More than 5.1 million people worldwide — including more than 1.6 million people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals manage unprecedented patient surges.

>> Scroll below for live, local real-time minute-by-minute updates

Possible news conferences scheduled for today

Mecklenburg County: (1 p.m.)

North Carolina Task Force: (2 p.m.)

South Carolina Task Force (TBA)

White House Task Force: (TBA)

>> Have questions about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the Carolinas? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak — CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

>> We’ll bring you LIVE updates on Channel 9 Eyewitness News. Get extended coverage on the free WSOC Now app on Roku, Amazon Fire and Apple TV.

>> Here are the latest updates about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in North Carolina and South Carolina. Scroll below for real-time updates.

  • The number of cases across North Carolina reached 21,618 Friday. North Carolina is now reporting 728 deaths, 303,224 completed tests and 568 people currently in the hospital.
  • Gov. Roy Cooper and the state’s coronavirus task force announced the state will move into a “safer-at-home” plan on May 22.
  • Gov. Henry McMaster lifted the home or work order in South Carolina on May 1.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the United States here.

Live, local updates from Friday:

CLT area COVID-19 cases to date

Alexander 23
Anson 54
Ashe 31
Avery 2
Burke 259
Cabarrus 423
Caldwell 96
Catawba 134
Chester 44
Chesterfield 118
Cleveland 62
Gaston 220
Iredell 212
Lancaster 120
Lincoln 56
Meck 3001
Richmond 132
Rowan 597
Stanly 39
Union 389
Watauga 13
York 329 pic.twitter.com/IcDmMt7dkM

— Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) May 23, 2020

Top state government fiscal researchers predicted Friday that North Carolina will collect $4 billion less in revenues over a two-year period than previously forecast as the pandemic-related economic slowdown continues.

Researchers from the General Assembly and executive branch jointly estimated that state collections for the current fiscal year will fall $1.6 billion short of a pre-pandemic forecast.

For the 2020-21 fiscal year, the group predicted that revenue will fall short of the previous forecast by nearly $2.6 billion.

The group did note that because the current pandemic is unprecedented, their forecast reflects more uncertainty than normal. They also said delays in state tax deadlines also clouded the picture.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has released its virtual graduation schedule and diploma drive-through ceremony.

Click here for the virtual graduation ceremony schedule and below is the schedule for the diploma drive-through graduation ceremony:

  • Cochrane Collegiate Academy
  • Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology
  • John Taylor Williams Secondary Montessori
  • Butler High School Hawthorne Academy of Health Sciences/Military & Global Leadership Academy
  • West Charlotte High School Ardrey Kell High School
  • Northwest School of the Arts
  • Providence High School
  • Charlotte Mecklenburg Virtual High School
  • Independence High School
  • William Amos Hough High School
  • Performance Learning Center
  • West Mecklenburg High School
  • Garinger High School
  • Merancas Middle College High School (Drive-Thru Pick-Up @ JM Alexander)
  • East Mecklenburg High School
  • Levine Middle College High School
  • Olympic High School
  • Cato Middle College High School
  • Harper Middle College High School
  • North Mecklenburg High School
  • Rocky River High School
  • Harding High School
  • Zebulon B. Vance High School
  • South Mecklenburg High School
  • Hopewell High School
  • Mallard Creek High School
  • Charlotte Engineering Early College Metro School
  • Myers Park High School

CLICK HERE to view the drive-thru pickup schedule.

DHEC today announced 245 new cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and 3 additional deaths. This brings the total number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in South Carolina to 9,638 and those who have died to 419.

The Billy Graham Library will open all facilities beginning Saturday, May 23.

“We are excited to be able to reopen the Billy Graham Library, and to have The Journey of Faith, Graham Family Homeplace, and the outdoor Memorial Prayer Garden all available for guests to enjoy. I think they will be blessed by seeing what God did through my father’s life and how He is continuing to work today,” said Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “God is still in the life-changing business; His Gospel was not shut down during this pandemic. During uncertain times, like this coronavirus, people need to hear more of God’s love and the hope available through His Son, Jesus Christ, not less.”

