North Carolina health officials are reporting 3,415 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 332,261.
A total of 5,005 North Carolinians have died from the virus, with 26 more deaths being recorded since Friday.
With 97 percent of hospitals reporting, hospitalizations are up 19 to a total of 1,590, a new record high.
A total of 41,401 COVID-19 tests have been completed since Friday with a percent positive rate of 8.5%. This week the state averaged around 8.3%.
Wake County Public Health has identified COVID-19 outbreaks at three care facilities.
Health officials said Creekway Group Home, 42 Creekway Drive in Fuquay-Varina; Forest Creek Group Home, 5117 Forest Creek Road in Raleigh; and Cary Health and Rehabilitation Center, 6490 Tryon Road in Cary all had outbreaks.
This is the second outbreak at the Cary Health and Rehabilitation CEnter.
In a news conference, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen offered a stern warning that the state’s COVID-19 metrics are trending in the wrong direction.
“With those kind of numbers, I am very concerned,” Cohen said. “We’ve hit two unwanted milestones in the span of just 8 days: for the first time we reported more than 3,000 cases in a single day on November 11, only to report more than 4,000 new cases yesterday.”
Cohen also stressed that North Carolinians who live in orange and red counties, as designated by the state’s County Alert System, should limit leaving their house for critical reasons, such as buying food or medicine, going to school, going to work, or seeking medical care.
With many families gathering in less than a week for Thanksgiving, Cohen reiterated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines not to travel or gather with people outside your household, but said those that do plan to spend time with people they don’t live with should keep gatherings small, bring them outdoors, and make sure you are wearing a face covering at all times that you are not actively eating or drinking.
“With the holidays fast approaching, we want to spread joy, not this virus,” Cohen said.
Two Triangle chefs who participated in the state’s Count on Me NC program, which provides additional certification for restaurants to limit the spread of COVID-19, additionally shared their tips for hosting a safe holiday gathering.
Chef Cheetie Kumar of Garland restaurant in Raleigh said to keep windows open and fans on if eating indoors, though she recommended hosting outdoors if possible.
“Predetermine seating arrangements,” she said, advising that hosts sit people who live in the same household together six feet apart from others.
Kumar also recommended checking yourself for symptoms and preparing food and greeting guests as if you are contagious–that is to say, washing hands frequently, wearing gloves and a face covering while cooking or handling utensils and plates, and limiting hugs and handshakes.
Chef Jason Smith of the 18 Restaurant Group in Durham also advised only having one person serve guests, rather than having guests serve themselves around the table or with a buffet-style service. Additionally, he advised using disposable plates and utensils, and having only one person washing any dishes used.
“If you’re overwhelmed by hosting, consider going out to eat,” Smith added, recommending those who would like to patronize a local restaurant during the holiday week should book a reservation in advance.
Additional tips and holiday recipes can be found online here.
Cohen also recommended that any out-of-state guests download the Slow COVID NC app, which does not collect any personal information, so they can be notified if they come into contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. Guests from other states should keep the app on their phone for at least a few weeks, Cohen said.
“We hope that as many folks can celebrate Thanksgiving with just their household members this year,” Cohen said. “No one wants to break those family traditions, but we have to.”
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 3,688 new COVID-19 cases, the fourth day in a row the state has reported more than 3,000 cases. Yesterday, the state reported a record increase in cases, with 4,296 cases recorded.
The state also reported 42,694 more tests completed Thursday. As of Wednesday, 8.3% of tests are positive. Though the percentage of positive tests was stabilizing around 7% for the second half of October, it has increased sharply to hover around 8% for the first half of November.
Currently, 1,571 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, the highest number reported by the state. While it is hard to say if this is a record for hospitalizations because the state changed the way it reports hopsitalizations last week, it is an increase from the past few days.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen and chefs Cheetie Kumar and Jason Smith, whose restaurants participate in Count on Me NC, will be part of a COVID-19 update Friday at 2 p.m.
Count On Me NC is a public health initiative that tries to empower customers and businesses to enact safety measures for COVID-19. Kumar is with Garland in Raleigh and Smith works with Cantina 18 and Harvest 18 in Raleigh and Durham.
The update will be streamed here on abc11.com.
FRIDAY MORNING STORYLINES
As COVID-19 cases soar throughout North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper said he isn’t ruling out new statewide restrictions during a tour of Bright View Technologies, a Research Triangle Park-based manufacturer that started making personal protective equipment when the pandemic began. Thursday hit a single-day high for reported cases, a week out from the Thanksgiving holiday.
