Coronavirus in the Carolinas: Raleigh takes step toward requiring face masks

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Here is a roundup of what’s happening so far today, June 16, surrounding COVID-19 in both North Carolina and South Carolina. Scroll below for live, local real-time minute-by-minute updates.

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Live, local updates from Tuesday:

Raleigh takes step toward requiring face masks

The Raleigh City Council unanimously passed a motion to allow the mayor to expand the city’s state of emergency to mandate the use of face coverings while in places where social distancing is not possible, WTVD reported.

N.C. lawmakers push reopen bills, virus liability protection

(AP) — North Carolina Republican legislators have advanced bills to allow more types of businesses shuttered under Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 executive order to reopen and to limit lawsuits by some who’ve contracted the virus.

The full House voted Tuesday to overturn Cooper’s orders that have kept bowling alleys and skating rinks closed.

The Democratic governor already has vetoed a bill allowing bars to reopen, saying such legislation is not the way to address COVID-19 business activity.

Another measure clearing the Senate Judiciary Committee would provide limited immunity to any business, government agency or nonprofit that takes reasonable steps to reduce transmission risks.

Wednesday drive-thru testing canceled

Due to the threat of rain and wind during the planned testing times, the drive-thru testing clinic planned for Wednesday, June 17, 2020, at the Rowan County Public Health Department has been canceled.

Additional testing times and locations are listed on the COVID-19 Test Information webpage.

ABC stores in Mecklenburg County return to normal hours, increase customer capacity

The Mecklenburg County Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board, announced that effective Wednesday, June 17th, all store operating hours will return to normal, Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. - 9 p.m., with an exception closure Saturday, July 4, in observance of Independence Day. Retail customers allowed to shop among the aisles to make their selections will increase to ten (10) at a time. Those customers who are considered high-risk are encouraged to shop dedicated shopping hours from 10 a.m. -11 a.m. to accommodate their needs. In consideration of other shoppers, customers are requested to limit their shopping to five (5) minutes or less.

For the protection, health and wellbeing of our customers and employees, and in alignment with best practices shared from NC Governor Roy Cooper’s office, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and federal authorities, stores will continue to implement social distancing shopping and preventative cleaning procedures.

Keva Walton, CEO, stated, “The Mecklenburg County ABC Board is committed to providing our customers with a positive shopping experience, while also taking the necessary actions to ensure the health and safety of customers and sales associates. Sales associates will continue to utilize protective equipment, and proactively clean and restock shelving. We ask that all customers adhere to social distancing practices when shopping, and when possible, please wear masks while waiting in line and shopping.”

The Board will continue to monitor this unprecedented and ever evolving public health issue, and, take further appropriate action when necessary and required.

5 new cases reported in Caldwell County

Five COVID-19 cases were reported today in Caldwell County — one in the 28630 Zip code, three in 28645, and one in 28638. All of the new cases fall between the ages of 25 and 64.

NC AG calls on tech companies to keep contact tracing information secure

Attorney General Josh Stein today asked Google and Apple to ensure all COVID-19 contact tracing and exposure notification apps adequately protect consumers’ personal information.

Attorney General Stein and a bipartisan coalition of 39 attorneys general are asking the tech companies to guarantee that such apps, when available to consumers, are affiliated with a public health authority and removed from Google Play and the App Store once the information is no longer needed by public health authorities.

In a letter to the CEOs of Apple and Google, the attorneys general acknowledge that while digital contact tracing and exposure notification tools are valuable in understanding the spread of COVID-19 and assisting public health authorities, these same technologies pose a risk to consumers’ privacy. The coalition expressed concern about apps available in Google Play and the App Store that are not affiliated with any public health authority or legitimate research institution, utilize GPS tracking, and offer in-app purchases.

