Coronvirus update – North Carolina – Sunday, April 19

CASES TOP 6,500

North Carolina had at least 6,589 reported cases of the coronavirus as of Sunday morning, and 192 people have died, according to state and county health departments.

The state health department reported 353 new cases on Sunday.

At least 465 North Carolinians were hospitalized with COVID-19 Sunday, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Mecklenburg County, home to Charlotte, has the most reported cases in the state, with 1,153. The county has reported 24 deaths.

Wake County, which includes Raleigh, has 592 reported cases and four deaths. Durham County has 409 reported cases and five deaths.

CASES SURGE AT NC PRISON

Hundreds of inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at Neuse Correctional Institution in Goldsboro as of Friday afternoon, state prisons commissioner Todd Ishee said.

“More than 280 of 770 inmates at the Eastern North Carolina prison have tested positive for COVID-19, making it one of the hardest-hit prisons in the nation,” according to The Charlotte Observer.

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Inmates at the Neuse Correctional Institution in Goldsboro, N.C. move between buildings Sunday morning, April 19, 2020. Some are wearing masks, but incorrectly. more than 280 of 770 inmates at the Eastern North Carolina prison have tested positive for COVID-19, making it one of the hardest-hit prisons in the nation. Scott Sharpe SSHARPE@NEWSOBSERVER.COM

“I’m just kind of sitting around, waiting to get sick,” one inmate told the Charlotte Observer by telephone a week ago. “There’s definitely a war out here. That’s how it feels. It’s kind of ground zero.” Now that inmate, Christopher Johnson, also has symptoms of COVID-19.

Secretary of the NC Department of Public Safety Erik Hooks outlines the plan to release some prison inmates early due to the risks of coronavirus. 

SENATORS WANT SPEEDWAY REOPENED

Five Republican state senators want Gov. Roy Cooper to change the statewide stay-at-home order and allow Charlotte Motor Speedway to partially reopen, without fans, for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24.

The senators, all from the Charlotte area, said in a press release Sunday that Florida has adopted similar policies and that fan-less NASCAR racing seems like a “safe step” in partially reopening society.

GROUP SEEKS PROTESTING PROTECTIONS

ReOpenNC, a group that opposes restrictions in place due to the coronavirus, is seeking legal protection following the arrest of a protester during a rally on Tuesday against Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive orders.

Lawyers representing the group sent a letter to the governor and to Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Greg Ford asking for written clarification that protests are considered essential and not subject to restrictions on gatherings.

The organizers say they are willing to practice social distancing while protesting.

CASE REPORTED AT LARGE MEATPACKING PLANT

At least one employee at the Smithfield pork processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, has tested positive for coronavirus, according to The News & Observer. The Bladen County plant is the largest pork processing facility in the world.

The company has had to close plants in other states, including a large pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, after hundreds of workers contracted the virus.

OUTBREAKS AT 7 MECKLENBURG NURSING HOMES

In the Charlotte area, seven nursing homes and long-term care homes have outbreaks of the coronavirus, The Charlotte Observer reports.

More than a quarter of the deaths from the coronavirus in North Carolina have been associated with nursing homes, according to the state DHHS. At least 43 people in North Carolina have died in nursing homes and similar facilities. Those figures are incomplete, DHHS says.

STATE PARTNERS WITH UNIVERSITIES TO TRACK VIRUS

Gov. Roy Cooper said the state is partnering with North Carolina’s three medical universities — the University of North Carolina, East Carolina University and Duke University — to amp up testing and tracking of the coronavirus.

The project will enable officials to see how far COVID-19 has spread statewide, he said.

“This research is part of a coordinated statewide effort to learn more about what percentage of people have no symptoms and to better understand the true number of COVID-19 infections in our state,” Cooper said.

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