This story was last updated at 12:10 p.m. on Sunday, April 5. We’ll continue to regularly update it. Any new information will be added below and included in our daily newsletter.
Latest: Atrium Health and Novant Health plan to set up a field hospital at UNC Charlotte.
Depending on the effectiveness of the mandatory stay at home order, Mecklenburg County could see a surge of COVID-19 cases sometime between mid-April and mid-May.
Known Mecklenburg County cases: 650. Mecklenburg has the highest count out of all counties in N.C.
Deaths: 31 deaths associated with coronavirus in North Carolina, including four in Mecklenburg County.
Stay at home order: All state residents are under a mandatory stay at home order until April 30. This requires residents to stay home except for “essential needs” like grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, or going for a walk/run. The county attorney says that violators of the order could be convicted of Class II misdemeanor.
On Sunday, March 29, Harris indicated that there are still plenty of people in Charlotte who aren’t taking the order seriously. She said, parks and sandbars on the lake were packed on Saturday, and social distancing was “not even an option.”
The county may move to enact stricter enforcements of the order if residents continue to ignore it, she added. “We need everyone to be part of the solution.”
Data: Twice a week, the county releases new data about local cases. Here’s a snapshot of where Mecklenburg’s cases stand as of April 1:
- About 3 in 4 reported cases are in adults ages 20 to 59. Five patients are under 20 years old.
- About 1 in 5 reported COVID-19 cases were hospitalized, however, these rates are higher among adults 60 years and older (1 in 2).
- About a third of cases have been released from isolation. This means at least 72 hours have passed since they experienced symptoms and at least seven days have passed since the first sign of symptoms. These individuals remain under the mandatory stay at home order like the rest of the state.
- Nearly 45 percent of reported cases are Black. Black residents make up 32.9 percent of the county, according to Census data. The county doesn’t believe certain races/ethnicities are more susceptible to COVID-19 than others. Rather, the report states, “These differences are more likely related to the current testing criteria, which is focused on symptomatic patients, and underlying racial/ethnic disparities in rates of chronic conditions that increase severity of illness with COVID-19.”
Community spread: According to county officials, there is community spread locally — meaning they don’t know the source of the infection. Roughly half of the cases in Mecklenburg County are from community spread, officials said on March 27.
Testing priorities: The state says that it has completed 40,045 tests, which includes both state labs and reporting hospital and commercial labs. Due to a shortage of supplies, not all who are sick are being tested at this point. North Carolina is concentrating its available supplies on those who have the greatest need like hospitalized individuals, healthcare providers, and individuals and employees in senior care facilities.
Zoom out: COVID-19, or just “coronavirus,” started in Wuhan, China in early December. Coronavirus is actually a large family of viruses that cause illnesses, including the common cold, MERS, and SARS. This present strain is new to humans, meaning we needed new tests and still need a new vaccine, which could take a year or longer.
Global impact: On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. Total cases are now more than 1.1 million cases across 181 countries. At least 60,000 people have died and more than 233,000 patients have recovered.
United States: On March 13, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency. The U.S. saw its first coronavirus case in late January. Follow the spread in real-time with this tracker from Johns Hopkins University. Here’s where the virus stands as of April 4:
- 278,000+ confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., more than any other country
- 7,100+ deaths
- 9,900+ people have recovered in the U.S
Here’s everything else you need to know about how the coronavirus is affecting Charlotte:
What is North Carolina doing to control the spread?
Details about the stay at home order: This is the latest and most drastic measure taken by local and state officials to control the spread of coronavirus thus far. So what does it mean? The order requires residents to stay at home except for when they need to leave for “essential needs.” Here are a few examples of things you can still do:
- Go to the grocery store, farmer’s market, or ABC store.
- Walk your dog or go for a run. If you go to a park, be sure you can maintain at least six feet between you and others.
- Visit a healthcare professional if you’re not able to access one virtually. Always be sure to call first.
- Help someone get necessary supplies.
