Daily Update: COVID-19 In The Cape Fear Region

Daily Updates from WHQR on closures, openings, local, state and federal efforts and other developments in the coronavirus battle.   

 Monday, August 17th

UNC-Chapel Hill is switching all undergraduate classes to remotelearning after the coronavirus spread during the first week of classes. Schools around the U.S.are scrambling to deal with new cases amid the start of the fall semester. 

Nearlyall schools in K-12 districts began classes today. Districts andcharter schools that teach about two-thirds of the 1.5 million public schoolstudents chose full-time remote learning for now. NorthCarolina’s public schools are re-opening with most students still learning athome through their computers due to continued worries about COVID-19.

  Sunday, August 16th

Another cluster of positiveCOVID-19 cases within student housing has been reported at the University ofNorth Carolina at Chapel Hill. Today's disclosure ofcases within the Hinton James dormitory building marks the fourth such clustersince the semester began Aug. 10th at the state’s flagship public universitycampus. Students are receiving a mix ofin-person and remote instruction. Other UNC system schools also havestarted the fall semester or will soon.  

Saturday, August 15th 

Credit Pat Marriott
Friday, August 14th

The 2020 Cape Fear Fair and Expo has been canceled. This marks the first time that the fair has been cancelled in its more than 50 years of history. The event, which was scheduled for Oct. 30-Nov. 8, usually attracts about 50,000 attendees each year, and has an estimated economic impact of $4-5 million.

Thursday, August 13th

North Carolina public health officials announced a major reporting error in the number of coronavirus tests conducted since the start of the pandemic. The state previously reported having more than 2 million COVID-19 tests performed. Officials now say that is 200 thousand more than the actual number. DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen says the company LabCorp gave different numbers when it reported electronically and manually. She noted the error doesn't affect data on key metrics such as the number of confirmed cases and deaths.LabCorp is one of two nationwide lab chains that are the backbone of COVID testing in the US.

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has abandoned his lawsuit against Gov. Roy Cooper. Forest had argued Cooper unlawfully issued executive orders limiting mass gatherings and business operations during the coronavirus pandemic, without the necessary approval from the Council of State. A court ruled in Cooper's favor Tuesday by saying the governor had sufficient emergency authority to act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The two are competing in this year's gubernatorial election.  

Gov. Roy Cooper says he’s preparing to accept the extended unemployment benefits that President Donald Trump ordered as part of the continuing response to the economic downturn. GOP leaders asked him Tuesday, August 11th to act quickly to ensure North Carolina workers will get an additional maximum weekly benefit of at least 300 dollars. The legislature says it plans to authorize the state's share of matching funds the order requires next month. Cooper’s letter also criticized Republican lawmakers for state benefits he says are too low, and don’t last long enough.

Wednesday, August 12th

Gov. Roy Cooper has won another legal victory defending his COVID-19 executive orders, this time involving a lawsuit filed by Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. A judge on Tuesday, August 11th, refused to temporarily block his orders limiting business activities and mass gatherings, in addition to mandating face coverings. Forest sued Cooper last month, saying the orders were unlawful because he failed to first get support from the Council of State. Cooper’s attorneys argued that Cooper used part of emergency management law that let him act unilaterally.

Governor Roy Cooper is directing over 95 million dollars to help support North Carolina students affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The money comes from North Carolina’s share of an education relief fund that is part of the federal CARES act. About $40 million will go to the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction to hire more public school nurses, counselors, social workers, and psychologists. Another $20 million will be directed to support the academic needs of at-risk students and those with disabilities. The state community college system will receive funding for tuition assistance, while UNC System support will help provide emergency assistance for students needing to complete their degrees.

Tuesday, August 11th

A lawsuit claims that UNC employees across the state, including UNCW, are at a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 because they are required to return to campuses that are reopening to students. The complaint was filed on behalf of University of North Carolina faculty and staff. It demands the university and the state government give employees a safe workplace by offering instruction online beginning in fall 2020. As of Monday evening UNCW had not responded to the suit.

North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders want Gov. Roy Cooper to get on board with extending unemployment benefits that President Donald Trump offered in an executive order. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger told Cooper that the General Assembly plans to approve matching state dollars to receive the partially extended benefits when it reconvenes in September. They want Cooper to submit an application for the money. The actions could result in at least another 300 dollars per week for workers. 

North Carolina public health officials have reported the state's first confirmed coronavirus case in a dog. The Department of Health and Human Services says there is an ongoing investigation into the cause of death. The National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the dog tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. Risk of coronavirus spread from pets to humans is believed to be minimal. 

Riverfest 2020, scheduled for early October in downtown Wilmington, has been canceled. Organizers say COVID-19 concerns and the fact that Gov. Roy Cooper has ordered that the state remain in Phase 2 until at least September 11th were the main reasons for cancelling the event. Next year’s date is scheduled for Oct. 1st through 3rd, 2021

Monday, August 10th

North Carolina public health officials told the Republican National Committee that the party can have more than 10 people in a room to conduct official convention business while in Charlotte. The updated guidance eases indoor gathering limits Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper imposed in a recently extended executive order. President Donald Trump says he will deliver his nomination acceptance speech for the Charlotte convention but hasn't committed to speaking to a crowd of people in person. Cooper previously denied Trump's request to have a full-scale maskless convention in Charlotte. The RNC has estimated it would have no more than 500 delegates per day at the Charlotte Convention Center and the Westin hotel.

Saturday, August 8th

North Carolina reported 1,954 new cases, with 46 of those cases in New Hanover County, 11 in Pender County, and 6 in Brunswick County. There are 2,513 cases total in New Hanover County, and 20 deaths in the county, as identified by the NC Department of Health and Human Services.

Friday, August 7th

Biweekly COVID-19 testing of nursing home staff is now required by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Funding will be continued for staff testing through November. Officials say the NCDHHS has completed on-site infection control inspections of the state’s 400-plus nursing homes. They’re also adding 10 regional infection control support teams to help long-term care facilities prevent COVID-19 transmission, and manage outbreaks that do occur.

The NC Department of Public Safety says the majority of inmates in the state prison system who tested positive for COVID-19 are now presumed to have recovered. The state Department of Public Safety says 619 inmates tested positive for the coronavirus. That’s a 2% positive rate, which DPS says is much lower than other states. The mass testing began on June 22nd and cost around $3.3 million dollars. Those who tested positive were placed in medical isolation.

Thursday, August 6th

North Carolina reported 1,979 new cases, with 36 of those cases in New Hanover County, 5 in Pender County, and 18 in Brunswick County. There are 2,451 cases total in New Hanover County, and 20 deaths in the county, as identified by the NC Department of Health and Human Services.


Wednesday, August 5th

At a press conference, Governor Roy Cooper announced that coronavirus restrictions in place under Phase 2 will remain for an additional five weeks. North Carolina Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen says that the metrics the state monitors are stable, but are not improving fast enough. WHQR's Rachel Keith has the full report


New Hanover County Schools teachers are sharing concerns over returning to in-person learning amind the pandemic. Reporter Rachel Keith worked with other public radio stations from the mountains to the coast to examine the myriad complexities of the coming school year. You can find more on that full report here.

CoastLine this week also explored how local public schools will handle the pandemic this fall. Host Rachel Lewis Hilburn spoke with guests Elizabeth Felts, English Teacher & Service Learning Teacher, New Hanover High School; New Hanover County Schools Teacher of the Year, and Jean Hall, Assistant Principal, The International School at Gregory. You can listen to that full conversation here.

Tuesday, August 4th

Governor Roy Cooper held a press conference on the aftermath of Hurricane Isaias. Cooper stressed taking COVID precautions even during cleanup--especially if interacting with neighbors.

Wilmington's Emergency Management Coordinator Natosha Tew explained some of the extra precautions taken to prevent the spread of COVID, like spreading out in a larger building in order to maintain social distancing. 

Monday, August 3rd

Hurricane Isaias is expected to arrive late tonight in the Cape Fear Region. Due to the pandemic, officials are encouraging residents only seek community shelter as a last resort. New Hanover County officials are advising residents to be in a safe location by 8 p.m. this evening. Residents can call the county's Emergency Public Information Line (910-798-6800) with questions or for support. 


