Daily Updates from WHQR on closures, local, state and federal efforts and other developments in the coronavirus battle.
Thursday, April 2
6.6 million workers in the U.S. filed for their first week of unemployment benefits in the week ending March 28 — a new historic high. A week earlier, 3.3 million Americans filed for their first week of benefits, which was the largest number ever at the time.
Wednesday, April 1
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo is denouncing several instances of racism in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Saffo said he’s been approached about incidents that mirror those around the country, where Asian Americans are being discriminated against, harassed or even targeted for violence.
Health officials observing COVID-19 in North Carolina's largest city say demographic data showed African Americans are being disproportionately affected. The Charlotte Observer reports that data from Mecklenburg County shows black residents accounted for 44% of over 300 confirmed COVID-19 cases locally through Saturday. By comparison, the U.S. Census estimates from last July show African American residents make up only 33% of Mecklenburg County’s population.
North Carolina's restaurant and hotel operators are pleading for financial and tax deadline relief from the state, as closings and reduced travel from the coronavirus have thrown over 370 thousand employees out of work.
At least 1,498 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and eight deaths have been reported in North Carolina, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
For people who think they might have COVID-19 and have mild symptoms, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends they stay home and call their doctor for medical advice.
Governor Roy Cooper issued a proclamation today declaring it National Census Day in North Carolina. There is an extra push to get the state’s more than 10 million residents counted while also dealing with COVID-19.
The North Carolina Employment Security Office has added a 50-person call center to handle the unprecedented number of unemployment claims being filed. Last week, people reported having trouble logging onto the Employment Security website, receiving busy signals, or dealing with 3+ hour wait times.
In Brunswick County as of April 1, there are 22 positive cases of COVID-19, 239 pending test results, and 352 confirmed negative test results, totaling 613 tests administered so far. Operations at Wilmington International Airport continue to reflect the travel slowdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Passenger volume is down about 80%.
Tuesday, March 31
New Hanover County has four new positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the county’s total positive case count to 34. Residents are now under a Stay At Home Order, but there is no curfew in effect. View a list of FAQs related to the orders here.
Governor Roy Cooper on Tuesday announced another step to help families by prohibiting utilities from disconnecting people who are unable to pay during this pandemic. This order applies to electric, gas, water and wastewater services for the next 60 days. The order directs utilities to give residential customers at least six months to pay outstanding bills and prohibits them from collecting fees, penalties or interest for late payment.
In Brunswick County as of March 31, there are 16 positive cases of COVID-19, 296 pending test results, and 264 confirmed negative test results, totaling 576 tests administered so far. Brunswick County Emergency Services is now accepting PPE donations.
North Carolina's restaurant and hotel operators are pleading for state financial aid and tax deadline relief as closings and minimal travel from the new coronavirus have thrown over 370,000 employees out of work. Hospitality industry leaders told state House members on Tuesday that while assistance from Washington will ultimately help, it won't come quickly enough.
North Carolina's public television network is now airing educational programs designed to complement work that students are doing at home or online while schools are shuttered. University of North Carolina Television started airing shows this week on its North Carolina Channel and on the web focused on learning for children in grades four to 12.
Monday, March 30
New Hanover County Public Health officials are investigating three new positive cases of COVID-19 that appear to be community transmission, bringing the county’s total positive case count to 30. Of these 30 cases: 12 are males and 18 are females, 12 cases are 18-40 years old, 12 cases are 41-64 years old, and 6 cases are 65+ years old.
Wilmington City Council voted Monday morning to consent to the New Hanover County declaration of additional restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, going beyond Gov. Cooper's statewide order. Both the statewide order and city/county restrictions go into effect at 5 pm Monday. The additional countywide restrictions, which are applicable in the city limits, incorporate the Governor’s order.
North Carolina's state epidemiologist says the statewide stay-at-home order won't show any conclusive effect on blunting the intensity of the coronavirus for about two weeks.
Governor Roy Cooper says the first coronavirus-related unemployment payments will go out starting next week, as North Carolina is flooded with tens of thousands of claims. The state now counts more than 13 hundred positive COVID-19 cases, and seven deaths -- the latest two were reported near Asheville and Charlotte yesterday.
Leaders of Wilmington’s two largest homeless shelters are urging the city and New Hanover County to protect the city’s homeless population from the spread of Covid-19. According to Good Shepherd’s Executive Director, shelters are becoming overwhelmed with rising numbers — a jump from around 60 to nearly 90 in recent weeks.
The UNC System is instructing its universities to move their summer courses online. Staff are also working out a plan to refund room and board fees to students. The system is also changing its admissions requirements for the incoming freshman class because SAT and ACT tests have been halted by the coronavirus outbreak.
Sunday, March 29
President Donald Trump extended the voluntary U.S. shutdown for a month, bowing to public-health experts who told him the coronavirus pandemic could claim over 100,000 lives or more in the U.S. if not enough is done to fight it.
On Sunday, Governor Roy Cooper announced that the first payments for the unemployment claims related to coronavirus will begin going out this week. The Division of Employment Security has received an unprecedented number of unemployment insurance claims since Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order No. 118 on March 17. In the past two weeks, approximately 270,000 claims have been filed, with most of them related to COVID-19. For comparison, the state received about 7,500 claims in the first two weeks of March, before the order was issued.
Health officials now report that three positive cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Columbus County. In a Facebook post Sunday morning, the Columbus County Health Department said the third case involved an individual who traveled to a known COVID-19 hotspot in another state and is requiring a stay at Columbus Regional. The three cases are not connected, according to county health officials.
Saturday, March 28
New Hanover County Public Health officials are investigating four new positive cases of COVID-19 that appear to be travel related. This brings the county’s total positive case count to 25. The individuals are isolated, and Public Health is working on contact tracing to determine those who have been in close contact with them.
New Hanover County, in collaboration with the City of Wilmington and the towns of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach, will be implementing additional county-wide restrictions that support the Governor’s statewide order to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Friday, March 27
Brunswick County: As of March 27, there are 12 positive cases of COVID-19, 296 pending test results, and 170 confirmed negative test results in Brunswick County, totaling 478 administered tests so far
Governor Roy Cooper has issued a statewide Executive Order. It requires all North Carolinians to stay at home except for absolute necessities. The number of positive COVID-19 cases is escalating rapidly on a daily basis in North Carolina. And that’s why state officials say they can’t wait to take even more aggressive action.
New Hanover County Public Health officials are investigating six new positive cases of COVID-19 that appear to be travel related. This brings the county’s total positive case count to 21. The individuals are isolated, and Public Health is working on contact tracing to determine those who have been in close contact with them. As of 6 p.m. on March 27 there are 546 test samples reported to the county. Of those, 21 have been confirmed positive, 227 have been confirmed negative and 298 are still pending.
North Carolina health officials are reporting another death related to the new coronavirus. The death of a Johnston County resident Thursday brings the number of deaths reported by the state Department of Health and Human Services to three. DHHS reports more than 760 positive COVID-19 cases statewide.
Attorney General Josh Stein is working with Amazon to investigate nine North Carolina businesses and sellers over price gouging concerns, regarding items like hand sanitizer and N95 masks. Amazon identified these sellers as having raised prices on coronavirus-related products more than 40% between Feb. 10 and March 16, 2020, and as a group, having generated more than $100,000 in sales as a result of those higher prices.
The North Carolina Republican Party's state convention is being delayed by three weeks due to the new coronavirus emergency. The state GOP announced that the convention will now be held June 4-7 in Greenville. It was originally scheduled for mid-May, but party Chairman Mike Whatley says the alteration was made in light of numerous safety regulations issued to respond to the outbreak.