What to know now about COVID-19 in Wake County

Bookmark this page for daily updates. Last update: Tuesday, Oct. 27, 6:52 a.m.

Here’s what’s happening now:

Wake County families who meet certain income requirements can get support for childcare and remote learning, thanks to the new WakeSUPPORTS program.

The program helps working parents:

  • Afford to pay for their K-6th grade students to attend virtual school at a “safe location with reliable oversight,”
  • For before and after school care for K-6th graders
  • And pays fees for infant and toddler childcare associated with subsidized childcare.

WakeSUPPORTS will pay between $516-$870/month to care centers and organizations for qualified families within low-moderate income levels. [learn more]

The program comes after the pandemic showed that lower income families had fewer options to support their virtual learning children, while families with more resources were able to create “learning pods” or find and pay for other quality solutions.

Wake County elementary school students began a phased return to in-person instruction on Monday, followed by middle school students. Special education students K-12 in regional programs will also return, the school board voted.

The schedule:

  • Pre-K through third grade will return on a rotating basis Monday, then daily instruction on Nov. 16.
  • Fourth and fifth grade students will rotate one week in person, two weeks virtual beginning Nov. 16.
  • Middle school students (6-8th grad) will also rotate one week in person, two weeks virtual, beginning Nov. 9.
  • High school students (9-12) will remain remote, but will return for state exams that require in-person attendance.

This doesn’t effect families who opted for the Virtual Academy this semester or the year.

The class sizes for younger elementary students influenced the school boards decision among many factors, the school board shared in a message to parents. Class sizes would often exceed 25 people for fourth and fifth grade students.

The Wake County school board is considering opening up high school campuses for in-person instruction in January, the News & Observer reports.

There are no school or childcare clusters in Wake County as of Friday’s report.

Comparatively, there are no childcare or school clusters in neighboring counties of Durham County or Orange County. Mecklenburg County, which is of comparable size and includes Charlotte, has one childcare cluster and two K-12 clusters, according to the state’s data.

The state rolled out new data last week.

New updated information includes a dashboard of hospitalizations with demographic breakdowns, updated Tuesdays and Fridays. Wake County is part of the Capital Region Healthcare Preparedness Coalition.

State officials also shared a new COVID-19 clusters report. Updated on Monday afternoons, the first week’s report showed clusters from social events and family gatherings have increased. The number of cases associated with clusters from religious gatherings also increased in September.

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About the coronavirus cases in Wake County

Wake County now has 20,775 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Monday, according to the county’s dashboard. Confirmed cases passed the 20K threshold on Wednesday.

269 people in Wake County have died, according to the county.

The average age of someone in Wake County with a confirmed case is 37, according to the county dashboard, dropping from 38 in late August. The average age in Wake was 39 since July 27, a change after a longer period at age 42.

But the numbers don’t show the full picture of how many people actually have the coronavirus. Even though testing increased since the beginning of the pandemic, not everyone gets tested.

Wake County’s dashboard of local cases and other data reminds residents that it doesn’t show how widespread the coronavirus could be in the community.

READ MORE: Which ZIP codes in Wake County have the most COVID-19 cases?

There are 261,742 total confirmed cases in North Carolina as of Monday, according to the state’s tally. [NCDHHS]

Within that number, the dashboard shows 1,193 people with COVID-19 cases are currently hospitalized, a rising metric in the last couple weeks. There is still capacity at NC hospitals.

At least 4,170 people in N.C. have died from COVID-19, according to the state.

Free testing continues: Drive-thru testing for people who are at higher risk for COVID-19 complications will continue. Sign up for a time or learn more on the county site.

There are currently 10 known and ongoing congregate living outbreaks in Wake County from the state’s Oct. 20 report, Department of Public Safety (state) reports and county health reports.

Comparatively, Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) has 19 congregate living outbreaks, according to the state’s database. Durham County has 9 congregate living outbreaks and Orange County has 5 congregate living outbreaks.

From our week-over-week analysis of Tuesday’s congregate living reports and Wednesday’s Department of Public Safety reports, these congregate living facilities have seen weekly increases:

  • Swift Creek Health Center, +1 confirmed case, 6 confirmed cases total. (27518 CARY)
  • Litchford Falls Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center +7 new cases in the new outbreak announced last week. An earlier outbreak included 77 confirmed cases and 6 deaths. (27615 RALEIGH)

The N.C. Department of Public Safety, which oversees the state prison system, changed the way it reports the number of confirmed cases last week, with active cases as well as total cases.