Friday, July 31st

Starting today, restaurants in North Carolina are prohibited from serving alcohol after 11 p.m. Gov. Roy Cooper's issued the restriction on Tuesday, July 28th. Cooper said evidence from a number of states has shown bars to be sites of viral outbreaks and that some restaurants in North Carolina "essentially turn into bars late at night." The executive order does not affect sales of beer and wine at grocery stores and convenience stores.


North Carolina reported 1,954 new cases, with 31 of those cases in New Hanover County and 34 of those cases in Brunswick County. There are 2,285 cases total in New Hanover County, and 19 deaths in the county, as identified by the NC Department of Health and Human Services.

Thursday, July 30

North Carolina reported 2,334 new cases, with 56 of those cases in New Hanover County and 34 of those cases in Brunswick County. There are 2,256 cases total in New Hanover County.

A Hoggard High School student-athlete has tested positive for COVID-19. This is the second student-athlete inside the New Hanover County school district to test positive for COVID-19 since the resumption of athletics. Workouts will continue, although the athletes the student worked out with will have to pause workouts based on the health and safety guidelines, or have a negative COVID-19 test before returning. 


State attorneys responded yesterday to a legal challenge by Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who says North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper had to get the concurrence of the 10-member Council of State before issuing COVID-19 orders. Those orders included shuttering businesses, limiting assemblies and mandating face coverings. Forest sued Cooper earlier this month and wants enforcement of those orders blocked. There will be a hearing next week.

North Carolina regulators have told the state’s big for-profit electric, natural gas and water utilities to keep delaying disconnections through August, as customers still struggle financially from COVID-19. The state Utilities Commission issued an order Wednesday, July 29, the same day the provision expired in Gov. Roy Cooper’s separate executive order that prevented shutoffs for all residential customers. Unpaid utility bill expenses statewide at the end of June were at least $258 million. 

Wednesday, July 29

Today Vice President Mike Pence visited a classroom of masked fourth graders at a Raleigh private school, in an effort to encourage more K-12 schools to reopen with in-person instruction. Pence says schools around the country will have the resources they need to reopen for in-person learning. He was accompanied by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The Trump administration has threatened to withhold federal funds from districts that adopt a hybrid model, or go entirely online. However, Governor Roy Cooper has directed school districts to reopen with either a mix of online and in-person instruction, or fully remote learning.

New Hanover County School announced at a School Board meeting last night that the school system is just not ready to open under Plan B, and instead New Hanover County Schools will be “online-only” when they reopen next month. Find more details here.

A moratorium on utility shutoffs put in place early in North Carolina's COVID-19 outbreak expires tonight.  Officials with Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, which provides water to about 200-thousand people in New Hanover County, say they’re extending its moratorium on shutoffs through at least the end of August. About 15 percent of CFPUA’s customers are delinquent, with missed payments totaling about 3.7 million dollars. The utility has been reaching out to customers who have outstanding balances to set up payment plans. 

North Carolina reported 1,763 new cases, with 38 of those cases in New Hanover County and 15 of those cases in Brunswick County. There are 2,198 cases total in New Hanover County.


Tuesday, July 28

North Carolina reported 1,749 new cases, with 41 of those cases in New Hanover county 35 of those cases in Brunswick County. There are 2,160 cases total in New Hanover County.

Brunswick County broke 1,000 coronavirus cases last week. As of yesterday, 815 Brunswick residents confirmed to have had the disease have recovered, 234 are isolated, 13 are hospitalized and there have been 13 deaths. County officials say that while recoveries now make up a majority of the total case count, newly identified cases have also increased by about 19 percent in the past 10 days.

Monday, July 27

As of Monday, July 27, North Carolina reported 1,625 new cases, with 33 of those cases in New Hanover County. There are 2,119 cases total in New Hanover County.

President Donald Trump visited North Carolina today to visit a biotech facility involved in work to create a COVID-19 vaccine. Trump’s trip to Morrisville was his first public event in the state since the eve of the March 3rd presidential primary. Trump won North Carolina’s electoral votes in 2016 by nearly 4 percentage points. The state is considered a presidential battleground this upcoming fall. The FUJIFILM Dio-synth Biotechnologies’ Innovation Center that he toured is manufacturing key components of a vaccine candidate developed by another company.

Two more male inmates at a North Carolina prison with among the highest number of COVID-19 cases have died after testing positive for the virus. The Department of Public Safety says one offender at Albemarle Correctional Institution in Stanly County died Friday, while another housed at the prison died at a hospital Thursday. Eight state prisoners with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic began. Three were serving their sentences at Albemarle, which has reported over 100 positive cases to date. The Division of Prisons is currently working toward testing every inmate in the state’s more than 50 prisons. 


Thursday, July 23

The North Carolina NAACP has asked a judge to bar the use of a touch-screen voting machine in several counties due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Charlotte Observer reports the group made the request to a Wake County judge Wednesday. The injunction says the machines create risks to voters because they will be touched by many people. The request comes more than three months after the civil rights organization filed a lawsuit against state and local election officials seeking to stop its use. The Observer reports the state attorney general’s office has asked a judge to dismiss that lawsuit. A state election official says officials have been instructed about cleaning the machines.

Officials in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and a handful of other towns are restricting alcohol sales after 11 p.m. to help fight the spread of the coronavirus. The Charlotte Observer reports that the ban starts Thursday night. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department leaders have said they will enforce the order. Other towns that said they will enact such an order include Davidson, Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville. Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio said officials are enacting the restrictions after seeing videos of people in restaurants and bars not wearing masks or practicing social distancing. 

Wednesday, July 22

The N.C. Department of Health and Social Services released its latest numbers today in regards to the pandemic. 1,137 people are currently hospitalized in the state due to COVID-19. This is the 14th day in a row that 1,000 or more hospitalizations have been reported.  The statewide death toll now stands 1,698.  At least 69 deaths related to COVID-19 have been reported here in the Cape Fear region.

Tuesday, July 21

Health officials in North Carolina are investigating a cluster of coronavirus cases after five casino employees tested positive for the virus within two weeks. The Jackson County Department of Public Health said in a news release Monday the cases were identified among Harrah’s Cherokee Casino employees who work in the table games section. The regional manager of the casino said no other employees or customers have been identified as having close contacts with the employee who have tested positive. The casino had closed in March and reopened in late May with 30% capacity. The business said in May employees would be having daily health checks. 

Monday, July 20

As of Monday, more than 100,000 people in North Carolina have tested positive for COVID-19.  According to the N.C. Department of Health and Social Services there have been 101,046 positive cases. There are currently 1,086 people hospitalized due to the virus while there have been 1,642 deaths in North Carolina.

COVID-19 related deaths:

Brunswick County - 11

New Hanover County - 12

Columbus County - 39

Bladen County - 5

Pender County - 2

South Carolina on Sunday reported the most newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases in a single day since the pandemic started. But whether the number of people in the hospital from the virus continues to climb isn’t known publicly as the state follows a federal request to change how it reports and who it reports hospitalizations to. Health officials reported 2,335 newly diagnosed people with COVID-19. South Carolina has reported 2,000 new cases three times since the virus was first detected in the state in March.  All have been in the past eight days. Health officials also reported 19 new deaths Sunday, bringing the death toll to 1,138 people.

A judge is listening to arguments this week about whether the COVID-19 pandemic demands changes to North Carolina’s voting systems this fall. U.S. District Judge William Osteen scheduled a hearing starting Monday involving a lawsuit by two voting advocacy groups and several citizens who fear current rules threaten their health if they want to vote. The plaintiffs want Osteen to block several voting restrictions now. A new state law already eases absentee ballot rules and directs that an online portal be created to file applications. Similar virus-related voting lawsuits have been filed in North Carolina and other states.

Saturday, July 18

At least 95,477 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 1,606 have died, according to state health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday reported an additional 2,051 cases of the virus, up from 2,160 the day before.  Thursday’s total neared the record high of 2,462 set last Saturday.  State officials have said increased testing could help explain increasing case counts.  The health department on Friday reported completing roughly 31,200 additional COVID-19 tests, for a total of more than 1.3 million.   

