As colleges re-open in Raleigh, Phase 2 to continue for 5 weeks

Bookmark this page for daily updates. Last update: Tuesday, Aug. 11, 7:12 a.m.

Here’s what’s happening now:

Wake County public schools won’t bring special education students and Pre-K students back early, as initially planned, the News & Observer reports.

But since they can’t assure sufficient staffing, transportation and personal protective equipment, the school system said they’re delaying bring back the group of students, originally targeted for on-site instruction Sept. 8.

College campuses begin re-opening to students: NC State, Raleigh’s largest college student population, began move-in July 31, last Friday, for classes that begin this Monday. The university launched a Protect the Pack website with resources for students.

Events began at Saint Augustine’s with the Week of Welcome for new students on Wednesday; Shaw University students began returning to campus beginning Friday, and Meredith College has a phased move-in schedule for an Aug. 17 start of class date.

Phase 2 extended: While North Carolina is showing early signs of stabilization, the numbers are still too high, state officials said Wednesday. 

North Carolina will stay in Phase 2 for 5 more weeks, Governor Roy Cooper announced in a press conference Wednesday. Five weeks from the Friday after the announcement, when the previous executive order expired, is Sept. 11. 

“Stable is good but decreasing is better,” he said. “We know that stability is fragile and these trends can change quickly.” 

The executive order that extended Phase 2 was scheduled to expire on Friday. Last week, Gov. Cooper and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen shared early signs of hope. 

“My glimmer of hope remains,” Dr. Cohen said Wednesday. Viral transmission is starting to stabilize, she said, but there’s still work to do. 

In her “data day” report that informed the Phase 2 extension:

🦠 Trajectory of COVID-19 like syndromic cases (an earlier indicator) is declining but still high

🦠 New cases are stable but remain high 

🦠 The percentage of positive tests of overall tests is level but still high — 7-8% positive when state officials want to see 5% or lower. 

🦠 Hospitalizations (a later indicator) are level and there is still capacity at NC hospitals

ZIP code analysis: ZIP codes with fewer cases grew faster by percentage this week for the second week.

Only three of the faster-growing ZIP codes were above the average for overall Wake County cases, about 350. [read more, by ZIP code]

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]

Free testing continues: Drive-thru testing for people who are at higher risk for COVID-19 complications will continue, free of charge, at the Sunnybrook Building Parking Deck in Raleigh. Sign up for a time or learn more on the county site.

About the coronavirus cases in Wake County

Wake County has 12,121 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Monday, according to the county site.

176 people in Wake County have died. Between July 7-Aug. 7 (168 deaths), deaths increased by 114 people.

The average age of someone in Wake County with a confirmed case is 39, dropping on July 27 from 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 136,844 confirmed cases in North Carolina as of Monday’s report, according to the state’s tally. [NCDHHS]

Within that number, 1,111 people with COVID-19 cases are currently hospitalized. These numbers are on a decreasing trend line, and there is currently still capacity at N.C. hospitals.

At least 2,172 people in N.C. have died from COVID-19, according to the state.

Outbreaks and clusters: There are currently 27 known and ongoing congregate living outbreaks in Wake County and no known childcare or school clusters.

Brookridge Assisted Living and PruittHealth of Raleigh are recovered outbreaks, according to Friday’s report.

Comparatively, as of Friday’s state report, Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) has 36 congregate living outbreaks and 3 childcare clusters, according to the state’s database. Durham County has 9 congregate living outbreaks and one childcare cluster. Orange County has 6 congregate living outbreaks and one school cluster.

As of Wednesday’s look at the state data, more than 1,000 of North Carolina’s COVID-19 related deaths are attributed to nursing homes or residential care facilities, more than half.

New outbreaks this week:

  • Louisburg Road, in Wake Forest, has an outbreak of 9 COVID-19 cases. Congregate living facilities categorized “other,” like the one, are usually farmworker housing or homeless shelters.
  • Wake County announced a new outbreak at Holly Hill Hospital – South Campus in Raleigh on July 27, but it’s not yet on the state’s report. (27610 RALEIGH)
  • Wake County also announced an outbreak at Morningside of Raleigh, but didn’t share the extent of the outbreak. It wasn’t on Tuesday’s state report. (27607 RALEIGH)
  • Wake County announced a new outbreak Tuesday at The Cypress of Raleigh – Rosewood Health Center. (27615 RALEIGH)
  • Wake County announced an outbreak at Avendelle of Saratoga, in Raleigh, on Thursday.

Individual facility breakdowns: [learn more in our ZIP code analysis]

Public schools in Wake will start online:

Most students in Wake County will now start the year with online instruction, Wake County’s public school system’s leaders decided July 21.

After about half of parents chose the Virtual Academy by the first July 20 deadline as cases rose in North Carolina and Wake County. A second window for Virtual Academy opened and closed.

Help students get access to the technology they need by signing up for Activate Good’s Operation Access.

Here are some changes + details to know:

🍎 The start of school will be Aug. 17 for traditional and year-round schools, Aug. 13 for modified schedule schools.

🍎 Families can opt to change their plans; either signing up for Virtual Academy from July 27 to July 29 at 5 p.m. OR contacting your assigned school to withdraw your application to Virtual Academy.

🍎 Here’s a breakdown of Plans A, B and C compared to Virtual Academy. Governor Roy Cooper is allowing school districts to open for in-person instruction with social distancing (Plan B) and online instruction (Plan C) but not Plan A.

🍎 Wake public school students who don’t opt for Virtual Academy could go back to in-person instruction this school year — that’s the goal — but there’s no time set at this point. More at [News & Observer]

🍎 Some private schools are opting for in-person instruction, WRAL reports, but one private school, Thales Academy, reported a visiting teacher who tested positive for COVID-19 in the first week of school.

