Coronavirus local updates: SC health officials report 156 new COVID-19 cases, 4 additional deaths

Coronavirus local updates: May 28 night

More than 5.7 million people worldwide -- including more than 1.7 million people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals manage unprecedented patient surges.

>> Scroll below for live, local real-time minute-by-minute updates

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Content Continues Below

***Possible news conferences scheduled for today***

Mecklenburg County: (TBA)

North Carolina Task Force: (2 p.m.)

South Carolina Task Force (TBA)

White House Task Force: (TBA)

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>> Have questions about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the Carolinas? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak -- CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

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>> Here are the latest updates about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in North Carolina and South Carolina. Scroll below for real-time updates.

  • The number of cases across North Carolina reached 25,412 on Thursday. North Carolina is now reporting 827 deaths, 375,192 completed tests and 708 people currently in the hospital.
  • Gov. Roy Cooper and the state’s coronavirus task force announced the state moved into a “safer-at-home” plan on May 22.
  • Gov. Henry McMaster lifted the home or work order in South Carolina on May 1.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the United States here.

Important Links:

Live, local updates from Thursday:

11:09 p.m.

5:59 p.m.

Mecklenburg County is reporting 3,645 positive coronavirus cases and 87 deaths due to the virus.

3:46 p.m.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced 156 new cases of the coronavirus and four additional deaths.

This brings the total number of confirmed cases in South Carolina to 10,788 and those who have died to 470.

Officials said the deaths were four elderly people from Chesterfield (1), Fairfield (1), Greenville (1), and York (1) counties.

3:10 p.m.

Cabarrus Health Alliance offers on-site drive-through COVID-19 Testing

Kannapolis, N.C. – Cabarrus Health Alliance (CHA), Cabarrus County’s public health authority, is now offering on-site drive-through COVID-19 testing. CHA began testing at the Kannapolis location last week. Testing is available Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, by appointment only.

CHA’s Testing Process

The process for COVID-19 at CHA is simple. If an individual believes they need to be tested, they would call the CHA Health Info line at 704-920-1213. Call center nurses will conduct a screening to determine if they meet the criteria for testing based on symptoms, risk, and exposure. If they are eligible, the nurses will schedule an appointment and provide detailed instructions on where to enter the parking lot for drive-through testing.

If eligible for testing, insurance information will be requested, but not required. Regardless of insurance coverage, there will be no out of pocket expense for COVID-19 testing at CHA. Individuals will be notified by CHA clinical staff when their test results come back.

Community Testing Matters The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) issued new guidance expanding criteria for testing—allowing for anyone with symptoms, close contacts of positive cases regardless of symptoms, and those at higher risk of exposure or higher risk of severe disease—to be tested.

Increased testing is an important strategy to allow for the appropriate easing of certain COVID-19 restrictions at both the state and local level. “Community testing is a metric that we are watching closely. Accessibility of tests is crucial to control the spread of the virus so that those infected can isolate until they can no longer spread COVID-19,” said Dr. Bonnie Coyle, Health Director and CEO at CHA. “The caveat is that the more testing we do, the more positive cases we will have,” she continued. “The goal is to keep the percent positive at 10% or less as community testing expands.”

Atrium Cabarrus, Novant Health, and the Cabarrus Rowan Community Health Center also provide COVID-19 testing for Cabarrus County residents.

CHA reminds all Cabarrus County residents to continue social distancing, wearing a mask when in public, washing hands or using sanitizer regularly, and seeking medical care if you have symptoms of fever (100.4 or higher), cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell. If you exhibit these symptoms, call your primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, call the CHA Health Information Line at 704-920-1213.

2:30 p.m.

SENATORS MARCUS, CHAUDHURI, AND FOUSHEE INTRODUCE BILL TO ENSURE SAFE AND SECURE ELECTIONS DURING PANDEMIC

The Election Protection During COVID-19 Emergency Act Would Keep In-Person Polling Places Safe and Expand and Secure Vote-By-Mail

Today, Senator and Senate Democratic Freshmen Leader Natasha Marcus (D-Mecklenburg), Senate Minority Whip Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake), and Senator Valerie Foushee (D-Orange) and Chair of the North Carolina Black Alliance, introduced legislation that ensures during this pandemic, North Carolina will have safe and open in-person polling places safe and safe and secure vote-by-mail.

“It’s important that voters are able to exercise their right to vote this year, without risking their lives or spreading the coronavirus. Many people will want to vote in person; we need to ensure the polls are open and safe,” said Senator Marcus. “We also expect that more voters than usual will want to vote with mail-in ballots; we need to ensure that they can do so safely and securely. Our bill does these things. We are hopeful we can get bipartisan support for these common sense measures to protect democracy and public health during the pandemic.”

“Just as this pandemic has forced us to rethink the way we eat, work, and play, this pandemic has forced to rethink how we will vote,” said Senator Chaudhuri. “For the sake of democracy and every citizen of the state, I believe it’s important to protect our voting rights and our public health. If we work together now, we can avoid the chaos that Wisconsin voters faced during their recent primary.”

Senator Foushee stated, “We need the Election Protection Act because nobody should have to worry about their health and safety while casting their vote. This will make sure people can vote with a peace of mind."