Friday, July 17

In Brunswick County as of Friday, July 17, there are now 902 positive cases of COVID-19 among county residents—an 83 percent increase in the past week (405 considered recovered, 475 isolating at 384 different homes, 11 hospitalized, 11 deaths). Community spread, social gatherings, and exposure due to employment in the service industry continue to be recurring trends in potential exposure to the virus among positive resident cases, especially among those aged 25-49 years old

North Carolina’s jobless rate fell dramatically in June as restaurants, hotels and retailers bounced back since Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 restrictions were eased. The state announced on Friday that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment fell from 12.8% in May to 7.6% in June. The number of people on the job grew by 227,500. Cooper ended his stay-at-home order in late May, allowing restaurants to serve indoors again, albeit at partial capacity. Bars, gyms, movie theater and entertainment venues still have to stay closed. The nation's unemployment rate was just over 11% last month.

By reopening South Carolina after this spring’s COVID-19 shutdown, unemployment figures show more than 100,000 people went back to work in June. But amid that good news Friday, doctors in Greenville warned a rapidly increasing number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients combined with nurses and other staff infected during their off-hours in community hot spots leaves them - at most - weeks from a crisis. Similar warnings have come from hospitals in Myrtle Beach, Orangeburg and Charleston. June's unemployment rate in South Carolina was 8.7%, down from the 12.4% in May at the peak of the pandemic shutdown, but well above the March level of 3.2%.

Thursday, July 16

At a press conference outside of School Board Offices, New Hanover County Interim Superintendent Del Burns gave details about the District’s plans for reopening: Students will be on a 3-week rotation of 1-week in-person classes and 2 weeks online.

A new face-covering requirement in North Carolina's courts will attempt to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced this and other additional emergency directives for the court system on Thursday. She says the delay of jury trials will continue through at least the end of September. Judicial and law enforcement leaders in each county need to come up with a jury trial resumption safety plan by Sept. 1. The number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic started in North Carolina is now well over 94,000, and more than 1,100 people with the virus are in the hospital.

Wednesday, July 15

With Covid-19 cases soaring in the US South and Southwest, public health experts fear the end is not yet in sight and are wondering what normal will look like as the pandemic stretches on through the rest of the year, CNN reports. While New York and New Jersey were the early virus hotspots, California, Florida, Arizona and Texas now have become the states to watch, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease doctor, said. Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, called Covid-19 a "pandemic of historic proportions."  "I think we can't deny that fact."

Tuesday, July 14

North Carolina will allow K-12 public schools to reopen in the fall with limited in-person capacity. The plan announced by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper allows school districts to decide whether they want to offer online only instruction. A state law appears to prevent remote learning during the first week of school. Rotating students between live instruction and remote learning also wouldn’t be allowed for the first week. K-12 schools teaching more than 1.5 million North Carolina students had received guidance for three different reopening scenarios, including full in-person classes, a mix of in person and online and online only. Plan B will remain in effect as public health officials caution against a more expansive reopening until coronavirus numbers improve.

Learn more on school plans from WHQR's Rachel Lewis Hilburn in this report.

Brunswick County Health Services is reporting the death of two more county residents associated to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).  The first individual was a resident at the Universal Health Care of Brunswick congregate living facility who received a positive test result for COVID-19. The patient was considered a person at high risk for severe illness as they were over the age of 65 and had underlying medical conditions.  The second individual was an employee at Universal Health Care of Brunswick who had received a positive test result for COVID-19. The patient was in the 25-49 year age range and also had pre-existing medical conditions.  To protect the families’ privacy, no further information about these patients will be released.

North Carolina’s highest court has blocked temporarily a judge’s ruling that allowed dozens of North Carolina’s bowling alleys to reopen by overturning a portion of Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 executive order. The state Supreme Court granted on Tuesday the request of state attorneys for Cooper, who says a preliminary injunction issued last week by a trial judge would make it harder to bring the virus under control. The decision puts a temporary delay upon Judge James Gale’s order, meaning the bowling alleys must shut down again for now. The justices also agreed to review the content of Gale’s decision. 

The mayor of North Carolina’s largest city said she would support banning alcohol sales after 10 p.m. in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The Charlotte Observer reports that Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles voiced her support after images circulated on social media of crowded gatherings at local restaurants and bars. Lyles said at Monday night’s City Council meeting that she would sign such an order if a policy group recommends it. Lyles’s statement followed those of Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio. She told reporters that policymakers were discussing the action. Restrictions on alcohol sales are already in place in places such as Orange County, North Carolina, and in South Carolina.

Monday, July 13

Public Health officials were notified today of the ninth death of a New Hanover County resident from COVID-19. The individual who passed away was in their 70’s and considered to be at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 because they were over the age of 65 and had underlying health conditions. To protect the privacy of this individual and their family, no other information will be shared.  The cumulative number of lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Hanover County surpassed 1,600 today, and is at 1,612 as of 3 p.m. Hospitalizations in the region continue to increase, as well as outbreaks and clusters of the virus in congregate living and child care settings, as reported Friday in a weekly update from New Hanover County Public Health. Cases among people under the age of 49 continue to rise, and it’s important to note that of those age 25-49 who have died from COVID-19, 27 percent had no known underlying health conditions.

A South Carolina hospital system is opting to suspend elective surgeries due to an increased number of COVID-19 patients straining staff and other resources. Effective Tuesday, officials with Roper St. Francis in Charleston said procedures that aren’t time-sensitive would be put on hold across at its four facilities to free up staff for an “unrelenting flood” of patients needing treatment for COVID-19. Earlier this year, elective surgeries were called off across the state in an effort to keep hospital resources available for pandemic response. Those procedures were allowed to begin anew this spring, but Gov. Henry McMaster has said he could opt to shut them down again statewide if needed.

Sunday, July 12

As of Sunday, the number of people that have died from COVID-19 in North Carolina has reached 1,503, according to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The total number of positive cases now stands at 85,701. Health officials say there are currently 1,070 people in the hospital with COVID-19.

South Carolina’s coronavirus case count continues to climb with the state reporting an additional 1,950 confirmed cases Sunday, after adding a single-day high of more than 2,200 cases a day earlier. State health officials say a spike in cases in being driven in part by young people. There have been more than 56,400 total confirmed cases of the coronavirus in South Carolina, according to data from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. Experts say official counts likely only capture a fraction of those who've been infected. At least 950 people in South Carolina who contracted the virus have died.

The Florida Department of Health reports 15,299 new Covid-19 cases Sunday, the highest number of new cases reported in a single day by any state since the pandemic began.  The previous record -- also set by Florida -- came on July 4, with 11,434 new cases reported, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.  The test positivity rate in Florida is 19.60%, according to JHU statistics. With coronavirus cases climbing across the US, local and state leaders have found themselves at odds over the types of restrictions that should be in place to move forward effectively.

Saturday, July 11

South Carolina officials have reported the state’s first pediatric death from the coronavirus, announcing the death of a child under the age of 5. The state also had a record number of confirmed cases reported Saturday, as the outbreak continues to spread. The state added over 2,200 confirmed cases to its total count on Saturday, the highest number since the pandemic started, according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control. South Carolina also saw its highest-yet rate of positive tests Saturday, with over 22% of people tested coming back positive for the virus. State health officials say young adults are driving a spike in cases.

A lawsuit seeks to block North Carolina’s witness requirement for people casting mail-in absentee ballots  for the November election because of the pandemic. State law reads an absentee voter has to fill out a traditional absentee ballot in the presence of one adult, who then signs the sealed envelope. It was reduced from two witnesses this year because of COVID-19 concerns. But four voters with health concerns who sued Friday in Wake County court say the reduction isn't good enough, and they fear they could endanger their lives to locate a witness.

South Carolinians without health insurance can now apply to have COVID-19 testing costs reimbursed by the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The agency announced that tests provided by healthcare providers enrolled in Healthy Connections Medicaid on or after March 18 are now covered through the new COVID-19 Limited Benefit Program. Uninsured South Carolina residents who provide a Social Security number and have a qualifying citizenship or immigration status are eligible for reimbursement. They can apply online or over the phone. Current Healthy Connections Medicaid members do not need to apply for the new program.

Friday, July 10

Health officials were notified of the eighth death of a resident of New Hanover County from COVID-19.   New Hanover County health officials will begin providing a weekly report compiling data from across local and state sources to better share the picture of COVID-19 in the community.   This week, data shows a continued increase of lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, an increase of cases among younger people, and new outbreaks in congregate living and child care settings.

