Coronavirus update: North Carolina – Wednesday, April 22

CASES TOP 7,100

North Carolina has reported at least 7,113 cases of the coronavirus, and 241 people have died as of Wednesday morning, according to state and county health departments.

Cases are doubling in the state about every 13 days as of Tuesday, slower than the rate of 12 days reported Monday. Officials are using the doubling rate to monitor when they will consider lifting the restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus.
But officials say the number of reported cases isn’t a good snapshot of the pandemic’s impact, as many cases likely go undetected.

On Tuesday, 427 North Carolinians were hospitalized with the virus, up from 373 on Monday but down from the high of 465 reported on Sunday, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Ninety-three of the state’s 100 counties have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and 57 have reported at least one death.

Mecklenburg County, the epicenter of North Carolina’s outbreak, has reported 1,255 cases and 32 deaths, the most in the state.

In the Triangle, Wake County has reported 612 cases and nine deaths, and Durham County has reported 439 cases and six deaths.

RESTRICTIONS LOOSEN

Some visitors will be allowed to enter parts of the Outer Banks starting Thursday. People who own property in Currituck County but aren’t residents can get into the area if they have permits.

Restrictions for other Currituck visitors won’t be lifted until May 15 at the earliest.

To the south, Dare County is welcoming back “non-resident property owners” in phases that start May 4, The News & Observer reported. Decisions about other travelers haven’t been made yet.

Both Dare and Currituck counties shut out visitors as COVID-19 spread across North Carolina.

Carteret County, which includes the barrier islands further to the south, hasn’t announced plans for its restrictions on rentals and camping sites.

UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS

Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order Tuesday allowing some furloughed workers to claim unemployment benefits.

Under the order, furloughed workers who were given a severance from their employers can now receive jobless benefits.

Additionally, self-employed workers in the state will be able to apply for unemployment benefits starting Friday. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will go to those who are self-employed, who work as independent contractors or freelancers or who work in the gig economy and don’t qualify for state benefits.

So far the state has paid more than $580 million in unemployment to more than 257,000 people since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

ANNOUNCEMENT ON SCHOOLS EXPECTED

The governor said Tuesday he will announce this week whether the state’s K-12 public schools will reopen this school year.

Schools in North Carolina have been closed since March 16 and will remain closed until at least May 15, but Cooper said he hasn’t given up on reopening them this year.

He also said Tuesday that he’ll likely make an announcement this week on the statewide stay-at-home order, which is in place until April 29 but could be extended.

N.C. Governor Roy Cooper tells reporters that decisions on lifting his coronavirus executive orders as well as a decision about completition of the remainder of the school year will come by the end of the week. Cooper spoke Tuesday, April 21, 2020. 

AT-HOME TESTING

LabCorp has received the first federal approval for an at-home COVID-19 test kit, the North Carolina-based company said Tuesday.

The test, called Pixel, will be available for people whose health care providers recommend it. The test involves swabbing the inside of the nose and mailing the sample to LabCorp.

The kit is being used on the frontlines now but should be available to the general public in the coming weeks, the company says. It costs $119.

N.C. Governor Roy Cooper tells reporters that the state hopes to have a decision on the number of tests needed to help make decisions on relaxing coronavirus executive orders by later this week. Cooper spoke in Raleigh Tuesday, April 21, 2020. 

ANOTHER PROTEST IN RALEIGH

About 1,000 people gathered in downtown Raleigh on Tuesday to protest the state’s stay-at-home order and business closures.

Similar protests have been held around the country, drawing support from President Donald Trump.

At the ReOpenNC rally, counter-protesters wearing medical scrubs stood outside the state archives to show support for the orders to protect health care workers.

NCDOT LAYOFFS

The N.C. Department of Transportation said it will lay off about 300 workers to offset a drop in revenue caused by the pandemic.

The department is also postponing 88 of the 138 major road construction projects set to begin in the coming year, The News & Observer reports.

More than half of NCDOT’s revenue comes from gas taxes, which are way down because people are traveling less, Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette told The N&O.

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