The Emergency Protection During COVID-19 Emergency Act represents a commonsense solution to ensuring the 2020 elections and future elections are resilient to pandemics and other emergencies. Specifically, this bill would:

  • Appropriate approximately $4.5 million in state funds as required to draw down almost $11 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and $12 million in federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Such funds may be used for establishing healthy polling places by providing protective equipment, social distancing tools, and cleaning and sanitizing supplies. The funds may also be ensure an adequate number of poll workers by offering incentive compensation.
  • Ensure recruitment of adequate number of poll workers by allowing for student poll workers and temporary staffing.
  • Establish election day 2020 as a paid state holiday.
  • Expand options for submitting absentee ballot request forms to include mail, e-mail, or fax. Such a request includes establishing a secure Internet Web site to allow qualified voters to request an absentee ballot.
  • Allow flexibility in certification requirement for absentee ballots by reducing the requirement for two witnesses or a notary to the presence of one witness. In the event such a witness is not available, a voter may sign the container-return envelope. The State Board of Elections would adopt rules to ensure the integrity and property matching of the signature.
  • Provide for prepaid postage envelopes for returning the executed absentee ballot by mail.
  • Extend the deadline for registering to vote by mail if such an application is postmarked no later than the Saturday before the election.
  • Allocate $500,000 from state funds to the State Board of Elections to educate citizens about voting elections in 2020.
  • Temporarily amend restrictions on long term care facilities to allow certified and trained facility employees to assist voters in completing absentee ballots and ballot requests

The bill can be found here.

2:10 p.m.

Sheetz Serves 600,000 Meals to Those in Need As Meal Bagz Program Concludes, Sheetz For The Kidz donates $620,000 to Feeding America

Today Sheetz, a family owned and operated restaurant and convenience chain serving the Mid-Atlantic region, announced the conclusion of its Kidz Meal Bagz program, ending on June 5, 2020. Launched on April 2, 2020, Sheetz proudly served nearly 600,000 free meals to children and families in need amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continuing its mission to fight hunger, Sheetz For the Kidz,TM an employee-driven charity helping children in need, just donated $620,000 to Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief organization. This donation will directly support child hunger programs.

“I’m so proud of our employees who truly stepped up to make the Meal Bagz program happen," said Travis Sheetz, President & COO of Sheetz, Inc. “Their dedication to help the communities we serve made a real impact, providing over 600,000 meals to those in need.” “Despite this positive impact, we know the need doesn’t go away. We will continue our mission to provide hunger relief through additional initiatives such as our Made-to-Share program and weekly food donations, current Feeding America donation match campaign and Sheetz For the Kidz’s support of Feeding America,” Travis Sheetz continued.

Sheetz will continue to raise funds for Feeding America through the MySheetz App. Through June 30, 2020, for every 200 points a customer donates, $1 will be donated to Feeding America. Sheetz will match donations up to $100,000. Sheetz will also continue its mission to fight hunger through its ongoing Made-to-Share program that provides weekly food donations to local food banks in the communities Sheetz serves. These donations include ready-to-eat food items such as sandwiches, wraps and salads as well as healthy snacking options such as fruit, vegetables and yogurt. In addition to weekly food donations, Sheetz also provides financial donations to Feeding America member food banks at every new store opening.

2:00 p.m.

Gov. Cooper held a news conference after the state saw one of its highest days of deaths and hospitalizations since the pandemic hit.

The nation also hit a grim benchmark with more than 100,000 lives lost to the virus.

Cooper said the state is only 6 days into Phase 2 and the increase in cases is a cause for concern.

Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen said the influx in cases is one of the reasons leaders have been taking modest steps to reopen.

She also said the pandemic has had a huge impact on children. The state has been approved for the new Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, which provides extra help buying groceries for the families of the more than 800,000 children who normally receive free and reduced lunch at school.

Under the program, families will receive approximately $370 in total P-EBT benefits per child, provided over two installments.

Families who receive Food and Nutrition Services have received the maximum amount allowed for March and April 2020 for their household size and will receive the maximum amount for May as well.

Cohen also talked about the pandemic’s impact on hospitals. She said the state has accelerated payments to hospitals across the state to help fight the crisis.

She said health officials have launched a radio and video campaign targeted at marginalized communities in order to help bring awareness to virus.

The governor also talked about an interactive tool that helps people find testing sites in their area.

CVS, has announced 55 new drive through testing locations all across North Carolina.

Lastly, Cooper announced NC has received a $6 million federal grant from the US Department of Labor to support job training & temporary employment opportunities.

People are eligible to participate if they have been laid off due to COVID-19.

Director of Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry said personal protection equipment has been delivered to 60 counties across North Carolina.

He said the supply of gowns and n95 masks is getting better.

Cooper’s full remarks:

As of today, we have 25,412 confirmed cases, 708 people in the hospital and 827 people who have died. Today is one of our state’s highest days of reported deaths and hospitalizations since this crisis began.

Nationwide, we have passed a grim benchmark with more than 100,000 lost to COVID-19. We continue to pray for the families left behind in the wake of this cruel virus. And we remind ourselves that these aren’t just numbers, they are people who have died.

In North Carolina, our case count has continued to go up. We know that one reason for this is increased testing, which is critical to reigniting our economy and keeping people safe. We’ve increased our testing significantly.

The @ncdhhs COVID-19 website now has an interactive tool to find a testing site in your area. It includes more than 300 places where you can go and get tested. And we have more than 30 private companies and hospitals doing the lab work on the samples to get COVID-19 results.

Today, another private partner, CVS, has announced 55 new drive through testing locations all across North Carolina. We’re glad to have another retail store that offers testing, especially as we work to make testing available to historically underserved communities.

COVID-19 is shining a bright light on longstanding inequalities in health care. Yesterday, our Department of Health and Human Services launched a radio and video campaign to share important messages about COVID-19 to historically marginalized populations.

