NC residents cope with lockdown as coronavirus cases jump

NC residents cope with lockdown as coronavirus cases jump


At Lake Johnson in Raleigh, dark clouds covered the sun. It was a quiet, cool Saturday, but that didn’t keep residents from visiting the park.

Donald Pearsall, 51, and his son Johnathan Pearsall, 21, were among the visitors, carrying fishing rods and buckets.

As North Carolina begins its fifth week under Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the father and son say their lives have changed.

Johnathan, who works at Target, was put on leave. Donald, who works at Fayetteville State University, is working from home. He also pastors part-time, and he’s had to live-stream his services.

Johnathan’s great-grandmother, and Donald’s grandmother-in-law, who lived in Durham, died a few weeks ago. Only three people were allowed to be near her body, including the funeral service directors.

“We had to watch from the car as they put her in the ground,” Johnathan said.

Donald said fishing is an escape for the father and son. He said he’s both frustrated and understanding about the state’s lockdown. But he’s not frustrated with Cooper, who extended his stay-at-home order Thursday until at least May 8.

“With the strength and power that we have, and the progressiveness of our country, I think we did a poor job of handling this,” Donald said. “It brought the country to a screeching halt. I’m totally frustrated.”

North Carolina added more than 500 positive tests to its coronavirus total Saturday, the second-straight day the statewide tally has jumped by its highest number of cases so far.

Biggest number of new cases

The state’s Department of Health and Human Services reported 8,623 confirmed cases of COVID-19, up 571 from Friday’s total. The 444 new cases confirmed Friday had been the state’s largest single-day increase.

The state also reported 20 new deaths from the pandemic, a count that rose to 289. Of the infected patients statewide, 456 remained hospitalized.

The updated total reflects the number of cases with positive COVID-19 test results, but DHHS warns that the total is likely higher because not all cases are tested.

As of Saturday, the state’s running total was taking roughly 14 days to double. That number stayed the same as it was Friday, but it has been creeping upward, a sign that the virus’ spread is slowing.

The News & Observer is keeping a separate count based on reports from DHHS and county health departments, which tends to be higher because the state updates its numbers once a day. As of Saturday morning, that tally stood at 8,746 cases and 305 deaths.

All but 5 counties affected

As of Saturday, the pandemic has struck in 95 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, increasing from 93, where it had stood for more than a week. The state reported the first cases in Hyde County and Madison County.

Those still untouched by the virus are among the state’s least populous, including Graham County and three others in the mountains and Camden County on the coast.

Franklin County, just northeast of Wake, reported Saturday that two of its health department employees have tested positive for coronavirus. Neither works as a health-care provider within the department, said Director Scott LaVigne.

Soon after the first positive result, 48 more employees were tested and most were sent home to isolate and monitor symptoms. Their results should be available Sunday, LaVigne said.

A single Franklin County nursing home has 14 coronavirus deaths.

Of Louisburg Nursing Center’s 61 residents, 53 have tested positive for the virus, the Franklin County Health Department reported. Twelve staff members have also tested positive for the virus.

New data in Durham

New information released by Durham County show how many people in each ZIP code have tested positive for COVID-19. The information shows that the 27705 ZIP code, which is a western central section of Durham County and includes two of the county’s three nursing home outbreaks, had the most cases, followed by ZIP code 27704.

The county also provided data showing the number of cases as a share of each ZIP code’s population.

The breakdown of cases by ZIP code could inform the public about any communities that have been especially hard-hit by the virus. Some counties, like Mecklenburg and Union, release the data while others, including Wake and Orange, do not. Orange has cited patient privacy in limiting the information it releases. The state Department of Health and Human Services does not include ZIP code in its statewide updates, unlike its South Carolina counterpart.

Extended order

Cooper announced Friday that schools statewide would close for the rest of the academic year, a day after extending his stay-at-home order and describing how the state would reopen in phases. Earlier in the week, protesters in Raleigh demanded a quick re-opening of the economy.

At Lake Johnson, Kevin Bui, 31, and his wife Heather Bui, 30, tried to get their young children out of the car to go for a stroll in the park. They said recent weeks have been frustrating and good at the same time.

Frustrating because they have not been able to do as much outside the house with their sons, ages 2 and 4. But good because they’ve been able to bond as a family, Kevin Bui said.

Heather Bui said having their older son learning at home instead of in pre-K has been an adjustment.

But they understand the extension of the governor’s order.

“Totally understand 100%,” she said. “I think there are a lot of inconveniences. But it’s something you should sacrifice for everyone’s safety.”

Josh Shaffer covers Wake County and federal courts. He has been a reporter for The News & Observer since 2004 and previously wrote a column about unusual people and places.

Jonathan M. Alexander has been covering the North Carolina Tar Heels since May 2018. He previously covered Duke basketball and recruiting in the ACC. He is an alumnus of N.C. Central University.
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