Coronavirus local updates: Nearly 60 homeless in Mecklenburg County suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19

More than 1 million people worldwide -- including nearly 237,000 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 brace for unprecedented patient surges.

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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 1,584 Wednesday. North Carolina is now reporting 10 deaths, 26,243 completed tests and 204 people currently in the hospital.
  • Several counties have a stay-at-home order already in effect. A stay-at-home order has already been issued for Mecklenburg County, Gaston County and Cabarrus County.
  • Gov. Roy Cooper and the state’s coronavirus task force announced a statewide stay-at-home order which is currently in effect.
  • Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered the closure of non-essential businesses in South Carolina.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the United States here.

Important Links & Updates:

Live local updates from Thursday:

10:50 p.m.

10 p.m.

Nearly 60 homeless people have either been suspected or confirmed to have the coronavirus, or have been exposed to someone who has, a North Carolina health director said Thursday.

Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris told members of the General Assembly that 58 people — all but one who are homeless — are staying in a hotel leased by the county for people who have tested positive for COVID-19, display symptoms and are awaiting results, or have been exposed to someone with the virus and need somewhere to isolate, according to officials.

Harris said the county is working with shelters to move out people with symptoms and reduce the risk of additional spread. County officials said in late March they had leased hotels to isolate individuals who display COVID-19 symptoms and to reduce crowding in the shelters.

8:20 p.m.

As a part of the CARES Act that President Trump signed into law, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration is making $25 billion available to public transportation systems, including $63.62 million available for public transportation systems in the Charlotte area as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public transit agencies in the Charlotte area will be able to apply for these federal funds, and upon review and approval by FTA and Department of Labor will be reimbursed for COVID-19 related expenses.

FTA will review applications through its formula grant process.

8 p.m.:

Some University of South Carolina students will get refunds for some on-campus services that have been shut down because of the coronavirus.

The university said students who live in dorms, have meal plans or have parking permits will get prorated refunds.

Those will cover March 16 through the end of the semester.

Most students can expect to get money back by the March 22.

The State newspaper reports that students will not get tuition or fees back.

7:30 p.m.

Dept. of Public Safety statement: At approximately 12:15 p.m. on April 2, Neuse Correctional Institution Warden Morris Reid and members of his custody and medical staffs attempted to speak with a group of offenders outside of their living dormitory to explain that proper CDC guidelines were being instituted after an offender there had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

Other offenders from different dorms then came outside and would not go back inside despite orders from the warden and other staff.

The appropriate security measures and appropriate levels of force were used to restore order, in what can be best characterized as an organized offender protest. No serious injuries were reported at the Goldsboro prison.

7:15 p.m.

COVID-19 in Charlotte area counties:

Alexander 2

Anson 3

Ashe 0

Avery 0

Burke 9

Cabarrus 57

Caldwell 3

Catawba 16

Chester SC 6

Chesterfield SC 10

Cleveland 7

Gaston 34

Iredell 36

Lancaster SC 26

Lincoln 9

Meck 533

Richmond 0

Rowan 37

Stanly 5

Union 59

Watauga 7

York SC 66

5:30 p.m.

Atruim and Novant Health systems have asked Mecklenburg County and its’ partners to build a Mass Care field hospital to treat as many as 3,000 additional COVID-19 patients during the anticipated surge of the virus.

In a joint letter today to Mecklenberg County Manager Dena Diorio, Atrium CEO Eugene Woods and Novant CEO Carl Armato say that in spite of canceling non-emergency visits, providing thousands of virtual visits, and increasing hospital bed capacity by 50 percent in the last several weeks, there is a potential need for as many as 3,000 additional hospital beds.

“We have been working with Emergency Management at the state and local levels to prepare for this potential since the incident began weeks ago, said Diorio. “And as we have done from the beginning, we are planning for the worst and hoping for the best.”

As of 4:30 pm, 533 Mecklenburg County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, with three deaths reported.

Earlier today, UNC Charlotte notified students living in six dorms to remove their belongings to ensure the community has the resources to support Emergency Management, the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Guard.

4:48 p.m.

Officials have confirmed 533 people in Mecklenburg County have tested positive for COVID-19.

4:40 p.m.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao has announced $63.6 million in funding to help public transportation systems in Charlotte respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The allocation is a part of the $25 billion announced to help the country’s public transportation systems respond to the pandemic.

“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 depend on them,” said Chao.

4:27 p.m.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reported 261 additional cases of COVID-19.

This brings the total number of cases in South Carolina to 1,554, with a positive case in every county in the state.