Recovered this week:

  • The Laurels of Forest Glenn, which included 115 total confirmed cases and 21 deaths. (27529 GARNER)
  • Hillside Nursing Center of Wake Forest, which included 85 associated confirmed cases and 21 deaths. (27587 WAKE FOREST)

North Carolina’s Phase 3.

North Carolina will stay in Phase 3 until at least Nov. 13, the governor announced Oct. 21. The executive order for Phase 3 was set to expire Friday until it was extended.

The state is seeing its highest new numbers of confirmed cases since a peak in daily cases in July, state officials said. N.C. also had the highest number of one-day COVID-19-related deaths this week, WRAL reports.

In a briefing Wednesday afternoon, NC DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen shared the update of data officials track over a 14-day period:

  • ER visits with COVID-like symptoms are level.
  • Confirmed COVID-19 cases are increased.
  • Percentage of tests that are positive is slightly higher than the 5% they’d like to see.
  • Hospitalizations are growing, but since there is still capacity, it received her “level” yellow line.

State officials reiterated that while people are growing weary of the coronavirus, it’s still a real threat.

“Ignoring the virus does not make it go away,” Dr. Cohen said. Rather, she said, it’s the opposite. 

North Carolina moved to Phase 3 at 5 p.m. on Oct. 2, announced by Governor Roy Cooper Sept. 30. The move comes after state officials are “cautiously encouraged” by stable metrics. 

With Phase 3, which is slightly different from the originally outlined Phase 3, will re-open bars outdoors only at limited capacity, as well as movie theaters and smaller outdoor entertainment venues.

Phase 3 includes:

  • Bars operate outdoor at 30% outdoor capacity or 100 people, whichever comes first
  • Smaller outdoor venues can re-open at 30% outdoor capacity or 100 people, whichever comes first.
  • Movie theaters and conference centers can re-open indoors at 30% capacity or 100 people, whichever comes first.
  • Outdoor amusement parks can re-open at 30% capacity 
  • The 11 p.m. statewide curfew on alcohol sales is extended
  • As previously announced, large outdoor venues with more than 10,000 seats, such as football stadiums, can re-open at 7% capacity beginning this weekend. 
  • Mass gathering limits stay the same as Phase 2.5: 25 people indoors, 50 people outdoors.

The metrics that informed the move to Phase 3:

  • The trajectory of COVID-like syndromic cases in emergency rooms is mostly level with a slight uptick.
  • New cases are level.
  • The percentage of positive cases held steady at 5% — the goal — over the last two weeks. However, it ticked up to 6% over the last two days.
  • Hospitalizations are level

The virus will be with us until there’s a vaccine or a cure, Gov. Cooper said, and he and Secretary Mandy Cohen emphasized personal responsibility, wearing a mask when around people outside your household and getting a flu shot.

The state recently rolled out a new app, SlowCOVIDNC, and 80,000 people have now signed up, Dr. Cohen said.

The app can inform you if you’ve been near someone with COVID-19. By downloading the app, a token tracks your location. If someone shares in the app that they’ve tested positive for COVID-19, it informs others with the app who may have been in close contact.

More Raleigh parks facilities are re-opened with Phase 3 as well:

  • Moore Square’s interactive water feature is open now.
  • Pullen Park’s train and kiddie boat rides re-opened Oct. 10 at 30% capacity (expect to wait at busy times).
  • Outdoor field rentals and multipurpose fields also re-opened Oct. 10,
  • Indoor facility rentals can resume Oct. 19. [more re-opening info]

N.C.’s mask rules:

The state’s mask rules went into effect at 5 p.m. June 26. While Raleigh and Knightdale put face mask rules in place the previous week, these apply when you’re anywhere in the county or state.

Whichever mask rule requirements are stricter should be followed, but it’s similar to Raleigh’s mask rules, looking at the Executive Order.

More nuance/stricter rules in the N.C. order include:

  • The face covering requirement for the state is slightly younger than Raleigh’s rules. Children younger than 5 don’t need to wear a mask, according to the Sept. 1 update, and children older than 2 are recommended to wear a mask.
  • If you’re away from your table at a restaurant, you must wear a face covering.

You don’t have to wear a mask when (according to the guidance):

  • Participating in a religious ritual
  • In someone else’s home
  • Exercising or walking while able to maintain a 6-foot-distance.

As Raleigh’s rules mentioned as well, the face coverings don’t have to be masks, they can also be improvised face coverings from bandanas, scarves or even T-shirts.

What happens if you don’t wear a mask?

The business or organization running the place you’re visiting could be fined. If a business doesn’t allow a customer to enter because they’re not wearing a face covering, and that person refuses to leave, law enforcement can be called. Police can use trespassing laws to enforce that person leaving.