African American and Hispanic communities make up a disproportionate number of our state’s lab-confirmed cases and deaths compared with their percentage of the population. And we must focus on how we can identify these disparities, and most importantly, work to fix them.

It’s important to keep this gap in mind both for the location of testing sites but also in contact tracing. Community Cares of North Carolina now has hired almost all of the 250 staff members that we need to get more contact tracing help in our local health departments.

Contact tracing is more effective when that workforce is diverse and representative of the people they serve, and these new hirings show that. This is critical work that’ll help people know if they’ve been exposed to the virus and whether to monitor for symptoms or quarantine.

Across the globe, our country and our state, we know that this virus has hurt the economy. Today, I’m pleased to announce that North Carolina has received a federal grant from the US Department of Labor to support job training and temporary employment opportunities.

Our Commerce Department’s Division of Workforce Solutions requested the funds and they will partner with local workforce development boards throughout North Carolina.

People are eligible to participate if they have been laid off due to COVID-19. The funds can help pay for on-the-job training, temporary positions focused on COVID-19, or short-term training for workers to learn new skills that are now in demand.

This $6 million grant will help our Commerce Department set up these programs and the state of North Carolina will continue to carry the torch forward as we focus on helping people get back on their feet.

As we are now six days into Safer At Home Phase 2, please continue to look out for each other. Show respect for those workers still trying to navigate this pandemic to keep their customers safe and keep their businesses open. Be courteous to one another when you’re out and about.

Remember the 3 Ws – wear a face covering, wash your hands, wait 6 feet apart. Yes, you’ve heard these basic safety steps a lot, but they are mighty tools that each of us has to fight this virus. Never underestimate their importance. And let’s not let our guard down.

1:50 p.m.

N.C. House Approves Bipartisan Elections Act of 2020

The state House of Representatives on Thursday approved bipartisan elections funding and reforms by a vote of 116-3 to meet the challenges of COVID-19, including a total prohibition on all-mail elections in North Carolina and expanding methods to securely request absentee ballots for those who need to do so.

House Bill 1169 Bipartisan Elections Act of 2020 provides funding for local elections boards and adjusts current law to address potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) will address the bill at a 3:30 p.m. press conference on Thursday in the General Assembly.

The legislation makes temporary reforms to North Carolina's current 'no-excuse' absentee ballot policy, which already allows any voter to request an absentee ballot and vote-by-mail without providing justification.

The legislation was approved by the House Committee on Ethics and Elections Law, as well as the House Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House, on Wednesday.

H.B. 1169 maintains the ban on the mass gathering or “harvesting” of absentee ballot request forms by groups or individuals, and does not expand strict rules on who is legally authorized to return ballots.

Other reforms in the proposed legislation include:

  • Allowing absentee ballot requests to be submitted by email, fax, or a new online portal.
  • Providing CARES Act and HAVA matching and federal funds for counties for use for supporting in-person voting and increased absentee ballot costs.
  • Providing temporary flexibility for recruiting precinct officials.
  • Permanently prohibiting the State Board of Elections from moving to an all-mail election or sending unrequested ballots to voters.

The sponsors of H.B. 1169, Representatives Dahle, Grange, Hall, and Harrison released a joint statement:

"These election reforms and funding received a bipartisan review in the legislative process and represent joint agreement on our shared priorities of making sure every voter in North Carolina has access to the ballot and confidence in our election results," the lawmakers said in a statement.

Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) has repeatedly said the legislative process is the proper forum for elections law reforms, not unilateral executive or judicial action.

“We continue to forge consensus bipartisan efforts in this General Assembly to provide the people of North Carolina with the funding and reforms they need to meet the challenges of this pandemic, collaboration that will ensure the effective administration of safe and accessible elections in 2020,” Moore said Thursday.

1:40 p.m.

NC Economic Forecast: Recovery Could Take Years

Just three months ago, the United States was seeing its longest economic expansion on record, a period of growth that started in 2010 and continued through February 2020.

"Just three months ago, our major worries were whether a looming trade war with China was going to slow the economy down in 2020,” said John Connaughton, Barings Professor of Financial Economics at UNC Charlotte’s Belk College of Business. “For the second quarter of the year, the North Carolina economy, like the U.S. economy, experienced its biggest decline in Gross State Product (GSP) since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

Connaughton, presenting the quarterly Barings/UNC Charlotte Economic Forecast on Thursday, May 28, offered a few scenarios for the remainder of 2020.

“Going forward from the middle of 2020, the No. 1 question is how long before the economy gets back to its 2019 level and when does the unemployment rate again approach full employment,” Connaughton said. Given the hit the economy took during the second quarter of 2020, it is likely to take until mid-2022 before Gross Domestic Product (GDP) recovers, he said. The unemployment rate will take even longer, another six to nine months, before it drops below 5%, Connaughton added.

North Carolina GSP

Inflation-adjusted real GSP is expected to decrease by 4.4% over the 2019 level, according to the report. Twelve of North Carolina’s 15 economic sectors are expected to experience output decreases during 2020, with the hospitality and leisure services sector seeing the largest decline, at 34.8%.

Other sectors projected to decrease by over 5% are:

  • Other services: -13.4%
  • Construction: -8.8%
  • Durable goods manufacturing: -7.0%
  • Wholesale trade: -6.1%
  • Educational and health services: -5.5%

Only the agriculture and mining sector is expected to experience growth in 2020.

State Employment Numbers By December, seasonally adjusted nonagricultural employment in North Carolina is expected to decrease by 6.5% over the employment level in December 2019, a loss of 300,000 net jobs during the year, according to Connaughton.

