CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - At least 763 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in 60 counties in North Carolina, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).
The latest numbers were released around 11:45 a.m. Friday, not long after officials confirmed a third coronavirus-related death in the state.
North Carolina is considered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have widespread transmission, meaning some people who have tested positive don’t know how they were infected.
“Because no one is immune and there’s no vaccination the best tool we have to slow the spread is keeping our physical distance and staying home,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.
That’s why, on Friday, the governor issued a statewide stay-at-home order. The order will be effective beginning at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 30.
“It truly is a matter of life and death,” Cooper said. “Even with the uncertainty of these times and the new pace of our lifestyles, we know that the good parts of our lives as North Carolinians will return. We fight this disease now so that we are better able to defeat it in the future.”
Cooper announced that more than 219,000 people have filed unemployment claims since March 16, as of Friday afternoon. The first unemployment benefits will be paid early next week.
Health officials say individuals and families can call 2-1-1 for assistance from the operation center.
During a Thursday press conference, health officials said there were currently 50 people who were hospitalized in the state. That number rose to 77 by Friday morning, according to NCDHHS’s website.
The average age for those who tested positive for coronavirus in N.C. is 41 years.
Health officials said the state had received reports of 15,399 tests completed from sites that do report negative tests, adding that not all testing sites report their negative results. Of those numbers, there are more than 15,000 tests pending.
Health officials said North Carolina currently has more than 10,000 in-patient beds in the state, and that more than 50 percent of those are currently empty. There is also more than 3,000 intensive care beds in the state, and about 18 percent of those are empty.
Those numbers do not include extra, incoming beds that have been requested, officials added.
Gov. Roy Cooper addressed the virus as a “cruel and contagious sickness,” after North Carolina announced its first coronavirus-related deaths Wednesday.
The first person, from Cabarrus County and in their late seventies, died on March 24 from complications associated with the virus. The patient had several underlying medical conditions.
The second death was a Harnett County patient in their late thirties who had an underlying medical condition, NCDHHS said on March 26.
The third death was a patient from Johnston County. The patient, who was in their mid-sixties and had underlying medical conditions, also died on March 26.
On Friday, in what appears to be the state’s fourth virus-related death, Rowan County health officials confirmed that a patient who tested positive for COVID-19 has died. Officials say the patient was in the high risk category due to age and underlying medical conditions.
Another person who was traveling through North Carolina also died from COVID-19 complications. Since the patient, identified as 66-year-old Landon Spradlin, was from Virginia, his death is not counted in N.C.'s total.
“Today is a stark reminder that we must take this disease seriously,” Cooper said.
“We’ve gotta do everything we can do to help that family that’s wondering where the next paycheck is going to come [from],” Cooper said, noting that families who were on the edge have “fallen off the cliff.”
It’s unclear whether NCDHHS’ latest numbers reflect new cases out of Mecklenburg County, which were at 170 Wednesday.
Mecklenburg County issued a “stay at home” proclamation Tuesday.
“We want people to stay home and local communities are doing what they think is right,” Cooper said Tuesday in response to a question on whether further orders would be issued in North Carolina.
“We are telling people now that we want them to stay home,” Cooper said. "We will be issuing additional orders soon.”
Cooper told county leaders across N.C. Tuesday that he expects coronavirus cases in all 100 counties “before the end of the week.” Currently, COVID-19 cases have been reported in at least 57 counties.
Cooper says the “number one mission right now is to save lives” and protect the people of North Carolina.
Dr. Mandy Cohen spoke with county managers across the state as well, stating that about 20 percent of people who contract the virus will need hospital-level care, while 80 percent who test positive for coronavirus will get mild illness.
For reference, Cohen pointed out that some of our worst flu seasons only needed 2 percent of hospital-level care.
Monday, Cooper announced he would be signing an executive order closing all public K-12 schools until May 15.
Cooper said that despite not getting all the coronavirus tests the state requested, North Carolina has found more ways to get people who need it tested. Monday afternoon, Cooper said, there were at least 8,438 tests completed with 10,000 more tests waiting to be run.
Director of Emergency Management Michael Sprayberry said North Carolina has also sent a request to FEMA and the White House for a Major Disaster Declaration, which would authorize “may of the same programs activated after a hurricane.”
Sprayberry said North Carolinians can still call 211 with any questions related to the coronavirus or assistance.
- March 10: N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper declares state of emergency
- March 11: World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a pandemic
- March 13: President Donald Trump declares National Emergency | S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster declares state of emergency
- March 14: North Carolina closes all public schools, bans gatherings of more than 100 people
- March 15: South Carolina closes all public schools, recommends limiting large gatherings
- March 17: North Carolina limits restaurants to carry out or delivery, expands unemployment benefits
- March 18: North Carolina confirms first case of COVID-19 from community spread
- March 24: Cooper signs executive order closing NC K-12 public schools through May 15
- March 25: North Carolina announces first coronavirus-related death
Public schools in the state will remain closed through May 15, Cooper announced in an order Monday.
An order for North Carolina remains in place to keep mass gatherings to 50 people or less.
Gov. Cooper also previously issued an executive order that closes bars and restaurants to dine-in customers. The order unlocked unemployment benefits for those who lost, or lose, their job during the coronavirus outbreak.