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

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SATURDAY
7:30 a.m.
According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been 9,740,073 COVID-19 cases in the United States.

FRIDAY

1:15 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reported 34 new COVID-19 cases and one new death. To date, the county has recorded 1,556 COVID-19 cases and 31 COVID-19-related deaths.

11:55 a.m.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 2,908 new cases of COVID-19, the highest single-day increase since the beginning of the pandemic. This increase breaks last week’s record number by 23 cases.

The increase in cases was accompanied by another spike in completed tests, with 40,736 more tests reported Thursday. However, the percentage of positive tests rose to 6.9%. Thursday, during a news conference, NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the percentage of positive tests had stabilized, but is much higher than it was in September, and much higher than the benchmark of 5% or lower.

Currently, 1,161 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, another metric Cohen said had stabilized at a high level. In the last 24 hours, 309 suspected COVID-19 patients have been admitted to hospitals across North Carolina.

FRIDAY MORNING STORYLINES

COVID-19 has changed life for many employees in the public and private sector, with many working from home in recent months. A recent report from health officials shows that may continue to be the best practice as cases mount in many states.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals those who continue to work in an office or learn in a school setting are at greater risk to contract COVID-19. The study showed employed adults who tested positive for COVID-19 were nearly twice as likely to report regularly going to a physical workplace than those who tested negative.

“Businesses and employers should promote alternative work site options, such as teleworking, where possible, to reduce exposures to SARS-CoV-2,” a summary said. “Where telework options are not feasible, worker safety measures should continue to be scaled up to reduce possible worksite exposures.”

Middle school-age students will be allowed to return to the classroom Monday within the Wake County Public School System. The students will return to school in 3-week rotations.

The virus isn’t only surging in the United States. Europe is also reporting increased cases, and Russia’s daily number of new coronavirus infections topped 20,000 Friday, setting a new record since the beginning of the pandemic.

THURSDAY
5:17 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reported 21 new cases for a total of 1,522 total positive COVID 19 cases.

There have been 30 deaths — 1.9% of cases — countywide.

2:45 p.m.
While expressing optimism that after the election, COVID-19 prevention would become less politicized, Gov. Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said North Carolina’s COVID-19 metrics are still trending in the wrong direction, and they are both concerned about the current state of the virus in the Tar Heel state.

“It’s concerning that we continue to see high COVID cases,” Cohen said before walking through the state’s four key metrics: COVID-like syndromic emergency room visits, the trajectory of positive cases, the percentage of positive tests and hospitalizations.

While syndromic ER visits are declining slightly, they are still elevated from earlier in the pandemic. Additionally, the trajectory of positive cases is higher than ever and continues to increase.

“There are concerning as weather turns colder and people are gathering indoors,” Cohen said.

While the percentage of positive tests and hospitalizations have both stabilized since mid-October, both increased in the earlier part of the month and remain high.

Cohen also said that hospitals tend to become stressed for capacity even in years without COVID-19 during winter months due to the flu and other viruses that circulate at that time.

HEAR MORE FROM DR. COHEN:

While she said her department would release more comprehensive guidelines next week, Cohen walked through five guidelines for people hoping to host small gatherings of family and friends for Thanksgiving or other holidays.

“I know folks want and need to be together during the holidays,” Cohen said. “If you do decide to host or attend a holiday gathering, there are ways to do it as safely as possible.”

  1. Do not host or attend a gathering if you feel sick, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or believe you have been exposed to the virus.
  2. Keep gatherings small and outdoors when possible. Do not exceed the gathering limit of 25 people indoors.
  3. Set up separate tables for people who live in the same household to sit together, with as much distance as possible between tables.
  4. Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces like counters, door handles, and serving utensils
  5. Follow 3 w’s: wear a mask whenever possible, wash hands frequently, and keep as much distance as possible between you and other people.

Additionally, while COVID-19 tests in North Carolina are typically reserved for people with symptoms, front line workers, or those who believe they may have been exposed to the virus, Cohen recommended anyone planning to travel or attend a holiday celebration get a test before leaving. However, she reminded North Carolinians that a negative test does not give permission for reckless behavior–one should still wear a mask and practice social distancing while around anyone not in their immediate household.

11:55 a.m.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 2,859 new COVID-19 cases, the second-highest daily increase since the beginning of the pandemic and the third day in a row that more than 2,000 new cases have been reported. In fact, in nine out of the last 10 days, the state has reported more than 2,000 cases, including four days over 2,800 and the single-day record increase of 2,885 cases.

The spike in cases was met with a sharp increase in completed tests–41,049 recorded on Wednesday. The percentage of positive tests similarly dipped from above 7% to 6.6% as of Tuesday.

