At least 74 people have died from coronavirus in North Carolina as total cases top 3,900

At least 74 people have died from coronavirus in North Carolina as total cases top 3,900
COVID-19 map in North Carolina (Source: NCDHHS)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina health officials reported a total of 3,908 cases of coronavirus across 91 counties Friday, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). At least 74 deaths have been reported.

Health officials now say the median age for those who tested positive in N.C. is 46.

The latest number includes 906 cases in Mecklenburg County, the NCDHHS website reports.

Health officials say that 1 percent of those infected by the coronavirus in North Carolina are under 17, 8 percent are 18 to 21, 41 percent are between ages of 25 and 49 years old, 28 percent are between ages 50 and 65 and 21 percent are older than 65 years old.

As of Friday, more than 57,645 tests have been conducted. At least 423 patients were still hospitalized.

During a press conference on Tuesday, state leaders said there are plans to reopen a hospital in Hamlet, about an hour and a half from Charlotte, that shut down in 2017. N.C. Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said the hospital is going to be prepared so that its beds can be ready to help with a possible upcoming surge of COIVD-19 patients.

During the conference, Gov. Roy Cooper also said he signed an executive order in conjunction with NCDHHS to fast track child care for essential workers.

Financial aid is available to parents and caregivers who are essential workers and who meet the following criteria:

  • Their income is below 300 percent of the poverty line;
  • They are an essential worker fighting COVID-19 or protecting the health and safety of communities; and
  • They feel they have no other viable child care options available to them.

Child care teachers and staff that work in programs serving essential workers will also see bonuses in their pay in April and May. NCDHHS will pay child care programs staying open to serve essential workers $300 per month for each full-time teacher and $200 per month for each full-time non-teaching staff member, including administrators, janitors and other support staff.

Bonus payments will be paid by the child care programs to all eligible staff during their regular pay periods. Part-time workers are also eligible for prorated bonus awards.

If you are an essential worker and need help with child care, you can call a hotline at 1-888-600-1685 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Gov. Cooper also urged the need to keep practicing social distancing practices as the Easter holiday approaches.

“Holidays are usually a time for family, but this is not a time to visit with extended family. Consider the lives of your loved ones, consider your own life,” Cooper said. “We want everyone to be here for next year’s holiday.”

“Even though we won’t be together in the pews or at each other’s homes, we will be together in spirit,” Cooper continued. “I know that faith and hope will sustain us through these hard times.”

During a press conference a week earlier, Cooper announced he had signed an executive order to prohibit utility companies from shutting off services to people who are unable to pay.

N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein said the “insidious virus” has forced N.C. businesses to lay off 300,000 people over the last two weeks.

“Just think about that number - it is massive,” Stein said. “It is orders of magnitude greater than any two-week period during the Great Recession.”

Last week, Gov. Cooper’s ‘stay at home’ order went into effect. During Tuesday’s press conference, he stressed the importance of following the guidelines the order lays out.

“I know it’s hard, but prevention is still the single most important thing you can do right now,” Cooper said. “If we don’t slow the infection, our medical system will be stretched beyond its capacity.”

Mandy Cohen, Secretary of Health and Human Services, echoed that statement.

“We do not have vaccines or a treatment. Social distancing is the only tool we have to slow the spread of COVID-19 so fewer people get sick at the same time and so we don’t overwhelm our hospitals,” said Cohen.

“I can’t stress it enough - your actions matter. Staying at home matters. Staying home will save lives,” Cohen continued. “I know this is really, really hard. Most of us have never lived through a time where we’ve had to take this kind of collective action to change our way of life in a matter of a couple days. In many ways this is like a war, right here at home, and our enemy is this virus.”

Cohen said if you’re leaving your house, it should be limited to getting groceries, picking up medication or going for a walk outside. If you’re working at an essential business, Cohen urged, you still need to follow social distancing guidelines.

Ninety-six N.C. counties are now under a state of emergency.

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 the governor issued the statewide stay-at-home order. The order went into effect 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.

Health officials said North Carolina currently has 15,398 in-patient beds in the state, and 6,235 of those are currently empty. There is also 3,223 intensive care beds in the state, and about 745 of those are empty.

Those numbers do not include extra, incoming beds that have been requested, officials added.

Cooper addressed the virus as a “cruel and contagious sickness,” after North Carolina announced its first coronavirus-related deaths.

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.

In what appeared 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.

Specific information about the remaining deaths is not readily available.

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.”

Cooper told county leaders across N.C. Tuesday that he expects coronavirus cases in all 100 counties “before the end of the week.”

Cooper says the “number one mission right now is to save lives” and protect the people of North Carolina.

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.

All public K-12 schools will remain closed until May 15 under an executive order signed by Cooper.

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 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.

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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.

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