COVID-19 in Wake County: What to know now

Bookmark this page for weekday or more frequent updates. Last update: Monday, Nov. 23, 3:41 p.m.

Here’s what’s happening now:

Governor Roy Cooper announced stricter mask rules as some COVID-19 metrics are on an upward trajectory before the Thanksgiving holiday. 

“I have a stark warning for North Carolinians today: We are in danger,” Governor Cooper said Monday in a press conference, stressing that individual actions will determine the health and safety of many others. 

The stricter mask rules go into effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday and include changes to gatherings at people’s homes, virtual learning settings and businesses:

When gathering at someone’s home:

  • Masks will be required indoors whenever there are non-household members present, whether they are 6 feet away or not.
  • Face coverings are still required when outside if 6 feet of distance with non-household members isn’t possible. 

For those with learning pods or virtual learning with families from different households, this also changes. 

In the FAQ, in the section on homeschooling or virtual learning: “Students 5 years and older and all caretakers must wear a face covering, if non- household members are present. For example, if there is a blending of students from different households, face coverings are required.”

In public areas or businesses:

  • Masks will be required at indoor gyms and fitness facilities even while exercising.
  • At restaurants, people will be required to wear facemasks at the table unless “actively or drinking.”
  • “Retail business locations with more than 15,000 square feet of interior space must have a worker, at each entrance open to the public, who is responsible for enforcing the executive orders’ face covering and emergency maximum occupancy requirements.”

Individuals can be penalized: Another key change. Previously, the face covering requirements were enforceable only against businesses. Now, law enforcement can enforce the requirements against individuals. 

Not following the rules could result in a Class 2 misdemeanor, “which could result in a fine of up to $1,000 or active punishment.”

This is in addition to previous mask rules that went into effect in June. Phase 3 was also extended to Dec. 11 in the new executive order.

The state’s mask rules went into effect at 5 p.m. June 26, though Raleigh and Knightdale put face mask rules in place the previous week.

Masks are required for children ages 5 and older as of an executive order in September. 

Read more: Some of the metrics that informed the decision, the full FAQ and the executive order.

COVID-19 tests: With high demand for COVID-19 tests, most appointments in Wake County are booked as of Monday morning, but you can check back in the case any open up or become available. Here’s another resource to search for testing sites from the state.

A COVID-19 test is not a fail-safe measure, testing can miss some infections even while testing can catch some positive cases in people who are not experiencing symptoms.

The CDC also advised people not to travel for the holidays.

About the coronavirus cases in Wake County

Wake County‘s total count of confirmed COVID-19 cases is 26,464 as of Sunday, according to the state dashboard. Confirmed cases passed the 20K threshold Oct. 21.

286 people in Wake County have died from complications with COVID-19, according to state numbers.

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 and some people don’t have symptoms but can pass along the virus.

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

There are 336,775 total confirmed cases in North Carolina as of Sunday, according to the state’s tally. [NCDHHS]

Within that number, the dashboard shows 1,571 people with COVID-19 cases are currently hospitalized. There is still capacity at NC hospitals.

At least 5,034 people in N.C. have died from COVID-19, according to the state’s report.

Free testing continues: Drive-thru testing will continue. Sign up for a time or learn more on the county site.

Wake County launched a Healthier Holidays campaign with a “do this, not that” approach to common Thanksgiving and Black Friday traditions.

The advice, summarized:

🦃 Wear a mask and keep 6-feet-apart distance.
🦃 Keep gatherings small. No more than 10 people from different households should be indoors together and no more than 50 people outdoors.
🦃 If you gather, plan in advance. Smaller tables with individual households can help keep a distance, run fans and open doors when inside.
🦃 Have one person serve all the food.
🦃 Celebrate virtually (editor’s note: Zoom removed the 40-minute limit for free accounts in advance of the holidays!)
🦃 Avoid Black Friday crowds. (See our shop local guide for ideas to support local business while avoiding busy times)

Wake County ZIP code analysis: A ZIP code in the Brier Creek area of Northwest Raleigh and a ZIP code in Holly Springs are the two top ZIP codes in Wake County for percentage growth this week. Both saw confirmed COVID-19 cases increase by more than 10% since last week. [read more]

There are now four active childcare setting clusters in Wake County, according to Tuesday’s state report. The numbers did not increase on Friday’s report.

