270+ additional COVID-19 cases in North Carolina, 7 new deaths reported

270+ additional COVID-19 cases in North Carolina, 7 new deaths reported
COVID-19 map in North Carolina (Source: NCDHHS)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina health officials reported a total of 6,764 cases of coronavirus across 93 counties Monday, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Seven additional deaths have also been reported across the state, bringing the total to 179.

The latest number includes 1,210 cases in Mecklenburg County, with 29 deaths, according to NCDHHS.

NCDHHS reported five outgoing outbreaks at Mecklenburg County nursing homes, and another four at residential care facilities.

WATCH LIVE: NC health leaders give an update on the state’s COVID-19 response:

During a press conference on Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper said in order to ease the current restrictions, North Carolina need to make progress in three areas: testing, tracing and monitoring COVID-19 trends.

“This virus is going to be with us until there is a vaccine, which may be a year or more away," Cooper said. "As we ease restrictions, we are going to enter a new normal.”

“Our efforts to flatten the curve are working. And that means we have saved lives. The stay at home orders are working, but we know our current situation is not sustainable in the long run,” Cooper continued. “I know people are wondering, where do we go from here?”

Cooper said that experts say it would be “dangerous to lift restrictions all at once.” He said officials have to monitor for troubling signs of a spike in cases that could overwhelm our hospitals and risk lives.

Health officials say that 1 percent of those infected by the coronavirus in North Carolina are under 18, 6 percent are 18 to 24, 39 percent are between ages of 25 and 49 years old, 28 percent are between ages 50 and 64 and 25 percent are older than 65 years old.

As of Monday, 79,484 tests had been conducted. At least 373 patients were still hospitalized Monday, a drop from the 465 patients hospitalized Sunday.

RECOVERY

An accurate number of coronavirus recoveries has been released in North Carolina. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of Health and Human Services, says scientists are working to determine a recovery number, but the problem is that some may define a recovery differently.

“How are we defining recovery? So how do we know – how do we document a recovery number?"Cohen said, reiterating a question that was asked to her. "We don’t all define recovery the same.”

During a press conference, state leaders said there were plans to reopen a hospital in Hamlet, about an hour and a half from Charlotte, that shut down in 2017. N.C. Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said the hospital is going to be prepared so that its beds can be ready to help with a possible upcoming surge of COIVD-19 patients.

During the conference, Gov. Cooper also said he signed an executive order in conjunction with NCDHHS to fast track child care for essential workers.

Financial aid is available to parents and caregivers who are essential workers and who meet the following criteria:

  • Their income is below 300 percent of the poverty line;
  • They are an essential worker fighting COVID-19 or protecting the health and safety of communities; and
  • They feel they have no other viable child care options available to them.

Child care teachers and staff that work in programs serving essential workers will also see bonuses in their pay in April and May. NCDHHS will pay child care programs staying open to serve essential workers $300 per month for each full-time teacher and $200 per month for each full-time non-teaching staff member, including administrators, janitors and other support staff.

Bonus payments will be paid by the child care programs to all eligible staff during their regular pay periods. Part-time workers are also eligible for prorated bonus awards.

If you are an essential worker and need help with child care, you can call a hotline at 1-888-600-1685 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

During a press conference last week, Cooper announced he had signed an executive order to prohibit utility companies from shutting off services to people who are unable to pay.

N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein said the “insidious virus” has forced N.C. businesses to lay off hundreds of thousands of people.

“It is orders of magnitude greater than any two-week period during the Great Recession," Stein said.

“I know it’s hard, but prevention is still the single most important thing you can do right now,” Cooper said. “If we don’t slow the infection, our medical system will be stretched beyond its capacity.”

Cohen echoed that statement.

“We do not have vaccines or a treatment. Social distancing is the only tool we have to slow the spread of COVID-19 so fewer people get sick at the same time and so we don’t overwhelm our hospitals,” said Cohen.

“I can’t stress it enough - your actions matter. Staying at home matters. Staying home will save lives,” Cohen continued. “I know this is really, really hard. Most of us have never lived through a time where we’ve had to take this kind of collective action to change our way of life in a matter of a couple days. In many ways this is like a war, right here at home, and our enemy is this virus.”

Cohen said if you’re leaving your house, it should be limited to getting groceries, picking up medication or going for a walk outside. If you’re working at an essential business, Cohen urged, you still need to follow social distancing guidelines.

Ninety-six N.C. counties are now under a state of emergency.

North Carolina is considered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have widespread transmission, meaning some people who have tested positive don’t know how they were infected.

“Because no one is immune and there’s no vaccination the best tool we have to slow the spread is keeping our physical distance and staying home,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.

That’s why the governor issued the statewide stay-at-home order. The order went into effect at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 30.

“It truly is a matter of life and death,” Cooper said. “Even with the uncertainty of these times and the new pace of our lifestyles, we know that the good parts of our lives as North Carolinians will return. We fight this disease now so that we are better able to defeat it in the future.”

Cooper announced that more than 219,000 people have filed unemployment claims since March 16, as of Friday afternoon. The first unemployment benefits will be paid early next week.

Health officials say individuals and families can call 2-1-1 for assistance from the operation center.

Health officials said North Carolina currently has 18,557 in-patient beds in the state, and 6,953 of those are currently empty. There is also 3,223 intensive care beds in the state, and about 920 of those are empty.

Those numbers do not include extra, incoming beds that have been requested, officials added.

Cooper addressed the virus as a “cruel and contagious sickness,” after North Carolina announced its first coronavirus-related deaths.

The first person, from Cabarrus County and in their late seventies, died on March 24 from complications associated with the virus. The patient had several underlying medical conditions.

“Today is a stark reminder that we must take this disease seriously,” Cooper said after the state’s first coronavirus-related death.

“We’ve got to do everything we can do to help that family that’s wondering where the next paycheck is going to come [from],” Cooper said, noting that families who were on the edge have “fallen off the cliff.”

Cooper says the “number one mission right now is to save lives” and protect the people of North Carolina.

Cohen spoke with county managers across the state as well, stating that about 20 percent of people who contract the virus will need hospital-level care, while 80 percent who test positive for coronavirus will get mild illness.

For reference, Cohen pointed out that some of our worst flu seasons only needed 2 percent of hospital-level care.

All public K-12 schools will remain closed until May 15 under an executive order signed by Cooper.

Cooper said that despite not getting all the coronavirus tests the state requested, North Carolina has found more ways to get people who need it tested. Monday afternoon, Cooper said, there were at least 8,438 tests completed with 10,000 more tests waiting to be run.

Director of Emergency Management Michael Sprayberry said North Carolina has sent a request to FEMA and the White House for a Major Disaster Declaration, which would authorize “may of the same programs activated after a hurricane.”

Sprayberry said North Carolinians can still call 211 with any questions related to the coronavirus or assistance.

COVID-19 TIMELINE

Gov. Cooper also previously issued an executive order that closes bars and restaurants to dine-in customers. The order unlocked unemployment benefits for those who lost, or lose, their job during the coronavirus outbreak.

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