A North Carolina state senator has tested positive for COVID-19, making public the first known case involving a General Assembly member. Senate leader Phil Berger made the announcement on Friday about the Republican male senator, whose name wasn't released. The Senate held a floor session with recorded votes on Wednesday. The entire legislature isn't expected to return to work until early September. Building administrators at the legislative complex in Raleigh have initiated health and social distancing measures since April. But Democrats have complained they weren't strong enough and often criticized Republicans for failing to wear face coverings indoors.

In an effort to stem South Carolina’s raging coronavirus outbreak, particularly among young adults he says are gathering in unsafe groupings, Gov. Henry McMaster is shutting off the late-night sale of alcohol at bars and restaurants across the state. Starting Saturday, McMaster says the 8,000 bars and restaurants across the state licensed to sell alcoholic beverages will have to shut off those sales at 11 p.m. each night. Since June 1, state health officials say confirmed positive tests in South Carolinians between the ages of 21 and 30 have gone up more than 436%.

A North Carolina county has set a cutoff for restaurant dining and alcohol sales in hopes of limiting the spread of COVID-19. Officials in Orange County announced on Thursday that restaurants and private clubs will be closed for onsite consumption of food and beverages at 10 p.m. beginning Friday. The county also says restaurants may continue drive through, delivery, and pick-up services after 10 p.m. as long as there is no onsite consumption of food and beverages. Penny Rich, chairman of the Orange County Commissioners, says the county's COVID-19 cases have tripled since Memorial Day, and the measures enacted will help protect the community.

Announcement from the Governor's office - July 10:  This week, NC DHHS announced that up to 300 no-cost testing sites would be deployed to underserved communities that currently have limited testing options. These free sites will increase capacity in roughly 100 zip codes across the state with a focus on historically marginalized populations, including Black, Hispanic and Native American communities.  In addition, more than 480 contact tracers, half of whom are bilingual with a focus on Spanish speakers, have been added statewide. With these additions, there are more than 1,500 people working on contact tracing statewide. Remember, if you get a call from a contact tracer, it’s important to work with them to protect your health, your family’s health and your community.  “This pandemic is hitting historically marginalized populations hard. Longstanding inequities have left these communities more vulnerable to COVID-19, and this major addition of free testing sites will help us save lives,” said Governor Cooper.

Brunswick County Health Services has identified five individuals at a congregate living community in the county who recently received positive test results for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).  Four residents at Arbor Landing at Ocean Isle recently received positive test results and are isolating in private rooms. One employee also received a positive test result and is isolating at home.  All residents and employees have been tested at this time and will be re-tested at a date still to be determined.  Health Services team members are in regular communication with management at Arbor Landing to provide guidance and examine the facility’s infection control processes. The facility has already contacted all employees and family members of residents about this situation.

Thursday, July 9

The Governor did not have much good news to share today at his press conference. “Today is our highest day of hospitalizations. And our second highest day of cases. It's good that we still have hospital and ICU bed capacity. But what we know is this, the disease continues to spread.”  When it came to the question of reopening schools, which would usually happen next month, Cooper gave few specifics. “We want our children back in school safely, and we'll have an official announcement next week."

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday reported hospitalizations over 1,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic -- meaning the state has reached a new record high in that metric.  The health department reported Thursday morning that 1,034 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 86 percent of hospitals reporting. That's up 40 from Wednesday.  There are still 3,967 inpatient beds and 494 ICU beds available in the state.  The state also saw its second-highest single-day increase on Thursday with 2,039 cases. The single-day record in the state was 2,099 on July 3.  20 additional deaths were reported, bringing the total to 1,461.   21,286 tests were reported as completed on Thursday. The percent positive has remained at 9 percent over the last few days.

The World Health Organization on Thursday formally acknowledged that droplets carrying the coronavirus may be airborne indoors and that people who spend long periods in crowded settings with inadequate ventilation may be at risk of becoming infected, a reversal that many scientists said was long overdue.  The agency also acknowledged unequivocally that the virus can be transmitted by people who do not have symptoms.

The  North Carolina General Assembly has again fallen short in overriding several of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes. Wednesday's unsuccessful votes for the GOP mean directives within the governor’s COVID-19 executive orders that keep many businesses closed remain intact. Four vetoes upheld in House or Senate votes were related to bills Cooper’s orders during the pandemic. A fifth veto upheld addressed a bill about concealed weapons inside certain churches. A Cooper veto hasn’t been overridden since December 2018 — the result of more Democratic seats in both chambers over the past two years. After Wednesday, lawmakers won't return to work until September. 

Wednesday, July 8

The city council of North Carolina’s capital city has voted to cancel or postpone five events that were scheduled to be held through October due to the coronavirus pandemic. The News & Observer reports the vote by the Raleigh City Council on Tuesday will affect parades, road races and festivals that were slated to be held in the city. Raleigh City Manager Ruffin Hall told the newspaper the cancellations were necessary amid the virus outbreak. Wake County's website says there are more than 6,400 confirmed coronavirus cases in the county, where the city of Raleigh is located. 

The Republican-controlled General Assembly have again fallen short in overriding several of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes. Wednesday's unsuccessful votes for the GOP mean directives within the governor’s COVID-19 executive orders that keep many businesses closed remain intact. Four vetoes upheld in House or Senate votes were related to Cooper’s orders during the pandemic.  A fifth veto upheld addressed a bill about concealed carry inside certain churches. A Cooper veto hasn’t been overridden since December 2018 — the result of more Democratic seats in both chambers over the past two years. After Wednesday, lawmakers won't return to work until September. 

Tuesday, July 7

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday issued a statewide order to make COVID-19 testing available in more communities, including historically marginalized populations, and increase reporting of test results, both positive and negative, to state health officials. “Testing is an important component of the state’s strategy to slow the spread of the virus, and today’s order will make it easier for North Carolinians to get tested,” said NCDHHS State Health Director Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson. WECT reports the Statewide Standing Order allows testing sites to collect and submit samples to a laboratory for COVID-19 testing without requiring a specific doctor or provider referral and authorizes testing sites to receive results directly from laboratories.

The annual Carolina Renaissance Festival in North Carolina has been canceled due to safety concerns amid the coronavirus outbreak. The festival said in a statement Monday that the event has been rescheduled to the fall of 2021. It was supposed to be held in October and November of this year. The Charlotte Observer reports the outdoor renaissance event has been held in Huntersville, North Carolina since 1994. A festival official told the newspaper the event draws more than 200,000 people to the town every year. 

Brunswick County Health Services is reporting the death of a seventh county resident associated to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).  The individual was a resident at the Universal Health Care of Brunswick congregate living facility who received a positive test result for COVID-19. The patient was considered a person at high risk for severe illness as they were over the age of 65 and had underlying medical conditions. To protect the family’s privacy, no further information about this patient will be released.  This is the third positive resident at the congregate care facility to pass away with a death related to the virus. Health Services reported on the passing of the first two facility residents June 27 and July 1, respectively.

North Carolina’s agriculture commissioner has announced that the 2020 Mountain State Fair has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The fair was scheduled to take place from Sept. 11-20 at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center in Fletcher. Commissioner Steve Troxler says social distancing would be difficult to enforce. News outlets report the event drew more than 171,000 total visitors in 2019. Last year, a hot tub display in the agricultural center during the fair was linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. The state's department of health and human resources says four people died and more than 130 others were infected.

Monday, July 6

An update from Congressman David Rouzer’s office tonight:

As we begin a new week, here’s a snapshot of the COVID-19 outbreak in the counties that make up the 7th District:

Bladen County: 399 cases, 3 deaths

Brunswick County: 662 cases, 6 deaths

Columbus County: 565 cases, 39 deaths

Duplin County: 1,579 cases, 28 deaths

Johnston County: 1,737 cases, 33 deaths

New Hanover County: 1,138 cases, 7 deaths

Pender County: 303 cases, 2 deaths

Sampson County: 1,112 cases, 6 deaths

Wayne County: 1,913 cases, 28 deaths

Statewide, we have 74,529 cases and 1,398 deaths due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  982 individuals are currently hospitalized due to the virus, and North Carolina has completed more than 1.051 million tests so far.

The latest statistics on the COVID-19 outbreak in North Carolina can always be found here.

