NORTH CAROLINA — The number of coronavirus cases in North Carolina continues to rise.

On Tuesday, the state health department reported 1,168 new coronavirus cases.

The state coronavirus-related death toll rose to 3,286.

According to NCDHHS, as of Tuesday, 905 people remain hospitalized in North Carolina due to COVID-19.

Cooper: Elementary Schools May Go to Plan A

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday that North Carolina elementary schools may go to in-person classes if local public school districts choose to reopen them.

The school districts may choose Plan A. Middle and high schools will remain in Plan B, which features a combination of in-person and remote learning, or Plan C, which involves remote learning only. Face coverings will be mandatory for all students, teachers, and staff.

"We are able to open this option because most North Carolinians have doubled down on our safety and prevention measures and stabilized our numbers. The science of lower viral spread among younger children also backs up this decision," Cooper said during a news conference.

 

N.C. Enters Phase 2.5

Gov. Roy Cooper announced more reopening plans on September 1, which includes the state entering Phase 2.5 on September 4.

Cooper announced that North Carolina will remain in the "safter at home" phase, but will move into Phase 2.5.

This phase allows for gyms to reopen at 30 percent capacity. Museums and aquariums can also reopen at 50 percent capacity. Play grounds can also open. However, bars, nightclubs, and movie theaters must remain closed.

Additionally, mass outdoor gatherings can now have up to 50 people.

Cooper Extends Alcohol Curfew, August 31

On July 28, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that the state of North Carolina would begin an 11 p.m. curfew on the sale of alcohol, beginning Friday, July 31.

RELATED: Cooper: Alcohol Sales at N.C. Restaurants Ending Earlier

On August 31, Cooper announced that the curfew would remain in effect until October 2, 2020.

“North Carolina has made good progress stabilizing our COVID-19 numbers, and this order will help us continue it,” said Governor Cooper. “Now is the time to continue staying cautious and vigilant as we work to beat this pandemic.”

NCDHHS Updates Guidance for Colleges and Universities

As colleges and universities across the state continue to report new COVID-19 clusters being identified each day, the NCDHHS has updated its guidance, "further emphasizing that colleges and universities must work to reduce risk of viral spread of COVID-19 both on and off campus." 

RELATED: New COVID-19 Clusters Reported at N.C. State, UNC-Chapel Hill

The following information was released Friday afternoon:

In compliance with existing Executive Orders, colleges and universities should be requiring and enforcing that students and staff wear cloth masks that cover the mouth and nose and limit social gatherings — whether students are on campus or off campus. Institutions of higher education should use student codes of conduct and work in coordination with local law enforcement to ensure compliance for students. The guidance also recommends limiting on-campus housing, closing communal dining settings and implementing procedures to isolate and quarantine cases appropriately to slow the spread of the virus.

Since students have returned to campuses, viral spread has increased, originating in communal living settings on and off campus, social gatherings on and off campus, and with athletic teams. Given the lack of a vaccine and the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, higher education institutions should take aggressive action to limit the spread of the virus and protect campuses and surrounding communities.  

To view NCDHHS and CDC guidance and recommendations for colleges and universities, visit the education section of the guidance webpage: https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/guidance.

Shortly after the new guidance was release, UNC System President Peter Hans released this statement:

“Since the pandemic began, we have listened to and collaborated with leading public health officials while closely monitoring changing conditions across the state. We will continue to do so because health and safety is our priority. Each campus has unique resources and challenges, so flexibility is key. I’m working with each chancellor to weigh the best course for each campus.

"I want to thank the faculty and staff doing extraordinary work under tough conditions. I also commend all of those students who have acted to protect themselves and our community. We all hoped for better circumstances this fall. But no matter what, we will provide the rich, rigorous education our students need and deserve."

Wake Forest Baptist Health Hosting Study

Wake Forest Baptist Health, in partnership with Javara, says it is recruiting "healthy adults for a Phase 3 clinical research study to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of mRNA-1273, a vaccine candidate against COVID-19."

The COVE study is sponsored by Moderna and is seeking healthy volunteers ages 18 or older in high-risk populations, including the elderly, racial and ethnic minorities at higher risk for COVID-19, and essential workers in close contact with potentially infected persons.

