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Coronavirus local updates: Restrictions in South Carolina to be lifted on amusement parks, sporting events

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nearly 5 million people worldwide -- including more than 1.5 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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Mecklenburg County: (TBA)

North Carolina Task Force: (5 p.m.)

South Carolina Task Force (4 p.m.)

White House Task Force: (TBA)

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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 20,122 Wednesday. North Carolina is now reporting 702 deaths, 277,603 completed tests and 554 people currently in the hospital.
  • 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 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 Wednesday:

9:30 p.m.

The NCAA says college football and basketball players can return to on-campus facilities on June 1 for voluntary activities, as long as the facilities follow safety guidelines.

5:45 p.m.

The number of recovered COVID-19 patients in Caldwell County has increased to 52. To be counted as recovered and be eligible to return to work, patients must meet all of the following criteria:

  • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared
  • At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications
  • Improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath)
  • Four new cases were reported today, three in the 28645 Zip Code and one in the 28630

5:30 p.m.

Regal is closing its Manor Twin theater on Providence Road and will offer “art and independent film” at other Regal theatres in Charlotte. The owners of the property are considering other alternatives.

“EFC is proud to have been a part of the long legacy of the Manor theater, first as operators and more recently as landlord. I know Regal will do a great job of serving Charlotte’s art community in its other venues,” stated Josh Page, COO at Eastern Federal. “As owners of the property for over 75 years, we are going to carefully consider our alternatives and be very mindful of the importance of this property to Charlotte.”

The classic movie theater in Myers Park, complete with a marque on the exterior, has been a staple in Charlotte since the 1940s.

“We truly appreciate the loyal patronage at the Manor Twin and our partnership with Eastern Federal over the years. Our staff worked hard to provide a quality entertainment venue serving Charlotte moviegoers with art and independent film,” stated Richard Grover, VP Communications at Regal. “ With the closing of this location, we will continue to offer art and independent film at our other Regal theatres in the Charlotte area.”

5 p.m.

Gov. Cooper: Two weeks after we announced Phase 1, North Carolina’s combination of trends and indicators remain stable overall. Because the data shows that we can, North Carolina will move into Safer At Home Phase 2 on Friday, May 22 at 5 pm.

Phase 2 is another careful step forward. Since we announced Phase 1, the state’s overall key indicators remain stable. However, the increases in COVID-19 cases signal a need to take a more modest step forward in Phase 2 than originally envisioned.

While I am lifting the Stay At Home order, we are shifting to a Safer At Home recommendation. And that’s especially important for vulnerable people who are at risk for more severe illness. Teleworking when possible is also highly recommended.

Some businesses & places will remain closed in Phase 2 including: bars; night clubs; gyms and indoor fitness facilities; indoor entertainment venues such as movie theaters, bowling alleys; and public playgrounds. This is because the spread of COVID-19 can be significant there.

The mass gathering limits in Phase 2 will be no more than 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors. This applies to event venues; conference centers; stadiums and sports arenas; amphitheaters; and groups at parks or beaches.

Certain businesses will be open at limited capacity with other requirements. Restaurants can re-open for dine-in customers at mostly a 50% capacity, with distancing and cleaning requirements.

Personal care businesses like salons and barbers can also re-open at 50% capacity. These businesses will have face covering and cleaning requirements while also reducing the number of people in the waiting areas.

Swimming pools will be able to open at 50% capacity, and overnight & day camps can open with safety rules. Childcare facilities remain open and are now able to enroll all children. I want to thank our childcare centers that have been open and providing this critical service.

As with previous Orders, these restrictions are a floor. Local governments may enact more strict rules if health officials and local leaders believe it’s in the best interest of their communities.

This next phase can help boost our economy. But we can only help our economy when people have confidence in their own safety, which is why it’s important to ease restrictions carefully and use data in deciding when to do it.

I know this virus has upended life for many North Carolinians, especially those who’ve lost their incomes. I’ve directed the Division of Employment Security to improve the efficiency and customer service of the unemployment benefit process.

In Safer At Home Phase 2, the three Ws are even more important. Wash your hands frequently, wait 6 feet apart from other people and wear a face covering. The face covering is more about protecting other people from your germs in case you have the virus and just don’t know it yet.

A face covering signifies strength & compassion for others. Wearing one shows that you care about other people’s health. And I’m proud every day here at the Emergency Operations Center when I see our brave National Guard Soldiers and tough Marine Mike Sprayberry using them.

Finally, I’d ask us all to be patient and understanding of the frontline heroes who are running cash registers, driving delivery routes, and helping customers. Especially those businesses that will just be opening this weekend.

Not every restaurant & salon will be able to open Friday evening and some may choose not to open at all. Show them the courtesy of patience as they weigh how best to serve their customers and stay safe. We owe that to them.

Let’s keep looking out for our neighbors. Thanking our frontline workers. Getting some fresh air when we can. And working together to defeat this virus.

