NC coronavirus cases jump, companies react to extended lockdown

Reported cases of the coronavirus in North Carolina jumped by more than 400 cases Friday, topping 8,000 statewide in the pandemic’s largest single-day jump.

But it’s now taking nearly 14 days for the number of cases in the state to double, a sign that the virus’ spread is slowing. The doubling rate had stood at 13 days on Thursday.

NC DHHS reported 8,052 confirmed cases of COVID-19, up 444 from Thursday’s total. Of those infected people, 477 remain hospitalized.

The updated total reflects everyone who has tested positive since the virus first struck in early March. So far, North Carolina has seen 269 deaths, a total that rose by 16 Friday.

The state warns, however, that not everyone has been tested for coronavirus and the total is likely higher. Access to testing remains an issue in the state. Across North Carolina, 100,584 people have been tested for COVID-19, rising by more than 4,000 over Thursday’s total.

REACTION TO STAY-AT-HOME ORDER

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday he would extend his statewide stay-at-home order into May, and then start easing restrictions after May 8 if the number of new coronavirus cases levels out and other data trends point in the right direction.

Hospitals support the governor’s phased approach to lifting restrictions, Steve Lawler, president and CEO of the NC Healthcare Association, said Friday morning at a meeting of the state’s COVID-19 Task Force.

Gary Salamido, president and CEO of the NC Chamber, also weighed in at the meeting. He said his group is hearing feedback from its members that all businesses are essential and they are ready to get back to work.

Salamido said the Chamber is hearing passion, sadness, concern and worry from businesses and they want to reopen carefully and thoughtfully.

Hours before he planned to make an announcement on the future of schools, Cooper met with task force members including state Medical Director Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry, Secretary of Public Safety Erik Hooks and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.

Cohen said the information they’re using now will help them over “the next weeks and months” to give them “some sense of directionality in a time when things seem so uncertain.”

“Things are rapidly evolving and we know what we presented yesterday is a moment in time,” she said.

Tilson said they have not seen a downward trajectory in cases, “but maybe a little bit of a plateau.”

Hospitalizations, however, are not sufficiently leveling off.

“What we want to get to is there are more people being discharged from the hospital than admitted to the hospital,” Tilson said.

STATE INDICATORS

Cooper told reporters on Thursday that Phase One could start on May 9 after the extended order expires — but only if the state’s indicators continue to move in a positive direction.

Phase One expands the reasons you can leave home, Cooper said, like doing more shopping and visiting parks, which would reopen. He called it “beginning the process of moving forward.”

Cooper said he wants North Carolinians’ lives to get back to normal as much as possible while being careful with public safety at the same time. He called the first phrase a “modified” stay-at-home order.

Cooper, a Democrat, received support of his plan from some Republicans including U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, but other Republicans including Senate leader Phil Berger called for more transparency from Cooper’s administration and local flexibility of when to lift restrictions.

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