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Governor closing bars and restaurants
If you were hoping to make it out to your favorite bar to raise a pint in honor of St. Patrick today, your Irish luck just ran out.
As of 5 p.m. today, Gov. Roy Cooper ordered all restaurants and bars in North Carolina to be closed except for providing take-out food services. This follows Cooper’s executive order on Saturday which restricted mass gatherings of more than 100 people.
“On Saturday I ordered restrictions on large gatherings, there was guidance to restaurants and bars to keep more people separated,” Cooper said at a press conference this afternoon held at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh. “I commend those who took guidance seriously, unfortunately, some have not. So today we’re ordering them to close.”
Cooper took the unprecedented step as the COVID-19 case count increased to 40, up from 32 on Monday.
Some eateries and bars had already decided to close temporarily before they were ordered to do so.
“This is about making sacrifices for the greater good of our community,” Justin Brigham of Sycamore Brewing in Charlotte told the Charlotte Agenda. He said he’d be losing hundreds of thousands of dollars, but he said he thought it was the right thing to do.
“We believe the way the beer community ignores or confronts the COVID-19 risk in an ineffective way, the downstream effects, although somewhat hidden, are most certainly worsened,” he said.
Cooper said he’s depending on Congress and President Donald Trump to shepherd a stimulus package through the federal pipeline that will help fund coronavirus response and relief for workers affected by closures and the economic slowdown.
Child feeding programs start
Public school systems across the state began providing free lunch and breakfast this week to children who have been out of school since Gov. Roy Cooper’s order on Saturday for the schools to stay closed for at least two weeks to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.
“We’re a large family so it really helps, because of everything that is going on. It’s kind of scary leaving the house,” said Erin Howard as she waited in a long line at Cumberland County’s Cape Fear High School on Tuesday. Howard said she was getting lunch for five children.
School systems have also begun educating students remotely using Internet technology. Packets with school assignments were also being handed out in Cumberland County.
Orange County nonprofit changes food delivery to low-income children
The Orange County nonprofit group TABLE, which addresses child hunger, has revamped how it serves food to the children it helps throughout the year.
The group has decided to turn away its volunteers who are over age 60 to avoid inadvertently exposing them to coronavirus, said Suzanne Tormollen, TABLE’s executive director.
“We just have to be really selective,” she said.
People donating items are no longer allowed in the nonprofit’s building, and the group is continuously disinfecting surfaces.
The nonprofit plans to continue weekly deliveries of bags of food — enough to make five or six meals, plus snacks — as long as it can.
Testing ramps up
The number of people who tested positive for coronavirus rose today to 40 people across 16 counties, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
“We know that more than 1,100 tests have been completed in the state and thousands more samples have been collected and are in pipeline at laboratories across the state,” said DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen.
She said the number is reflective of all the testing being done statewide – in local health departments, doctors’ offices, academic medical centers and the State Laboratory of Public Health. Cohen said the tests now being used come from many sources, including commercial companies such as LabCorp and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
She said that there are still supply chain issues now with the materials such as swabs and kits for taking samples. Nonetheless, she expressed confidence that people would be able to get tests, as hospitals and other health care providers started standing up testing sites across the state.
“Last night, we sent clear guidance to every doctor in the state through our medical board on how they can collect samples, while also protecting themselves, and other patients,” Cohen said. “If doctors are unable to collect samples for testing in their office, we are working with our public and private partners to expand sample collection for doctors to refer someone to alternative, non-hospital based sites.”
While Cohen said that the state is finally able to ramp up testing, she said that she believed that testing would become less important as the state starts to shift focus on treating those she expects to fall ill.
Cohen said she expects to see more people turn up sick from COVID-19 soon.
“As we weather this pandemic together, remember that the actions we take now are so that fewer people get sick at the same time,” Cohen said. “So that those who need more serious medical care will have it.”
“All these measures remind us that our lives are connected and interdependent.”
More Duke students test positive
More members of a group of Duke University students traveling internationally have contracted coronavirus, bringing the total to 19, according to the university. Fifteen people who returned to the Durham area have tested positive for coronavirus, according to a statement from Kyle Cavanaugh, Duke’s vice-president for administration and emergency coordinator. All are currently in good health and being monitored by Durham public health officials. The 15 cases are in addition to four others who tested positive while on the trip, and who are being treated overseas. Duke did not release any identifying details about the students to protect their privacy.
Several hospital systems around the state canceling scheduled or elective surgeries
Wake Baptist Health, Atrium Health and Novant Health are all rescheduling non-essential surgeries, procedures and ambulatory appointments starting Wednesday, according to a joint news release. Emergency procedures will continue.
Affected patients should have heard from their medical teams about the delays. The goal is to conserve resources as the state grapples with an expected surge in COVID-19 cases in coming days and weeks. It also follows recommendations from the American College of Surgeons and U.S. Surgeon General.
OBX closed off
Dare County closed its borders to visitors midday Tuesday. The coastal county, home to the Outer Banks and a major vacation destination in normal times, has not had any confirmed cases of coronavirus.
But the Dare County Control Group opted to enact the restrictions because of community health risk. The county also has limited medical facilities. Checkpoints will be set up to ensure only residents or non-resident property owners and workers with documentation of their employment can come into the county.
Beware scammers, says NC Secretary of State
North Carolina consumers worried about COVID-19 should also be wary of scam artists who are selling fake versions of sought-after items such as hand sanitizer, face masks and gloves — even fake testing kits, the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office said.
“Sadly, scam artists will use our fear against us in situations such as this,” Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said in a press release. Meanwhile, the office said, federal officials have relayed warnings that unscrupulous vendors are selling fake “home testing” kits for COVID-19. Only verified state and local health labs can conduct authorized diagnostic testing in the United States.