You can only go to work if you’re listed as an essential employee under the order. This includes medical providers, first responders, law enforcement, grocery store employees, food workers, journalists, and more. If you have questions about what this means for you, call the county help line at 704-353-1926. We also created an FAQ.
Restaurant closures: Restaurants and bars in North Carolina are closed for dine-in customers under an executive order from Governor Roy Cooper. They are to remain closed until at least April 30 under the current stay at home order. Takeout and delivery orders are still allowed. Cooper’s order also includes an expansion of unemployment benefits to help North Carolina workers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
School closures: On March 23, Cooper issued an executive order closing all public schools statewide for in-person instruction until May 15. All UNC System institutions, including UNC Charlotte, have moved classes online. Other colleges have also closed campuses and moved to distance learning. [Full Agenda story: What’s the current status of schools in Charlotte?]
Canceling events: All gatherings are postponed until at least April 30. This includes all sporting events, performances with Blumenthal Performing Arts, nonprofit fundraisers, stadium concerts (Billy Joel, Rolling Stones), Charlotte Ballet, and many more. As of now, the Republican National Convention is on as planned for August 24-27.
Postponing court cases: Until at least April 16, there will be a delay for most civil and criminal proceedings to minimize courthouse visits in the hopes of slowing the spread of coronavirus.
Exceptions to this include emergency proceedings and trials already in progress. Full details here.
How are the hospitals managing the coronavirus outbreak?
Field hospital: To accommodate a likely surge in coronavirus patients, Novant and Atrium said they plan to set up a field hospital within a matter of weeks on UNC Charlotte’s campus. In a letter to county officials on April 2, the hospitals’ CEOs requested support for the field hospital, which would treat up to 3,000 COVID-19 patients. Prior to the pandemic, both hospitals combined had 2,164 beds.
Rescheduling non-essential procedures: On March 17, Atrium, Novant, and Wake Forest Baptist announced that non-essential surgeries, procedures, and ambulatory appointments are to be rescheduled.
“Rescheduling these appointments will minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 among patients, visitors and healthcare providers,” the hospitals said in a joint statement.
Visitor limits: This month, Novant Health placed restrictions on all visitors to its hospitals. Effective Monday, March 30, at 6 a.m., laboring mothers may have one visitor accompany them. Patients under 18 can also have one parent, visitor, or guardian. No other visitors are allowed at this time, although some exceptions may be granted (such as with end-of-life care.)
Atrium Health has similarly restricted visitor access. The health care system says that only immediate family ages 13 and up can visit patients for now. Visitors with flu-like symptoms will not be allowed in patient areas.
Full Agenda story: Charlotte hospitals are preparing for war against coronavirus
How is transportation affected?
Public transit: Light rail and buses in Charlotte are still running and currently free to use. Both buses and the light rail will operate on a reduced schedule. Reminder: All residents should stay home except for essential needs.
On April 3, Mayor Vi Lyles said in a Twitter Q&A there was the possibility the city would have to suspend service during the surge.
Air travel: On March 11, President Trump announced a ban on travel from most of Europe to the U.S. for 30 days. Only essential travel is permitted under the local and state stay at home order.
Carriers have responded to the outbreak by reducing their flight capacity and waiving change fees. Here are some details about their plans:
- American Airlines, the dominant airline at Charlotte’s airport, is reducing its international capacity by 75 percent from March 16 to May 6. The carrier anticipates its domestic capacity in April will be reduced by 20 percent over last year; in May, it’ll be reduced by 30 percent. Out of Charlotte, American is suspending flights to a number of overseas destinations, including to London Heathrow Airport.
- Delta Air Lines plans to reduce international flights between 20-25 percent, and trim domestic flights by 10-15 percent.
- United is suspending travel to certain markets, including Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.
- American, Delta, and United are all dropping change fees on flights through May 31.
How can I protect myself?
You’ve probably heard of these preventative measures, but it’s important to reiterate:
- Stay home as mandated by the local and statewide stay at home orders.
- 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.