Twelve of the state’s 14 nonagricultural sectors of the economy are expected to experience employment decreases during 2020. The sectors with the largest expected employment decreases in 2020 are:

  • Hospitality and leisure services: -25.8%
  • Other services: -7.8%
  • Retail trade: -7.0%
  • Transportation and warehousing: -7.3%
  • Manufacturing: -6.0%

According to the report, the North Carolina unemployment rate is expected to peak at 17.0% in May and be around 9.9% by December.

“Going forward, the one takeaway from this 10-year expansion is that the North Carolina growth rate over the period has trailed the U.S. 10-year average growth rate of 2.3%,” Connaughton said. “This is a consideration as we emerge from the COVID-19 shutdown. So, the big question is whether the North Carolina recovery will again be weaker than the U.S. recovery. This year and 2021 will be very interesting and very uncertain years.”

A Look Back

2019 represented the 10th and final year of the economic expansion following the Great Recession, the longest expansion on record since 1854.

“It is very likely that this expansion would have continued through at least 2020 and probably well into 2021,” Connaughton said. “However, we will never know. We will look back on this 10-year expansion as a positive and interesting decade.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic forecast was presented in a virtual format for the first time in its nearly 40-year history. The full report is available at belkcollege.uncc.edu/forecast. The complete forecast video will be posted by Friday, May 29. Connaughton will release the next Barings/UNC Charlotte Economic Forecast report on Sept. 23.

Connaughton is considered one of the top economists in North Carolina. He joined the UNC Charlotte faculty in 1978 and has served as director of the quarterly Barings/UNC Charlotte Economic Forecast since 1981.

12:30 p.m.

Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Offers Web-based Reentry Resources for Former Inmates and Their Families

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office recently launched a new online resource for formerly incarcerated individuals and their families. Rise4Me.com offers a free, easy-to-use directory of local, regional and national resources that meet the needs of returning citizens. Resources are divided into categories that range from basic needs, such as housing, food, clothing and healthcare, to more advanced forms of assistance, such as mental health, substance abuse treatment, education and employment. Each resource is accompanied by a brief description, contact information and a link to the organization’s website.

By working with each participating county, Rise4Me can customize listings and deliver valuable information, free-of-charge, to any former inmate seeking assistance. These resources are available today from numerous local organizations, but they are sometimes difficult to locate. Mary Marvin, Rise4Me’s Resource Coordinator, explains; “The key is providing reentry resources all in one place. We want the resources to be easily accessible so returning citizens and their families can easily find the help they need.”

With the ultimate goal of reducing recidivism, Lincoln County Sheriff Bill Beam views Rise4Me as a great benefit to the community. “Re-entering the community after release from jail is challenging at best. Anything we can do to make that transition easier will reduce the chance that the individual will find themselves back in jail in the future. These resources offer the type of help that any released inmate might need to make positive life changes.”

12 p.m.

CHARLOTTE MECKLENBURG LIBRARY RE-OPENS PHASE 1 ON JUNE 1, 2020

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library announces Phase 1 of its re-opening plan is set for Monday, June 1, 2020. There will be limited services at each branch location only for holds pick-up and returns as the Library resumes normal operating summer hours of Monday – Thursday 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. The Library is allocating space inside each branch’s front entrance to serve one customer at a time, with a 6-foot distancing line outside. While customers are in line outside, staff will encourage social distancing and explain the available services. More information can be found at https://www.cmlibrary.org/blog/library-open-june-1-2020

“The Library is taking extra precautions to ensure a safe space for our customers and staff. We’re moving from virtual-only services to in-person services in a responsible way that focuses on safety,” said Caitlin Moen, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library chief customer officer/library director. “We’ll continue to bring back in-person services during the next weeks and months as it is safe to do so, and as we build our capacity to provide service in a new way that meets the safety requirements as outlined by the State and the County.”

Here is what to expect during the Library’s Phase 1 re-opening:

  • Staff will wear face masks/coverings and protective equipment. Masks are optional for customers but encouraged.
  • One customer allowed inside a branch at a time.
  • Minimized footprint in locations.
  • Streamlined self-checkout designed for quick in-and-out and safe, socially distanced interactions.
  • Materials and holds available for pickup inside the branches.
  • All checkouts are self-checkouts. Customers can scan their card (physical or on the app) and the materials. No need to enter the pin.
  • All material/book drops remain closed. Return materials and books to the designated receptacles located at branch locations only during open hours. Signs will direct customers to the proper bin where returned materials will begin the quarantine process.
  • Fines and fees are suspended during Phase 1.
  • Restrooms will not be open to the public.

Materials and books will be quarantined for 72 hours before they are checked in. There is no need for customers to ‘clean’ or disinfect Library materials. Materials that were on the holds shelf at the time of the Library’s closure will expire during the week of June 15.

During Phase 1, computer rooms, community and meeting rooms and restrooms will not be available. Outreach programming will continue online or virtual and is coordinated between the Library Outreach team and the organization. All programming and events for children, teens, adults and the Job Help Center have moved to online or virtual formats and can be found through cmlibrary.org/calendar. The Library’s online chat is available at cmlibrary.org - click on the Ask a Librarian button; telephone reference resumes during normal operating hours at 704.416.0101; or customers can contact a branch location directly. Visit cmlibrary.org/branches for more information.

11:30 a.m.

Winthrop to Forego Fall Break, Move to Remote Instruction Following Thanksgiving Break

Interim President George W. Hynd announced today that Winthrop University will make changes to its fall 2020 academic schedule due to COVID-19. There will be no fall break in October; the university will conclude face-to-face instruction before Thanksgiving break; and then Winthrop will move to remote instruction to complete the fall semester.