To be eligible, officials say volunteers must have no known history of SARS-CoV-2 infection or previous participation in an investigative coronavirus vaccine. Within this population, a release says, Wake Forest Baptist Health and Javara will be prioritizing candidates whose locations or circumstances put them at higher risk of exposure to the virus, including:

  • Elderly, ages 65 and older
  • Essential workers in close contact with potentially infected persons, including, but not limited to, healthcare and hospital workers, first responders, transit employees, institutional residents or workers, factory employees, and teachers and students
  • Racial and ethnic minorities at high risk for COVID-19 

“We are excited and hopeful as we begin participating in the COVE Study, understanding this is one of the most important and impactful clinical research studies in our lifetime,” said John Sanders, M.D., chief of infectious diseases and principal investigator, Wake Forest Baptist Health. “We encourage individuals across the Winston-Salem area to consider participating in this trial, which could bring the world one step closer to ending this global health crisis.”

For those who are eligible and decide to participate, research staff will randomize patients to receive either the mRNA-1273 vaccine or a matching placebo. The total length of participation is 25 months and includes roughly seven visits to the clinic and 24 phone calls.

Wake Forest Baptist Health is one of 89 research sites across the country participating in the COVE Study. Anyone interested in participating in clinical research in their area can call 336-713-7888 or email covid19vaccinestudy@wakehealth.edu to learn more.

Schools to Reopen Under Plan B

Gov. Roy Cooper recently announced that schools will reopen under the "Plan B" plan. This is a mixed instruction plan, meaning there will be a mixture of in-person and remote learning.

"Plan C," all remote learning, is also an option for school districts if they determine that is what is best for parents, students, and teachers.

Students, staff, and teachers will be required to wear a mask, and symptom screenings, including temperature checks, will be done for anyone entering the buildings. Schools will be regularly cleaned and social distancing will be required. 

Cooper also announced that North Carolina could move to all remote learning if numbers increase or we learn information that would make opening schools unsafe.

RELATED: Cooper: Schools Will Reopen With Remote and In-Class Leaning

During the same news conference, Cooper also announced that North Carolina will remain in Phase 2 for three more weeks. This is now the second time state officials have opted to postpone the reopening progression out of Phase 2.

As the state continues to see a rise in COVID-19 cases and coronavirus-related tests, officials are taking steps to help reign those metrics in.

To help encourage more Black, Hispanic, and Native American residents to get tested, Cooper and DHHS Sec. Mandy Cohen say N.C. residents will no longer need a doctor's order to receive COVID-19 testing.

The order is expected to last until the current state of emergency declaration is rescinded.

RELATED: N.C. Residents Won’t Need a Doctor’s Order for a COVID-19 Test

A statewide mask requirement is also in effect, which requires masks to be worn when people are out in public in the state of North Carolina whenever social and physical distancing is not possible. 

Face coverings are not required in these situations:

  • For those who cannot wear a covering due to a medical or behavioral condition
  • For children under 12 years old
  • For restaurant patrons, while they are dining
  • In private, individual offices
  • When complying with directions of law enforcement officers
  • In settings where it is not practical or feasible to wear a face covering, including when obtaining or rendering goods or services, such as the receipt of dental services or while swimming
  • While with members of a family or the same household
  • For people whose religious beliefs prevent them from wearing a face covering
  • For those exercising outdoors or exercising with other people from the same household, as long as social distance is maintained

Read the full executive order here.

North Carolina Reopening - Phase 2

North Carolina has been in Phase 2 of the multi-phase state reopening plan since May 22. Cooper announced on Tuesday that it would be extended by three weeks.

Phase 2 lifts the stay-at-home order and shifts to a safer-at-home recommendation. It will tentatively last until 5 p.m on Friday, August 7.

Under Phase 2, Cooper says teleworking when possible is still highly recommended, and businesses and places such as bars, nightclubs, gyms and indoor facilities, public playgrounds, and indoor entertainment venues like movie theaters and bowling alleys are to remain closed.

WATCH: Your Voice: North Carolinians Discuss Starting Phase 2

Mass gatherings indoors will be limited to no more than 10 people, 25 people if outdoors. This restriction applies to event venues, conference centers, stadiums and sports arenas, amphitheaters, and groups at parks or beaches.

Additional businesses will be allowed to reopen at a limited capacity.

Restaurants can reopen for dine-in customers at mostly a 50 percent capacity but must maintain distancing and cleaning requirements.