The attorneys general are asking Google and Apple to protect consumers without interfering with public health efforts by:

  • Verifying that every app labeled or marketed as related to contact tracing, COVID-19 contact tracing, or coronavirus contact tracing or exposure notification is affiliated with a municipal, county, state, or federal public health authority, or a hospital or university in the U.S. that is working with such public health authorities.
  • Removing any app that cannot be verified as affiliated with one of the entities identified above.
  • Pledging to remove all COVID-19/coronavirus-related exposure notification and contact tracing apps, including those that utilize the new exposure notification application program interfaces (APIs) developed by Google and Apple, from Google Play and the App Store once the COVID-19 national emergency ends.

South Carolina sees 595 new cases, 5 additional deaths

South Carolina DHEC today announced 595 new cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and 5 additional deaths. This brings the total number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in South Carolina to 19,990 and those who have died to 607.

834 total positive cases reported in Burke County

Burke County is holding at 834 positive cases.

The cases consist of traveling, congregate living, and community spread. All positive cases are isolated and Public Health staff continues to investigate the cases and will be locating those close contacts to help contain the spread of the infection.

Some of Burke County’s community spread of this infection is coming from residents coming together in large groups for such events like:

  • Family reunions
  • Funerals
  • Parties of any kind
  • Choir practice in people’s homes
  • Bible studies in people’s homes
  • Church services etc.

With 829 hospitalizations, North Carolina hits another record high

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday reported another record high number of hospitalizations in the state, with 829 people currently in the hospital due to complications from COVID-19.

751 new virus cases were reported in the last 24 hours. The number is well below the 7-day average trend, which had been increasing last week but is now on a slightly downward slope.

36 more people in North Carolina died from COVID-19 in the past day, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,154 since the start of the pandemic.

12,942 tests were reported as completed in the last 24 hours. Testing has decreased in the state compared to last week, when North Carolina completed a record 21,822 tests in one day.

On Monday, NCDHHS reported that nearly 9% of the total completed tests came back positive. Dr. Mandy Cohen said last week that the goal is to be closer to 5%.

Lab-confirmed cases: 45,853

Completed tests: 651,421

Currently hospitalized: 829

Statewide deaths: 1,154

Mecklenburg County continues to lead the state in both cases and deaths with at least 7,468 and 129 respectively.

Confirmed cases by age:

0-17 (9%)

18-24 (11%)

25-49 (45%)

50-64 (20%)

65-74 (7%)

75 or older (7%)

COVID-19 deaths by age:

25-49 (5%)

50-64 (13%)

65-74 (20%)

75 or older (61%)

Cases by race:

White: 54%

Black: 26%

Cases by gender:

Women: 50%

Men: 50%

(Men account for 52% of deaths)

Cases and deaths in congregate living settings:

There are 107 outbreaks in nursing homes across the state, resulting in 4,007 cases and 600 deaths.

There are 60 outbreaks at residential care facilities across the state, resulting in 1,101 cases and 98 deaths.


Data for Mecklenburg County COVID-19 Cases Reported as of June 14

As of 10 a.m. today, there were 7,117 cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) with 133 deaths due to COVID-19 reported among Mecklenburg County residents. Data from the previous day are further described below.

As of June 14, 2020, 6,810 cases of and 128 deaths due to COVID-19 among county residents were reported to Mecklenburg County Public Health (MCPH).

MCPH provides these routine updates about reported cases of COVID-19 to help our community better understand how this pandemic is developing in our county. These results only reflect laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among county residents. Many individuals infected by COVID-19 have not been tested because they are asymptomatic. As such, these results are very fluid and only represent a fraction of the true burden of COVID-19 in our community.

Daily case counts provided by MCPH may differ from state and federal counts due to delays in reporting to the various entities. MCPH updates case counts after an initial case review and, where possible, a patient interview is conducted, which includes confirming county residency. Cases reported after 5 p.m. are counted in the following day’s case count.