"These schedule changes will hopefully help mitigate a possible spike in COVID-19 when traditionally thousands of students, faculty and staff would be returning to campus after a few days away. We weighed the public health risks of having our campus community return from these breaks, and the risks were significant as the country may be facing a second wave of COVID-19 at the same time that we typically experience an uptick in seasonal flu cases,” said Hynd. “We feel that this move, which also has been introduced by some other South Carolina universities, will help keep our students and employees safe, all while continuing to focus on delivering the best learning experience for our students.”

While the university will welcome back the majority of its students to in-person classes in August, Hynd noted that administrators continue to work through details of how in-person instruction will look in order to maximize social distancing and keep the community safe. Winthrop is planning for the majority of classes to be on campus, but some courses will have to be shifted online that were initially planned for in-person instruction, in order to spread courses out across classrooms and scheduled meeting times.

According to Adrienne McCormick, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, faculty members will build their fall course plans and determine how the final weeks of course material will be covered remotely. “This course planning will differ significantly from the spring since the hybrid content delivery will be planned from the start. The expectations for student work during that time after Thanksgiving will depend on the courses they are taking, but in general, the final week of content and all final exams will be delivered and completed via remote instruction,” said McCormick.

While fall planning continues, Winthrop looks to welcome a small group of students back onto campus for a few Summer Session D courses, which begin on July 13. Those few in-person courses include three sections of anatomy and physiology and the corresponding labs and a graduate education course. All other Summer Session offerings will be delivered remotely. Additionally, during the month of July, there will be select student and faculty in-person research taking place on campus as part of the Eagle STEM Scholars program and the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE).

Winthrop’s new fall academic schedule meets requirements for federal financial aid and for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Please note the amended schedule:

  • Aug. 24:Classes begin
  • Sept. 7:Labor Day; classes will be held
  • Oct. 16-19:Fall break is canceled; classes will be held
  • Nov. 3: General Election Day; classes will be held
  • Nov. 24:Face-to-face instruction will end
  • Nov. 25-29: Thanksgiving break; no classes
  • Nov. 30-Dec. 7:Remote class days
  • Dec. 8: Study day
  • Dec. 9-15: Final exam period

11 a.m.

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

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting 25,412 cases of COVID-19 across the state, up 784 from Wednesday.

There have been 33 new deaths attributed to COVID-19 since Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 827.

The state reached its highest number of reported hospitalizations for severe complications due to COVID-19, with 708 being reported by the NCDHHS.

NCDHHS also reported 375,192 tests have been completed. The state reported 11,036 total tests were done in the past 24 hours, which is above the state’s benchmark to test between 5,000 and 7,000 people every day.

Mecklenburg County continues to lead the state in both cases and deaths with at least 3,605 and 85 respectively.

Confirmed cases by age:

0-17 (6%)

18-24 (9%)

25-49 (44%)

50-64 (23%)

65-74 (8%)

75 or older (10%)

COVID-19 deaths by age:

25-49 (4%)

50-64 (12%)

65-74 (21%)

75 or older (62%)

Cases by race:

White: 53%

Black: 31%

Cases by gender:

Women: 51%

Men: 49%

(Men account for 52% of deaths)

Cases and deaths in congregate living settings:

There have been 86 outbreaks in nursing homes across the state, resulting in 3,120 cases and 436 deaths (Anson, Burke (2); Cabarrus (2); Catawba; Cleveland; Iredell; Mecklenburg (9); Rowan (4); Union (2)).

There have been 37 outbreaks at residential care facilities across the state, resulting in 690 cases and 61 deaths (Cabarrus (2); Mecklenburg (6); Stanly; Union).

HOW ARE WE DOING? As the state looks to go through the phases of reopening, officials are looking to meet certain benchmarks. Here’s how we’re doing on some of those:

Decrease in percent of positive tests? This metric has been level so far this week, with percent positive around 7 or 8 percent.

Hospitalizations decreasing? For the third time this week, the state has broken its record of COVID-19 hospitalizations with 708 currently hospitalized. Still, 24 percent of inpatient beds and 18 percent of ICU beds in the state are available. NCDHHS reports 76 percent of ventilators are available.

Testing capacity? The state met its goal in the last 24 hours.

Contract tracers? The state still only has 250 and is working to double this workforce to 500. Recently, 152 new contact tracers were hired through the Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative, but it is unclear whether these recent hires have been deployed.

PPE Supplies? Though the state still does not have a 30-day supply of surgical gowns on hand, supplies have now reached a 29 day supply--a dramatic increase from a 0 day supply last week. However, the state’s stockpile of N-95 respirators has decreased to a 19-day supply.

10:30 a.m.

NC Senate Passes Bill to Allow Safe Outdoor Seating for Bars/Restaurants

The NC Senate voted Thursday to allow bars to reopen in outdoor spaces, overriding Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order that has closed them since March. It would allow bars to serve patrons in outdoor spaces, permanent or temporary, at 50% of the capacity of their indoor area, within social distancing guidelines from the CDC and the state Dept of Health and Human Services.

House Bill 536 would also allow restaurants to set up temporary outdoor spaces to serve customers in the same way.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Rick Gunn (R-Alamance), passed by a 42-5 margin.

Cooper has not said whether he supports or opposes the measure, which would amend current policy from his executive orders. Right now, Cooper permits restaurants to operate indoors or outdoors at 50 percent capacity but prohibits bars from operating under the same rules.