Personal care businesses, including salons and barbers, can also reopen at 50 percent capacity. Cooper says they will have face covering and cleaning requirements, as well as reducing the number of people in waiting areas.

Cooper says swimming pools will be able to open at 50 percent capacity, and overnight and day camps can resume with safety rules in place. 

Local governments will continue to have the authority to enact their own restrictions and guidelines in addition to the state order, Cooper says, if they feel it is in the best interest of their community.

Read the full Phase 2 order here.

 

COVID-19 in North Carolina

***Editor's Note: Map totals are compiled of additional case numbers reported by individual counties throughout the day and after NCDHHS releases their morning update. For this reason, map totals may differ from those reported by NCDHHS.

To date, county health officials and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services report 196,113 cases of COVID-19 across the state and 3,299 deaths due to complications related to the coronavirus.

Additionally, more than 2,824,000 tests have been completed in the state, according to the NCDHHS. 

“This reminds us all to do our part to decrease the chance of infection and stop the spread of the virus by following social distancing recommendations and staying home to the extent possible,” Johnston County Health Director Dr. Marilyn Pearson said.

Once the presumptive positive tests are made within the state, they are sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for final confirmation.

The identities of the patients are not being released to protect the families' privacy, but officials say they are being placed in isolation following their “presumptive positive” test in accordance to state and federal health guidelines.

The state’s first case was reported on March 3 in Wake County.

You can view each county’s total in the interactive map above.

Health officials say they continue to actively investigate each case that is reported to produce a timeline of the patients’ travels while symptomatic. Using contact tracing, they are also working to identify any people who may have been put at risk during that time due to close contact.

According to the CDC, "close contact" is defined as being within six feet of the patient for 10 or more minutes.

General Assembly Passes $1.6 Billion Relief Bill

The N.C. General Assembly unanimously passed coronavirus relief and recovery legislation that will spend and reserve roughly $1.6 billion.

According to a release, the compromise spending plan will significantly help the state to move forward and respond to the economic and human impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Included in the bill are funds for testing, tracing, immediate recovery needs, and increasing access to broadband and electronic devices used to access remote learning opportunities.

Gov. Roy Cooper issued the following statement on the bill's passage:

“I applaud the General Assembly for working quickly to pass legislation to fight COVID-19 in North Carolina. These bills were developed collaboratively, and although it’s just a first step, they are the product of a consensus approach that I hope can continue. I will be reviewing them closely and look forward to taking action on them soon.”

You can see a breakdown, released by Senate leader Phil Berger's office, of how the funds will be appropriated below:

  • $75 million for school nutrition
  • $1 million for the Department of Public Instruction to improve internet connectivity for students through the use of mobile Wi-Fi hotspots on buses
  • $11 million for the Department of Public Instruction to improve internet connectivity for students by providing internet access devices
  • $30 million for schools to purchase devices for students in response to COVID-19
  • $5 million for electronic devices for school staff in response to COVID-19
  • $4.5 million for cybersecurity
  • $10 million for student health programs
  • $70 million for summer learning programs
  • $1.48 million for enhancing the state’s learning management platform
  • $3 million for non-digital learning instructional resources
  • $15 million for exception children programs
  • $660,029 for residential schools
  • $5 million for the Department Public Instruction’s Extended Learning and Integrated Student Supports (ELISS) Grants
  • $25 million for the Community College System to respond to COVID-19 impacts
  • $44.4 million for the UNC System to respond to COVID-19 impacts
  • $20 million for independent and private colleges to respond to COVID-19 impacts
  • $85.1 million for COVID-19 research, including $29 million for the UNC Collaboratory, $20 million for Wake Forest University Health Services, $15 million for Duke University’s Human Vaccine Institute, $15 million to the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, and $6 million to the Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine
  • $25 million for testing, tracing, and trends related to COVID-19
  • $20 million for additional public health capacity, including increasing nursing capacity, number of community health workers, telehealth services and providing infection control support and training in nursing homes and adult care homes
  • $20 million for enhanced behavioral health and crisis services to respond to COVID-19, including diverting individuals experiencing behavioral health emergencies from emergency departments
  • $50 million for purchasing additional PPE
  • $19 million for food, safety, shelter, and child care
  • $6 million for food banks
  • $2.25 million for foster care support
  • $25 million for facilities that serve Special Assistance recipients
  • $50 million for rural and under-served communities
  • $65 million for rural hospital support
  • $5 million for free and charitable clinics
  • $1.5 million for NC MedAssist
  • $15 million for the Teaching Hospitals Relief Fund
  • $15 million for the General Hospital Relief Fund
  • $300 million for the DOT Coronavirus Relief Fund, if allowed by the federal government
  • $150 million for local government grants to support immediate COVID-19 needs
  • $150 million for the Local Government Coronavirus Relief Reserve, if allowed by the federal government
  • $20 million to support fee-supported state operations, if allowed by the federal government
  • $70 million for continuity of government operation needs, including covering overtime costs, purchasing PPE, sanitation and hygienic supplies, and critical information technology equipment
  • $15 million for animal depopulation and disposal
  • $125 million for small business loans through Golden LEAF
  • $290,000 for the LINKS program
  • $5 million for the Association of Community Health Centers
  • $5 million for Visit NC marketing
  • $1.8 million for the Old North State Medical Society
  • $9 million for the GREAT program to expand access to broadband internete.

