CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina reported another record-high for COVID-19 hospitalizations Monday, marking the 12th day out of the last 14 that the number has risen.
Right now, there are currently 1,966 hospitalized across the state due to the virus. This is the first time more than 1,900 COVID patients have been in the hospital at one time in N.C.
The state reported 2,734 more positive cases as well Monday, bringing the statewide total to 364,512 coronavirus cases since March.
Health officials also say 21 more people died of COVID-19-related complications. There have been 5,261 people who have died from the virus in North Carolina.
By Monday, 5,295,290 tests had been completed in the state, and the percent of positive tests is 9.5%.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, Gov. Roy Cooper addressed the rising virus cases and deaths, saying “this is deadly serious.” He announced he would be signing an executive order aimed at strengthening the state’s mandate involving face masks.
“I am very concerned. We are seeing warning signs in our trends that we need to heed to keep our family and friends from getting sick and ensuring our hospitals are able to care for those that have serious illness,” Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said.
On Nov. 17, Gov. Roy Cooper and Cohen unveiled a new county alert system designed to identify the counties with the highest metrics.
On Friday, Sept. 25, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced it is adding information about antigen testing to the COVID-19 NC Dashboard, including positive COVID-19 cases and deaths diagnosed with an antigen test and the number of antigen tests completed daily.
An antigen positive case of COVID-19 is a person who received a positive COVID-19 result from an antigen test and does not have a positive result from a molecular (PCR) test.
Antigen positive cases and deaths have now been incorporated onto North Carolina’s dashboards, resulting in 4,676 antigen positive cases and 27 deaths being added to the dashboards.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires states to report molecular (PCR) and antigen positive cases separately. Regardless of the test used, a person who tests positive is considered to have COVID-19,” NCDHHS officials stated.
On Aug. 12, NCDHHS announced corrections to the state’s daily and cumulative completed COVID-19 test counts after discovering a discrepancy in testing data that had been submitted by LabCorp.
"Although this reporting error impacts our count of total tests completed, it does not alter our key metrics or change our understanding of COVID-19 transmission in North Carolina, which shows stabilization over the last few weeks," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D.
Officials said the error reduced NCDHHS’s official count of cumulative tests performed from 2,044,727 to 1,823,283. It did not impact the case count total or the percent positive calculation that NCDHHS reports. Going back to the beginning of the reporting error, the data will be updated to reflect the accurate number of tests performed.
Nearly half of all COVID-19 cases reported in North Carolina between March and August 1 were reported in July alone.
At the end of June, N.C. had only reported 64,670 total cases since the beginning of March. That means the state saw a rise of 57,478 cases over 31 days - this is about 47.056 percent of all cases.
Below, you can see the number of total tests, as well as the percent positive for both the state and individual counties as reported by NCDHHS:
On June 24, N.C. Governor Roy Cooper announced that residents would be required to wear face masks in public as coronavirus cases continued to rise at an alarming rate.
This Executive Order became effective at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 26., and there is no word on when it may be lifted.
While the order is in effect, residents must wear face coverings when in public places, indoors or outdoors, where physical distancing of 6 feet from other people who aren’t in the same household or residence isn’t possible.
MORE INFORMATION: The full executive order can be found here
Face coverings are also required for all employees and customers of retail businesses and restaurants as well as workers in manufacturing, construction, meat processing and agriculture settings.
NCDHHS announced a new campaign on September 3 to encourage North Carolinians to wear a mask. The “Whatever Your Reason” campaign works to encourage mask wearing in the collective fight against COVID-19.
“We all have a reason to fight the spread of COVID-19,” Cohen said. “We are excited to launch the ‘Whatever Your Reason’ campaign to remind every North Carolinian that there is a reason behind every decision to wear a mask.”
The campaign was announced ahead of the Labor Day weekend, when gatherings may be planned, and a day before the state enters its next phase of reopening.
“We don’t see perfection in our metrics,” Cohen said. “We still have work to do, that’s exactly why we’re launching the campaign today.”
North Carolina moved to Phase 3 of reopening at 5 p.m. on Oct. 2. Gov. Cooper made the announcement during a press conference days before Phase 2.5 was set to expire.
While Phase 3 was set to expire on Friday, Oct. 23, Gov. Cooper extended it for three more weeks two days before that expiration on Oct. 21.
Cooper said that during Phase 3, the at-risk population is “still safer at home.” He urged anyone over 65 - and those with health risks - to take “responsibility in your choices.”
Here’s what changed and what stayed the same in Phase 3:
- Face coverings are still mandatory for everybody over the age of 5.
- Large outdoor venues with seating greater than 10,000 may operate with 7% occupancy for spectators with other safety protocols.
- Smaller outdoor entertainment venues may operate outdoors at 30% of outdoor capacity or 100 guests, whichever is less.
- Movie theaters and conference centers may open indoor spaces to 30% of capacity, or 100 seated guests, whichever is less.
- Bars may operate outdoors only at 30% of outdoor capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less.
- Outdoor amusement parks may open at 30% occupancy.
- The limits on mass gatherings will remain at 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.
- The 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales for in-person consumption in locations such as restaurants and outdoor bars will be extended.
The statewide curfew on the sale of alcohol at restaurants went into effect on Friday, July 31. The order was scheduled to end on Aug. 31, but was extended just hours before it expired, and was extended again beyond the second expiration date of Oct. 2.
Under the curfew, restaurants must stop selling alcoholic drinks after 11 p.m. and bars will remain closed.
Read the Executive Order on Phase 3 below
On Aug. 26, NCDHHS added the average turnaround time for COVID-19 testing to the Testing page of the state Dashboard. The graph shows the average daily turnaround time based on data from all laboratories that report electronically to NCDHHS.