“There are now documented cases of COVID-19 in every county across our state,” Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC physician. “The level in which it continues to spread will hinge on all of our actions. Please do your part and stay home and limit your close contact with others.”

County-by-county breakdown of new cases:

  • Abbeville County: 2 cases
  • Aiken County: 4 cases
  • Anderson County: 10 cases
  • Bamberg County: 1 case
  • Beaufort County: 29 cases
  • Berkeley County: 15 cases
  • Charleston County: 41 cases
  • Cherokee County: 1 case
  • Chester County: 3 cases
  • Chesterfield County: 1 case
  • Clarendon County: 3 cases
  • Colleton County: 1 case
  • Darlington County: 4 cases
  • Dorchester County: 8 cases
  • Fairfield County: 1 case
  • Florence County: 5 cases
  • Georgetown County: 1 case
  • Greenville County: 25 cases
  • Greenwood County: 2 cases
  • Hampton County: 1 case
  • Horry County: 8 cases
  • Jasper County: 3 cases
  • Kershaw County: 13 cases
  • Lancaster County: 9 cases
  • Lee County: 3 cases
  • Lexington County: 9 cases
  • Marlboro County: 1 case
  • McCormick County: 1 case
  • Newberry County: 2 cases
  • Pickens County: 1 case
  • Richland County: 24 cases
  • Saluda County: 1 case
  • Spartanburg County: 5 cases
  • Sumter County: 18 cases
  • Union County: 2 cases
  • Williamsburg County: 3 cases

Health officials also confirmed five additional deaths due to COVID-19.

According to officials, the patients were all elderly and had underlying health conditions. Two were residents of Florence County, one of Anderson County, one Horry County, and one of Sumter County.

3:36 p.m.

Officials are reporting 37 positive cases of the coronavirus in Rowan County.

According to officials, 13 of the cases were travel-related and 24 cases were due to community spread.

3:25 p.m.

Health officials have confirmed an additional positive case of COVIF-19 in Burke County. This brings the total in the county to 9 cases.

3:18 p.m.

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office announced a Wellpath nurse has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Sheriff’s Office contracts with Wellpath LLC to provide health care services to residents at the main Detention Center Central and the Juvenile Detention Center.

The nurse had not been on personal leave and not worked since March 3 and came back March 22. That day, she passed through standard screening and was not showing any symptoms, officials said.

About 20 minutes later, officials said the nurse reported differently and was sent home.

She tested positive for the coronavirus the next day, according to officials.

Officials said the nurse only came into contact with another nurse for a short period that day. That nurse has also been quarantined as a precaution and has been tested for the virus.

2:55 p.m.

Tests performed at Wake Forest Baptist Health show the type of cloths used in homemade masks is the key to how effective they are, according to doctors.

“We saw the possibility that we could face a shortage of surgical masks in the hospital and wanted to investigate the possibility of using cloth masks as an alternative as long as they worked and provided good protection for our doctors, nurses and patients,” said Dr. Scott Segal, chairman of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist, who conceived of the idea.

According to Segal, the best homemade masks achieved 79 percent filtration as compared to surgical masks (62 percent to 65 percent) and N95 masks (97 percent).

But other homemade masks tested performed significantly worse, sometimes even with as little as 1 percent filtration.

The best-performing design was constructed of two layers of high-quality, heavyweight “quilter’s cotton” with a thread count of 180 or more, and those with especially tight weave and thicker thread such as batiks.

A double-layer mask with a simple cotton outer layer and an inner layer of flannel also performed well, he said.

Noncommercially produced masks are not currently in use at Wake Forest Baptist due to regulatory restrictions, Segal said.

2:28 p.m.

The North Carolina Health Plan announced it is waiving the cost of treatment for people diagnosed with COVID-19.

This includes deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance.

The Plan had previously announced that it was also covering the cost associated with the testing of the coronavirus.

Officials said the waiver will be effective through June 1.

2:03 p.m.

The North Carolina director of emergency management, Mike Sprayberry said a request was submitted to Federal Emergency Management Agency to open a sheltering program with thousands of rooms for people affected by COVID-19.

This program would provide individual rooms in places like hotels, dormitories or other buildings for people who have been exposed or tested positive for COVID-19 but do not need hospitalizations.

Implementing this kind of temporary housing would help reduce the surge of people to the state’s hospitals, and help people who are sick get the care they need, according to Sprayberry.

The North Carolina Division of Employment Security Assistant Secretary, Lockhart Taylor, said more than 355,000 unemployment claims have been made since the crisis began.

Taylor said the governor authorized three new federal unemployment programs.

The programs include an additional $600 in weekly benefits, 13 additional weeks of benefits and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is for people who are not typically eligible for state unemployment benefits. This should provide coverage for the self-employed or independent contractors.