Governor Declares State of Emergency Over Coronavirus

Gov. Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency in North Carolina as fears over a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continue to spread.

The state of emergency, according to the governor, allows officials more budget flexibility, quicker access to necessary supplies, and aid in the response to and prevention of further infections.

State officials say high-risk individuals should avoid mass travel and large gatherings, such as concerts, conventions, and church. High-risk residence homes are also encouraged to restrict visitor access.

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen says the recommendations are based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, actions already taken by other states, and available information on protecting public health.

Hospitals Adjust to Help Prevent and Fight COVID-19 Spread

Medical facilities across the state have implemented new protocols to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) among patients, visitors, and staff.

For links to some of North Carolina's main healthcare providers, and to view policy and procedure changes, click here.

Businesses, Events Canceled/Closed as N.C. Responds to Coronavirus Outbreak

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, North Carolina moved to close businesses and cancel events in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.

Many businesses were forced to close their doors, which led to a surge unemployment numbers. 

In March, recognizing the impact COVID-19 restrictions would have on North Carolina workers and businesses, Gov. Cooper announced measures to address unemployment and "directly aid workers who may have lost wages in restaurants and meeting places due to mass gathering restrictions."

According to a statement from Cooper's office, "workers who lose income due to tips or scheduled work hours, but are still employed, would be eligible for benefits because of this Executive Order."

Additionally, the order will:

  • Remove the one-week waiting period to apply for unemployment payment for those workers who lose their jobs;
  • Remove the requirement that a person must be actively looking for another job during this time when many potential employers are closed and social distancing guidelines are in effect. 
  • Allow employees who lose their jobs or, in certain cases have their hours reduced due to COVID-19 to apply for unemployment benefits.
  • Direct that employers will not be held responsible for benefits paid as a direct result of these COVID-19 claims. 
  • Waive the requirement that people must apply for benefits in person; workers can apply for benefits online or by phone.

Airports Taking Steps to Combat the Spread of the Coronavirus

Airports across the state say they are taking extra steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus and other illnesses.

There is a larger effort to wipe down all "touchpoints," which are places where people could easily pick up viruses, like handrails on escalators, door handles, baggage claim areas, and seats in the gate areas, and conduct "deep cleanings" of public terminal areas and shuttle buses.

Officials say they are continuing to monitor COVID-19 cases throughout the country and are working with local, state, and federal health agencies to ensure the necessary protocols are in place.

Passengers are also being asked to take extra precautions when traveling, including: 

  • Avoid close contact with people showing symptoms
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Stay home when you’re sick
  • Cover your mouth or nose when you sneeze or cough
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

What are the Symptoms?

 

How to Protect Yourself and Others

According to the CDC, there are several simple steps you can take to help protect yourself and others during the coronavirus outbreak.