The Library staff looks forward to welcoming guests to the Library with added precautionary measures being implemented. In accordance with the Governor’s executive order, visitors will be limited to 50 percent capacity, with no more than 300 people on property at any given time.

“Billy Graham was so often a voice of hope in the midst of crisis,” said Scott Holmquist, executive director of the Billy Graham Library. “Those who visit the Library and take The Journey of Faith Tour will hear the timeless truth that Billy Graham shared throughout his ministry that is still true today.”

Procedures are in place to ensure compliance with social distancing standards according to North Carolina’s Phase 2 guidelines. Added hand sanitizing stations and increased cleaning of high-touch surfaces will be in place. Visitors are encouraged to follow to CDC guidelines for being in public places. Of course, anyone with symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 should not visit at this time, though we look forward to hosting them when they are well. A full list of precautionary measures can be found at: www.BillyGrahamLibrary.org.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden will reopen on a limited basis to members only beginning Thursday, May 28, Garden officials announced today. The Garden has been operating with limited staff since closing to the public two months ago due to the effects of Covid-19.

Gov. Roy Cooper updated North Carolina on where the state stands just hours before we moved into Phase 2 of reopening.

He discussed a new initiative called, Count on Me NC, an online training tool to help business owners navigate through advanced cleaning, disinfection, social distancing and hygiene practices to better protect the public and employees from exposure to COVID-19.

Starting today at 5 pm, restaurants can open for in-person dining at 50% capacity and will use enhanced cleaning and health screening.

— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) May 22, 2020

Today at 5 pm, North Carolina enters Safer At Home Phase 2. As laid out, this is a cautious step forward that eases certain restrictions and keeps important safety measures in place.

This is Memorial Day Weekend, and it’s an important opportunity to honor our men & women in uniform who made the ultimate sacrifice. It’s time to reflect on their contributions & show gratitude to their families. I’m grateful for these heroes who gave everything for our country.

I know it’s also a popular weekend for cookouts and parties. Especially this year when we’ve been more socially isolated, the desire to gather with friends and family is really strong. I want you to have a great time, but continue using caution.

I urge all North Carolinians to take the COVID-19 restrictions and safety rules seriously. Keep gatherings to under 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors. And remember the Three Ws – wear a face covering, wait six feet apart from other people and wash your hands frequently.

Starting today at 5 pm, restaurants can open for in-person dining at 50% capacity and will use enhanced cleaning and health screening.

Restaurants are a major part of our economy, and this virus has been tough on them. As we enter Phase 2, I appreciate that restaurant owners across the state are focused on how to keep customers and employees safe. They know that strong safety precautions will be good business.

To help this effort, @ncdhhs has been working with @NCRLA, @NCExtension and @VisitNC to develop an online curriculum for owners, managers and employees of restaurants, hotels and other businesses. It’s called Count on Me NC.

Count on Me is a free online training. It’s focused on advanced cleaning, disinfection, social distancing and hygiene practices to better protect the public and employees from exposure to COVID-19.

When completing the course, restaurants and businesses will have a sign in the window and a logo for the website to show their commitment to using new safety protocols. You may see your server wearing a Count on Me pin or nametag if you go into a restaurant this weekend.

So far, over 3,500 individuals representing over 1,800 businesses have completed the training with more signing up every day. You can learn more at CountOnMeNC.org and find a list of businesses in your area that have already completed the training.

This innovative effort is possible because of the strong and longstanding partnerships we have with industry and our universities. As far as we know, it’s among the first of its kind in the country. I’m proud that North Carolina is leading the way on safety and best practices.

The Count On Me campaign is really a testament to the collaboration going on all across our state as we fight COVID-19. And I know we will continue to partner with you and others to provide this type of helpful information and training.

Mecklenburg County leaders provide update on COVID-19

County Manager Dena Diorio said some parks and rec facilities will open starting Saturday. Driving ranges are reopening and county summer camps will be held. Nature preserve programming will be offered and the Aquatic Center and Double Oaks pools will be reopening in mid-June.

People can use the county athletic fields but no organized sports are allowed, Diorio said. She also said Cordelia Park’s pool is not reopening at this time and that spraygrounds are still being evaluated.

