North Carolina sees one of the highest single-day increases in cases as statewide mask mandate goes into effect

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Here are the latest updates about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in North Carolina.

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12 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Friday reported 1,635 new cases of COVID-19 in the state, marking the fourth highest one-day increase in cases since the start of the pandemic.

13 more deaths were reported, bringing the total to 1,303 so far.

21,145 tests were reported as completed on Friday. The percent positive has stayed between 8 and 10 percent over the last two weeks.

892 people are hospitalized due to complications from COVID-19, up one from Thursday.

On Wednesday, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen walked through where North Carolina stands on the key metrics health officials look at to reopen the state.

Cohen said COVID-like syndromic cases–the number of people visiting the emergency room with symptoms similar to COVID-19–are increasing.

Though Cohen pointed out that Wednesday marked the second highest increase in number of cases reported for a single day, she did note that the trajectory of cases had begun to level last week before spiking. However, she also pointed out that this metric has been elevated throughout the Safer at Home order.

The percentage of positive tests, as Cohen pointed out, provides important context to the number of cases. However, this number continues to be elevated–which Cohen said is an indication that the virus is still “very prevalent” in North Carolina.

Cohen also noted that the number of hospitalizations has been steadily increasing for over a month.

“We used to be rock solid in the 500s, but we’re now in the 900s,” Cohen said.

11:45 a.m.
ReOpen NC co-founder Ashley Smith held a press conference in Raleigh on Friday.

She said her group had petitions with more than 6,000 signatures urging lawmakers to end the statewide mask mandate and calling for investigations into all of Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 safety Executive Orders.

She argued that while cases and hospitalizations have continued to rise, fewer people have been dying from COVID-19. So, she said, the risks of the virus are not as harmful as the effects of the business safety measures implemented by the state government.

“I also never read in the Constitution that any of us are promised–we’re not constitutionally guaranteed a virus or pathogen-free existence; it just doesn’t exist. To live is to take risks,” Smith said.

Smith again linked COVID-19 with the flu, alleging that the flu outbreak in 2017 was worse than the COVID-19 pandemic happening now.

“If you look at straight numbers, we still haven’t hit the 2017 influenza numbers. Look it up,” Smith said.

According to the state health department the entire 2017-18 flu season (10/1/2017-5/19/2018) saw 391 deaths and 12,621 confirmed cases of the flu. The entire 2016-2017 flu season (10/02/2016-05/20/2017) saw 218 deaths and 8,074 confirmed cases of the flu.

Those numbers are lower than the 57,183 laboratory confirmed cases and 1,290 deaths from COVID-19 (as of June 25) since the outbreak began in North Carolina just three months ago.

11:30 a.m.
In a release, Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said his deputies won’t be enforcing the mask requirement “against individuals.”

“A business owner or manager has the right to refuse entry to a customer or patron that refuses to wear a face covering, and if that person enters the premises or refuses to leave the premises when asked, law enforcement officers may be called, and we have a duty to enforce the criminal trespassing laws if required,” Bizzell explained in a statement.

Bizzell’s statement added his department will “continue to use common sense in applying the law, including the governor’s order.”

11 a.m.
On Friday morning, City of Raleigh crews put up signage in the Glenwood South area reminding people to practice social distancing and to use masks where required.

This comes after restaurant patrons were seen out without masks and in crowds last weekend.

The signs were put up in partnership with the DRA, Glenwood South Neighborhood Collaborative, RPD and business owners.

About 150 sidewalk decals and signs were placed from Peace Street to Hillsborough Street.

“I think it’s important for us to have a conversation about what transpired over the past weekend,” Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin told ABC11 on Monday.

“I think you have a lot of younger people going out,” she said. “They don’t feel they need to wear a mask. What they don’t get or haven’t connected the dots on is, yes, they could probably survive COVID, but they could also infect others. So, we’re not asking people to wear a mask for themselves. We’re asking people to wear a mask to protect other people.”

Raleigh’s face-covering requirement went into effect last Friday.

“I think that people need some time to adjust, but the police have been handing out cards that have information about the Executive Order on there. And they’re doing the education piece,” Baldwin said on Monday. “We wanted to see how this worked this weekend. We’re going to continue with the education focus. I don’t think it’s appropriate at this time to take that a step further.”

FRIDAY MORNING STORYLINES

North Carolina’s mask requirement goes into effect Friday at 5 p.m. Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that people across the state must wear masks or other face coverings in public as he extended other business restrictions by three weeks amid a surge in cases of COVID-19.

The requirement mandates people wear a mask when it’s not possible to socially distance. Employees at retailers and restaurants, as well as government employees, are required to wear a mask while on the job.

Sheriffs in Halifax, Sampson, Lee and Bladen counties have announced they won’t enforce the mask mandate.

RELATED: Concealed gun carriers not impacted by N.C.’s mandated mask order

Businesses along Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh will put out signs Friday reminding people to social distance. Restaurants like Armadillo Grill have markers on the sidewalk reminding people how far apart to stand. Big crowds have been spotted along Glenwood Avenue in recent weeks with many not social distancing or wearing masks.

1,009 new positive COVID-19 cases were announced Thursday with 9 percent of the latest tests coming back positive. The state reported 891 hospitalizations and completed 19,993 tests.

The city of Raleigh is getting ready to reopen public pools with reduced capacity. The pools can reopen on July 6. Guests will be subject to wellness checks and are limited to 75-minute sessions.

THURSDAY

7 p.m.
Durham County Department of Public Health reports 77 new positive cases of COVID-19, raising the county total to 3,479.

5:30 p.m.
The City of Raleigh is preparing to reopen most of its public pools starting next week.

On Monday, Millbrook Aquatic Center, Optimist Aquatic Center, Pullen Aquatic Center, Biltmore Pool, Lake Johnson Pool, Longview Pool, and Ridge Road Pool will open with limited capacity.

