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Mecklenburg County announces three additional deaths from COVID-19

There are now over 5,000 cases and 100 deaths in North Carolina. South Carolina is reporting over 3,500 COVID-19 cases.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — At WCNC Charlotte, we are focusing our coronavirus coverage on facts, not fear.  We aim to give our viewers the information they need from officials to best protect themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Key Facts:

The United States has more than 600,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University.

As of midnight ET Wednesday morning, the U.S. had 609,240 confirmed cases with 26,033 deaths and 48,625 recoveries. Nearly 3.1 million tests have been conducted in the U.S.

This story has updates for Wednesday, April 15. For previous minute-by-minute updates, click here.

Union County confirms 15 new cases, 12 of which are at long-term care facilities

Union County Public Health Department confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks at two long-term care facilities within the county, meaning two or more laboratory-confirmed cases are at each facility.

The outbreaks are at Monroe Rehabilitation Center and Woodridge.

Of the 15 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Union County Wednesday, 12 are directly related to these two long-term facility outbreaks. 

RELATED: A dozen new COVID-19 cases confirmed at Union County nursing homes

Face masks now recommended throughout Mecklenburg County

Mecklenburg County is now advising that people wear cloth face masks whenever in settings where it's hard to keep a social distance from others. 

This means you'll be seeing an increase of face masks when out at grocery stores, pharmacies, and other essential businesses still open during the pandemic. 

Health officials urge everyone to wash and dry their masks daily — if the masks aren't fully dry, health officials warn they aren't as effective.

Mecklenburg County announces three additional deaths from COVID-19

Mecklenburg County confirmed that three additional people in the county have died from COVID-19.  To date, 1,052 people in Mecklenburg County have tested positive for COVID-19, and 19 have died. 

NC Gov. Cooper says lifting restrictions won't happen all at once

As of Wednesday morning there were 5,123 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in North Carolina with 431 patients hospitalized and 117 deaths.

Efforts across the state to flatten the curve are working and hospitals are not overwhelmed by patients right now.

But North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said we can't stay home forever.

"This virus is going to be with us until there is a vaccine, which may be a year or more away," Cooper said.  "As we ease restrictions, we are going to enter a new normal."

A new normal may look different for awhile.

"You may see more people wearing masks or having their temperature checked. A restaurant you go into may have tables that are only partially full. The only sporting events or concerts that you may be able to watch for awhile will have no in person crowds," Cooper said.

Experts say to suddenly lift restrictions all at once would be dangerous.  Cooper explained that lifting restrictions would happen gradually.

“I know the changes we’ve all made in our lives seem to have happened very quickly," Cooper said.  "It’s important to understand that undoing those changes won’t happen as fast.” 

The Stay At Home executive order for Cooper expires April 29.  In an effort to ease restrictions, Cooper said progress needs to be made in three areas:  testing, tracing and trends.

“Because we acted early and because we acted together we have averted the devastating scenarios we’ve seen playing out in other parts of the country,” said North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.

Cooper says they will look at easing restrictions depending on what data shows at the end of the month.  They will be looking at testing, tracing and trends.

“I’m anxious to get North Carolina back to normal.  But we have to be realistic for awhile," Cooper said.  "There will be a new normal as we adjust.” 

By flattening the curve in the state, fewer people are getting sick at the same time and Cooper said the plan is to stay ahead of the curve.

"Widespread testing, aggressive contact tracing and data informed policy decisions are our best tools to keep our community safe," Cohen said.

North Carolinians begin to receive an additional $600 in weekly unemployment assistance

The Division of Employment Security has now paid out a total of more than $216 million to 185,000 people for unemployment claims effective as of March 15.

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program will provide an additional $600 in weekly unemployment insurance benefits to eligible claimants for weeks beginning March 29 and ending by July 31. 

Individuals who are still owed FPUC payments will be paid retroactively.  

South Carolina DHEC announces 105 new cases, 10 additional deaths

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced 105 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total of cases to 3,656 and those who have died to 107.

Of those 10 deaths, seven were elderly individuals with underlying health conditions from Colleton (1), Georgetown (1), Greenville (1), Kershaw (2), Lancaster (1), and Spartanburg (1) counties.

One was an elderly individual from McCormick County (1) whose health conditions are still under investigation, and two were middle-aged individuals with underlying health conditions from Richland (1) and Sumter (1) counties.

