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 pandemic.  

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THURSDAY, MARCH 26

South Carolina projects 8,000 coronavirus cases

South Carolina officials are projecting a total of 8,000 people could be sicken with the COVID-19 coronavirus before the outbreak resides.

"Spread is occuring and we will continue to see new cases of COVID19 in our state," said Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist.

The projections account for total cases, and not necessarily simultaneous cases

"Over time we can see if that curve is flattening out and whether these social distancing measures are working here and in other places," Bell said.

Hospitals are preparing for the influx.

Officials say South Carolina has 1,200 ventilators across hospitals with 180 already in use. 

RELATED: SC hospitals have fewer than 1,200 ventilators

Health officials say there is a backlog of about 1,600 tests in the state lab that haven't been tested.

Also, about 5,500 hospital beds are currently available... as the state health officials say they are as prepared as they can be.

United States leads the world in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases

The United States now leads the world in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases.

According to a running count by Johns Hopkins University, the number of people infected in the U.S. topped 82,000 on Thursday. That's just ahead of the 81,000 cases in China and 80,000 in Italy.

Italy has the most confirmed deaths of any country with more than 8,000. More than 1,000 people have died in the U.S.

NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL UPDATES: Coronavirus live updates: US leads world in confirmed cases

South Carolina records two more deaths 454 positive cases.

Coronavirus has claimed the life of two more residents in South Carolina, officials announced Thursday. The death toll in that state is now 9. There are 454 active cases across the state.

Gaston County issues 'stay at home' order

Gaston County residents are being asked to 'stay at home' beginning Friday at 5 p.m., officials announced Thursday.

The order comes one day after 'stay at home' orders took effect in Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties.

Unlike neighboring counties, Gaston Couny is not issuing a list of 'essential businesses' but are asking residents and businesses to use self-responsibility in deciding if they really need to travel through the county. Officials said the order gives them the authority to police the order but they are hoping residents will "self-police" in keeping themselves home.

The Gaston County government is asking all of its non-essential employees to stay home.

Questions regarding the Gaston County 'stay at home' order can be directed to a new hotline, 704-866-3170, beginning Friday morning.

Daimler Gaston employee has tested positive for COVID-19

Daimler Gastonia facilities reported an employee tested for COVID-19. Following the positive case, the facility was cleaned and disinfect and the plant will close for two days.  

The employee who tested positive has not been in the plant since March, 15. Daimler Gastonia facilities said employees who had been in contact with the infected employee will be quarantined at home for 14 days or more. 

The plant is scheduled to reopen production on March 30.

NCDHHS reports second death in North Carolina 

The second COVID-19 associated death was a Harnett County (NC) patient in their late thirties who had an underlying medical condition.

Food Lion to donate 6 million meals to families in need

Food Lion is donating $600,000, or 6 million meals to feed families in need during the pandemic. Of that donation, $50,000 and 3,000 boxes of food is going directly to Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina. 

Duke Health joins national effort to test COVID-19 therapy

Duke University Hospital has joined the first national study to test a potential therapy for COVID-19, giving hospitalized adult patients with significant symptoms an option to participate.

The investigational treatment, known as remdesivir, is an antiviral agent that was previously tested in humans with Ebola virus disease and has shown promise in animal studies against MERS and SARS, diseases that emerged from different strains of the coronavirus.

Duke is set to begin enrolling eligible patients immediately. More information can be found at this link.

Catawba County reports 5 new cases of COVID-19

Health officials in Catawba County are reporting five new cases of COVID-19 coronavirus, bringing the countywide total to nine. Catawba County Public Health received the positive test results overnight and immediately began investigating.

Two people are close contacts of known cases. Two are hospitalized, two are isolated at home, and one has recovered. As of 10:30 a.m. Thursday, there have been 400 people tested for COVID-19 in the county with 112 negative test results. 

North Carolina DHHS: If you have any symptoms at all, stay home

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends anyone with any symptoms, regardless of how mild they are, or who suspects they may have COVID-19, to stay home and call their doctor for medical advice. 

“I’ve talked to doctors across the state and they have been heroic in standing up a variety of strategies to increase access to safe care for their patients,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer for NCDHHS. “Just as they do every day of the year, doctors are guided first and foremost by what is best for their patients’ well-being.”

Livingstone College postpones graduation due to coronavirus 

Livingstone College announced its May commencement ceremony will be held in December due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With all of the uncertainties, we have decided, in concert with our other institutions of higher education, to postpone commencement, which was scheduled for Saturday, May 2, 2020, until December 2020,” said Livingstone President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr.

'Stay at home' orders will take effect in Mecklenburg & Cabarrus Counties

These proclamations are a stricter form of social distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus. Under the order, you're still allowed to do essential tasks, such as go to the grocery store and pharmacy, and if your job is considered "essential," you can still go to work. You can find a list of what you can and can't do at this link.

An executive order from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper shut down non-essential businesses at 5 p.m. Wednesday, including gyms and health clubs, salon and movie theaters. If you see a business open that shouldn't be, you can report them by calling 311 in North Carolina. 

RELATED: Senate passes $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue plan; House still to vote

Salisbury VA asks veterans to use telehealth tools

The Salisbury VA Health Care System is asking veterans use online tools for routine or non-urgent questions. To set up telephone or video appointments, veterans can send their provider a secure message on My HealtheVet by visiting myhealth.va.gov.  Veterans can request prescription refills and order and ship medications to their homes using My HealtheVet or the Rx Refill mobile app. Download the app at mobile.va.gov/app/rx-refill.

NHRA postpones 4-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway

The 4-Wide Nationals originally scheduled for April 24-26 have been postponed until September 18-20. September's Carolina Nationals have been canceled as part of the NHRA's revised schedule for 2020.

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the historic coronavirus relief bill

The $2.2 trillion package now goes to the House for a vote. If approved, it will go to President Trump's desk to be signed into law. In its current form, the bill would send $1,200 to almost every American taxpayer and expands unemployment benefits to workers who were laid off due to the virus. 

RELATED: $2 trillion coronavirus deal: Who will get stimulus checks and when?