Health Director Gibbie Harris said community members need to answer the phone when county contact tracers call. She is reiterating that public health staff will never offer to sell an individual an item.

Harris said, “We are not out of the need to be vigilant,” even with stay-at-home order lifted. Staying home is encouraged, Harris said, and warned of lapsing into pre-pandemic behaviors. Washing hands, wearing face coverings and social distancing are essential when out of your house.

Harris said she believes we are on target to reach our goal of testing 5% of the population within 30 days.

“As more people come out of their homes, the likelihood we will have more cases goes up,” Harris said. “It is incredibly infectious, and it is critical for people to protect themselves and others in the community. The temptation to run back to pre-pandemic behavior is strong. Before going out, ask yourself how important is this trip.”

Harris said just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. She expects to see data from Phase 1′s impact in the next week.

Reporter Joe Bruno asked Harris if she planned to visit a restaurant once they reopen this weekend. After a long pause, she said, “I have no plans to do so this weekend.” When pressed, she said she was comfortable grilling from her own home.

Harris says she is not apprehensive about eating in restaurants. “I don’t eat out a lot to begin with,” she said.

Diorio said she does not have any plans to go to a restaurant this weekend but says she is comfortable doing so.

Atrium Health Creates COVID-Safe Environment for Coca-Cola 600

Atrium Health is working in partnership with Charlotte Motor Speedway to create a COVID-Safe environment for four live competition NASCAR races, beginning Sunday, May 24, with the historic Coca-Cola 600. Atrium Health will deploy members of its Sports and Events Medicine team to provide screening for fevers and symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) for drivers, support team personnel, members of the media and others who will be working at the events. The process is designed to help prevent someone who is contagious from entering the facility, while maintaining the highest standards of care for all race events. Due to coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings, no spectators will be allowed at the races.

Sunday’s race also marks the debut of Atrium Health’s new, state-of-the-art MED-1 mobile hospital. MED-1 is a one-of-a-kind emergency room on wheels. Atrium Health already has a fully-functional hospital facility constructed in the infield of Charlotte Motor Speedway which is open and staffed during NASCAR events. Due to the ongoing pandemic, MED-1 will be onsite to maintain a COVID-Safe environment for anyone who may need treatment during the races, providing the capability of completely isolating someone who has an onset of COVID-19 symptoms while still being able to provide them with whatever emergency care they may need.

(Atrium Health)

The new MED-1 is the second mobile hospital in Atrium Health’s fleet, featuring innovative upgrades from the original. Each MED-1 mobile hospital consists of up to 14 acute care beds, a 2-bed operating room, digital X-ray capabilities, ultrasounds, an on-site lab, a pharmacy and other essential emergency department necessities.

As of today, there were 2,945 cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) with 73 deaths due to COVID-19 reported among Mecklenburg County residents. Data from two days ago is listed below.

Yesterday, a 43-year-old Mecklenburg County resident with no known underlying health conditions died related to COVID-19 infection. At this time, further details about the resident will not be released to protect their and their family’s privacy. This is a somber reminder that residents of any age are susceptible to COVID-19 infection, complications and even death.

As of May 20, 2020, 2,845 cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and 71 deaths due to COVID-19 among county residents were reported to Mecklenburg County Public Health (MCPH).

MCPH provides these routine updates about reported cases of COVID-19 to help our community better understand how this pandemic is developing in our county. These results only reflect laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among county residents. Many individuals infected by COVID-19 have not been tested because they are asymptomatic or do not meet current CDC recommendations for testing. As such, these results are very fluid and only represent a fraction of the true burden of COVID-19 in our community.

Daily case counts provided by MCPH may differ from state and federal counts due to delays in reporting to the various entities. MCPH updates case counts after an initial case review and, where possible, a patient interview is conducted, which includes confirming county residency. Cases reported after 5 p.m. are counted in the following days case count. Highlights about the epidemiology of COVID-19 in Mecklenburg County as of May 20, 2020 include:

  • About 3 in 4 reported cases were adults ages 20 to 59 years old.
  • More than a third of reported cases are Hispanic – most of whom are younger adults. The high number of reported cases among young Hispanics over the last several weeks remains a significant concern. As previously noted, some factors influencing this trend include:
  • Targeted testing occurring in neighborhoods with lower access to care, some of which have larger Hispanic populations;
  • Higher proportions of Hispanics working in essential jobs that make social distancing difficult;
  • Significant household spread among large families; and
  • Pre-existing disparities in other social and economic determinants of health, like poverty.

