Coronavirus update: North Carolina – Saturday, May 2

We’re keeping track of the most up-to-date news about the coronavirus in North Carolina. Check back for updates.

The state reported 414 new cases on Friday, down from 561 the day before, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services’ figures.

North Carolina has at least 11,071 reported cases of the coronavirus in 98 counties as of Saturday morning, and 419 people have died, according to state and county health departments.

At least 547 North Carolinians were in the hospital with COVID-19 on Friday, just shy of the record 551 hospitalizations reported on Wednesday.

As of Friday afternoon, the state was averaging 498 hospitalizations a day over the last seven days.

Only two counties have not reported a case of the virus, and at least one death has been reported in 60 of the state’s 100 counties.

FDA APPROVES NEW DRUG

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued emergency authorization on Friday for the drug remdesivir on hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Remdesivir is an antiviral drug that’s been used to treat Ebola, McClatchy News reported.

It’s currently being studied in critical trials and is reportedly the first to show a “proven benefit” when used on coronavirus patients.

A study at UNC-Chapel Hill previously showed remdesivir reduces recovery time in coronavirus patients by an average of four days, The News and Observer reported.

Tim Sheahan, Asst. Professor of Epidemiology in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, talks about how UNC researchers are developing a broad spectrum antiviral drug called remdesivir to fight against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. 

CONTACT TRACER APPLICATIONS

More than 1,000 people in North Carolina have applied for 250 contact tracer positions to find and follow-up with people potentially exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Friday.

Most came in during the first 24 hours after the jobs were posted, McClatchy News reported.

“These are going to be people calling folks at their home, and sometimes even going in person, if necessary,” Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of NC DHHS, said during a press conference.

The number of people doing contact tracing is among the benchmarks being used to determine how soon North Carolina can start reopening in phases.

ZIP CODE DATA

State officials started releasing the number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases by ZIP code on Friday.

At least 10 counties previously released similar data, but places like Orange County had refused, citing medical privacy laws.

Statewide data can be found on the DHHS website. It will not include ZIP codes with fewer than 500 people and fewer than five cases, officials said.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary for NC Department of Health and Human Services, said state will release coronavirus/COVID-19 data by zip code Friday, May 1, 2020. 

RESIDENTS DON’T WANT QUICK REOPENING, POLL SHOWS

A majority of North Carolinians don’t want a quick return to everyday activities, according to a recent poll by Meredith College.

About 75% of survey respondents said they don’t want schools to reopen, and most support Gov. Roy Cooper’s plans for a phased-in reopening — including the recent extension of his stay-at-home order — despite protesters demanding those restrictions be lifted.

“Despite the claims of groups like ReOpenNC and President Trump about reopening the economy and getting back to normal, most North Carolinians are paying attention to public health professionals and seeing the impact of coronavirus firsthand,” David McLennan, director of the Meredith Poll, said in a statement.

MORE PROTESTS

A group of nine men, most with guns, gathered near downtown Raleigh to protest stay-at-home orders in North Carolina.

Though the city’s police said the men couldn’t protest while openly armed, the men said they “were not affiliated, in many cases did not know each other, and planned to demonstrate peacefully,” The News & Observer reported.

As the day went on, many of the same protesters moved downtown.

For the past three weeks, a group called ReOpenNC has organized protests, calling on Cooper to lift coronavirus-related restrictions across the state.

In Mecklenburg County, an “offshoot” called Reopen Meck held a protest on Friday. The gathering drew about 15 people on foot and a parade of roughly 24 cars to uptown Charlotte.

The governor has extended the state’s stay-at-home order to at least May 8 in hopes of slowing the spread of the disease.

Raleigh, NC resident Jim Schaefer, who lives nearby, confronts a small group of protesters at Oakwood Cemetery, insisting they take off their masks and put away their guns. “I hope you knuckleheads get out of here soon,” he told the group. 

NATIONAL PARK TO REOPEN

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is set to start letting visitors come back in phases that start May 9. The park was among several outdoor sites closed due to the spread of COVID-19.

The park will reopen main roads and trails two weeks before visitors can access other roads, campgrounds, visitor centers and picnic shelters, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Great Smoky Mountains, which sits on the North Carolina and Tennessee border, is one of the most popular national park sites in the country.

CARE FACILITY OUTBREAKS
Johnston and Vance counties reported outbreaks of coronavirus cases at congregate care facilities on Friday.

At least two people have tested positive at Cambridge Place in Smithfield, including one resident and one employee, according to The News & Observer.

The county health department in Vance County has reported 35 cases and one death at Pelican Health Henderson. The state reported two additional deaths late Friday.

The news follows a third nursing home in Wake County reporting an outbreak on Thursday. As of Friday, Capital Nursing and Rehabilitation Care in Raleigh has two cases of staff testing positive, according to the state.

There have been 1,778 confirmed cases at congregate-living facilities in the state and 181 deaths.

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