Coronavirus in the Carolinas: Cooper vetoes bill that would allow bars to partially reopen

Coronavirus in the Carolinas: June 5 update

CHARLOTTE — Here is a roundup of what’s happening so far today, June 5, surrounding COVID-19 in both North Carolina and South Carolina (Click here for yesterday’s coverage). Scroll below for live, local real-time minute-by-minute updates.

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Live, local updates from Friday:

NC Gov. vetoes bill that would allow bars to partially reopen

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper had vetoed a bill that would allow bars to partially reopen and allow more restaurant capacity outside.

The state Senate and House voted last week to let bars serve customer outside, despite Cooper’s executive order.

Statement released from Gov. Cooper on House Bill 536:

“State and local government leaders must be able to act quickly during the COVID-19 emergency to prevent a surge in cases that could overwhelm hospitals and harm the public. House Bill 536 would limit the ability of leaders to respond quickly to COVID-19 and hamper the health and safety of every North Carolinian.”

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Burke County Reports Seventeenth Death

Burke County Public Health was notified today of the COVID-19 related seventeenth death in Burke County. The individual in their 50’s was hospitalized and later died from COVID-19 related complications. To protect the family’s privacy, no further information about the patients will be released. “We extend our sympathies to the family and friends of this individual”, said Burke County Health Director Rebecca McLeod. These losses serve as a terrible reminder that this infection continues to spread within our community and has the potential to cause fatal results to anyone infected with this infection.”

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North Carolina sees new single-day record 1,289 new COVID-19 cases

NCDHHS has released its updated data on COVID-19 for the state:

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Friday reported the highest daily increase in cases, with 1,289 new cases. The previous highest one-day increase was 1,189 set just the day before.

However, the state reported one of the highest daily totals of tests with 13,845 in the past 24 hours. That’s well over the state’s goal of 5,000 to 7,000 per day. The overall percent positive is around 9%.

The additional 1,289 new COVID-19 cases bring the state’s total to 33,255, while the 13,845 completed tests bring the total number of completed tests in the state to 482,147.

There have been six new deaths attributed to COVID-19 since Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 966.

The state reported 717 people currently hospitalized for COVID-19.

Mecklenburg County continues to lead the state in both cases and deaths with at least 5,057 and 102 respectively.

Confirmed cases by age:

0-17 (7%)

18-24 (10%)

25-49 (45%)

50-64 (22%)

65-74 (8%)

75 or older (9%)

COVID-19 deaths by age:

25-49 (4%)

50-64 (13%)

65-74 (20%)

75 or older (63%)

Cases by race:

White: 54%

Black: 28%

Cases by gender:

Women: 51%

Men: 49%

(Men account for 53% of deaths)

Cases and deaths in congregate living settings:

There have been 95 outbreaks in nursing homes across the state, resulting in 3,444 cases and 506 deaths.

There have been 50 outbreaks at residential care facilities across the state, resulting in 916 cases and 73 deaths.

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Data for Mecklenburg County COVID-19 Cases Reported as of June 3

As of 10 a.m. Friday, there were 4,725 cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) with 106 deaths due to COVID-19 reported among Mecklenburg County residents. Data from two days ago are described below.

As of June 3, 2020, 4,562 cases of and 103 deaths due to COVID-19 among county residents were reported to Mecklenburg County Public Health (MCPH). 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 3, 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:
  • Targeted testing occurring in neighborhoods with lower access to care, some of which have larger Hispanic populations;
  • Higher proportions of Hispanics working in essential jobs that make social distancing difficult;
  • Significant household spread among large families; and
  • 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.
  • About 2 in 3 reported cases have met CDC criteria to be released from isolation.
  • During the past week, an average of 90 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 9.6 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.
  • 103 deaths due to COVID-19 occurred among reported cases.
  • Almost all deaths were among older adults (≥ 60 years), 7 deaths were adults ages 40 to 59.
  • All deaths, except one, occurred among adults with underlying chronic illnesses.
  • Nearly 2 out of 3 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.
  • More than half of the 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 significantly higher than before the Stay at Home Order became effective on March 26, 2020.

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2.5M new jobs added, unemployment declines in May, defying economists’ expectations

The U.S. unemployment rate fell unexpectedly in May to 13.3% -- still on par with what the nation witnessed during the Great Depression -- as states loosened their coronavirus lockdowns and businesses began recalling workers.

The government said Friday that the economy added 2.5 million jobs last month, driving unemployment down from 14.7% in April.

The May job gain, which confounded economists’ expectations of another round of severe losses, suggests that thousands of stores, restaurants, gyms and other companies reopened and rehired more quickly than many analysts had forecast.

Still, it raises a key question for businesses and unemployed workers: How fast will the rebound proceed? For hiring to continue at a solid pace, businesses will probably need to see signs that consumers are starting to resume their pre-outbreak habits of shopping and dining out.

Other evidence has also shown that the job-market meltdown triggered by the coronavirus has bottomed out. The number of people applying for unemployment benefits has declined for nine straight weeks. And the total number of Americans receiving such aid has essentially leveled off.

The overall job cuts have widened economic disparities: While the unemployment rate for white Americans was 12.4% in May, it was 17.6% for Hispanics and 16.8% for African-Americans.

Even with the surprising gain in May, it may take months for all those who lost work in April and March to find jobs. Some economists forecast the rate could remain in double-digits through the November elections and into next year.

For weeks, economists had warned that unemployment in May could hit 20% or more.

The street protests over George Floyd’s killing that led to vandalism and looting in dozens of cities did not affect Friday’s figures, which were compiled in the middle of May. But business closings related to the unrest could show up in the June report.

A few businesses are reporting signs of progress even in hard-hit industries. American Airlines, for example, said this week that it will fly 55% of its U.S. routes in July, up from just 20% in May.

And the Cheesecake Factory said one-quarter of its nearly 300 restaurants have reopened, though with limited capacity. Sales are at nearly 75% of the levels reached a year ago, the company said.

Erica Groshen, a labor economist at Cornell University and a former commissioner of the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, said hiring could ramp up relatively quickly in the coming months and reduce unemployment to low double-digits by year’s end.

“Then my inclination is that it will be a long, slow slog,” she said.

Until most Americans are confident they can shop, travel, eat out and fully return to their other spending habits without fear of contracting the virus, the economy is likely to remain sluggish.

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FRIDAY MORNING STORYLINES

On Thursday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper mentioned the possibility of opening bars and gyms earlier than anticipated. North Carolina began Phase 2 of its reopening plan May 22. State leaders said they do not feel the state is ready to enter Phase 3 yet given the upward trajectory of positive cases. However, a modified reopening phase is being considered.

“We’re analyzing whether bars and gyms should be able to open, and I will say that there’s a possibility that even before we get to the timeline of Phase 3 that we might want to do a Phase 2.5 or look at some of these additional items that might boost our economy but that we would feel safe about not boosting the number of COVID-19 enough to overwhelm our hospitals,” Cooper said.

Cooper added he won’t support legislation that ties the hands of the executive branch to open and close businesses in a time of emergency. State lawmakers may soon send Cooper a bill overriding his executive order keeping gyms closed in the state.

The governor only has a few days to sign or veto the bill that would allow bars to open. If he opts for a veto, it looks like the Republicans don’t have the numbers to overturn it.