Coronavirus update: North Carolina – Tuesday, April 21

DEATHS EXCEED 200

North Carolina has at least 6,867 reported cases of the coronavirus as of Monday night, and 210 people have died, according to state and county health departments.

More than 270 new cases were reported Monday, down from 353 on Sunday.

The state’s case count has doubled every 12 days, a metric officials are monitoring when they consider lifting coronavirus-related restrictions, The News & Observer reported.

At least 373 North Carolinians were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s down from 465 on Sunday.

Mecklenburg County has 1,231 reported cases and 31 deaths, the most in the state.

In the Triangle, Wake County has 605 reported cases and eight deaths, and Durham County has 435 cases and five deaths.

PROTESTS ALLOWED

Gov. Roy Cooper gave the green light on Monday to a planned protest in Raleigh against his statewide stay-at-home order, as long as participants follow social distancing guidelines.

“So that there is no confusion regarding this issue,” William McKinney, the governor’s legal counsel, wrote in a letter to ReOpenNC, “outdoor protests are allowed so long as the protesters maintain the social distancing requirement that individuals stay six feet apart unless they are members of the same household.”

ReOpenNC is a grassroots group opposing the state’s stay-at-home order and business closures. One protester was arrested last week, prompting the group to hire a lawyer.

More than 100 protesters rallied in downtown Raleigh to reopen N.C. on Tuesday, April 14, 2020, describing Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-home order as an unconstitutional overreach that will kill the state’s small businesses. One protestor was arrested.

COOPER SEEKS TESTING SUPPLIES

During a teleconference with the nation’s governors on Monday, Cooper updated Vice President Mike Pence on North Carolina’s Testing Surge Workgroup and said the state needs “help from the federal government getting more testing supplies and personal protective equipment.”

“More testing is necessary to be able to start lifting restrictions in a safe way,” Cooper said in a statement.

North Carolina, which has a population of 10.5 million, has completed fewer than 80,000 coronavirus tests, according to the state health department.

North Carolina health director Dr. Mandy Cohen outlines key challenges the state faces in the push to expand community testing sites in the state. Cohen spoke to reporters Monday, April 20, 2020. 

MORE NURSING HOME DEATHS

Five people at a nursing home in Concord have died from the coronavirus, the Cabarrus County public health authority announced Monday.

Five Oaks Rehabilitation previously identified an outbreak at the facility, the Charlotte Observer reported.

“Unfortunately, this is an illustration of the impact this virus has on our most vulnerable population, our senior,” Cabarrus Public Health Director Bonnie Coyle said in a statement Monday. “Even with stringent mitigation measures in place, the spread of this very contagious virus is hard to stop in congregant living facilities.”

All residents and employees were tested pursuant to CDC recommendations, health officials said. At least 74 of the 300 tests came back positive, including five staff members.

More than 1,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported in nursing homes and residential care facilities throughout North Carolina, state data show, and 66 people have died.

FEEDING KIDS IN NEED

The federal government is giving some families in North Carolina extra benefits to offset the cost of feeding children who normally eat one or two meals a day at school, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday.

Under the pandemic electronic benefit programs, families who receive free or reduced-price lunches will get an extra $250 per child applied to EBT cards, The News & Observer reported.

N.C. Governor Roy Cooper and state health director Dr. Mandy Cohen are asked about gaps in communicating outbreaks of coronavirus in nursing homes after an outbreak at a Chapel Hill facility. 

CASES ARE FRACTION OF THE TOTAL

Officials said the roughly 1,200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Mecklenburg County could account for “as little as 5-10%” of actual infections, the Charlotte Observer reported Monday.

The figure underscores North Carolina’s lack of available testing and restricted screening.

“If the 1,200 cases comprised only 5% of the total, that would mean there are at least 24,000 cases in Mecklenburg County,” the Observer reported.

Officials in Mecklenburg, home to Charlotte, expect the area to reach its peak case total on June 27, later than originally projected. If 45% of residents practice social distancing, there will be a need for more than 2,000 hospital beds around that time, the model shows.

Beginning on Mar. 3, 2020, with the first reported case of COVID-19 in Wake County, the coronavirus has spread across North Carolina. Here’s a look at the cumulative number cases by day as reported by NC DHHS and county health departments. 

DMV CUSTOMER SERVICE

Callers will not be able to reach the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles’ customer service line for an unknown amount of time. A Bladen County call center is shut down while an employee waits for coronavirus test results.

The N.C. Department of Transportation website has links for submitting questions online, The News & Observer reported Monday.

PRISON STAFF CHANGES

State prison officials on Monday said they were shifting additional staff to a facility where more than 350 inmates tested positive for COVID-19.

After inmates were transferred from Johnston Correctional Institution, that facility’s staffers are starting to work at the hard-hit Neuse Correctional Institution in Goldsboro, according to the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

The news came after the North Carolina Supreme Court declined to hear a case from public interest groups who sued for the release of some inmates during the coronavirus pandemic.

The NAACP, Disability Rights North Carolina, the state’s chapter of the ACLU and several inmates filed the lawsuit on April 8, The News & Observer reported. Days after the filing, state prison officials said about 500 inmates who met certain criteria could qualify for early release.

The state’s highest court left the door open for the lawsuit to proceed in state Superior Court.

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