Highlights about the epidemiology of COVID-19 in Mecklenburg County as of June 14, 2020 include:

  • About 3 in 4 reported cases were adults ages 20 to 59 years old.
  • More than a third of reported cases are Hispanic – most of whom are younger adults. The high number of reported cases among young Hispanics over the last several weeks remains a significant concern. As previously noted, some factors influencing this trend include:
  1. Targeted testing occurring in neighborhoods with lower access to care, some of which have larger Hispanic populations;
  2. Higher proportions of Hispanics working in essential jobs that make social distancing difficult;
  3. Significant household spread among large families; and
  4. Pre-existing disparities in other social and economic determinants of health, like poverty.

MCPH continues to expand outreach to Hispanic members of our community, including increased dissemination of the outreach toolkit in Spanish for community partners, setting up targeted outreach to Hispanic owned- and serving-businesses, and partnering with local organizations and media outlets to spread key prevention messages.

  • About 1 in 10 reported cases were hospitalized due to their COVID-19 infection. While everyone is at risk for severe COVID-19 complications, reported cases who were older adults (≥ 60 years) were more likely to be hospitalized compared to younger individuals.
  • More than half of cases have met CDC criteria to be released from isolation.
  • During the past week, an average of 106 individuals with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infections were hospitalized at acute care facilities in Mecklenburg County. This represents an increase over the last 14 days. These data are based on daily census counts from acute care facilities in Mecklenburg County reporting to MCPH.
  • During the past week, an average of 11 percent of individuals who were tested were positive for COVID-19. This represents an increase over the last 14 days. These data only include tests conducted by Atrium Health and Novant Health.
  • 128 deaths due to COVID-19 occurred among reported cases.
  • Almost all deaths were among older adults (≥ 60 years), 11 deaths were adults ages 40 to 59.
  • All deaths, except two, occurred among adults with underlying chronic illnesses.
  • More than half were non-Hispanic Whites. The disparity in COVID-19 deaths among non-Hispanic Whites is related to differences in race/ethnicity of residents of long-term care (LTC) facilities actively experiencing an outbreak.
  • Nearly 2 out of 3 deaths were connected to active outbreaks at long-term care (LTC) facilities.
  • Based on publicly available mobility tracking data, there was a decrease in social distancing in Mecklenburg County over the last 14 days. Despite this downward trend, social distancing remains higher than before the Stay at Home Order became effective on March 26, 2020.


U.S. Transportation Secretary Announces $4.1M for Concord COVID-19 Response

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today announced a $4.1 million grant award to the City of Concord – Concord Kannapolis Area Transit (Rider Transit), in Concord, North Carolina as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed by President Donald J. Trump on March 27, 2020.

Rider Transit will use the grant funds for operating expenses, which are necessary to support fixed-route and paratransit services during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

See FTA’s apportionment tables for the totals apportioned to each area. (This funding is based on the agency’s current request and may not represent the full amount the agency will receive.)

“This historic $25 billion in grant funding will ensure our nation’s public transportation systems can continue to provide services to the millions of Americans who continue to depend on them,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

“We know many of our nation’s public transportation systems are facing extraordinary challenges and these funds will go a long way to assisting our transit industry partners in battling COVID-19,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams. “These federal funds will support operating assistance to transit agencies of all sizes providing essential travel and supporting transit workers across the country who are unable to work because of the public health emergency.”

In addition to the CARES Act funding, FTA issued a Safety Advisory that prompts transit agencies to develop and implement policies and procedures regarding face coverings and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, physical separation, and hand hygiene consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance. CARES Act funding can be used to cover 100 percent of these costs.


Airline passengers who do not wear face coverings could have flying privileges revoked

Today, Airlines for America, the industry trade organization representing the leading U.S. airlines, announced that its member carriers will be vigorously enforcing face-covering policies, putting rigor around rules requiring passengers and customer-facing employees to wear facial coverings over their nose and mouth. This is one critical element of the multiple layers that A4A carriers are implementing to mitigate risk and protect passengers and crew.

Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines will be implementing the following policy updates regarding face coverings:

  • Preflight Communications: Each airline will clearly articulate its individual face-covering policy in communications with customers, which may require passengers to acknowledge the specific rules during the check-in process.
  • Onboard Announcements: Onboard the aircraft, crew members will announce specific details regarding the carrier’s face covering policy including the consequences passengers could face for violating the policy.
  • Consequences for Noncompliance: Each carrier will determine the appropriate consequences for passengers who are found to be in noncompliance of the airline’s face covering policy up to and including suspension of flying privileges on that airline.

“U.S. airlines are very serious about requiring face coverings on their flights. Carriers are stepping up enforcement of face coverings and implementing substantial consequences for those who do not comply with the rules,” said A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio. “Face coverings are one of several public health measures recommended by the CDC as an important layer of protection for passengers and customer-facing employees.”

The measures are expected to remain in place throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis.


5 staff members at Albemarle Correctional test positive for COVID-19

No offenders at Albemarle Correctional have tested positive for COVID-19, however, five staff members at the prison have recently tested positive for the virus, currently are off the job and will remain off the job until they recover.

Contact tracing is underway to determine who may have had unprotected exposure to those five staff members so they also can be tested.


Quest Diagnostics & Walmart Partner to Offer Free COVID-19 Testing in Charlotte

Quest Diagnostics is offering two new COVID-19 testing sites at the pharmacy drive-thru windows at Walmart Neighborhood Markets. These two locations are 8800 East W.T. Harris Blvd. and 11530 N. Tryon St. in Charlotte.

All appointments will be drive-thru, observed self-collection. Quest’s MyQuest online portal at www.MyQuestCOVIDTest.com will screen and schedule those individuals who meet the eligibility criteria. On-site scheduling will be available for those who need assistance with scheduling. To be tested, individuals must have a scheduled appointment and be present in a vehicle, as no walk-ups will be seen.

Of note, there is no out-of-pocket cost for individuals.


Cabarrus County monitoring trend showing younger people dying of COVID-19

Cabarrus County health officials are monitoring a concerning trend which shows that younger people are dying of coronavirus.

The health department has not released the age of patients, but in the past two weeks, four people died and their average age was 39 years old.

Up until then, there were 22 deaths in the county with the average age of 83 years old.

The health director said, “Deaths among younger populations, along with our rapidly growing case count, are extremely concerning as we approach the tentative start of Phase Three reopening and the July 4th holiday.”

She said she’s also seeing more spread throughout the community. Earlier in the pandemic, most of Cabarrus County’s cases were in nursing homes.

Now, the latest data from Saturday shows only 11 of the 202 active cases were from nursing homes.

Cabarrus County has had 740 confirmed cases and 26 deaths.


Rally attendee in uptown tests positive for COVID-19

Someone who attended a rally June 5 organized by a group of black attorneys in uptown has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the John S. Leary Bar.

Everyone who participated in the rally is encouraged to get tested for the virus.

Dozens of people attended the event to call for changes at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the criminal justice system in the Queen City.

An organizer said the day when the officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck is symbolic of ongoing systemic racism.

“This whole history of this country has been about the knee of the necks of black people ever since,” attorney James Ferguson said.

Statement from John S. Leary Bar:

“The John S. Leary Bar was informed today that someone who attended our Rally on June 5, 2020 tested positive for COVID-19. Out of an abundance of caution, we sought guidance from the Mecklenburg County Health Department regarding this issue.

"According to the recommendations from the Mecklenburg County Health Department, anyone who has attended a mass gathering, including protests are recommended to take the test for COVID-19. Additionally, it is also recommended that if you believe you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should self-quarantine for 14 days from the date of exposure. In our particular instance, if you want to be cautious, you should self-quarantine until June 19, 2020.

"These are recommendations and not requirements. For further information and guidance, you may contact the Mecklenburg County Health Department at (980) 314-9400.”


Nearly 600 new cases reported in South Carolina (Monday)

DHEC today announced 582 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 2 additional deaths. This brings the total number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in South Carolina to 19,378 and those who have died to 602.

Read more here.

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