This virus is still a serious threat. But North Carolinians have made changes and sacrifices in their daily lives and that has helped to flatten the curve here. That means hospitals & the medical system can serve patients effectively for all kinds of illnesses including COVID-19.

Last month, we laid out a phased approach to easing restrictions in our state that relied on data, science & facts. Two weeks ago, we announced we were entering Phase 1. Today, we’re announcing another gradual, cautious step while still keeping health & safety measures in place.

4:15 p.m.

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster is lifting restrictions on outdoor youth/ adult sports activities (examples little league baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, flag football).

Practice can start May 30 and on June 15, games can start.

Examples of attraction facilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Zoos
  • Museums
  • Aquariums
  • Planetariums
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Waterparks
  • Amusement park rides
  • Go-Kart tracks
  • Bingo facilities (specific guidelines can be found here)
  • Miniature golf facilities

SCDHEC said that so far, 138,238 people have been tested for COVID-19 in South Carolina. Of those tests, 9,175 have been positive for the virus.

SCDHEC has tested people at 74 nursing homes, including staff and residents. They expect to finish testing at all nursing homes in the state by the end of the month.

Night clubs, bowling alleys, racetracks, theaters, concert halls and spectator sports are examples of places where restrictions have not yet been lifted. McMaster is not saying when those places and venues could open.

McMaster says as far a high school graduations go, they are determined to be very careful. “This class of 2020 will take a place in history” he says.

Gov. McMaster says he trusts people to continue to follow social distancing guidelines. He says increased testing sites around the state, and tracing, should put the state in good shape.

2:30 p.m.

Regular yard waste collection will resume in the city of Charlotte on June 1.

1 p.m.

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

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting 20,122 cases of COVID-19 across the state, up 422 from Tuesday.

There have been 11 new deaths attributed to COVID-19 since Tuesday, bringing the state’s total to 702. NCDHHS reported that 554 people remain hospitalized and 277,603 tests have been completed. The state reported 12,595 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 2,780 and 69 respectively.

Confirmed cases by age:

0-17 (5%)

18-24 (9%)

25-49 (43%)

50-64 (24%)

65 or older (20%)

COVID-19 deaths by age:

25-49 (4%)

50-64 (12%)

65-74 (21%)

75 or older (64%)

Cases by race:

White: 54%

Black: 32%

Cases by gender:

Women: 51%

Men: 49%

(Men account for 51% of deaths)

Cases and deaths in congregate living settings:

There have been 77 outbreaks in nursing homes across the state, resulting in 2,718 cases and 375 deaths (Anson, Burke (2); Cabarrus (2); Catawba; Cleveland; Iredell; Mecklenburg (9); Rowan (4); Union (2))

There have been 33 outbreaks at residential care facilities across the state, resulting in 547 cases and 55 deaths (Cabarrus (2); Mecklenburg (6); Stanly; Union).

11:25 a.m.

A​s administrators plan for the fall semester opening, Winthrop University Interim President George W. Hynd announced today that he will recommend to the Board of Trustees’ finance committee and full board to hold tuition constant at 2019-20 levels for the 2020-21 academic year.

Board members will hold their regularly scheduled meeting June 18-19.

“The students and families we serve are largely South Carolinians who have been struggling under the weight of a shuttered economy for an extended time,” Hynd said. “Our recent decisions to reduce summer tuition, temporarily suspend standardized test scores for admission, and make spring fee adjustments all were intended to help students continue or begin their Winthrop experiences. Keeping tuition at 2019-20 levels is another way we can show prospective and returning students that the Winthrop family stands ready to assist them in fulfilling their educational goals, even in uncertain times.”

At the June board meeting trustees will hear details of Winthrop’s plan to open the campus for new and returning students in August. Hynd noted that senior leaders are focusing on how in-person instruction will look in order to maximize social distancing and keep the community safe. “While we are planning for the majority of classes to be on campus, we will offer some classes online or hybrid classes blending campus-based and online instruction,” he said. “Class sizes, scheduling and locations are being evaluated to help protect students, faculty and staff from COVID-19.”

Hynd also noted that residence halls will be available in the fall, but on a reduced basis in order to minimize the use of shared bathrooms. “We continue to work on determining the exact number of students we can safely accommodate in the halls and to partner with dining service provider Sodexo on safe practices. We do expect significant revenue implications in both of these auxiliary areas,” Hynd said.

On a brighter note, the interim president said he is pleased with progress on the university’s return to work plan, guided by the S.C. State Administrative Department and facilitated by Winthrop’s Office of Human Resources, Employee Diversity and Wellness. The three-phase plan beginning June 1 intends to return most of the workforce to the campus sometime this summer.

Each Winthrop division has been assessing needs and making plans to return to operations within a predominantly socially distanced work environment. The university’s environmental health and safety office and critical incident management team have been researching and implementing best practices in the run-up to June 1.