The new childcare cluster is at St. Mark’s Preschool and includes 6 staff and 1 child. A cluster is defined by the state as 5 or more confirmed and linked COVID-19 cases.

This is the third new cluster announced in a week. Last Friday, one new cluster was announced at a childcare setting (Kindercare Learning Center) and one new cluster was announced at a K-12 school (Wake Christian Academy).

The extent of the clusters at schools and childcare facilities in Wake County are as follows, from most recent to longest tenure on the state report:

  • St. Mark’s Preschool, childcare setting, 6 staff and 1 child (7 total)
  • Kindercare Learning Center (location not specified within Wake), childcare setting, 5 staff, no children. (5 total)
  • Wake Christian Academy, K-12 setting, 1 staff and 5 children. (6 total)
  • Raleigh Christian Academy, K-12 setting, 4 staff and 3 children. (7 total)
  • Kids R Kids – West Cary, childcare setting, 1 staff and 5 children. (6 total)
  • Appletree Development, childcare setting, 6 staff and no children. (6 total)

None of the clusters have increased since their original report but are considered active by the state. By comparison, Mecklenburg County (Charlotte, of similar population size) as of Friday has 2 K-12 clusters and 2 childcare cluster. Nearby Durham County has 2 K-12 and 2 childcare clusters; Orange County has 1 childcare cluster.

What else to know:

Indoor gatherings limited to 10: N.C. Governor Roy Cooper announced Nov. 10 that indoor gatherings will be restricted to 10 people or fewer, which began 5 p.m. Nov. 13 and is effective through at least Dec. 4. On Nov. 23 he extended the indoor gathering restrictions to Dec. 11.

The restriction applies to people gathering indoors at someone’s home, not businesses. It’s the only thing that changes in the new executive order, and the outdoor limit for gatherings will remain at 50 people.

The 10-person gathering limit most notably goes through Thanksgiving. The indoor limit for gatherings at 25 people has been in place since Phase 2.5, beginning Sept. 4.

New congregate living outbreaks and increases:

Wake County announced four new congregate living outbreaks on Friday. The county did not share the extent of the outbreak for any of the locations:

Previous weekly increases: Read more in our ZIP code analysis

Wake County students return to campus

Wake County fourth and fifth grade students begin a phased return to in-person instruction Monday.

The schedule for re-opening Wake County public schools campuses:

  • Pre-K through third grade returned on a rotating basis Oct. 26, 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.

Wake County Public Schools will share confirmed COVID-19 cases reported at school on this page. Clusters are considered to be 5 or more linked cases.

Libraries re-open

Four more Wake County library locations re-opening: Cameron Village Regional Library in Raleigh and West Regional Library in Cary re-opened for express service on Monday.

Cary Regional Library, in Downtown Cary, and North Regional Library, in Raleigh, will re-open this upcoming Monday, Nov. 23.

As we reported previously, four Wake County library locations already re-opened their doors for express service: Southeast Regional, East Regional in Knightdale, Northeast Regional in North Raleigh and Eva Perry in Apex.*

Temperature checks are required for entry and the library locations will limit capacity. The Cameron Village, North Regional, Knightdale and Garner locations will allow library computer use for 30 minutes at a time. The West Regional, Cary Regional, Northeast Raleigh and Apex locations are not yet allowing public computer use.

Other sites continue to offer Books On the Go, and there are virtual programs such as pre-recorded storytimes for kids, Storytime Anytime.

Editor’s note: A previous version misstated the location of the Southeast Regional Library, which is in Garner, not Raleigh.

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]

North Carolinians who can’t pay rent have new protections from being evicted with a new executive order from Governor Roy Cooper. The order works with the CDC moratorium on evictions through the end of the year by clarifying that it applies to people living in all types of rental housing.

Under the order, landlords are required to let tenants know about the CDC moratorium.

Previously shared: 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: All you need to do is meet the requirements, fill out this form and deliver it to your landlord. No other documentation is required.

Childcare support: 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.

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: 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

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.

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 11.3 million known cases and at least 247,834 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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