MCPH continues to expand outreach to Hispanic members of our community, including increased dissemination of the outreach toolkit in Spanish for community partners, setting up targeted outreach to Hispanic owned- and serving-businesses, and partnering with local organizations and media outlets to spread key prevention messages.

  • About 1 in 8 reported cases were hospitalized due to their COVID-19 infection. While everyone is at risk for severe COVID-19 complications, reported cases who were older adults (≥ 60 years) were more likely to be hospitalized compared to younger individuals.
  • About 2 in 3 reported cases have met CDC criteria to be released from isolation.
  • During the past week, an average of 62 individuals with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infections were hospitalized at acute care facilities in Mecklenburg County. This represents a slight increase over the last 14 days. These data are based on daily census counts from acute care facilities in Mecklenburg County reporting to MCPH.
  • During the past week, an average of 6.3 percent of individuals who were tested were positive for COVID-19. This represents a slight decrease over the last 14 days. These data only include tests conducted by Atrium Health and Novant Health.
  • Seventy-one deaths due to COVID-19 occurred among reported cases.
  • Almost all deaths were among older adults (≥ 60 years), 4 deaths were adults ages 50 to 59.
  • All deaths occurred among adults with underlying chronic illnesses.
  • Nearly 2 out of 3 were non-Hispanic Whites. The disparities in COVID-19 deaths among non-Hispanic Whites is related to differences in race/ethnicity of residents of long-term care (LTC) facilities actively experiencing an outbreak.
  • More than half of the deaths were connected to active outbreaks at long-term care (LTC) facilities.
  • Based on publicly available mobility tracking data, there has been a decrease in social distancing in Mecklenburg County over the last 14 days. Despite this downward trend, social distancing remains significantly higher than before the Stay at Home Order became effective on March 26, 2020.

NCDHHS has released updated data on COVID-19 for the state:

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting 21,618 cases of COVID-19 across the state, up 708 from Thursday.

There have been 12 new deaths attributed to COVID-19 since Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 728. NCDHHS reported that 568 people remain hospitalized and 303,224 tests have been completed. The state reported 12,579 total tests were done in the past 24 hours, which is above the state’s benchmark to test between 5,000 and 7,000 people every day.

Mecklenburg County continues to lead the state in both cases and deaths with at least 2,954 and 73 respectively.

COVID-like syndromic ER visits — an early indicator of caseload in the state — has been steadily decreasing. The percentage of positive tests out of total tests was decreasing and remains level.

(Men account for 52% of deaths)

Cases and deaths in congregate living settings:

There have been 83 outbreaks in nursing homes across the state, resulting in 2,811 cases and 386 deaths (Anson, Burke (2); Cabarrus (2); Catawba; Cleveland; Iredell; Mecklenburg (9); Rowan (4); Union (2))

There have been 36 outbreaks at residential care facilities across the state, resulting in 569 cases and 56 deaths (Cabarrus (2); Mecklenburg (6); Stanly; Union).

NCDHHS Provides One-Time Payment to Families with Children in Work First Cash Assistance Program

Today, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) began distributing a one-time supplemental payment to families enrolled in the Work First Cash Assistance program with one or more children. These payments are intended to help vulnerable families during the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“So many North Carolina families are in need right now, with many people out of work or seeing a reduction in working hours,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D. “This one-time payment will provide thousands of our most economically vulnerable families with extra financial support to help pay for basic necessities.”

All Work First Cash Assistance families that received a benefit in April and had one or more children in their household will receive a supplement of $265 per child for a total of more than 17,000 children. Some families will receive the payment today on their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, others will receive the payment on Monday via a direct deposit.