Sen. Gunn's bill would treat bars and restaurants the same, and allow them to operate outdoors at 50 percent of total capacity.

Sen. Gunn said, “My bill treats restaurants and bars the same, and it follows the lead of other jurisdictions by allowing safe outdoor seating options. This is a lifeline to a dying industry.”

10 a.m.

Mecklenburg County Assessor’s Office Phasing in Field Services

Starting Friday, May 29, the Mecklenburg County Assessor’s Office will restart their field services while maintaining social distancing. Since March and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual services have been available online and by phone by calling 980-314-4226. All other County Assessor’s Office services will continue to be provided virtually at the current time.

Field operation staff will be visiting homeowners, tenants, commercial property managers, and new construction personnel. If you have taken out a permit, you may be receiving a visit from an appraiser. The Mecklenburg County Assessor’s Office will have appraisal staff out in the community to review new construction. They will be practicing the 3Ws including Wear, Wait and Wash. Appraisers will be wearing masks whenever out of their vehicles, practicing social distancing by waiting 6 feet apart from others and washing their hands frequently. They will have sanitizer in their vehicles to use when they are not near a sink.

9:45 a.m.

Taiwan is sending 100,000 masks to help North Carolina in the fight against COVID-19.

Daniel C.M. Hung, Acting Director-General of the Taipei Economic & Cultural Office, presented the masks to Quincy Davis with North Carolina Emergency Management.

8:30 a.m.

Roughly 2.1 million people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, a sign that companies are still slashing jobs in the face of a deep recession even as more businesses reopen and rehire some laid-off employees.

About 41 million people have now applied for aid since the virus outbreak intensified in March, though not all of them are still unemployed. The Labor Department’s report Thursday includes a count of all the people now receiving unemployment aid: 21 million. That is a rough measure of the number of unemployed Americans.

The national jobless rate was 14.7% in April, the highest since the Great Depression, and many economists expect it will near 20% in May.

States are gradually restarting their economies by letting some businesses -- from gyms, retail shops and restaurants to hair and nail salons -- reopen with some restrictions. As some of these employers, including automakers, have recalled a portion of their laid-off employees, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits has fallen.

First-time applications for unemployment aid, though still high by historical standards, have now fallen for eight straight weeks. In addition to those who applied last week, an additional 1.2 million applied under a new program for self-employed and gig workers, who are eligible for jobless aid for the first time. These figures aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations, so the government doesn’t include them in the overall data.

Analysts are monitoring incoming economic data to gauge how consumers are responding as many retail establishments gradually reopen. Jobs won’t return in any significant way as long as Americans remain slow to resume spending at their previous levels.

Data from Chase Bank credit and debit cards shows that consumers have slowly increased their spending since the government distributed stimulus checks in mid-April. Consumer spending had plunged 40% in March compared with a year earlier but has since rebounded to 20% below year-ago levels.

Most of that increase has occurred in online shopping, which has recovered to pre-virus levels after having tumbled about 20%. But offline spending, which makes up the vast majority of consumer spending, is still down 35% from a year ago, according to Chase, after having plummeted 50% at its lowest point.

8 a.m.

CVS Health Opens 55 New Drive-Thru Test Sites in North Carolina

On Friday, May 29 CVS Health will open 55 new COVID-19 test sites at select CVS Pharmacy drive-thru locations across North Carolina.

These new sites will utilize self-swab tests and deliver on the company’s commitment to establish 1,000 locations across the country by the end of May as originally announced on April 27. These new test sites help enable a goal of processing up to 1.5 million tests per month, subject to availability of supplies and lab capacity.

“CVS Health has been at the forefront of helping our nation scale-up COVID-19 testing capabilities, and we’re proud to meet our goal of establishing 1,000 testing sites in communities across the country,” Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Health. “Opening access to testing in more locations using our drive-thru window represents an important milestone in our response to the pandemic. We remain grateful for the daily efforts and sacrifices of our front-line colleagues who make the continued expansion of our testing possible.”

More than half of the company’s 1,000 test sites will serve communities with the greatest need for support, as measured by the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index. The index tracks a variety of census variables including poverty, lack of access to transportation, and crowded housing that may weaken a community’s ability to prepare for and recover from hazardous events like natural disasters and disease outbreaks.

“We are pleased that CVS will be opening testing sites across North Carolina with a special focus on communities in need,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “We know that more testing is key to beating COVID-19 and we look forward to continuing to work with CVS and other partners to meet and exceed our testing goals."

Self-swab tests will be available to individuals meeting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria, in addition to state and age guidelines. Patients must register in advance at CVS.com beginning Friday, May 29 to schedule an appointment. Patients will be required to stay in their cars and will be directed to the pharmacy drive-thru window, where they will be provided with a test kit and given instructions, and a CVS Pharmacy team member will observe the self-swab process to ensure it is done properly. Tests will be sent to an independent, third-party lab for processing and the results will be available in approximately three days.

Testing will not take place inside any retail locations, and CVS Pharmacy, HealthHUB and MinuteClinic will continue to serve customers and patients.