North Carolina also estimates that about 55,318 COVID-19 patients statewide have recovered from the virus.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services gave an update on the statewide trends as of late last week: North Carolina’s trajectory of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases and surveillance data continues to increase.  The trajectory in percent of tests returning positive remains steady at about 9 percent and the trajectory of hospitalizations is also leveling.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state is close to 75,000, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. According to numbers released Monday morning there have been 74,529 positive cases in the state. Hospitalizations are at a record high with 982 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19. The NCDHHS says there were six deaths reported over the weekend, which brings the state’s total to 1,398. Here is the breakdown for the Cape Fear region. 

New Hanover County - 1,225

Brunswick County - 661

Columbus County - 545

Pender County - 284

Bladen County - 399

At least 57 deaths related to COVID-19 have been reported in the Cape Fear region.

Sunday, July 5

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now projecting the country will see nearly 148,000 coronavirus deaths by the end of the month. So far, at least 129,718 Americans have died and more than 2.8 million have been infected, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Saturday, July 4

For the latest New Hanover County COVID-19 information go HERE

National update from NPR, Saturday:

On Saturday, just as residents across the country celebrated the holiday, state authorities once more reported a record-breaking number of new coronavirus cases. Florida and South Carolina on Saturday both reported passing their previous single-day highs, while states such Alabama, Texas and a slew of others continued to reel from recent records of their own. In Florida alone, Friday saw more than 11,400 newly confirmed cases of the virus. That sum shatters a record that was set in the state just a couple of days ago — around the same time that the U.S. as a whole recorded the world's highest-ever daily tally, with more than 55,000.

It's a stay-at-home 4th of July for many people in South Carolina this year after municipalities have cancelled or restricted fireworks shows due to the coronavirus pandemic. Shoppers wearing masks at a fireworks store in Columbia planned Friday to celebrate with family and avoid crowded beaches. This holiday weekend frightens public health officials who are already dealing with a spike of newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases that started several days after Memorial Day. Dozens of local governments have passed mask requirements since Gov. Henry McMaster refused to impose this health measure statewide.

Friday, July 3

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports the state’s highest one-day number of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases with 2,099 cases reported. The state’s total now stands at 70,241. Also, hospitalizations are at a record high with 951 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19. The NCDHHS reported one death on Friday which brings the state’s total to 1,392.

Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has rejected five proposals from the Republican-controlled legislature that would reopen businesses and prevent cancellations of July 4 celebrations. The string of vetoes on Thursday comes one day after the state hit a high of new single-day coronavirus cases. Cooper has already extended Phase 2 of North Carolina's reopening plans through July 17. Republican lawmakers want Cooper to ease restrictions on businesses to help reignite the state's economy. Skating rinks, bowling alleys, bars, gyms, amusement parks, arcades and entertainment venues will likely remain closed because state GOP lawmakers won't have the votes needed to override Cooper's decision. 

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted layoffs at the Belk department store chain, including at its North Carolina-based corporate headquarters. The Charlotte Observer reports that the Charlotte-based company declined to disclose the total number of job losses. The company has about 1,300 employees at its corporate office and about 20,000 employees total. Belk said in a statement that it “had to make some of the most difficult decisions of its 130-year history.” The company said it is providing severance packages to those affected. The company had closed 291 stores in 16 Southern states because of COVID-19. Stores began to reopen in May. 

Thursday, July 2

Across New Hanover County, health officials are urging residents to follow safety measures of wearing a face covering when out in public, maintaining six feet of distance from others and washing hands frequently to slow the spread of COVID-19 as infections and hospitalizations rise across the region.  “We can’t afford a July Fourth bump in COVID-19 infections, especially with the increase in infection rate we are seeing over the last two weeks and looking ahead to more cases because of the increase in activity our area has seen over the last few weeks,” said New Hanover County Public Health Preparedness Coordinator Lisa Brown. “We can’t always see the underlying health conditions someone has that puts them at risk of severe illness, so why not all do our part to protect our loved ones, neighbors and community, and follow the prevention measures that slow the spread of COVID-19? Slowing the spread protects those at risk, and prevents overwhelming the healthcare system. We need to make sure our community members can continue to get the care they need, when they need it, whether it’s for COVID-19, a heart condition, a vehicle collision, or anything else you may need help with. This holiday weekend, think of others and please take the simple steps to save lives.”  This week, lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Hanover County surpassed 1,000, and is at 1,119 as of Thursday afternoon. Two additional deaths were also reported this week, bringing the number of COVID-19 related deaths of New Hanover County residents to seven. Cases doubled from June 19 to July 1, and is up approximately 435 percent since June 1. Cases are increasing among younger people and people in the LatinX community.

Wednesday, July 1

Public Health officials were notified today of two additional deaths from COVID-19 in New Hanover County, bringing the total number of deaths of New Hanover County residents to seven. Both individuals were hospitalized; one person was in their 60’s and the other in their 80’s. Both were considered at high risk of severe illness because they had underlying medical conditions. To protect the privacy of these individuals and their families, no other information will be shared. The cumulative number of lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 surpassed 1,000 Tuesday, and Wednesday is at 1,068. Cases among people under the age of 49 are increasing, as well as cases in the LatinX community. Additionally, hospitalizations are rising, with 33 people hospitalized at New Hanover Regional Medical Center Wednesday. (Data reported from NHRMC is for a seven county region, and not specific to New Hanover County residents). Health officials continue to conduct contact tracing to contain the spread of the virus.

Brunswick County Health Services is reporting the death of another county resident associated to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The individual was a resident at the Universal Health Care of Brunswick congregate living facility who received a positive test result for COVID-19. The patient was considered a person at high risk for severe illness as they were over the age of 65 and had underlying medical conditions. To protect the family’s privacy, no further information about this patient will be released. This individual is the sixth Brunswick County resident and second resident at this congregate care facility to pass away with a death related to the virus. Health Services reported on the passing of the first facility resident this past Saturday, June 27.

North Carolina delayed announcing statewide plans for reopening K-12 public schools. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said he expects to release updated guidance “in the coming weeks." Schools were instructed in June to draft three plans for resuming fall classes, which include in-person and remote learning. Cooper on Wednesday said his top priority is to get kids back into classrooms. The decision to postpone a decision on how best to reopen classrooms comes as new coronavirus cases hit a single-day high at 1,843. Public health officials are still working on a plan to protect college students as campuses reopen across the state.

The U.S. Army says that 90 soldiers who took part in a survival course in North Carolina have been quarantined after one of them tested positive for the coronavirus. The U.S. Army said in a statement on Wednesday that the soldiers were training at a special warfare school at Fort Bragg. The 90 soldiers and instructors have tested positive for COVID-19. The course is called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. Officials said guidelines were implemented to prevent the spread of coronavirus and that some classes were shifted online. Portions of classes that could not be taught online were closely monitored. The course was terminated after one of the students tested positive. 

Tuesday, June 30   

For the latest New Hanover County COVID-19 information go HERE

North Carolina has announced plans to test all nursing home workers and residents for the coronavirus over the next two months. Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen says the partnership with CVS Omnicare will provide one-time COVID-19 tests to about 36,000 residents and 25,000 staff in more than 400 nursing homes across the state. A cost estimate was not immediately provided on Tuesday. Nearly half of all COVID-related deaths in North Carolina to date have come from nursing homes. There has also been 123 coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes thus far into the global pandemic, and those over the age of 75 are most vulnerable.

As of Tuesday morning, the number of people that have died from COVID-19 in North Carolina has reached 1,343, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human ServicesThe total number of positive cases in the state stands at 64,670. Health officials say there are currently 908 people in the hospital with COVID-19.

The chief justice of North Carolina’s Supreme Court is extending various emergency directives in the state’s courts in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Chief Justice Cheri Beasley said in a statement Monday that the directives would continue to allow increased use of remote technology and limit foot traffic in courthouses. The directives include restricting entry into courthouses for anyone who was likely exposed to the coronavirus. Only people with business in courthouses will be allowed inside. Other directives include increased use of teleconferencing for remote court hearings and allowing certain documents to be served by email.

Monday, June 29

A seventh person has died in Brunswick County of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.  According to a news release the person was over 65 and was hospitalized due to complications from the virus when they died. It’s the third death from COVID-19 in Brunswick County this month. The first four deaths came in April. The number of positive cases in the county has jumped by 326 percent between June 2 and 28.

