020 Coastal Plain League All-Star Game, which had been scheduled for Ting Stadium in Holly Springs, has been canceled.

11 a.m.: Wake County's stay-at-home order expires Thursday. At that time, the county will fall under a statewide stay-at-home order in effect until May 8. The biggest change for area residents is that, under the state order, gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed. Wake County Manager David Ellis said that, because Wake County was the first county in the state to see the virus, officials originally established their own order.

"We needed to put some things in place to protect the residents here in North Carolina," Ellis said. "Our goal was always, at some point, that once the governor moved forward, to really look at how we could align with the governor and his recommendations."

10:45 a.m.: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released cleaning and disinfecting guidelines businesses should take once they reopen, including a list of recommended sprays, cleaners and wipes.

People should use a two-step process to clean and disinfect surfaces, the groups say. First, use soap and warm water to remove germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. Then, use disinfectant products to kill germs on surfaces.

"By killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection," a statement read.

The cleaning guidelines apply to all public spaces, workplaces, businesses, schools and homes.

10:35 a.m.: Carteret County officials have lifted restrictions that barred people from outside the county from visiting and prohibited short-term rentals.

10:30 a.m.: Two second-grade teachers in Garner have created "Flat Stanley" versions of themselves to stay connected to their young students during online learning. They said the students loved the idea and carry their paper dolls with them.

10 a.m.: The State Board of Dental Examiners has issued guidance for North Carolina dentists providing services during the pandemic.

"Although individual dentists may use their professional judgment as to what procedures to perform and when to perform them, failure to follow heightened infection control, sterilization, and patient safety recommendations may be viewed as a failure to meet the standard of care necessary for offering treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic," the board said in a statement. "Infection control protocols considered adequate prior to the pandemic in many instances may no longer be sufficient for [dental health care personnel] during the state of emergency."

9:45 a.m.: Alexander Reginald Pettiway, age 55, a detention officer with the Durham County Sheriff's Office, died Saturday after a battle with COVID-19.

9:35 a.m.: More than 900,000 unemployment claims have been filed in North Carolina since March 15, according to the state Department of Commerce. Out of the 906,222 claims, 369,941 have been paid a total of $963,407,561.

9:30 a.m.: The popular 301 Endless Yard Sale that takes place in multiple counties along U.S. Highway 301 in Johnston County, has been rescheduled to June 18-19, 2021, due to the pandemic.

9:15 a.m.: A Wisconsin couple married for 73 years died six hours apart from COVID-19.

"They had been holding hands, and that was just heartbreaking to hear but also heartwarming to hear," said Natalie Lameka, their granddaughter. "We were just so thankful they were together and were aware that they were together."

9 a.m.: ​​​​The U.S. economy contracted for the first time in nearly six years between January and March, as the coronavirus crisis put the world in a choke hold. America's first-quarter GDP fell at a 4.8 percent annualized rate, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported on Wednesday. It was the first contraction of the U.S. economy since the first quarter of 2014 and the worst drop since the fourth quarter of 2008.

8:30 a.m.: Wisconsin now has 52 positive COVID-19 cases linked to its in-person election this month. The cases are either among voters or poll workers. Officials say data is still being analyzed to show the connection between more people who may have contracted COVID-19. Wisconsin’s April 7 elections consisted of local races and the presidential primary. About 400,000 people voted in person.

8:15 a.m.: House of Raeford Farms will host another bulk chicken sale at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds on Wednesday. Organizers say customers should come in through Gate 5 off Youth Center Road near Trinity Road. The line opens at 7 a.m., and the sale starts at 10 a.m., according to an update on the farm's Facebook page. Customers can pay with cash only.

7:45 a.m.: The Wet 'n Wild water park, formally called Emerald Pointe, in Greensboro is unlikely to open by Memorial Day weekend, according to NBC affiliate WXII.

"Because of the shutdown of preseason preparations, we know we won’t be ready to start our season as normally planned," a spokesperson said. "While it’s too soon to confidently provide an opening date, please know we remain committed to opening Wet 'n Wild Emerald Pointe this summer for you to enjoy as soon as safely possible."

7:15 a.m.: Some Americans are shopping more during the pandemic. According to a WalletHub study, 58 million Americans are spending more money while social distancing. WalletHub calls the purchases "comfort buying," and among the most popular items are entertainment like movies and video games, alcohol, clothes, beauty products, toys and exercise equipment.

7 a.m.: A Wake Forest church will reopen Wednesday while making sure worshipers adhere to social distancing practices. Doors to St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church open at 9 a.m. Ten people are allowed in the church at a time and must wear face masks.

6:15 a.m.: The increasing optimism around Major League Baseball returning also comes with a desire for teams to play in their home stadiums. The season is looking for a start in late June or early July.

League officials are considering a possible plan to split the league into three total divisions for the 2020 season. It's a 10-team plan in which teams play only within their division. The traditional American and National leagues would not exist, and the realigned divisions are based on geography so players can play at their home ballparks without fans.

6 a.m.: Simon Property Group, the biggest operator of malls in the United States, has come up with a game plan for reopening 49 shopping centers across 10 states starting Friday. The majority are in Texas, Indiana, Georgia and Missouri.

5:45 a.m.: Myrtle Beach has reopened its beach accesses. City leaders say there are no lifeguards and that patrols will check for social distancing. Public parking will also be limited.

5:15 a.m.: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his partner, Carrie Symonds, just announced the birth of their baby. Johnson returned to work Monday after recovering from coronavirus. Symonds also experienced symptoms.

5 a.m.: The New York Times is reporting the Triangle could be a future hot spot for the virus, focusing on Durham and Chapel Hill. The article says the area has one of the fastest growing daily death rates in the country, doubling every two days.

4:30 a.m.: United Airlines will start providing face masks to their passengers in May. United said wearing a mask will be encouraged but not mandatory for its passengers. JetBlue is the only airline requiring passengers to wear masks.

4 a.m.: Ashley Smith, one of the co-founders of ReopenNC, said she was "manhandled" at Tuesday's protest in downtown Raleigh. Smith and three others – Jonathan Warren, Lisa Todd and Wendy Macasieb – were arrested.

Smith released a statement which read, “The police manhandled me, resulting in a wrist injury, refused me water and I’m a breast-feeding mother. They also took away my eyeglasses, limiting my ability to see ... not one Capitol Police Officer practiced social distancing during my entire ordeal. So much for following the law.”

Ashely Smith, Jonathan Warren, Lisa Todd and Wendy Macasieb

State Capitol Police explained the arrests in a press release.

"Officers asked members of the crowd of demonstrators to step away from the fence and sidewalk [outside the governor's mansion] in order to provide a safe social distance for the officers’ safety and the public and to protect the property from further damage. Three persons who refused to comply were charged with resisting, delaying, or obstructing an officer and violating an executive order."

That statement refers to Smith and the two other women. Warren was arrested and charged with damage to property after damaging the "northeast gate of the Executive Mansion by pulling on it so violently that it was broken," police said.

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