  • Clean your hands thoroughly and often
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick
  • Stay at home if you are sick, except to get medical care
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • If you are sick, wear a facemask 
  • Clean and disinfect any frequently touched surfaces daily

If you or someone you know becomes ill, the CDC recommends taking the following steps:

  • Stay home, except to get medical treatment
  • Separate yourself from others, including animals, in your home
  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor
  • Wear a facemask if you are sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Clean your hands thoroughly and often
  • Avoid sharing any personal household items
  • Clean any "high-touch" surfaces on a daily basis
  • Monitor your symptoms 
  • Remain on home isolation until instructed to leave

N.C. DHHS has also released the following recommendations to keep yourself protected:

SYMPTOMATIC PERSONS

If you need medical care and have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspect you might have COVID-19, call ahead and tell your health care provider you have or may have COVID-19. This will allow them to take steps to keep other people from getting exposed. NC DHHS recommends that persons experiencing fever and cough should stay at home and not go out until their symptoms have completely resolved.

HIGH RISK PERSONS WITHOUT SYMPTOMS

NC DHHS recommends that people at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should stay at home to the extent possible to decrease the chance of infection.

People at high risk include people:

  • Over 65 years of age, or
  • with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes, or
  • with weakened immune systems.

CONGREGATE LIVING FACILITIES

NC DHHS recommends that all facilities that serve as residential establishments for high risk persons described above should restrict visitors. Exceptions should include end of life care or other emergent

situations determined by the facility to necessitate a visit. If visitation is allowed, the visitor should be screened and restricted if they have a respiratory illness or potential exposure to COVID-19. Facilities are encouraged to implement social distancing measures and perform temperature and respiratory symptom screening of residents and staff. These establishments include settings such as nursing homes, independent and assisted living facilities, correction facilities, and facilities that care for medically vulnerable children.

WORKPLACE

NC DHHS recommends that employers and employees use teleworking technologies to the greatest extent possible, stagger work schedules, and consider canceling non-essential travel. Workplaces should hold larger meetings virtually, to the extent possible. Additionally, employers should arrange the workspace to optimize distance between employees, ideally at least six feet apart. Employers should urge high risk employees to stay home and urge employees to stay home when they are sick and maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits.

MASS TRANSIT

Mass transit operators should maximize opportunities for cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces. People should avoid using use mass transit (e.g. buses, trains) while sick.

Any North Carolinian seeking additional information on COVID-19 can call NC 2-1-1, which is an information and referral service that families and individuals can call to obtain free and confidential information on health and human services resources within their community, or text COVIDNC to 898211 to receive general information and updates about COVID-19. 

N.C. Medicaid Gets Updates in Response to Coronavirus

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has announced changes to N.C. Medicaid beginning on March 13.

RELATED: Pandemic's Impact on Unemployment and Health Insurance

The policies are in response to the coronavirus and will address pharmacy benefits, supplies, and access to care.

For a detailed list of policy changes and more information, click here.

In related news, N.C. Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey on Thursday "directed all health benefit plans licensed by the N.C. Department of Insurance to allow for extra prescriptions as a result of the state of emergency declared by Governor Roy Cooper."

The change will allow covered persons to obtain one refill on a prescription if there are authorized refills and not contrary to the dispensing authority of the pharmacy, according to a statement.

This emergency authorization is effective immediately and will remain in effect through April 9.

The following information was also included in Thursday's news release:

"CVS Pharmacy has announced it will also waive charges for home delivery of prescription medications to encourage people at a higher risk for COVID-19 to stay home as much as possible.

"Insurance Commissioner Causey reminds consumers the largest health insurer in the state, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, has agreed to waive copays for coronavirus services and NCDOI is encouraging other health insurers in the state to do the same.  

"Many insurers have also agreed to cover telemedicine or virtual visits to allow people to remotely speak to their doctors."

Cooper Signs Executive Order Prohibiting Utility Disconnections 

Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order on March 31 that prohibits companies from disconnecting the utilities of people who are unable to pay during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The order specifically applies to electric, gas, water, and wastewater services, according to a release, but companies providing services like phone, cable, and internet are also "strongly urged" to follow the same rules.

Under the order, companies are directed to give residential customers at least six months to pay outstanding bills and prohibits them from collecting fees, penalties, or interest for late payments. 

Amid mass shutdowns and cancellations, several cities and companies around North Carolina had already announced they would make sure residents still have the necessary utilities, regardless of payment, during the coronavirus health emergency.

Charlotte and Raleigh were two of the major cities in the state who made this announcement.

Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas also released similar statements saying they would suspend diconnection of services due to non-payment effective immediately.

RELATED: Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas Offer Additional Help to Customers During Coronavirus

Confirmed Cases Worldwide (Source: Johns Hopkins University)