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest says his impeding lawsuit against Gov. Roy Cooper for unilaterally closing businesses and mandating face masks due to COVID-19 isn’t politically motivated. Forest said Monday the Democratic incumbent has failed to seek or receive support for six executive orders from other elected officials that make up the Council of State. Forest is trying to unseat Cooper in November. Cooper's administration has said the governor has other authority to act on his own to protect health and safety. The lawsuit can't be filed until Forest clears state government legal hurdles to sue using his own staff attorney.

In an effort to minimize the risk of contraction and spread of COVID-19, Wave Transit suspended fixed route bus fares to accommodate rear door entries and closed both transfer stations to the public with exterior waiting areas remaining open to customers. Communications referencing a date of Monday, July 6th for reinstatement of fixed route bus fares and reopening of Wave Transit’s two transfer facilities, Forden Station and Padgett Station, was issued earlier this month. Wave Transit has postponed the date of fare reinstatement and the reopening of facilities to a later, unspecified date.

For the latest New Hanover County COVID-19 information go HERE

Sunday, June 28

North Carolina’s General Assembly has passed a bill that would restart an Outer Banks passenger ferry that had been scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic. According to The News & Observer, the N.C. Department of Transportation said two months ago that it wouldn't run the ferry between Hatteras and Ocracoke islands this summer. It said hauling people between the islands could spread the virus. But lawmakers recently passed a measure directing the agency to run it. A transportation department spokesman said the agency would wait for the governor's action on the bill before getting the boat ready to go.  

Saturday, June 27

Brunswick County Health Services is reporting the death of a county resident associated to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) today.  The individual was a resident at the Universal Health Care of Brunswick congregate living facility who received a positive test result for COVID-19. The patient was considered a person at high risk for severe illness as they were over the age of 65 and had underlying medical conditions.  To protect the families’ privacy, no further information about this patient will be released. “I am saddened to hear about the passing of another resident related to this virus, and I extend my sincere condolences to the family, friends, and the caretakers who looked after this individual,” Chairman Frank Williams said. “As this pandemic continues to affect our communities, I ask all our residents to take the guidance from our health professionals to heart to best protect one another and support our health care workers during this trying time.”

The Department of Health and Environmental Control reported nearly 1,600 new cases of the coronavirus Saturday in South Carolina, surpassing the previous daily record of 1,290 set on Tuesday. The State reports the 1,599 new cases bring South Carolina’s total cases to 31,850. The increase comes as the state reported 15 more deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the state’s toll to 707.

Friday, June 26

For the latest New Hanover County COVID-19 information go HERE  

A Wilmington medical practice has been selected by Trial Management Associates, LLC (TMA) to conduct the first COVID-19 vaccine Phase III trial in the United States. According to a news release, following the success of the Phase II trial, TMA and Drs. Bart Williams and Will Jones of Wrightsville Family Practice are seeking healthy volunteers ages 18 and older from the Wilmington locality to participate in the trial. WECT reports the trial managers would especially like to recruit healthcare workers, first responders and other essential workers who encounter lots of people daily or who have a heightened risk of exposure to the virus to participate in the trial.  The Phase III trial is expected to begin in mid-July.  Anyone in Wilmington, NC, and the surrounding communities interested in participating, please contact TMA at covidvaccine@trialmgt.com.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said Friday that he would not impose a statewide requirement to wear masks to curb the spread of COVID-19. That same day, state health officials reported 1,273 confirmed COVID-19 cases and one additional death, bringing the state total to 30,263 confirmed cases and 694 deaths. Health officials also reported 906 people currently hospitalized — a record-high daily count in the state. Officials said six states are now requiring that people traveling from South Carolina quarantine upon arrival. Earlier this week, several cities across the state instituted rules requiring masks to be worn in public. 

North Carolina’s Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest informed Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper Thursday he intends to sue over the way Cooper has imposed business restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Forest wrote a letter arguing the governor has violated state law by issuing executive orders curtailing business without seeking concurrence from a group of elected officials known as the Council of State. Forest, who’s running against Cooper in the November gubernatorial election, cites multiple times during the pandemic that Cooper issued executive orders without formal assent from a majority of the council. Cooper's office accused Forest of playing politics. 

Thursday, June 25

North Carolina legislators could soon end a legislative session marked by dealing with the COVID-19 economic downturn and challenging Gov. Roy Cooper’s orders keeping many businesses closed due to the virus. The House and Senate scheduled floor meetings on Thursday, and Senate Republicans say they're not coming back after that. Since the session began in April, the two chambers have approved distributing $1.6 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds and could agree to move hundreds of millions more before they leave. They’ve also sent Cooper state government funding measures to ensure critical needs are covered during the next fiscal year as tax collections dwindle. 

The North Carolina General Assembly has failed to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a measure that would have allowed gyms and bars to open again despite his executive order keeping them closed due to COVID-19. Republicans in charge of the House were unsuccessful on Wednesday in persuading enough Democratic colleagues to essentially cancel the governor's veto from last week. The fitness centers and bars have been shuttered since March. Bars would have been able to only serve patrons outdoors. The bill is one of several seeking to overturn Cooper's orders designed to dull the coronavirus spread. 

Wednesday, June 24

North Carolina’s governor has ordered people across the state to wear masks or other face coverings in public to fight the spread of COVID-19. Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order Wednesday that people must wear face coverings in public when it’s not possible to maintain physical distance. The order also mandates masks or other face coverings for employees of businesses including retailers and restaurants, as well as state employees in the executive branch. Violations of Cooper’s executive orders are generally punishable by misdemeanor, but Wednesday’s order directs law enforcement to issue citations to businesses or organizations that fail to enforce mask requirements, not individuals.  

Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen today announced that North Carolina will remain in Safer at Home Phase 2 for three more weeks. Cooper also announced that face coverings must be worn when people are in public places as officials seek to stabilize concerning trends of increasing viral spread.  “North Carolina is relying on the data and the science to lift restrictions responsibly, and right now our increasing numbers show we need to hit the pause button while we work to stabilize our trends,” said Governor Cooper. “We need to all work together so we can protect our families and neighbors, restore our economy, and get people back to work and our children back to school.” 

Wilmington City Council last night voted unanimously to bring temporary outdoor dining to the downtown area during the coronavirus pandemic.  It will start tomorrow and run thru Labor Day.  The Downtown Business Alliance and Wilmington Downtown Inc. both advocated for a program called “Downtown Alive,” which involves closing parts of some streets to accommodate outdoor dining.

Tuesday, June 23

As of Tuesday morning, the number of people that have died from COVID-19 in North Carolina has reached 1,251, according to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human ServicesThe total number of positive cases now stands at 54,453. Health officials say there are currently 915 people in the hospital with COVID-19.

The North Carolina General Assembly has finalized yet another Republican attempt to let more businesses reopen despite Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 restrictions on commerce. Lawmakers also sent the Democratic governor a measure approved Tuesday that would prevent his executive order limiting outdoor gatherings from blocking July 4 parades or fireworks. Cooper already has vetoed two bills pushed by the GOP-controlled legislature designed to overturn his executive orders that have kept bars and gyms shuttered since March. Amusement parks, wedding reception venues and fairs and carnivals would be the latest entities targeted for reopening in a bill approved Tuesday.

People are flocking to South Carolina’s beaches for vacation after being cooped up by COVID-19 for months. But the coronavirus is taking no vacation. The state now has the fourth-highest new infection rate in the nation when adjusted for population, trailing just Arizona, Arkansas and Alabama. One hot spot is around Myrtle Beach, which has seen COVID-19 cases jump from less than 300 at the start of June to nearly 1,600.

Monday, June 22

North Carolina's health chief says the state's COVID-19 case trends have worsened since the economy has reopened in recent weeks. But Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen wouldn’t say on Monday whether they would prevent more shuttered businesses from reopening when Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order expires this week. The number of virus-related hospitalizations remains near a record high for the pandemic, and the number of deaths has exceeded 1,200. The state prison system says about 60 offenders held in Stanly County have tested positive. And state courts will extend a prohibition on jury trials through at least the end of July.  

