Coronavirus update: North Carolina – Friday, April 17

CASES COUNT CLIMBS

North Carolina has at least 5,608 reported cases of the coronavirus as of Friday morning, and 148 people have died, according to state and county health departments.

TThe state health department reported 342 new cases on Thursday after reporting 99 the day before.
At least 452 North Carolinians were hospitalized with COVID-19 Thursday, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s an all-time high and up from 431 Wednesday.

Mecklenburg County has the most reported cases in the state, with 1,098. The county has reported 21 deaths.

Wake County has 556 reported cases and three deaths.

ESCAPED INMATE SPEAKS OUT

A man who is on the run after escaping the Federal Correctional Complex in Butner is speaking out. Richard R. Cephas said he left the facility two weeks ago due to concerns about the coronavirus, The News & Observer reported.

“I signed up for a jail sentence, not a death sentence,” he told the newspaper.

At the time of his escape, nine inmates and one staffer had the disease. Now, 91 cases and four deaths have been linked to the prison.

THE PEAK

Leaders at UNC Hospitals and UNC Rex Healthcare said Thursday they don’t think the coronavirus outbreak has peaked yet in North Carolina, but they’re ready for when it does.

It’s unclear when the peak will be in the state, but the hospitals say they have increased their capacities, “redeployed staff” and stockpiled equipment in preparation.

A model created by the University of Washington says North Carolina is experiencing a peak in COVID-19 cases now. But other models show the peak won’t occur in the state until mid to late May.

NC health director sees no current projected peak in coronavirus cases

Dr. Mandy Cohen tells reporters that the data does not currently indicate a peak soon in coronavirus cases in N.C. as the uptick has slowed but continues to climb. Cohen spoke Tuesday, April 14, 2020. 

FEDERAL HELP NEEDED, COOPER SAYS

North Carolina isn’t ready to relax restrictions, based on President Donald Trump’s guidelines for reopening states during the coronavirus pandemic.

The guidelines were published by the Washington Post and CBS News on Thursday and detail a three-phase process for reopening, with each phase only possible when a state meets certain criteria.

Gov. Roy Cooper said North Carolina needs federal help before it can reopen.

“Yesterday I laid out what’s required for North Carolina’s path to gradual re-opening, and it’s good the White House has shared similar guidance, but we still need the federal government to help with testing and personal protective equipment,” he told The News & Observer in an email.

Governor talks about what it will take to lift coronavirus restrictions in NC

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper talks about what needs to happen in the state before he begins lifting restrictions related to coronavirus. Cooper spoke Monday, April 13, 2020. 

POSSIBLE SCHOOL CHANGES

The North Carolina House will consider a bill that includes waiving some state requirements for schools, which are closed until at least May 15.

The bill includes waiving testing requirements and addressing K-3 class size reductions, among other things.

The House Select COVID-19 Committee’s education subcommittee will vote next week on the bill, which will be proposed when the full General Assembly returns April 28.

AID FOR SCHOOLS

North Carolina public schools could get at least $389 million from the federal government to help with challenges such as continuing to feed and teach students while schools are closed.

On Thursday, education leaders said the state welcomes the money, part of the $2 trillion federal CARES ACT, but will likely need more.

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