“We look forward to the day when our full complement of employees may return to campus energized and ready to safely provide the exemplary educational experience our students and their families have come to expect,” Hynd said. “At this time we do not know exactly what day that will be, but we will be prepared and eager to welcome students back to campus.”

11:05 a.m.

SC Housing Authorizes $5 Million for COVID-19 Rental Assistance

SC Housing will provide approximately $5 million in emergency rental assistance to South Carolinians facing financial hardships as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis. The program will provide emergency housing assistance on behalf of renters affected by shutdowns, closures, layoffs, reduced work hours or unpaid leave. Eligible households could receive rental assistance of up to $1,500, with payments made directly to landlords or management companies. Relief will be provided as a one-time lump sum toward eligible tenants’ rent payments.

The program will be administered through SC Thrive (https://scthrive.org/), a statewide nonprofit agency already providing services to individuals and families throughout the state.

Qualified applicants may apply at https://scthrive.org/covid-19-rental-assistance-program/

To be eligible for program assistance, applicants must be South Carolina residents; have a maximum household income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income for the county in which they reside; and provide documentation demonstrating how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their employment or income beginning March 10, 2020 or later.

Income eligibility for each SC county can be found here.

11 a.m.

NCDHHS Launches Interactive COVID-19 Dashboard

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services unveiled an updated COVID-19 Dashboard. The interactive dashboard provides an overview on the metrics and capacities that the state is following to inform decisions to responsibly ease measures that slow the spread of the virus.

The updated dashboard includes an enhanced NC map, sections on COVID-Like Illness Surveillance, Cases, Testing, Hospitalizations, Contact Tracing, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Congregate Living Settings. There is also a section on weekly reports that currently includes presumed recoveries and risk factors for severe illness for North Carolinians.

A feature of the interactive dashboard is the ability to filter cases and deaths by demographic information (i.e., race, ethnicity, gender and age). For example, if a user selects a race, data will display for the ethnicity, gender and age breakdown for that racial group for cases or deaths.

Additional features of the interactive dashboard include:

  • Searching by county or ZIP code for case and death counts.
  • Viewing cases by date reported or date of specimen collection.
  • County map for ongoing outbreaks in congregate living settings.
  • Rollover functions to see daily numbers.

The dashboard can be accessed online at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard.

10 a.m.

As North Carolina continues to gradually reopen its economy, the state could soon be ready to enter Phase 2 of Gov. Roy Cooper’s reopening plan. Cooper will hold a news conference at 5 p.m., but it’s not known at this time if he’ll announce more plans about a Phase 2 reopening.

However, here are 10 things you should know about a possible Phase 2 reopening:

  1. Lifts Stay-at-Home order with strong encouragement for vulnerable populations to continue staying at home to stay safe.
  2. Allow limited opening of restaurants, bars, fitness centers, personal care services, and other businesses that can follow safety protocols including the potential need to reduce capacity.
  3. Allow gathering at places such as houses of worship and entertainment venues at reduced capacity.
  4. Increase in the number of people allowed at gatherings.
  5. Open public playgrounds.
  6. Continue rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and other congregant care settings.
  7. Restaurants must arrange tables and seating to have six-feet of space between customers both indoors and outdoors. The same would apply to customers at counters.
  8. Restaurants must also mark six-feet of spacing in lines in high-traffic areas, such as cash registers or waiting areas.
  9. No more than 50% of maximum occupancy will be allowed inside the restaurant’s building, or 12 people per 1,000 feet if the restaurant does not have a fire code number available. The number must be posted in a conspicuous place.
  10. Restaurants must also perform ongoing and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas.

8 a.m.

As soon as Wednesday, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper is expected to announce the state is moving into Phase Two.

Under Phase Two, hair salons, restaurants and playgrounds could reopen. The governor has said all along, it depends on getting the number of positive cases down.

Tuesday, the state conducted more than 9,200 tests and about 7.3 percent of the tests came back positive.

In order to reopen, the state wants to see a 14-day drop in the percentage of positive tests. At the beginning of the month, we averaged about 8 percent positive. It has been trending down slightly over the past week.

If restaurants open as early as this weekend, they would have to follow strict guidelines such as no more than 50 percent capacity, tables need to be spaced six feet apart and no parties larger than six.

Cooper is expected to make his announcement at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

11 p.m. (Tuesday)

10:15 p.m. (Tuesday)

A group of government, health, tourism, religious and social leaders that Gov. Henry McMaster created to help South Carolina adjust, adapt and reopen from the coronavirus is winding down its work.

Accelerate SC met Tuesday and Executive Director James Burns says he plans to issue the group’s full report to McMaster by the end of the month.

New details Tuesday emerged on the $1.9 billion in federal aid the state is getting. Group members want to spend $500 million replenishing the unemployment trust fund, $250 million for hospitals and $100 million to expand broadband internet to rural areas.

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