The North Carolina Commissioner of Prisons, Todd Ishee, announced four inmates in the state prisons have tested positive for COVID-19.

Ishee also said four North Carolina prison staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus.

According to Ishee, they started screenings on March 31, because of a shortage of testing supplies.

12:20 p.m.

The Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee has been postponed to the week of Aug. 17 amid the coronavirus crisis, according to senior convention and party officials.

That is one week before the scheduled RepublicanNational Convention in Charlotte.

12:05 p.m.

Amendments to Stay at Home Order Regarding Car Sales

The following are amendments to the proposed Detailed Plan of Action, originally included in the March 31, 2020, correspondence from the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association and the Greater Charlotte Auto Dealers Association.

Detailed Plan of Action

1) Adherence to the following requirements specified in Executive Order 121 for those businesses classified and Essential Businesses and Operations:

  • Requires COVID-19 Essential Businesses and Operations, to the maximum extent possible, to direct employees to work from home or telework.
  • Requires COVID-19 Essential Businesses and Operations, to the extent practicable, to maintain the following Social Distancing Requirements: a. Maintaining at least six (6) feet distancing from other individuals; b. Washing hands using soap and water for at least twenty (20) seconds as frequently as possible and numerous times throughout the day or the use of hand sanitizer; c. Regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces; [Dealership will assign at least one employee whose responsibility is solely to regularly clean high-touch services throughout the dealership.] d. Facilitating online or remote access by customers if possible. [Completion of as much of the selling process online and through the mail as legally permissible.]

In addition to the Governor’s Executive Order 121, the following other practices will be implemented:

2) Motor vehicle sales conducted by appointment.

3) Posting online whether a facility is open and how best to reach the facility and continue services by phone or remotely.

4) Designate six-foot distances with signage, tape, or by other means, six-foot spacing for employees and customers to maintain appropriate distance and maintaining at least six-foot social distancing from other individuals.

5) No more than 10 people, including customers and employees, in the showroom at any one time.

6) All customer lounges closed.

7) Tables available outside the showroom for customers who wish to conduct a transaction outside of the showroom.

8) Hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available for employees and customers.

9) No test drives permitted unless expressly requested by the purchaser and only conducted in adherence to the following requirements:

a. Vehicle is completely sanitized with COVID-19 approved products after every test drive with a card stating time it was driven and when it was sanitized.

b. No sales representative riding in vehicle with a customer.

c. Customer to wear gloves that are provided by dealership while test-driving vehicle.

d. Seat mats to be used for the test drive.

e. Vehicles test-driven will not be driven by another potential customer for 72 hours.

10) To the extent legally possible, conduct off-site/home delivery of vehicles.

11) Adhere to CDC recommendations for maintaining a safe workplace, including the measures referenced above as well as:

a. Identify customers and employees who have viral symptoms and prohibit them from entering the dealership.

b. Require what the CDC calls “respiratory etiquette,” including covering coughs and sneezes

c. Provide customers and employees with tissues and trash receptacles.

d. Prohibit employees from using other employees’ phones, desks, offices, work tools and equipment.

e. Prohibit handshaking and other physical contact between individuals.

f. Post handwashing signs around the dealership.

11:05 a.m.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says there are now 1,857 cases of COVID-19 across 83 North Carolina counties, including at least 495 in Mecklenburg County. 184 people are currently hospitalized and 16 people have died.

There have been 28,679 completed tests.

42% of those who have tested positive are in the 25-49 age group.

75% of those who have died were 65 or older.

48% of positive cases are men and 5% women.

The state currently has 2,818 ventilators. Currently, 624 are being used by a patient.

10:50 a.m.

Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris presented updated figures today to lawmakers in Raleigh

493 cases, 3 deaths. more than 190 cases over the last three days.

“We have accelerated quickly,” she said. “More than 80 of the cases are in those between 20-59 years of age. People 60 or older have more complications and are hospitalized more. 25% hospitalized, many improve, get discharged then have to go back.”

Harris said Mecklenburg County Public Health got more than 300 cases in less than 20 days. They are trying to get the message out to young people using channels they’ve created for HIV messaging.

“The numbers I’m seeing now is what’s keeping me up at night,” Harris said, as she began to cry. “We will need state and federal help.”

She apologized for getting emotional before saying Mecklenburg County Public Health has opened hotels to address quarantine and isolation for those who have nowhere else to be. “We have COVID-19 in our homeless population now.”

Harris said she worries about hospitals. They likely have a decent amount of capacity for local people, but folks from other counties and states come there for care.