5:28 p.m.
The Cumberland County Department of Public Health is reporting 70 positive COVID-19 cases and four deaths since Monday.

Cumberland County’s case count is now 1,121, with 36 deaths.

Two of the COVID-19 related deaths were residents of the N.C. State Veterans Home where there is an active outbreak. The patients were in their 70s and 80s. The other two people who died had underlying health conditions and were in their 60s and 80s.

5:15 p.m.
COVID-19 outbreaks were reported at three long-term care facilities in Wake County, according to a news release sent Thursday evening.

Outbreaks have been confirmed at Tower Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Raleigh, Waltonwood Senior Living in Cary and Hillside Nursing and Rehab in Wake Forest.

Wake County officials said staff members at all three facilities have tested positive for the virus; residents tested positive at Waltonwood and Hillside as well.

Officials did not say how many people at each facility tested positive for COVID-19.

5:03 p.m.
Wake County health officials report an additional 123 COVID-19 cases, raising the county total to 4,469 as of Thursday night.

3:50 p.m.
Adding to the growing list of Sheriff’s Offices that will not enforce the Gov. Cooper’s executive order of wearing a mask in public, Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker announced that they too will not cite anyone for failing to wear a mask.

RELATED: Some Triangle law enforcement officers not issuing citations for state COVID-19 rule violations

So far, Lee, Sampson and Halifax county sheriff’s offices have announced they won’t enforce the mask mandate. Chatham County officials sent out a memo to county employees and media emphasizing arrests are not authorized for failing to wear a mask under the statewide order and that masks are not required at all times when in public.

2:45 p.m.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest announced on Thursday his plans to sue Gov. Roy Cooper over his executive orders that have kept some businesses closed around the state.

Forest is running against Cooper in the coming election.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Forest said Cooper has violated the Emergency Management Act.

“The governor has repeatedly ignored the law, enacting mandates that selectively target the businesses and citizens of North Carolina without concurrence from a majority of the Council of State,” he wrote.

The purpose of the Emergency Management Act is “to set forth the authority and responsibility of the Governor, State agencies, and local governments in prevention of, preparation for, response to, and recovery from natural or man-made emergencies or hostile military or paramilitary action.”

Read the full letter he sent to Gov. Cooper here.

Cooper’s office responded with a statement to ABC11 that said: “There’s no room for politics during a pandemic. The Governor will continue to be guided by science and the law as he works every day with public health experts to keep North Carolinians safe.”

2 p.m.
Some U.S. officials said they believe as many as 20 million Americans have contracted the coronavirus, suggesting millions had the virus and never knew it.

That’s nearly 10 times as many infections as the 2.3 million cases that have been confirmed and comes as the Trump administration works to tamp down nationwide concern about the COVID-19 pandemic as about a dozen states are seeing worrisome increases in cases.

Read more about that here.

12:30 p.m.
In a Facebook post, Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter said he and his staff won’t cite anyone for not wearing a mask.

On Wednesday night, both the Sampson and Halifax County Sheriff’s Office announced they won’t enforce the mask mandate. Chatham County officials sent out a memo to county employees and media emphasizing arrests are not authorized for failing to wear a mask under the statewide order and that masks are not required at all times when in public.

Gov. Roy Cooper issued the order on Wednesday stating that people must wear face coverings in public when physical distancing isn’t possible.

12 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting 1,009 new cases of COVID-19 in the state. So far, since the start of the pandemic, there have been a total of 57,183 cases.

In the last 24 hours, the state has reported 19,993 tests completed.

891 people are currently hospitalized in the state due to complications from COVID-19.

North Carolina COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to climb. So what do those numbers mean?

18 more deaths have been reported since Wednesday, bringing the total to 1,290 since the start of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen walked through where North Carolina stands on the key metrics health officials look at to reopen the state.

Cohen said COVID-like syndromic cases–the number of people visiting the emergency room with symptoms similar to COVID-19–are increasing. “This upward trend is concerning,” Cohen said.

Though Cohen pointed out that Wednesday marked the second highest increase in number of cases reported for a single day, she did note that the trajectory of cases had begun to level last week before spiking. However, she also pointed out that this metric has been elevated throughout the Safer at Home order.

The percentage of positive tests, as Cohen pointed out, provides important context to the number of cases. However, this number continues to be elevated–which Cohen said is an indication that the virus is still “very prevalent” in North Carolina.

Cohen also noted that the number of hospitalizations has been steadily increasing for over a month.

“We used to be rock solid in the 500s, but we’re now in the 900s,” Cohen said.

Cohen continued to push for the use of face coverings, adding, “Face coverings only really work when we all do it.”
THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES

Gov. Roy Cooper has ordered people across the state to wear masks or other face coverings in public to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Coronavirus symptoms, prevention and number of confirmed cases

Cooper issued an executive order on Wednesday stating that people must wear face coverings in public when it’s not possible to maintain physical distance. The order, which goes into effect Friday at 5 p.m., 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 the new order directs law enforcement to issue citations to businesses or organizations that fail to enforce mask requirements. Individuals can be charged with trespassing or another crime if a business is attempting to enforce the mandate but the customer refuses.

The North Carolina General Assembly has failed to override 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.

In Durham, local non-profit “El Centro Hispano” plans to hand out masks and educational materials to underserved communities. Despite making up just 10% of the state’s population, those who identify as Hispanic or Latino account for about 46% of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina, a wide disparity also seen in other states.

New York, Connecticut and New Jersey are asking visitors from states with high coronavirus infection rates, like North Carolina, to quarantine in an announcement made as summer travel would normally swing into high gear.

Copyright © 2020 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved – The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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