The new testing sites in North Carolina include:

  • CVS Pharmacy, 1550 North Sandhills Boulevard, Aberdeen, NC 28315
  • CVS Pharmacy, 440 East Dixie Drive, Asheboro, NC 27203
  • CVS Pharmacy, 1080 Hendersonville Road, Asheville, NC 28803
  • CVS Pharmacy, 1703 Live Oak Street, Beaufort, NC 28516
  • CVS Pharmacy, 2147 Blowing Rock Road, Boone, NC 28607
  • CVS Pharmacy, 2017 West Webb Avenue, Burlington, NC 27215
  • CVS Pharmacy, 5859 Tryon Road, Cary, NC 27518
  • CVS Pharmacy, 2797 Highway 55, Cary, NC 27519
  • CVS Pharmacy, 7025 Winston Hill Drive, Cary, NC 27519
  • CVS Pharmacy, 2994 Kildaire Farm Road, Cary, NC 27518
  • CVS Pharmacy, 11314 US 15-501, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
  • CVS Pharmacy, 9628 Rea Road, Charlotte, NC 28277
  • CVS Pharmacy, 115 West Arrowood Road, Charlotte, NC 28217
  • CVS Pharmacy, 10730 Providence Road, Charlotte, NC 28262
  • CVS Pharmacy, 9915 Park Cedar Drive, Charlotte, NC 28210
  • CVS Pharmacy, 9805 Rocky River Road, Charlotte, NC 28215
  • CVS Pharmacy, 11430 North Tryon Street, Charlotte, NC 28262
  • CVS Pharmacy, 8420 Steele Creek Road, Charlotte, NC 28273
  • CVS Pharmacy, 4098 Houston Field Court, Charlotte, NC 28277
  • CVS Pharmacy, 32 Village Center Drive, Clayton, NC 27527
  • CVS Pharmacy, 1260 Union Street, Concord, NC 28025
  • CVS Pharmacy, 2002 Shiloah Church Road, Davidson, NC 28036
  • CVS Pharmacy, 930 Martin Luther King Jr, Durham, NC 27713
  • CVS Pharmacy, 6911 Garrett Road, Durham, NC 27707
  • CVS Pharmacy, 5311 Roxboro Road, Durham, NC 27712
  • CVS Pharmacy, 3573 Hillsborough Road, Durham, NC 27705
  • CVS Pharmacy, 3362 Bragg Boulevard, Fayetteville, NC 28303
  • CVS Pharmacy, 100 Law Road, Fayetteville, NC 28311
  • CVS Pharmacy, 7469 Rockfish Road, Fayetteville, NC 28306
  • CVS Pharmacy, 790 Timber Drive, Garner, NC 27529
  • CVS Pharmacy, 3658 South New Hope Road, Gastonia, NC 28056
  • CVS Pharmacy, 4310 West Wendover Avenue, Greensboro, NC 27407
  • CVS Pharmacy, 2210 Fleming Road, Greensboro, NC 27410
  • CVS Pharmacy, 1605 Four Seasons Boulevard, Hendersonville, NC 28792
  • CVS Pharmacy, 1220 Highway 321 NW, Hickory, NC 28601
  • CVS Pharmacy, 1132 East Cutler Crossing, Leland, NC 28451
  • CVS Pharmacy, 3610 Mathews Mint Road, Mathews, NC 28105
  • CVS Pharmacy, 3310 Siskey Parkway, Matthews, NC 28105
  • CVS Pharmacy, 5020 Arendell Street, Morehead, NC 28557
  • CVS Pharmacy, 2340 Spring Forest Road, Raleigh, NC 27615
  • CVS Pharmacy, 6840 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27612
  • CVS Pharmacy, 3500 Wake Forest Road, Raleigh, NC 27609
  • CVS Pharmacy, 13304 Leesville Church Road, Raleigh, NC 27617
  • CVS Pharmacy, 3051 New Bern Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27606
  • CVS Pharmacy, 105 East College Avenue, Shelby, NC 28152
  • CVS Pharmacy, 442 Highway 27 South, Stanley, NC 28164
  • CVS Pharmacy, 178 Turnersburg Highway, Statesville, NC 28625
  • CVS Pharmacy, 4601 US Hwy. 220 North, Summerfield, NC 27358
  • CVS Pharmacy, 245 Roosevelt Ave., East, Wake Forest, NC 27587
  • CVS Pharmacy, 1142 North Broom Street, Waxhaw, NC 28173
  • CVS Pharmacy, 4600 Oleander Drive, Wilmington, NC 28403
  • CVS Pharmacy, 2302 South 17th Street, Wilmington, NC 28401
  • CVS Pharmacy, 606 Coliseum Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27106
  • CVS Pharmacy, 3333 Robinhood Road, Winston-Salem, NC 27106
  • CVS Pharmacy, 5001 Country Club Road, Winston-Salem, NC 27104

A complete list of CVS Pharmacy drive-thru test sites can be found here.

More information on steps CVS Health has taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including support for health care providers and clinicians facing financial and administrative strain, is available at the company’s frequently updated COVID-19 resource center.

7:45 a.m.

A vote is expected on Thursday to determine whether North Carolina bars closed due to the pandemic could again serve patrons outdoors. One of two bills that cleared a Senate committee on Tuesday would allow bars whose doors remain completely closed under Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order to sell beverages outside, whether on a patio or under a tent.

Under the current policy, bars wouldn’t be able to open back up until Phase 3, which is several weeks away. Restaurants and salons were allowed to reopen with the introduction of Phase 2.

7:15 a.m.

New drivers in North Carolina can’t get a driver’s license because they can’t take the final test. In March, the DMV suspended road tests because of the pandemic. New drivers are frustrated because there doesn’t seem to be a timetable for when road tests will resume.

But help may soon be on the way after four bills introduced in the General Assembly look to loosen restrictions that are currently in place.

House Bill 1213 would waive road test requirements for applicants if all requirements are met for the license as well as the consent of a parent or guardian. If passed, the law would expire Sept. 30.