Work First is North Carolina’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The Work First program provides parents with short-term training and other services to help them become employed and move toward self-sufficiency. Families in which grandparents and relatives are caring for their relative children and legal guardians can receive services and support that prevent children from unnecessarily entering the foster care system.

During the past week, an average of 62 individuals with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infections were hospitalized in Mecklenburg County. This is a slight increase over the last 14 days.

More than a third of reported cases are Hispanic, most of whom are younger adults, county officials say. This is an area of concern for Mecklenburg County.

Last week, Mint Hill Senior Living tested all its’ residents for COVID-19. All of those tests came back negative.

The state of North Carolina’s seasonally adjusted April unemployment rate was 12.2 percent, increasing 7.9 percentage points from March’s revised rate. The national rate increased 10.3 percentage points to 14.7 percent.

North Carolina’s April 2020 unemployment rate increased 8.1 percentage points from a year ago. The number of people employed decreased 643,157 over the month to 4,112,383 and decreased 744,300 over the year. The number of people unemployed increased 357,418 over the month to 573,118 and increased 367,922 over the year.

Seasonally adjusted Total Nonfarm industry employment, as gathered through the monthly establishment survey, decreased 571,700 to 3,996,000 in April. Major industries experiencing decreases were Leisure & Hospitality Services, 249,800; Education & Health Services, 63,200; Trade, Transportation & Utilities, 63,200; Professional & Business Services, 55,700; Manufacturing, 51,200; Other Services, 33,200; Government, 26,000; Construction, 12,500; Financial Activities, 8,900; and Information, 8,000. Mining & Logging employment remained unchanged over the month.

Since April 2019, Total Nonfarm jobs decreased 568,200 with the Total Private sector decreasing by 549,000 and Government decreasing by 19,200. The only over-the-year increase among major industries was in Financial Activities, 1,200. Major industries experiencing decreases were Leisure & Hospitality Services, 251,500; Education & Health Services, 68,900; Trade, Transportation & Utilities, 68,900; Professional & Business Services, 57,100; Manufacturing, 56,200; Other Services, 31,100; Government, 19,200; Construction, 11,600; Information, 4,800; and Mining & Logging, 100.

Today is a big day for North Carolina as we move toward Phase 2 of reopening. Here’s what you need to know as we head into the Memorial Day Weekend.

A day after the state reported it exceeded 20,000 positive cases of coronavirus, North Carolina is marching forward with the reopening process. Phase 2 begins at 5 p.m., meaning restaurants, barbershops and hair salons will be open again for the first time in months. As we enter Phase 2, it’s important to remember that just because a business can reopen doesn’t mean they will. Pools can also reopen, but only at 50 percent capacity and only with 10 people in the water per every 1,000 square feet.

The governor said the stay-at-home order will be lifted but a “safer-at-home” recommendation will go into effect. Phase 3 cannot begin until 4 to 6 weeks after the start of Phase 2, according to the state.

Gov. Cooper will speak Friday at 2 p.m. with an update on the state’s response.

Since stay-at-home orders have emptied the roads this year, troopers have stopped more speeders going excessively fast — and this weekend will be no different. State troopers across the Carolinas will be stationed along interstates and highways checking for speeding, reckless driving and impaired drivers. They’re concerned it could be a dangerous Memorial Day Weekend, with more people on the roads.

Tonight, our Frontline Flyover Salute to Healthcare Heroes will be taking to the skies of Mecklenburg County. Channel 9 partnered with the Bandit flight team as they fly over hospitals. We’ll have live team coverage from the air and the ground on Channel 9 at 6 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he will order the U.S. flag to be flown at half-staff over the next three days as the death toll from COVID-19 surpasses 95,000.

Trump tweeted Thursday: “I will be lowering the flags on all Federal Buildings and National Monuments to half-staff over the next three days in memory of the Americans we have lost to the CoronaVirus.”

He said the flags will continue to be flown at half-staff on Memorial Day in honor of those in the military who died serving their country.

The move follows a request from Democratic leaders to do so to recognize a “sad day of reckoning when we reach 100,000 deaths.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote to Trump that an order to fly the U.S. flag at half-staff would “serve as a national expression of grief so needed by everyone in our country.”

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