N.C.’s mask rules in effect:

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 11 or younger don’t need to wear a mask, but the order “strongly recommends” children older than 2 years old wear one.
  • If you’re away from your table at a restaurant, you must wear a face covering.
  • There are requirements for schools and daycares for children older than 11 and adults to wear masks.

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.

Why state officials decided to stay in Phase 2

North Carolina will remain in Phase 2 until at least July 17th.

In three weeks, additional restrictions may be lifted, but it may be a Phase 2.5, not Phase 3. The first few areas where restrictions could be lifted first include gyms and fitness centers, museums and playgrounds. Not in that list: Bars.

Governor Roy Cooper made the announcement June 24 as Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary for N.C.’s Department of Health and Human Services, shared how cases and hospitalizations are trending.

State officials had said for more than a week that metrics were trending in the wrong direction. On June 24, specific data that informed their decision included:

  • The daily number of positive COVID-19 tests are continuing to increase.
  • The percent of COVID-19 tests that are positive remaining high.
  • ER visits for COVID-19 like illnesses are increasing.
  • Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are continuing to increase.

The next few weeks are critical, Gov. Cooper said, mentioning Dr. Anthony Fauci’s address to the U.S. Congress earlier this week. The nation’s leading infectious disease expert said N.C. could see an “insidious increase in community spread” and that leaders must act.

Face masks will be required in places where social distancing isn’t possible, including in retail businesses, restaurants and meat processing facilities.

“We’re adding this new requirement because we don’t want to go backward,” Gov. Cooper said., including getting children back in school.

What to know about Phase 2:

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.

Some businesses originally included in a Phase 2 opening will not be allowed to open in a “Safer at Home” Phase 2. 

READ MORE: These restaurants are opening for on-site dining

What’s included in the revised Phase 2, and what’s not

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

The updated guidelines 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 can’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.

Large events canceled by city: While many large events in Raleigh already canceled for the year, the Raleigh City Council took a step July 7 to not allow any festivals, road races and parades through Oct. 31.

That includes events like:

  • Brewgaloo
  • Falling for Local at Dorothea Dix Park
  • Race 13.1 Raleigh Fall
  • Artsplosure
  • Thad & Alice Eure Walk for Hope
  • Raleigh Tamale Festival
  • Downtown Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo
  • Cuegrass
  • Oktoberfest 4 Miler
  • Triangle Run/Walk for Autism
    and more.

That doesn’t mean events on private property are canceled, and the city will still issue permits for neighborhood block parties with 25 people or less. [read more]

No alcohol after 11 p.m.: The governor announced a statewide mandate to stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m., which went into effect July 31.

In Raleigh, this doesn’t change much, since the citywide proclamation from Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin went into effect the previous Wednesday, July 22. But surrounding towns and unincorporated areas much also follow these rules.

Similar to bars that re-open against an earlier executive order, restaurants and other businesses who break the rule can have their liquor licenses revoked, the governor said.

Your questions on Phase 2:

Q: Will all restaurants open up at reduced capacity?

A: They can, but not all will choose to. Some restaurants are opting to continue only takeout and/or delivery. These restaurants are open for on-site dining.

Q: Are the libraries open?

A: Not yet. Wake County libraries say they’re evaluating cleaning and social distancing and haven’t yet shared a re-opening date. They have announced a new Books on the Go program.

Q: What’s the difference between a bar and a restaurant?

A: The difference between a bar and a restaurant is defined in the executive order, but the gist is a place that’s not an “eating establishment” and its business is primarily on-site alcohol consumption.

Breweries and wineries are not considered bars according to new guidance on May 22.

Bars and gyms have lobbied to open through state legislation and legal action, but Gov. Cooper voted bills when they landed on his desk.

Q: What is Count On Me NC?

As some restaurants and breweries continue to open for on-site dining and drinking, you may notice a teal blue “Count On Me NC” sign.

More than 968 businesses in North Carolina are participating in Count On Me NC, a “mutual pledge and public health initiative” from NC State Extension, the NC Department of Health and Human Services, Visit NC and NC Restaurant and Lodging Association.

The guest pledge includes wearing a mask, waiting 6 feet and washing your hands, using contactless pickup or delivery if you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or have symptoms, and being kind to staff and others as we all adjust.

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.

Future phases and what’s already open

What opened in Phase 1:

  • Retail business can open and operate at 50% with frequent cleaning.
  • State parks and trails that closed could re-open. 
    • William B. Umstead Park in Raleigh re-opened May 9, including bathrooms. Restrooms will also be re-opened. Bring your own water, fountains will be off. Hours are 8 a.m.-9 p.m. [more info
  • Childcare centers could re-open to people working and people looking for work.
  • Places of worship may hold services that exceed the gathering limit, if the services are outside and people follow the recommendations to promote social distancing and reduce transmission.
  • Nature preserves in Raleigh that were previously closed re-opened May 9. That includes Durant Nature Preserve, Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD Nature Preserve, Forest Ridge Park, and Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve. Hours are 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

The third phase, after a minimum of 4 weeks, would increase capacity for businesses already opened and re-open others.

In all three phases, the tight restrictions at congregate living facilities, such as nursing homes, would stay in place. The spread of the coronavirus in nursing homes continues to be a concern, as older adults with COVID-19 make up the majority of deaths from the coronavirus.

More people can get access to testing:

Anyone who might have COVID-19 should be tested, according to new guidance from the state. 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]

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.

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 nearly 4.9 million known cases and at least 158,880 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control‘s Friday update. The U.S. has the most deaths by far.

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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