In an effort to stop the community spread of COVID-19, Southport will require residents and visitors to wear face coverings while in public spaces.  Mayor Joe Pat Hatem announced that he was signing a revised state of emergency proclamation that requires anyone in city limits to wear a clean face-covering while in public spaces where it’s not possible to maintain social distancing.  These public spaces, according to the proclamation, include grocery stores, pharmacies, business establishments, retail stores, parking lots, sidewalks, and public transit.  Additionally, Hatem said that all restaurant, personal care, grocer, retail employees, and staff will have to wear a face-covering while on duty.  This requirement will begin at 5 p.m. Monday.

A South Carolina city has become the first in the state to require people to wear masks in grocery stores and pharmacies to help fight COVID-19. Greenville City Council voted unanimously for the mask requirements Monday. All employees in restaurants, retail stores, salons, grocery stores and pharmacies will have to wear masks. Customers in grocery stores and pharmacies will need coverings over their noses and faces. Anyone convicted of breaking the mask rule will be fined up to $25. Anyone who can’t wear a mask because of age or underlying illness is excluded. Greenville has had some of the highest COVID-19 rates in the state in recent weeks.

Saturday, June 20

As of Saturday afternoon, the number of people that have died from COVID-19 in North Carolina has reached 1,212, according to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human ServicesThe total number of positive cases now stands at 51,389. Health officials say there are currently 883 people in the hospital with COVID-19, though that number is constantly changing.

Health officials say South Carolina again saw more COVID-19 cases, more people in the hospital with the virus and the highest percentage of positive tests in a day. Officials reported Saturday more than 1,150 new cases and ore than 16% of the people tested had the virus. Health officials say when that figure rises, it is one of their strongest indicators the virus is spreading. That figure was just over 9% two weeks ago. Authorities reported five additional deaths in South Carolina. COVID-19 has killed 644 people in the state.

Friday, June 19

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed another attempt by Republican legislators to accelerate the speed in which North Carolina commerce is being restored through his COVID-19 executive order. The vetoed measure would have allowed gyms and bars shuttered since March to receive patrons again. Cooper said Friday the bill could restrict a quick response to virus outbreaks. He vetoed a similar bill earlier this month emphasizing bars. A Repubilcan state senator says the latest vetoed measure was a “economic lifeline for thousands of businesses.” Cooper will announce next week whether he'll modify his executive order to let more businesss reopen.

A state agency says North Carolina’s unemployment rate neared 13% in May. The actual rate of 12.9% announced Friday by the Division of Employment Security matches the revised rate for April. The identical figures still reflect the massive layoffs and furloughs that have occurred due to the COVID-19 economic shutdown. The state rate was just slightly over 4% in March. The division said May’s total employed workforce actually increased by 118,000 since April. But that total is 663,000 below where the employed workforce stood 12 months earlier. The state has distributed more than $4 billion in unemployment benefits since mid-March.

Thursday, June 18

North Carolina’s capital city is set to require people wear face coverings in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin's emergency proclamation takes effect Friday. It mandates face coverings over the mouth and nose when people come in contact with those who are not members of their household in both public and private spaces where it is not possible to stay at least six feet apart. All restaurant, personal care and retail employees must wear the coverings while on duty. Violators won't be penalized, but law enforcement officers are being asked to encourage voluntary compliance.

Wednesday, June 17

The North Carolina legislature has agreed to offer $350 bonuses to public school teachers this fall and asks Gov. Roy Cooper to spend federal COVID-19 funds to provide even more one-time compensation. The House voted for the measure on Wednesday, and with Senate approval this week the bill now goes to Cooper's desk. The bill urges Cooper to use federal money to give $600 more to each of these educators. The bonuses are a far cry from sizeable permanent salary increases that Cooper and lawmakers prposed last year but fizzled during a budget stalemate. Cooper could veto the measure. 

People trying to enter the two buildings operated by the North Carolina General Assembly will get their temperatures checked again after the COVID-19 protocol was discontinued this week. Senate Democrats complained after the checks by General Assembly police and nurses were discontinued. The legislative complex administrator said no one ever registered a temperature high enough to warrant a medical referral when the checks were performed for several weeks. But Paul Coble says the checks will return next week. Coble says cleaning and safety initiatives and other operating adjustments have resulted in over $1 million in added expenses.

Hospitalizations in North Carolina due to the COVID-19 pandemic hit another record high as statewide cases near 47,000.  According to NCDHHS numbers released Wednesday morning, 846 people are currently hospitalized. NCDHHS reported 14 deaths associated with the virus, bringing the state’s total to 1,168.  With 1,002 new cases reported on Wednesday, the statewide total currently sits at 46,855. The percent-positive tests held steady at about 8 percent.  Approximately 667,422 tests have been completed in the state.

Here is the confirmed case breakdown for southeastern North Carolina:

New Hanover County - 421

Brunswick County - 262

Columbus County - 430

Pender County - 146

Bladen County - 199

At least 44 deaths related to COVID-19 in the Cape Fear region:

Columbus County - 33

New Hanover County - 5

Brunswick County - 3

Pender County - 1

Bladen County - 2

Tuesday, June 16

Monday saw the highest daily total for positive COVID-19 test results in the Wilmington metro area since the first case was confirmed in March, and the number of positive cases confirmed has been in the double digits since June 9.  The StarNews reports a record 34 test results came back positive in New Hanover County Monday, bringing the average number of new daily cases up to 13.8 for June. The June average is a 220% increase from May’s 4.3 cases a day.  Health officials cited lifted restrictions and increased testing capabilities for the surge.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says he’ll announce early next week a decision on whether businesses still shuttered because of COVID-19 will be allowed to reopen. Cooper’s current executive order expires June 26. It allows restaurants to have dine-in seating again and for barber shops and hair and nail salons to reopen. But bars, movie theaters and gyms remain closed. The governor said Monday his decision will be based on science and data. He's worried about the recent upticks in cases and hospitalizations. But he's hopeful a “second wave” of cases can be stopped by the public practicing social distancing.

The jobs of more than 700 people who work at hotels in Charlotte, North Carolina, have been impacted because of the economic devastation wrought by the coronavirus. The Charlotte Observer reported Tuesday that the jobs are at several major hotels that include the Westin, Ritz-Carlton and Renaissance Hotel. Marriott International owns those brands. Spokeswoman Casey Kennett said in a statement that the company has seen a significant drop in consumer demand because of travel and social distancing restrictions. She said that the firm has adjusted operations with measures that include staff reductions, implementing temporary leave and terminating some employees. 

Sunday, June 14

Stock car racing has turned into the leading battleground over COVID-19 crowd restrictions in North Carolina. Track owners have taken their fight to reopen to the streets and to court. But on Saturday, a protest at one race track attracted so few people that the demonstration was perfectly legal under the state’s restrictions. The News & Observer reports that at 311 Speedway in Stokes County, fewer than 25 people showed up to protest, despite a live band and a free cheeseburger and fries with a ticket purchase.  Gov. Roy Cooper’s coronavirus restrictions limit outdoor gatherings to 25 people. 

Saturday, June 13

North Carolina public health officials are concerned with the rising numbers of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. The state is most worried about the uptick in eight counties: Mecklenburg, Durham, Wake, Forsyth, Duplin, Lee, Johnston, Alamance. Experts fear a second wave of the virus, as the state continues to gather more data from individuals who tested positive for COVID-19. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has steadily opened up businesses and hopes to transition to a “Phase 2.5" if the numbers start to improve. The growth in cases has largely been attributed to more testing and the uptick in residents traveling to newly reopened businesses without following the recommended public safety guidelines.

Brunswick County Health Services identified two people at a congregate living facility who tested positive for the coronavirus. According to a Saturday morning press release, the positive cases are an employee and a resident at Universal Healthcare/Brunswick. The resident is currently isolating in their room. The facility in Bolivia has contacted all employees and family members of the residents about the outbreak. All residents and employees are being tested for COVID-19. At this time, one test among residents has come back positive and the results for the remaining tests are still pending.

The number of COVID-19 related deaths in North Carolina has officially surpassed influenza-related deaths, WECT reports. As of Saturday afternoon, the number of people that have died from COVID-19 in North Carolina has reached 1,104, according to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human ServicesThe total number of positive cases now stands at 42,676. Health officials say there are currently 823 people in the hospital with COVID-19, though that number is constantly changing.

