COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in North Carolina.
Health officials in North Carolina say a COVID-19 outbreak linked to a church has left at least two people dead. Mecklenburg County authorities said Wednesday that there are now 68 cases since the local health department initially reported the outbreak on Saturday.
That was one week after the multi-day event at the United House of Prayer for All People in Charlotte on Oct. 11. The county says four people have been hospitalized.
County officials also have notified other local health departments in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, New Jersey and New York to monitor for cases connected to the church events.
THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES
Athletes in the Durham Public School district haven’t been able to hit the field in months, but that could change after tonight. DPS is one of the few districts in the area that’s not reopened athletic programs for practices and games. Wake County is utilizing a phased approach to restarting sports.
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association suspended athletics in March, but most of their member schools have since restarted athletics. DPS will hold a meeting tonight at 6:30 with athletics as a topic of discussion.
All elementary school students in Wilson County will return to the classroom on Thursday. Students will be allowed in the school building while wearing required face masks. Middle school students will return to school buildings under a Plan B schedule.
Free COVID-19 testing is available in Chatham County on Thursday. You can get a test at Northwood High School on Thursday and on Monday, free testing will be available at Chatham Central High School. The county has registration information available on its website.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced that he would pause the expiration of Phase 3 COVID-19 restrictions for at least another three weeks.
The restrictions were set to end Friday, but with key metrics such as cases, positivity rate and hospitalizations increasing, Cooper said it was important to hold the course.
Cooper was joined by NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen to give a live update on the state’s COVID-19 response.
Though Cohen noted a slight decrease in the state’s surveillance of COVID-like syndromic visits to emergency rooms, she outlines that the trajectory of positive cases is higher than it was at the state’s last peak in July.
Cohen also noted that though the percentage of positive tests is lower than it was in July, it is trending higher from previous weeks, and she would like to see the metric drop back down to 5%.
The pair emphasized the importance of everybody adhering to the three Ws of wearing a mask, waiting at least six feet apart, and washing hands.
“We’re doing everything we can to slow the spread of this virus. The simple fact is we can’t do it on our own,” Cohen said. “Ignoring the virus does not make it go away, just the opposite.”
Cooper added that local law enforcement agencies will be enforcing the state mask mandate, alcohol curfew, and mass gathering limits.
“I do believe most of the people in North Carolina do want to slow the spread of this virus and they understand that collectively, we have the power to do that,” Cooper said.
NCDHHS reported 1,842 new COVID-19 cases, marking more than 250,000 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. The state also reported just 16,150 more completed COVID-19 tests with a percent positive rate of 7.4%.
The state also reported 40 more deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the death toll above 4,000.
Currently 1,219 people are hopsitalized with COVID-19 statewide.
In a new weekly report, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services outlined the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths associated with clusters in workplaces, businesses, schools, housing facilities and community events.
As COVID-19 metrics head in the wrong direction, NCDHHS officials have repeatedly said smaller gatherings are driving the current spike in infection. According ot the report, clusters from social gatherings–including family gatherings, parties, weddings and funerals–have increased over the past two weeks. In September, the number of cases associated with clusters in religious gatherings increased.
According to the report, 231 cases and two deaths have been attributed to 23 clusters related to social gatherings statewide, and 26 cases were related to one community event.
At least 1,040 cases and 13 deaths have been linked to 76 clusters at religious gatherings.
Clusters have also been reported at restaurants, retail locations, personal care salons, and several workplaces. Though 3,841 COVID-19 cases and 19 deaths were associated with meat and poultry processing plants, health officials said clusters in these facilities have been decreasing since May.
NCDHHS clarifieid in the report that a cluster is defined as five or more cases related to a particular event or location. The clusters included in the report were submitted by local health departments, and because many represent industries that do not have to announce clusters to NCDHHS, many were voluntarily reported. Therefore, health officials said the cluster list is an underrepresentation of the full scope of clusters and associated cases statewide.
Sampson County reported one new death from COVID-19, bringing the county total to 29. There were 20 new cases reported, bringing the total number of cases to 2,621
Health officials in Mecklenburg County said Tuesday evening they are investigating at least 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 connected to an event at a church, according to local media.
Mecklenburg County urged all people who attended convocation events at the United House of Prayer for All People on Oct. 10 and 11 to get tested, The Charlotte Observer reported Monday. At the time, the county linked at least nine cases of COVID-19 to the weekend event.
Mecklenburg County Deputy Health Director Raynard Washington said the number has nearly tripled. Washington says the church made an effort to ensure masks were worn and that those attending practiced social distancing, but he said people didn’t always comply.
North Carolina health officials sent a letter to local leaders asking for help in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
The letter was sent to leaders in 36 counties that met the following metrics: the county has had 300 or more new cases in the last 14 days and has been identified by the White House Task Force as a county of concern; the rate of cases is greater than 50 cases per 10,000 people; or the county is one of the three most populous in the state.
In addition to the 3 Ws, the letter outlined local actions that could be made for those violating COVID-19 executive orders including possibly adopting an ordinance that imposes a civil penalty, issuing a local emergency proclamation and supporting the local health director enforce an imminent hazard abatement order against those who fail to comply with the governor’s executive order
“The incredible work of our local partners has allowed North Carolina to avoid the first and second waves of rapid spikes in COVID-19 positives that devastated so many other states. To protect our communities, we must continue working together in this fight against COVID-19,” wrote NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D., and NCDPS Secretary Erik A. Hooks.
The letter was sent to leaders in Alamance, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Caswell, Catawba, Chowan, Cleveland, Craven, Cumberland, Davidson, Duplin, Edgecombe, Gaston, Graham, Greene, Guilford, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Moore, Nash, New Hanover, Onslow, Pitt, Randolph, Robeson, Rockingham, Rowan, Scotland, Union, Wake, Watauga and Wayne counties.
Lee County health officials reported the 18th COVID-19 related death in the county.
The state’s Medicaid program is extending temporary provider rate increases related to COVID-19 through the end of the federal COVID-19 public health emergency.
The emergency goes through Jan. 21, 2021.
This will extend all COVID-19 rate increases currently in place. Every Medicaid provider will continue to receive rates that are at least 5% greater than pre-COVID levels.
“Medicaid providers have continued to step up to meet beneficiary needs throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “We greatly appreciate the efforts of our providers and are committed to supporting them as they care for our most vulnerable beneficiaries.”
Providers such as nursing homes dealing with extra costs due to COVID-19 will continue to get additional financial support.
WEDNESDAY MORNING STORYLINES
Gov. Roy Cooper is scheduled to speak today as COVID-19 trends continue to worsen in North Carolina.
Tuesday’s report was led by the percent positive test rate, which jumped to 7.4%. Hospitalizations also jumped above 1,200 for the first time since July 31. Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan is set to expire Friday.
Fifty-three more deaths were reported Tuesday. New numbers will be released Wednesday around noon.
On Oct. 2, Gov. Cooper announced that bars — for the first time since March — could open with limited outdoor capacity. Movie theatres, amusement parks, and outdoor venues were also allowed to open with limited capacity. A statewide 11 p.m. alcohol curfew remained in place until at least Friday.
Earlier this month, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said COVID-19 metrics remained stable throughout September, but also noted they were “fragile” and North Carolinians had more work to do in regards to fighting the virus.
Cooper and the state’s coronavirus task force will speak at 2 p.m. ABC11 will carry the update live on-air and here on abc11.com.
A COVID-19 testing site will open at Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral (715 Nazareth Street) in Raleigh on Friday, with testing going on through Sunday. Testing will available from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Other Wake County testing sites are available here.
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