The state’s mask requirement came after the Wake County municipalities and N.C. State announced a mask requirement.

Here are the rules in Raleigh, which Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin announced in a proclamation June 17. You should follow whichever are stricter when in Raleigh.

What Phase 2 included:

North Carolina moved to Phase 2 of re-opening the state beginning 5 p.m. May 22, a “more modest step than we originally planned,” Governor Roy Cooper said May 20.

State officials stressed the importance of face coverings and encouraged teleworking when possible.

The updated guidelines for unmodified Phase 2 include but aren’t limited to:

  • Gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors, 25 people outdoors.
  • Swimming pools (indoor and outdoor) can re-open at 50% capacity.
  • Restaurants can open at mostly 50% capacity.
  • Hair salons, barbers, massage therapy, nail salons, other personal grooming businesses can be open at reduced capacity. Face coverings are required for service providers and more disinfection requirements.
  • Tattoo shops can re-open.
  • Overnight camps can operate.
  • Sporting or entertainment events can be broadcast from large venues, but the audience physically in attendance can’t exceed the gathering limits.
  • Wedding ceremonies can be held without a mass gathering cap, but not wedding receptions or parties.
  • Funerals can be held without gathering limitations.
  • Worship services and “other activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights” are exempt from the executive order.

More Raleigh parks facilities re-opened June 1, including some bathrooms, dog parks and tennis courts. [see the full list]

Places that couldn’t open in Phase 2: 

  • Indoor fitness centers and gyms
  • Other indoor facilities including trampoline facilities, rock-climbing facilities, dance studios, skating rinks, and basketball courts.
  • Spas
  • Bars
  • Nightclubs
  • Entertainment destinations like movie theaters and bowling alleys.
  • Public playgrounds
  • Museums

More information and specifics can be found here in the FAQ.

After questions from the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild and others, Governor Roy Cooper shared updated guidance that breweries, wineries and distilleries could open as part of Phase 2 on the evening of May 22. [read more]

These are a floor, and local governments can make stricter guidelines. The executive order was in effect until June 26 until it was extended.

What progress do N.C. officials track?

State officials evaluate “key indicators” over a 14-day period, looking at “COVID-like syndromic cases” that come into an emergency room as well as how the number of lab-confirmed cases is trending. 

The percentage of positive tests of total tests also inform officials’ decision-making. 

Officials will look at tests completed per day, whether or not there’s capacity for widespread tracing of cases, and the supply of personal protective equipment.

The state released a new dashboard that updates the key indicators they’re tracking.

More people can get access to testing:

Anyone who might have COVID-19 should be tested. Previously, when testing resources were limited, people with mild symptoms were encouraged to self-isolate versus seeking a test. 

The new guidance encourages testing for:

  • “Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19
  • Close contacts of known positive cases, regardless of symptoms 
  • Persons who live in or have regular contact with high-risk settings (e.g., long-term care facility, homeless shelter, correctional facility, migrant farmworker camp)
  • Persons who are at high risk of severe illness (e.g., people over 65 years of age, people of any age with underlying health conditions)
  • Persons who come from historically marginalized populations
  • Health care workers or first responders (e.g. EMS, law enforcement, fire department, military)
  • Front-line and essential workers (grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, etc.) in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain,” according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website.

“We want anyone who needs a test to get one. This is particularly important for those at high-risk for severe illness, those at greatest risk for exposure and those who are being disproportionately impacted by this virus,” NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said in a release.

The NCDHHS lists testing sites on their website.

How to get help now

For general help/find resources: NCCARE360, powered by NC 2-1-1, from United Way of North Carolina, is helping connect people with needed resources from COVID-19’s direct and indirect effects. [get info]

Housing assistance: Wake County and Raleigh/Wake Partnership to End Homelessness rolled out a new hotline for housing assistance, the House Wake! Access Hub. Call 919-443-0096 or email HW_AH@partnershipwake.org to get connected to resources. The phone line and email is monitored 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

House Wake!, a program that helps Wake County residents experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity, will now pay up to 100% of 6 months of approved tenants’ late rent. That increased from what was originally possible with the program because of money from the state. [more details]

Wake County offers help with utility bills: WakeHELPS is a new program for Wake County residents who are unable to pay their gas, power, water or other utility bills because of COVID-19-related financial issues.

Qualified applicants will live in Wake County, are low- to moderate-income households, are effected financially by COVID-19 and are behind on utility bills.