Gov. Roy Cooper has signed intio law legislation providing money to help run North Carolina elections safely and securely during the COVID-19 pandemic and making it easier to cast mail-in absentee ballots this fall. The governor signed the bill on Friday, the day after the House and Senate gave final legislative approval to the bipartisan measure. The law is designed to prepare for a spike in demand for absentee ballots from people at higher risk of developing complications from the new coronavirus. There's also money for equipment and security upgrades as well as personal protective equipment at in-person voting sites.

Wednesday, June 10

The North Carolina legislature has passed another bill overturning parts of Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order that keep certain businesses closed to discourage COVID-19′s spread. The House voted on a largely party-line vote on Wednesday for the measure written by Republicans, many of whom have been critical of Cooper’s slow pace to loosen restrictions on the state economy. The governor already vetoed a bill last week would let bars reopen outdoors and give restaurants additional outdoor seating options, and he's been skeptical about the new measure, which also would allow gyms to reopen. 

Changes to mail-in absentee ballot rules in North Carolina to help operate a fall election during the pandemic has received tentative approval from the state Senate. The measure is a response to the expected spike in demand for absentee ballots from people at higher risk for developing complications from COVID-19. Wednesday's Senate debate was more divisive than a similar discussion in the House two weeks ago. The measure expands the options for registered voters to receive an absentee ballot request form. And there's $27 million for things like upgrading elections security, recruiting in-person poll workers and stocking up on personal protective equipment.

Tuesday, June 9

The Governor is expected to get tested for COVID-19 after walking with protesters last week. North Carolina has one of the highest rates of positive COVID-19 tests in the country, according to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen. Cooper is expected to get a COVID-19 test Tuesday. Cooper’s office said he interacted with some protesters recently and encourages anyone who has been in a crowd to get tested.

North Carolina health officials are reporting record numbers of hospitalizations during the coronavirus pandemic. According to NCDHHS numbers released today, there are currently 774 people hospitalized across the state which surpasses Monday’s record of 739. NCDHHS reports an additional 23 people died from COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the state’s total to 1,029.

Approximately 676 additional positive cases were recorded on Monday for a statewide total of 37,160.

Confirmed case breakdown for southeastern North Carolina:

New Hanover County - 278 

Brunswick County - 160 

Columbus County - 373 

Pender County - 115 

Bladen County - 163 

At least 39 deaths related to COVID-19 have been reported in the Cape Fear region:

Columbus County - 28

New Hanover County - 5

Brunswick County - 3

Pender County - 1

Bladen County - 2

From the StarNews, local high school coaches still don’t know when they will get to meet with their teams in-person, but plans are already being put into place of what practices might look like in the coming summer weeks. The N.C. High School Athletic Association announced Monday that a three-month period of inactivity for North Carolina high school athletic teams will end June 15. The association also released guidelines to safely resume sports, but local school districts could implement a new starting date and further restrictions. Sources anticipate an announcement from New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties in the next couple days on when schools can begin practice, but coaches are being pro-active in their preparation.

Monday, June 8

Republican state lawmakers in North Carolina plan to introduce a bill that would allow President Donald Trump to speak in front of a packed Republican National Convention. The measure would allow the convention in Charlotte to operate without many of the restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus. The move comes after Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said the August convention would have to be scaled down to protect public health. Trump responded by announcing that he'd speak in a different state. The bill is sponsored by Republican Rep. John Torbett of Gaston. It is largely symbolic as Cooper is likely to reject it and Republicans are unlikely to have the votes to override a veto. 

Saturday, June 6

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported Saturday the state has recorded its highest one day number of lab-confirmed coronavirus cases with 1,370. According to the NC DHHS, the percent of tests that were positive increased to 10%, based on labs that are reporting electronically to NC. Also, hospitalizations have surpassed 700 for three of the past five days as well. The NC DHHS plans to work with teams in high-risk counties to increase testing and contract tracing.

Friday, June 5

Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed legislation that would have let North Carolina standalone bars serve patrons again in contradiction to his executive order that’s aimed at halting the spread of COVID-19. The vetoed bill would have allowed bars to only reopen outdoors, as well as give additional outdoor seating to restaurants that Cooper agreed could again serve dine-in customers two weeks ago. The governor wrote Friday that the bill would have limited the ability of leaders to respond quickly to a surge in the virus. A veto override looks unlikely. Legislators are advancing another measure that would allow gyms to open against Cooper's wishes.

New Hanover County health officials confirmed 28 additional cases of COVID-19 over the last two days, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases to 243. Additionally, North Carolina reported its highest daily increase today confirming an additional 1,189 cases in the last 24 hours. Of the 243 total lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Hanover County, 122 have recovered, 116 people are still ill and experiencing symptoms and five people have died from the virus.

“With increased activity we expect to continue to see more cases of COVID-19, and this sharp rise in cases is being monitored carefully with our hospital and other healthcare partners,” said New Hanover County Public Health Preparedness Coordinator Lisa Brown. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, 51 percent of North Carolinians are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19 based on being 65 or older, having at least one of the CDC identified underlying health conditions that compromise fighting COVID-19, or both. This includes chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, severe obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease and immunosuppressive conditions, including cancer treatment, smoking and other immune disorders.

Thursday, June 4

President Donald Trump is no longer planning to speak at the Republican convention in Charlotte, but the Republican National Committee says it plans to hold some business activities in North Carolina if Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and other officials “allow more than 10 people in a room.” Trump and the RNC had demanded that the convention be allowed to move forward with a full crowd and without participants having to wear face coverings. Trump vowed on Twitter to deliver his speech outside North Carolina.

Wednesday, June 3

Due to safety considerations around social distancing, mass gatherings and efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the July 4th fireworks celebration downtown is being postponed to a date to be determined. The city will continue to monitor the governor’s guidance regarding mass gatherings and hope to hold this celebration at a later date.

Tuesday, June 2

Consensus legislation designed to help North Carolina voters worried about COVID-19 gain access to absentee ballots received some changes before clearing a state Senate panel. The Senate elections committee on Tuesday approved the measure that retained all of the provisions included in the legislation when the House voted for it overwhelmingly last week. The bill in part expands options for registered voters to receive absentee ballot request forms, including the creation of an online portal for submissions. The committee also approved an amendment that its sponsor says will help investigate attempts at potential ballot fraud and harvesting using the portal. 

President Donald Trump says he is seeking a new state to host the Republican National Convention after host North Carolina refused to guarantee the event could be held in Charlotte without restrictions because of ongoing concerns over the coronavirus. Trump tweeted the news Tuesday night, complaining that the state’s governor, Democrat Roy Cooper, and other officials “refuse to guarantee that we can have use of the Spectrum Arena” and are not “allowing us to occupy the arena as originally anticipated and promised.” Trump says the party is “now forced to seek another State to host the 2020 Republican National Convention.”

Sunday, May 31

The Republican National Committee says it wants to hear from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper by Wednesday on whether the state can fully accommodate the party’s national convention in August this summer. The letter sent Saturday by RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel to Cooper comes a day after Cooper talked by phone with President Trump about the issue. The two disagreed about the viability of a full-fledged convention. The convention is currently scheduled to begin Aug. 24 in Charlotte. Trump and Republicans have said they want no coronavirus-related restrictions on attendance or hotel and restaurant capacity. 

As hurricane season starts Monday, most of North Carolina’s coastal counties are grappling with shortfalls or concerns about equipment and resources as they balance the dual threat of tropical weather and the COVID-19 pandemic. All 20 counties in the state’s coastal management zone told The Associated Press that COVID-19 is factoring into hurricane preparations. Five said overall plans hadn’t changed, but they’re ready to adjust to the virus if needed. Fifteen counties acknowledged shortfalls or concerns about supplies, with protective gear being the most common worry during a national shortage. However, three others - Dare, New Hanover and Pender - say they have sufficient resources for hurricane season.

Saturday, May 30

President Donald Trump and North Carolina’s governor have spoken about the viability of a full-fledged Republican National Convention in Charlotte in August. A spokesperson for Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper confirmed that Cooper and the president spoke by phone on Friday. Trump this week threatened to move his formal renomination elsewhere if he does not get guarantees soon of being able to hold a large-scale event. Cooper's spokesperson says that the governor expressed concerns over Trump's insistence on a full convention arena with no face coverings and no social distancing. The Republican National Committee declined to comment about the call.