Here's a breakdown of new cases by county:

Abbeville (1), Anderson (3), Beaufort (7), Berkeley (3), Charleston (7), Chester (2), Chesterfield (1) Clarendon (1), Colleton (3), Dillon (2), Dorchester (5), Edgefield (1), Florence (5), Greenville (27), Greenwood (1), Hampton (1), Lee (1), Lancaster (1), Lexington (10), Newberry (1), Richland (13), Saluda (1), Spartanburg (1), Sumter (5), Williamsburg (2)

Click here for an interactive map breaking down COVID-19 cases in SC by ZIP code and county.

North Carolina officials hold coronavirus briefing

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and other state leaders hold a coronavirus briefing from Raleigh. There are now over 5,000 cases and 100 deaths in North Carolina.

Cheerwine and the City of Salisbury to cancel 2020 Cheerwine Festival

After careful consideration and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as state and federal agencies, Cheerwine and the City of Salisbury, N.C., have decided to cancel this year's Cheerwine Festival, originally scheduled for Saturday, May 16.

“Our main priority is the safety and health of not only attendees, but everyone involved with the Cheerwine Festival,” said Joy Ritchie Harper, vice-president of marketing for Cheerwine and fifth-generation founding family member. “This decision did not come easily, but we look forward to seeing all the people who travel from near and far to celebrate with us and our families at next year’s festival.” 

Health officials say there is no longer a need for a local field hospital

Atrium Health and Novant Health say the hospital bed surge capacity they are building is sufficient for now and they do not need a field hospital for the COVID-19 patients they serve within their systems.

In a letter, Tuesday night to Mecklenburg County Manager Dena R. Diorio, Atrium Health CEO Gene Woods and Novant Health CEO Carl Armato say that compliance with the local and statewide stay at home orders is making a field hospital unnecessary for now.

“Knights Care 4 CLT” effort launched to assist those affected by COVID-19

The Charlotte Knights and Charlotte Knights Charities have announced the formation of “Knights Care 4 CLT”, an effort to assist those affected by COVID-19. Today’s announcement comes one day before the team would have played host to the Durham Bulls at BB&T Ballpark for Opening Knight of the 2020 season.

“This is an unprecedented time and we want to do whatever we can to help out our community,” stated Dan Rajkowski, Charlotte Knights Chief Operating Officer. “Over the past few weeks, our staff has been working diligently on ways that we can help those affected in our area. By creating the ‘Knights Care 4 CLT’ fund, we feel this is one way we can help those who need some assistance during this very difficult time.”

RNC is 'full steam ahead' despite COVID-19

Organizers for the Republican National Convention say the event's planning is "full steam ahead" despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The event, which is expected to bring some 50,000 visitors to Charlotte, is scheduled for the week of August 24, 2020. 

Burke County reports fifth coronavirus-related death

Public Health was notified today of a COVID-19 related death another Burke County resident. The individual had been hospitalized and died this morning, April 15 from complications associated with the virus. The patient was in her 70’s with underlying medical conditions. To protect the family’s privacy, no further information about the patient will be released.

Parent company of Charlotte Motor Speedway eliminates 180 jobs

Speedway Motorsports, the parent company of Charlotte Motor Speedway and several other tracks on the NASCAR circuit, announced it has eliminated 180 jobs and fuloughed anotther 100 employees. 

In a statement, Speedway Motorsports said in part, " The extraordinary circumstances presented by this pandemic and then subsequent shutdown of the economy have had a significant impact on our business." The jobs include positions across all departments at Speedway Motorsports' properties and subsidiaries. 

NASCAR has announced all events through next month's event at Martinsville Speedway are postponed. It is unclear if the May races at Charlotte Motor Speedway will be run as scheduled. 

Community help for COVID-19 in SC

The South Carolina Emergency Response Team requests donations of greatly needed supplies to help emergency personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specific needs include personal protective equipment such as double gloves, medical gowns, face shields, and N95 respirator masks. Pre-sorted, palletized items are preferred.  

Donations can be coordinated by calling 803-737-8518.

Novant Health donates $10 million to COVID-19 relief

Novant Health announced it will donate an additional $10 million to the Novant Health Disaster Relief Fund, which was created by the Novant Health Foundation. This fund provides financial assistance to Novant employees who need it during the pandemic. 

Mecklenburg County projects COVID-19 peak in June

Social distancing in Mecklenburg County is helping, with a new projected date of Charlotte's surge now forecast for June 8, but there are fears that people are starting to disobey social distancing and stay at home orders which could ruin the progress made.

RELATED: You could get a $2,000 per month stimulus check under proposed bill

RELATED: When will you get your stimulus check? IRS to launch tracking tool

As of Monday, there are a total of 993 cumulative cases and 16 deaths in Mecklenburg County. That number could double before the peak arrives.

Successfully flattening the curve means the peak comes later and is lower than had the cases seen a quicker surge.

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