Funding for the program comes from the CARES Act. [learn more + apply]

Need help paying rent this month? Wake County’s Wake Network of Care has a list of resources to get help. [more info]

Get mental health support: The Hope4NC Helpline is a 24/7 mental health resource during COVID-19. Call 1-855-587-3463. “A Hope4Healers Helpline (919-226-2002) is also available for health care workers experiencing stress,” the NCDHHS shared in a tweet.

If you’ve lost health insurance or are seeking it for the first time, you can find some resources here.

Help for Triangle area hospitality workers: The Triangle Restaurant Workers Relief Fund was announced March 18, run by Frankie Lemmon Foundation, to help those working in the industry experiencing layoffs or loss of income.

That fund has since been moved to NC Restaurant Workers Relief Fund, managed by the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association and available for hospitality workers across the state. [donate or get help]

Families experiencing food insecurity: Community food distribution sites to help families experiencing food insecurity are open at lunchtime at some schools and community centers. ID will not be required to pick up. [Find the closest location]

Some schools will also be offering lunch and breakfast pickup. You can also text FOODNC to 877-877 for locations.

Unemployment: Gov. Cooper made it easier for people to file for unemployment, removing some of the requirements that will help food & beverage workers, including removing the one-week waiting period to apply, removing the requirement that they must be actively looking for another job, allowing those who have had their hours reduced to apply and removing the requirement to apply in person. [learn + file here]

Business owners in Wake County with questions can contact the county at a “a dedicated phone number — 919.856.7420” or visit the website https://covid19.wakegov.com/guidance-for-business/. Wake Forward is another program for Wake County small businesses.

Domestic abuse and isolation are a dangerous mix, INDY Week reports. If you need help, call the InterAct 24-hour crisis line at 919-828-7740 for safety planning, resources and advocacy. In an emergency, always call 9-1-1.

Find a list of resources to get help: Revive 919.

CDC’s order on evictions: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has banned evictions through the end of the year in response to the COVID-19 health crisis. The Dallas Morning News has a good explainer: Your landlord isn’t required to share this news with you, and all you need to do is meet the requirements, fill out this form and deliver it to your landlord. No other documentation is required.

The requirements include but aren’t limited to: Exhausting all efforts for government assistance for housing, an income cap, and if evicted, would have no place to go.

Local arts fund created: Wake County officials allocated $1 million from federal funds to create the Wake County Nonprofit Arts Relief Fund, which will support local arts and culture nonprofits that have lost revenue as a result of the pandemic.

The fund will be administered by the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County. Organizations can apply for up to 10% of revenue lost due to COVID-19, 20% if the organization’s mission is “to promote, preserve and enhance the identity and character of African American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American or Native American culture.”

“From the powerful messages we’ve seen painted on boarded up businesses – to the new and innovative virtual programs that help us escape for a while into another world – our local artists have proven we need them more than ever during this pandemic,” said Vickie Adamson, vice chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, in a release. “Today, we’re letting our arts community know we’re here for them, too.” [learn more]

Previously: House Wake! helps residents on the brink of homelessness
Previously: Southeast Raleigh braces for wave of evictions

READ MORE: How to help your neighbors

Who’s at risk?

Not all people who get coronavirus will have serious complications, but even asymptomatic carriers can pass the coronavirus along to another person who may be more at risk.

About 80% of people with the virus only experience mild symptoms. About 20% see more serious respiratory complications, such as pneumonia, or worse.

That goes in particular for people considered “high risk” — those with underlying health issues such as “heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes,” those with weakened immune systems or adults older than 65.

Younger, healthy people, even young children, appear to be less affected. Some studies show infants are more at-risk for more serious symptoms. While it’s not known if pregnant women are more at risk, they should be monitored, according to the CDC.

In the U.S., there are more than 8.2 million known cases and at least 220,362 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control‘s Wednesday update. The U.S. has the highest number of deaths.

How does coronavirus spread?

Because the virus is thought to spread from person to person contact, anyone in “close contact” — within 6 feet — is at higher risk for coronavirus.

Droplets from a sick person’s coughs or sneezes may be inhaled by a person in this defined close contact. Getting sick from touching surfaces seems to be less risky with this virus, the CDC says.

People with the virus are most contagious when they are symptomatic. Read more on the CDC website.

How to avoid getting sick and protect others

Stay at home.

Wash your hands. With warm water and soap, for 30 seconds. As an alternative, use hand sanitizer.

Wear a mask. “Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities,” the CDC says.

“Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.”

Stay 6 feet apart.

Call your care provider if you think you might have the virus.

This story will be updated.

Author: raleighconvergence

Sarah Day Owen Wiskirchen is the editor of Raleigh Convergence.

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