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.
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.
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.
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.
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.