41 more people have died from COVID-19 in the state, a number trending upward in recent days, though not a key metric for state health officials because deaths is a lagging indicator.

Currently, 1,193 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, with 97% of hospitals reporting. In the last 24 hours, 319 suspected COVID-19 patients have been admitted to hospitals statewide.

THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES

While most Americans are turning their attention to the final stages of deciding the next president, the COVID-19 pandemic remains a major hurdle in the U.S., where another record for daily confirmed coronavirus cases was set as several states posted all-time highs Wednesday.

North Carolina reported 2,425 new cases Wednesday and 50 deaths. The percentage of positive tests sits at 7.4% (the state’s goal is to be below 5%).

Gov. Roy Cooper and the state’s coronavirus task force will address the state Thursday at 2 p.m. You can watch the update on ABC11 and abc11.com.

The U.S. has set a record number of daily infections as cases have surged 45% in two weeks according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Germany has recorded nearly 20,000 new coronavirus cases in one day, its highest level yet.

The national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, on Thursday said 19,990 infections had been confirmed in the past 24 hours. That tops the previous record of 19,059 set on Saturday.

WEDNESDAY
2:43 p.m.
Wake County Public Health has confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 at The Laurels of Forest Glen – a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center at 1101 Hartwell St. in Garner.

This is the second outbreak confirmed at this location. No additional information about residents or employees within the facility will be disclosed.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services defines an outbreak as two or more people – residents or employees – testing positive for the virus.

Under NCDHHS Sec. Mandy Cohen’s Order No. 3, certain facilities that experience new outbreaks must fall back to previous restrictions and not allow visitors for 28 days. That includes nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult care homes, behavioral health and intellectual/developmental disability services, intermediate care facilities and psychiatric residential treatment facilities.

2:10 p.m.
The Sampson County Health Department is reporting 15 new cases, bringing the total positive cases to date to 2,956.

There have been 31 deaths countywide.

1:30 p.m.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 2,425 new COVID-19 cases 50 more deaths, a sharp increase in both metrics as North Carolina’s key indicators continue to trend in the wrong direction.

The spike in new cases was accompanied by just 24,025 more completed tests, the lowest increase in six days. At the same time, the percentage of positive tests climbed to 7.4% after several days around 6%.

Currently, 1,186 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, an increase of 11 patients from Tuesday.

1:18 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 15 new cases for a total of 1,522 positive COVID 19 cases.

There have been 29 deaths countywide — or 1.9% of cases.

11:54 a.m.
A Central Prison offender with pre-existing medical conditions, who tested positive for COVID-19, has died at the prison’s hospital.

“His death is tragic, and we are working very hard to mitigate the impact of the virus in our prisons,” said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons. “The health and safety of the staff and the offender population is our top priority.”

The offender, a man in his early 80s, tested positive for COVID-19 on October 14 and was in the prison hospital when his condition worsened, and he died November 3.

10:12 a.m.
Residents near downtown or southeast Raleigh will soon have an easy way to get tested for COVID-19. Wake County is partnering with Raleigh Gethsemane Seventh-Day Adventist Church and Davie Street Presbyterian Church to provide free drive-thru testing this weekend.

“We want to make testing easily available in the communities where access may be limited – such as southeast Raleigh or near downtown,” said Wake County Medical Director Dr. Kim McDonald. “Partnering with these churches will allow people who need a COVID-19 test to get one conveniently and safely.”

The new drive-thru testing sites will run Saturday and Sunday. Appointments can be made online in half-hour intervals from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The service is free, but people must sign up at wakegov.com/testing to secure their spot.

Raleigh Gethsemane is located at 2525 Sanderford Road in southeast Raleigh. Davie Street Presbyterian is located at 300 E. Davie St. near downtown Raleigh.

In addition to testing, Raleigh Gethsemane will be handing out 100 emergency food boxes (50 on Saturday and 50 on Sunday). They will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis to those receiving a test.

WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
As COVID-19 metrics continue to trend in the wrong direction in North Carolina, Wake County is expanding access to free COVID-19 drive-thru test sites.

In a news release, the county announced two new test sites will open in downtown and southeast Raleigh this weekend: one at the Raleigh Gethsemane Seventh-Day Adventist Church and one at Davie Street Presbyterian Church.

The test sites will operate this weekend from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Those who want a test must sign up in advance for an appointment online here.

Officials at Raleigh Gethsemane will also hand out 50 emergency food boxes each day on a first-come, first-served basis to people receiving a COVID-19 test.

“We want to make testing easily available in the communities where access may be limited – such as southeast Raleigh or near downtown,” said Wake County medical director Dr. Kim McDonald in a written statement. “Partnering with these churches will allow people who need a COVID-19 test to get one conveniently and safely.”

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