Senate Bill 843 would temporarily waive road test requirements for Level 2 limited provisional licenses, which is available to teens ages 16 and 17 that need to hold their learner’s permit for at least a year.

The bill would also provide $200,000 to allow crowded driver’s license offices to remain open longer since there will likely be an increased demand due to the agency’s closure. If passed, the bill would go into effect July 1.

House Bill 1189 would provide accommodations for students that completed at least 20 hours of driver education program between Jan. 2020 and March 2020. Students who have not completed 20 hours of coursework will have to pass a proficiency examination. Students must complete at least six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction before they can be issued a North Carolina Driver Education Completion Certificate. Also included in the bill is a $10 million fund to aid driver education.

Senate Bill 833 would reduce the time teen drivers need to wait before upgrading from the limited learner’s permit to provisional drivers licenses. If the bill were to pass, it would apply to teens turning 15 on or after March 1 and would expire on June 30, 2021.

6:30 a.m.

American Airlines will reduce management and support staff by 30%. Charlotte Douglas International Airport is one of the hubs for the airline company.

Below is the letter from Elise Eberwein, American Airlines Executive Vice President - People and Communications:

May 27, 2020

Management and support staff (MSS) team:

Since the start of this pandemic, each day has brought a new challenge. Our team has tackled every obstacle with incredible tenacity while staying true to our mission to care for people on life’s journey. While navigating this pandemic, we are committed to three goals:

1. Ensuring adequate cash to weather the downturn;

2. Reducing our cash burn by removing as much expense as possible; and

3. Restoring confidence in air travel.

Although our pre-pandemic liquidity, the significant financial assistance provided by the government, and the cash we’ve raised in the capital markets provide a foundation for stability, we need to reduce our cost structure, including our most significant expense — the cost of compensation and benefits. And we must plan for operating a smaller airline for the foreseeable future.

We have already taken steps to prepare for this new reality, with nearly 39,000 team members electing to take a voluntary leave or early retirement. Fleet retirement accelerations are underway, and we will fly roughly 100 fewer aircraft next summer — mostly widebodies — than we had originally planned. Additionally, running a smaller airline means we will need a management and support staff team that is roughly 30% leaner.

A more efficient leadership team begins at the top, and we are restructuring all levels around key future leaders and functions, beginning with our officer team. We will announce a reorganized officer team soon, and those leaders will be restructuring at the next levels shortly thereafter.

In addition to the plans to reduce our MSS team by 30%, we are also announcing other cost-saving measures. These include:

  • Suspending the 2020 MSS merit program;
  • Requiring MSS to take 50% of their vacation by Sept. 30 and suspending the vacation rollover policy so that no unused vacation days roll into 2021; and
  • Canceling the 2020 L5 and above short-term incentive plan, which was scheduled to pay a portion of the target as a result of meeting operational metrics.

As part of creating a more efficient management structure, we are opening a new voluntary early out program for MSS team members. Details can be found on Jetnet here, and the window to volunteer will remain open through the end of the day on June 10.

Once volunteers are known, leaders will then finalize the remainder of their go-forward MSS teams. If there are not enough early out volunteers, we will have to take the difficult step of involuntary separations. Those decisions will be communicated in July, though impacted team members will remain on payroll through Sept. 30, 2020, and will receive full pay and benefits through the expiration of the CARES Act Payroll Support Program. While no severance will be paid, in addition to full pay through September, we will also provide these team members with one year of D2R travel status as well as access to COBRA health coverage for 18 months. We offer this transparency and timing so those who may be impacted can make the best decision for themselves.

Once we ensure we have the right size and structure in place for our MSS team, we can begin the work for our frontline team, recognizing that we will be a smaller airline, with fewer routes and fewer flights. While we are still working through the details of our future schedule, we plan to open a new voluntary leave and early out program for frontline team members in June. We will have additional details on these programs in the coming weeks. As we have previously stated, our preferred outcome is to properly size our frontline team for the future without having to implement involuntary furloughs. This is a goal, though, not a commitment, and a stretch goal at that. We will be working with our unions in the weeks and months ahead in hopes of developing programs to facilitate that goal.

In difficult times it is even more important that we stay true to our purpose of caring for people on life’s journey, even when that journey is a very difficult one. There is no doubt this is going to be a painful time for all, especially for our departing colleagues, who have given American Airlines their all and are leaving through no fault of their own. They deserve our respect and gratitude. Most of all, they are owed our renewed commitment and our collective effort to return American to profitability and growth as quickly as possible.

Thank you

6 a.m.

THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES

North Carolina Gov. Cooper is sharing the state’s next COVID-19 update at 2 p.m. on Thursday, a day after no update was given. Cooper and the state’s coronavirus task force’s briefing will broadcast on Channel 9 and streamed on wsoctv.com.

The state continues in Phase 2 of its reopening plan a day after it set a record for COVID-19 related hospitalizations.

The death toll surpassed the 100,000 mark in the United States on Wednesday, the highest of any country in the world. In North Carolina, 702 people are hospitalized from COVID-19. That’s an increase of 81 from the previous day. At least 488 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina yesterday, bringing the state total to 24,628 cases. At the same time, the state reported 28 more deaths, for a total of 794, and 11,825 more completed tests.

We’re expected to learn today that another two million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the last week. That would bring the total to nearly 41 million since the pandemic started in March.

The University of South Carolina will start requiring people to wear face masks on campus starting Monday. They’ll have to wear masks when it’s difficult to socially distance or if there’s a high risk of infection. The school will also offer free testing next week at Colonial Life Arena, and there will be more hand sanitizing stations installed.