Individual laboratories may have shorter or longer turnaround times and, therefore, people’s individual experiences may vary.
On Aug. 19, Gov. Cooper announced a new effort to provide more free testing sites in communities where it’s needed, saying “Cost should not prevent people from getting a test particularly if they have symptoms, have been exposed or work in high-risk jobs.”
Cooper added that over the last few weeks, N.C. has seen a decrease in the number of people asking to be tested.
“We know that robust testing is key to reducing spread and keeping our communities healthy,” Cooper said. “So the state has focused on ways to increase the number of tests.”
On Aug. 13, North Carolina health officials said results had recently been coming back quicker than in the past.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, says the average turnaround for test results is about two days.
“Our testing time turnaround has greatly improved,” Cohen said. “People are getting their results faster.”
“Test results are coming back faster, and that’s a good thing,” Gov. Cooper said.
Cohen hinted at continuously posting the turnaround time on the NCDHHS website, but added that different labs have different turnaround times, which could sometimes alter the timetable.
On July 7, NCDHHS took action to decrease barriers to COVID-19 testing by issuing a Statewide Standing Order for COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing, as well as a State Health Director Temporary Order on COVID-19 Diagnostic Test Reporting.
The Statewide Standing Order allows testing sites to collect and submit samples to a laboratory for COVID-19 testing without requiring a specific order and authorizes testing sites to receive results directly from laboratories.
You can read the complete Statewide Standing Order for COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing here.
On July 20, NCDHHS unveiled an updated COVID-19 Dashboard that includes “more granular information about hospital capacity and hospitalization trends, both statewide and broken down by region.”
Additional data reported through the interactive COVID-19 Dashboard include:
- Case and death counts searchable by county and ZIP code;
- Case counts by date reported or date of specimen collection;
- County map of ongoing outbreaks in congregate living settings; and
- Rollover functions to see daily numbers.
Health officials say the new hospitalization data will provide additional insight into N.C.’s hospital capacity during the pandemic.
During a press conference on July 9, NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said health officials are “particularly concerned about the Charlotte area” and its hospital capacity.
Cohen said she spoke to all the hospitals in the Charlotte area and that they are “doing a great job of handling the higher number of cases they’re seeing” and being thoughtful about the need for more.
Multiple “outbreaks” and “clusters” of the coronavirus have been reported at various facilities across the state of North Carolina, including in the WBTV viewing area.
NCDHHS reports outbreaks, which consists of two or more cases of COVID-19, specifically for nursing homes, assisted living facilities and correctional facilities among others.
A cluster consists of five or more cases at day cares, child care facilities and schools.
The NCDHHS Outbreaks and Clusters Dashboard is updated every Tuesday and Friday by 4 p.m. You can find that by clicking here.
On Aug. 7, NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced the state was recommending a requirement for all nursing home staff to get tested every two weeks.
On July 14, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that schools would be returning in August with a mix of in-classroom and virtual learning options.
The “Plan B” approach lets students participate in a mix of in-classroom and remote learning. This plan involves some students potentially rotating schedules, with some students not coming onto campus at all.
Schools will also be allowed the option of completely virtual learning, as laid out in N.C.‘s “Plan C.”
Cooper said this plan is “a measured, ballanced approach that will allow children to attend but provide important safety protocols like fewer children in the classroom, social distancing, face masks and more.”
Face coverings will be required for every teacher, staff and student from kindergarten through high school. The governor says studies have shown overwhelmingly that face coverings reduce disease transmission.
To help, the state will be providing at least five reusable face coverings for every student, teacher and staff member. The state has already delivered a two-month supply of thermometers and medical-grade equipment for school nurses.
Cooper said safety precautions to help stop the spread of the virus are working, and that the state plans on using those protections when schools do reopen with “key safety precautions in place.”
In North Carolina, the LatinX/Hispanic community continues to have a growing number of COVID-19 cases and concerns.
Officials are telling those in the LatinX/Hispanic community to get tested if they have symptoms such as headaches, sore throat, fever or chills, cough, nausea, vomiting, congestion or runny nose, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, new loss of taste or smell, diarrhea, muscle pain, fatigue, among others.
Officials say the Statewide Standing Order for COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing enacted on July 7 will also “help to increase access to testing across the state, especially for members of historically marginalized populations, and increase reporting of North Carolina test results, both positive and negative, to the state.”
Medications and treatments for COVID-19 are being investigated, including through clinical trials in Mecklenburg County, other parts of North Carolina and across the nation.
Levine Children’s Hospital was one of 30 sites selected across the world to open a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of anti-viral drug remdesivir for COVID-19 patients. The hospital says the drug has shown “promising success.”
Tryon Medical Partners’ SouthPark clinic is one of 87 locations in the U.S. taking part in a Phase 3 clinical trial sponsored by Moderna, an American biotechnology company dedicated to drug development.
The trial will study the effectiveness of the mRNA-1273 vaccine that is being developed to prevent COVID-19. If successful, the vaccine is expected to prevent COVID-19 for up to two years after two doses of mRNA-1273.
To find clinical trials happening specifically in N.C., you can also specify your search at ClinicalTrials.gov by location. Additionally, many academic medical centers update clinical trials occurring at their institutions on their respective websites.
While there is no specific treatment for COVID-19, most people with illnesses caused by the virus will recover on their own. However, there are some things you can do to relieve your symptoms, including:
- Taking pain and fever medications (caution: do not give aspirin to children).
- Using a humidifier or taking a hot shower to ease a sore throat and cough.
- Drinking plenty of liquids and stay home and rest.
Officials say to follow instructions from your local health department and health care provider for the most appropriate care.