“We’re going to analyze all of the potential additional steps we could take,” Gov. Cooper told the media on Thursday. “We know the order expires December 4, but it’s possible we might do something before that time.”
Cooper also said, “we’ll do what we need to do if the science and data tell us we need to do that.”
“We are particularly concerned with the percentage positive in cases is creeping up although it has not gotten into double digits yet,” Cooper said. “We will do what we need to do in order to protect the health and safety of North Carolinians.”
Last week, Gov. Cooper restricted the indoor-gathering limit to 10 people in an extension of Phase 3.
The CDC is asking people not to travel for Thanksgiving and not to celebrate with anyone you don’t live with. After being declared a pandemic in March, COVID-19 has taken the lives of more than 250,000 Americans.
Pfizer is expected to ask the FDA for emergency authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine on Friday. Dr. Anthony Fauci believes Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are safe and effective.
A release from the company states the FDA’s approval will potentially enable the use of the vaccine in high-risk populations in the U.S. by the middle to end of December.
Earlier this week, Pfizer announced that more interim results from its ongoing coronavirus vaccine study suggest the shots are 95% effective.
Some Durham students will have the choice to return to in-person learning or remain virtual for the Spring semester depending on COVID-19 metrics.
The decision comes after a Durham Public Schools Board of Education voted 4-3 to allow families to enroll their students in pre-K to fifth grade to in-person. Students will be able to return on Jan. 20, for most schools, if the COVID-19 positivity rate is below 4% for two weeks.
The Durham Public Schools Board of Education will meet again before the next semester before moving forward with students in the classroom.
The former superintendent of Wake County Public School System, Anthony Tata, who now serves as the Pentagon’s new policy chief has tested positive for COVID-19.
A spokesperson for the Pentagon announced Tata was one of many who came into contact with a Lithuanian Minister of Defence who visited the Pentagon on Friday, Nov. 13 and later tested positive for the virus. Others in the meeting — including acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller — have all tested negative.
Tata has now been advised to isolate at home for the next 14-days.
School officials at Livingstone College in Salisbury said a 23-year-old student died from COVID-19 while quarantined at home Thursday morning.
The school announced on Thursday Jamesha Waddell left campus on Sept. 19 to quarantine at home after contracting the virus. While at home, school officials said Waddell’s condition worsened before passing away early.
“Our prayers and heartfelt condolences are extended to the Waddell family and her loved ones during this very difficult time. However, we should be reminded that earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. We are in communication with the family and will keep you posted as information becomes available,” the school president wrote in a statement.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday reported the state’s highest one-day number of COVID-19 cases with 4,296 new cases reported. The record-high day follows several days of increasing trends in new cases, the percent of tests that are positive and hospitalizations.
“I am very concerned. We are seeing warning signs in our trends that we need to heed to keep our family and friends from getting sick and ensuring our hospitals are able to care for those that have serious illness,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen. “We can do that if each North Carolinian wears a face mask over their mouth and nose anytime they are with people they do not live with; waits six feet apart and avoids crowds; and washes their hands often. We have reasons for hope. With promising news on vaccines, this pandemic will end. Until then, North Carolinians need to do what we’ve done throughout this pandemic – take care of one another.”
Thursday also marked a record with the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 with 1,538. 198 people were admitted with confirmed cases in the last 24 hours.
The percentage of positive tests were at 7.9 percent.
The testing turnaround time has been increasing over the last couple of weeks. It’s now at an average of 2.5 days.
4,936 people have died in the state since the start of the pandemic. 38 of the deaths were reported on Thursday.
THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES
Durham Public Schools will hold a meeting Thursday to consider Plan B in an effort to get kids back in the classroom.
The district’s Plan B proposal recommends Pre-K through fifth-grade students attend school in-person two days a week while students with special needs would attend four days a week. Masks, temperature screenings and social distancing will all be mandatory. DPS would also invest $800,000 for special air filters that capture airborne viruses.
DPS Superintendent Dr. Pascal Mubenga will present the plan to the school board at 6:30 p.m. In September, DPS agreed to continue operating on fully remote learning, known as ‘Plan C,’ through Jan. 15 for traditional and year-round schools, and Dec. 23 for specialty high schools.
Also on Thursday, Wake County leaders will reveal a plan to keep families safe while celebrating Thanksgiving. They’ll be announcing a new campaign with steps for families to follow. The latest guidance from the CDC suggests celebrating the holiday with only the people who live in your home.
For the first time during the pandemic, an international flight will depart Raleigh Durham International Airport on Thursday. JetBlue has a nonstop flight scheduled to leave at 8 a.m. for Cancun.
Copyright © 2020 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved – The Associated Press contributed to this report.