Coronavirus update: North Carolina – Thursday, April 16

CASES TOP 5,300

North Carolina has at least 5,381 reported cases of the coronavirus as of Thursday morning, and 132 people have died, according to state and county health departments.

The number of cases reported by the state increased by 99 Wednesday, the first time since late March it didn’t jump by triple digits. But 11 new deaths were reported, the second-highest daily total since the pandemic began.

The number of hospitalizations for coronavirus reached an all-time high on Wednesday, with 431, according to state data. That’s up from 418 the day before.

All but seven of the state’s 100 counties have reported at least one case of COVID-19.

Mecklenburg County has the most, with 1,052 cases.

In the Triangle, Wake County has 537 cases, Durham has 376, Orange has 161 and Johnston has 106.

WAKE COUNTY REPORTS FIRST DEATH

Wake County reported its first coronavirus-related death on Wednesday.

Wake, home to Raleigh, is the last of the state’s urban counties to a see a fatality from the disease.

Mecklenburg County has 19 reported deaths. Guilford County has 10, Forsyth County has four, and Durham and New Hanover counties each have one.

RURAL HOSPITALS

North Carolina’s rural hospitals could lose more than $145 million each month as the coronavirus spreads, The News & Observer reported. The facilities bought equipment to prepare for the disease and have canceled elective procedures that bring in revenue.

EASING RESTRICTIONS

Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday said North Carolina needs more testing, tracing and trends before the state eases restrictions on businesses and stay-at-home orders.

Coronavirus tests and antibody tests need to be widely available, Cooper said, and officials must trace, or track, new cases of the virus. As for trends, he said, the number of hospitalizations and deaths must decrease.

The governor said measures in place to flatten the curve, such as social distancing, are working, though they are not sustainable.

Cooper said the reopening of the state will need to be slow.

After saying that testing would be one of the three main criteria for relaxing some of N.C.’s coronavirus restrictions, both Gov. Roy Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen did not provide an estimate of how many tests would be needed. 

COUNTIES WANT TO MAKE DECISIONS

The leaders of two North Carolina counties, Lincoln and Gaston, have asked the governor to leave future decisions regarding the reopening of restaurants and bars up to them.

A statewide stay-at-home order is in effect until April 29, but it could be extended. Cooper has said a “wholesale lifting” would be “catastrophic” for North Carolina.

County leaders, however, said in a letter to Cooper that they should be the ones to make those decisions.

“I firmly believe that Gaston County, along with each of the other 99 counties, can best decide on how to address the risk in each of our home territories,” Tracy L. Philbeck, chair of the Gaston County Board of Commissioners, wrote in the letter.

FIELD HOSPITAL NOT NEEDED

Two Charlotte-area hospital systems have, for now, dropped their request for a 600-bed field hospital that would’ve been used to help treat coronavirus patients.

Novant Health and Atrium Health wrote in a letter to Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio Wednesday that they’ve both increased capacity in their own facilities and believe they have the ability to meet future needs.

“As a result of our combined efforts, we believe we are now in a position to meet the 600 medical beds needed that were previously requested in a field hospital, assuming the effects of social distancing trends continue the current trajectory,” hospital leaders said in the letter.

UNC HEALTH WORKERS TEST POSITIVE

Twelve employees at UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill have tested positive for coronavirus, The News & Observer reported.

UNC Health spokesman Alan Wolf said most of the employees appear to have contracted the virus outside of the medical center. Fewer than half of them work with patients, he said.

The employees are quarantining at home.

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