This story was last updated at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 27. We’ll continue to regularly update it. Any new information will be added below and included in our daily newsletter.
Latest: On Friday, Mecklenburg County reported its first coronavirus cluster in a K-12 school.
County officials said during a press conference Friday the cluster was at a private school where there are six cases among children and teachers. All are in isolation. County heath director Gibbie Harris said that schools have been doing a fairly good job at wearing masks and social distancing.
Also last week, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced that large outdoor stadiums could reopen starting October 2.
Stadiums reopen: Stadiums can open at up to 7 percent capacity. This means that just over 5,200 fans will be allowed back at Bank of America Stadium for the Panthers’ October 4 game against the Arizona Cardinals. Fans will still be required to wear masks and practice social distancing. This new capacity limit applies to college stadiums, too.
Buying tickets: The Panthers say Permanent Seat License holders who opted into buying tickets this season can purchase a two-game ticket package, plus the option to add the Arizona game. Ticket selection is online, and the time of the PSL purchasing windows will be assigned based on seniority. In other words, the longer you’ve owned a PSL, the earlier your window of time is to purchase. No single-game tickets will be available.
Why now?: Cooper attributed the decision to the state’s “continued stability” in its coronavirus data. The governor said he made the announcement about stadiums today because large venues need time to print tickets and communicate with fans/customers.
Phase 3: Cooper said he will make an announcement about additional reopening plans next week, before the end of the current phase (2.5) ends on Friday, October 2. “We hope to ease other restrictions while keeping certain safety protocols in place,” Cooper said.
School Reopening Plan: In a 6-3 vote, the CMS Board of Education opted to resume in-person classes for students starting as soon as October 12.
One day following the vote, Governor Cooper announced school districts could opt for Plan A: a less restrictive plan for in-person learning, for elementary schools starting on October 5. As of right now CMS is not planning to implement Plan A.
The district’s plan involves four phases and rotational schedules. Students in grades K-12 will be split into three groups with one week of in-person learning followed by two weeks of virtual learning.
Students and teachers will be slowly phased back into school starting with pre-K:
- Pre-K students will return on October 12 (their schedule will not be rotational).
- Elementary school students will return on November 2.
- Middle school students will return on November 23.
- High school students will return on January 5 for classes. (High schoolers will come back mid-December for testing.)
Those board members who voted against this plan said they wanted students to get back to school sooner. Students enrolled in Full Remote Academy will continue learning virtually (exceptions can be made for families with an urgent need to go back in-person) with the option to make changes for next semester. In a separate vote the school board voted to allow the superintendent to furlough hourly employees if necessary.
By the numbers: The district has spent over $3.7 million on cleaning and Covid-safety supplies. CMS has to adhere to statewide Covid safety standards for cleaning and social distancing.
On September 16 the district reported that 62 percent of schools used by pre-K students were ready for students under the new Covid requirements. There are 36 schools still have out of date HVAC systems, and there are school nurse and janitorial vacancies.
Here are the other coronavirus-related headlines:
Moving to phase 2.5: “Moving to phase 2.5 means that we can safely do a few more things while still fighting the virus as vigorously as ever,” Governor Cooper said during the phase 2.5 announcement.
Under the new phase some businesses including gyms and museums can reopen. Bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment facilities, and amusement parks are to remain closed. Restrictions on restaurants, salons, and retailers remain the same.
Here are the details:
- Mass gatherings can have up to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.
- Gyms can open at 30% capacity for indoor classes. Bowling alleys can also open at 30% capacity. (This also includes yoga studios, ballrooms, martial arts facilities, gymnastics facilities, indoor trampoline parks, rock climbing facilities, gyms, boxing clubs, skating rinks, bowling alleys, go-cart tracks, laser tag and paint ball facilities.)
- Playgrounds can open.
- Museums and aquariums can open at 50% capacity.
Nursing homes that meet certain safety requirements and don’t have any active outbreaks will be able to host outdoor visitations.
Covid at the RNC: Mecklenburg County officials said that four people tested positive for Covid-19 at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte last month. Of those, two were attendees and two were support staffers, the county said. The individuals and their close contacts were immediately instructed to isolate.
Late-night alcohol sales ban: After individual cities and counties, including Mecklenburg, implemented late-night alcohol sales bans, Cooper extended the ban statewide. On August 31, the governor extended the ban until October 2.
Originally, the city of Charlotte’s version of the ban was stricter than the statewide order; it prohibited customers from sitting at the bar. But, with the start of phase 2.5, Charlotte moved to align its ban with the statewide order.
Mask mandate: In late June, Cooper issued a statewide mask requirement. The mask mandate means that everyone has to wear a face covering in a public place, such as the grocery store or mall. There are a few exceptions, though, including children under 11, people who have medical conditions, and anyone who is exercising. You’re exempted if you’re actively eating or drinking, too.
Known Mecklenburg County cases: 28,228
Hospitalized: 917 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized in North Carolina. In Mecklenburg County in the past week, 100 Covid patients were hospitalized at an acute care facility.
Deaths: 3,441 deaths associated with coronavirus in North Carolina, including 350 in Mecklenburg County. Almost all deaths in Mecklenburg were among adults with underlying chronic illnesses.
Outbreaks at congregate living facilities and child care centers: 32 congregate living facilities and two child care/school settings in Mecklenburg County have reported an outbreak of two or more COVID-19 cases. As of September 25, more than half of the county’s deaths were connected to long-term care facilities.
Protecting yourself: You’ve probably heard of these preventative measures by now, but it’s important to reiterate.
- Wear a mask or face covering when you’re out in a public setting.
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Don’t touch your face.
- If you have to go out for groceries or for a walk, stay at least six feet away from others.
- Disinfect surfaces in your home regularly.
- If you feel sick, call your doctor first. Don’t go into the hospital right away unless it’s an emergency.