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Coronavirus live updates: Here's what to know in North Carolina on Aug. 24

The (Raleigh) News & Observer logo The (Raleigh) News & Observer 8/25/2020 By Bailey Aldridge and Simone Jasper, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

We’re tracking the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus in North Carolina. Check back for updates.

Hospitalizations go up

At least 156,396 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 2,535 have died, according to state health officials.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday reported 1,283 new cases of COVID-19, down from 1,472 the day before.

Officials on Monday reported four additional deaths, down from 10 the day before. Reported coronavirus-related deaths in the state reached a single-day high last Tuesday with 48.

The rate of positive test results reported Monday was 7%. State health officials have said that rate should be 5% or lower.

On Monday, health officials reported a total of 948 coronavirus-related hospitalizations in North Carolina, up from 898 the day before.

Sunday’s daily hospitalization total had been the lowest since July 1, and coronavirus-related hospitalizations have been trending downward for several weeks.

More cases reported at UNC

More than 200 new COVID-19 cases were reported Monday at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The school reported 218 new cases among students and updated its dashboard with more clusters reported in campus housing.

Nearly 650 cases have been reported among students and employees since classes started Aug. 10. The university previously reported 10 clusters — seven in dorms and three in fraternity or sorority houses.

The school on Monday reported a 31.3% positivity rate last week for students who were tested. That’s more than double than in the previous week.

UNC, as well as N.C. State University, moved classes online last week due to COVID-19 clusters.

Orange County, home to UNC-Chapel Hill, and Wake County, home to N.C. State, both saw spikes in cases last week after students returned to campuses.

Orange saw a 347% percent increase in new cases last week compared to the prior week, The News & Observer reported. Wake reported a 13% spike.

More clusters reported at ECU

East Carolina University in Greenville reported two new COVID-19 clusters in dorms on Monday.

The clusters were reported in Jones Hall and White Hall, both of which are associated with six positive cases. A cluster represents five cases or more.

The new clusters make eight total at the university, seven of which are connected to residence halls. One is connected to a sorority.

This comes after ECU announced Sunday that classes will be moved online after multiple clusters of COVID-19 were reported during the first two weeks of school. Classes started Aug. 10.

Undergraduate classes are suspended Monday and Tuesday and will be online Wednesday. Professional and graduate classes will continue as is.

The decision came the week after similar moves from UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State.

Tillis talks PPP loans

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., held an event in Charlotte on Monday in which he touted Paycheck Protection Program business loans, The Charlotte Observer reports.

He talked to employees at Engineering Sales Associates about the importance of the $659 billion Paycheck Protection Program for businesses amid the pandemic. He also said he seeking $150 billion in additional PPP funding and wants to expedite the loan forgiveness process for businesses who received less money.

The loans have been a major issue in the race between Tillis and his Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham — which is one of the closest in the country. Tillis has criticized Cunningham for being critical of the loans while Cunningham has said he supports them but that they have not helped minority-owned businesses enough.

The event took place just a few miles from where the Republican National Convention was underway.

Cases at Duke

Duke University in Durham reported 22 new COVID-19 cases last week as students moved into dorms and started in-person classes.

Twelve students are isolating and being monitored by the student health center, and 10 faculty or staff members are isolating in their homes.

Another 67 students are doing a “precautionary quarantine” after possibly being exposed.

The school has reported a total of 37 cases since Aug. 2. Most have been among students. All students were previously required to get tested for the virus.

Duke hasn’t decided to move classes online as other nearby universities have recently done.

RNC kicks off in Charlotte

The Republican National Convention started Monday in Charlotte, with a limited number of attendees due to COVID-19.

The coronavirus has made the event more low key than usual, and everyone going to the Charlotte Convention Center was tested for the disease. RNC attendees were also asked to put on face coverings.

But The Charlotte Observer reports that many inside were not wearing masks or social distancing.

After being nominated to run for his second term, President Donald Trump delivered a nearly hourlong speech that in part focused on the pandemic, keeping the word “God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, his poll numbers and mail-in voting among other things.

He also recounted his clash with Gov. Roy Cooper over plans for the convention.

Earlier during the pandemic, Trump had threatened to take the GOP convention away from North Carolina.

Cooper, a Democrat, couldn’t guarantee a full crowd, prompting Trump to move the event to Jacksonville, Florida. That convention couldn’t go on after coronavirus-related deaths surged in the Sunshine State.

Duke football could start without fans

Duke University on Monday said it doesn’t want the Blue Devils football team to play its first home game in front of live spectators.

The school instead hopes to have fans’ cardboard cutouts in the stands during the Sept. 19 game against Boston College. Duke’s plan for spectator-free fall sports “left the option open” for fans to attend games if the coronavirus situation improves, The News & Observer reported.

“To be sure, our venues will not be the same without our passionate, energetic fan base,” Kevin White, athletics director, said in a statement. “Given the unique and challenging circumstances, this determination was reached with the health and safety of our fans, student-athletes, coaches and staff at the forefront.”

Across the Atlantic Coast Conference, teams have managed to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. Though the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and other schools had outbreaks during the summer, no football programs that are sharing figures have reported more than 10 cases since July 24.

The schools have used testing and accountability to help stop coronavirus infections, The News & Observer reported Monday.

Western NC high school goes remote

A high school in Western North Carolina has moved classes online after the school district was hit with daily reports of COVID-19 cases.

Macon County Schools reopened on Aug. 17 with in-person instruction, which a minority of districts in the state decided to do. It has notified the public daily of students or staff testing positive.

A number of teachers, support staff and administrators at Franklin High School, which has been hit the hardest, have been required to quarantine for 10 to 14 days after a staff member tested positive.

“These staff members are essential to the safety of our students,” the district said in a Facebook post. “It is in the best interests of the students at Franklin High School that face-to-face instruction be suspended through September 11, 2020. At that time, conditions will be reevaluated.”

Confusion among bar owners

Some bar owners in Charlotte are confused about new enforcement of Cooper’s coronavirus-related executive orders.

Local bars have been selling wine and beer to go for months. Some with kitchens reopened their dining rooms when restaurants were allowed to do so under Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan, which started in May.

But some bar owners said they were told last week by Alcohol Law Enforcement to shut down.

David McCoy, executive officer of Mecklenburg County ABC Board Law Enforcement Division, told The Charlotte Observer that county agents are following state guidance.

“Something changed this week at the state level,” he said. “We are about as confused in this as you are.”

UNC-Charlotte delays in-person classes

UNC-Charlotte has delayed the start of in-person classes until Oct. 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The school will still open Sept. 7 but for online classes only. In-person classes will be delayed three weeks to allow trends in Mecklenburg County more time to stabilize.

“In recent weeks, Mecklenburg County has seen COVID-19-positive cases start to decline and public health officials are encouraged by these trends,” UNCC Chancellor Sharon Gaber wrote in a statement. “However, the county continues to have the highest number of outbreaks and clusters in the state. While the community is making considerable progress to slow the rate of transmission, we do not want to lose this momentum.”


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