“Unfortunately, the weekend was beautiful, people got out into parks, were using equipment, courts, we needed to close,” Harris said.

When a lawmaker asked, “How are we so short if vendors are stepping up to provide supplies? Is it like toilet paper?” Harris answered: “We’re burning through PPEs (personal protective equipment) in local hospitals and also for coronavirus patients in the hospital.”

“We set up a mass care site, we need to have resources to do that before we do it,” Harris said. “That’s part of our ask. We used to have half of the state’s total coronavirus cases, but now we have a third. The state is catching up with us."

10:32 p.m.

Gaston County confirms first COVID-19 related death

The Gaston County Department of Health & Human Services (Gaston DHHS) is confirming the first death associated with novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19) in Gaston County. Gaston DHHS was alerted to the death after the individual passed away Wednesday evening, April 1st. The individual was in their 80s and had previous underlying health issues.

“We are saddened by this death and our hearts go out to the family, friends and community,” said Chris Dobbins, Gaston DHHS Director. “We know we have to take this threat seriously, not just for our own health but for the health and safety of our most vulnerable populations. This is a sobering reminder of what’s at stake and why it’s so important for our community to continue to support our local efforts and each other."

The entire Gaston County Board of Commissioners wishes to extend its condolences to the family in this difficult time.

“We mourn today with the family members of this individual,” Board Chairman Tracy Philbeck said. “We pray for God’s mercy to be upon them as they grieve.”

As of 9 a.m. April 2, 2020, Gaston County has had 34 positive cases of COVID-19 with 15 individuals having recovered.

9:30 a.m.

UNCC says it may become necessary for South Village residence halls (Holshouser, Hunt, Laurel, Levine, Sanford and Scott) to be used in conjunction with Mecklenburg County or the state of North Carolina’s planning and response efforts for COVID-19.

9:25 am.

Each weekday, UNC-TV is streaming educational content for kids. Grades 4-8 tune in 8 a.m-1 p.m. Grades 9-12 tune in 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

9:20 a.m.

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College donated personal protective equipment to local hospitals including Novant, Atrium and W.G. Hefner VA Medical Center.

The gloves, masks and other supplies are normally used in labs for the college’s health programs but those are online.

9 a.m.

Granville County is reporting 18 positive cases of COVID-19. Half of those are inmates at Butner.

8:30 a.m.

A record 6.6 million seek US jobless aid as layoffs mount

More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, far exceeding a record high set just last week, a sign that layoffs are accelerating in the midst of the coronavirus.

The job cuts are mounting against the backdrop of economies in the United States and abroad that have almost certainly sunk into a severe recession as businesses close across the world.

The figure for last week is much higher than the previous record of 3.3 million reported for the previous week. The surging layoffs have led many economists to envision as many as 20 million lost jobs by the end of April. The unemployment rate could spike to as high as 15% this month, above the previous record of 10.8% set during a deep recession in 1982.

Many employers are slashing their payrolls to try to stay afloat because their revenue has collapsed, especially at restaurants, hotels, gyms, movie theaters and other venues that depend on face-to-face interaction. Auto sales have sunk, and factories have closed.

Stay-at-home orders, imposed by most U.S. states, have intensified pressure on businesses, most of which face rent, loans and other bills that must be paid.

7:10 a.m.

A local doctor has organized a donation drive to collect protective gear for healthcare workers. Starting today, the Goodwill store on Wilkinson Boulevard in west Charlotte and the Goodwill on Lancaster Highway in Ballantyne will accept donations Thursdays and Saturdays from noon until 4 p.m.

7 a.m.

Thursday morning marks one week since Mecklenburg County leaders issued a stay-at-home order. The county is reporting 465 positive cases of COVID-19. Two people have died.

6 a.m.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force projects up to 240,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States.

President Donald Trump says he's not calling for nationwide stay-at-home restrictions. The president says he wants to give governors flexibility.

Trump sis day he is considering domestic travel restrictions and limiting flights and train rides between cities considered hotspots.

Part of the issue comes down to who is fueling this pandemic. There's more data showing healthy people who do not show symptoms are furthering the spread.

In the U.S., the CDC estimates a quarter of coronavirus carriers have no symptoms.

10:45 p.m. (Wednesday)

April 1 COVID-19

NC Cases: 1,676

Top 5 counties: Meck 465, Wake 213, Durham 141, Guilford 55, Cabarrus & Union 52

Hospitalizations: 204

Deaths: 15

SC Cases: 1,293

Top 5 counties: Charleston 190, Richland 176, Greenville 129, Kershaw 116, Beaufort 101

Deaths: 26

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