CHARLOTTE, NC — North Carolina reported over 51,000 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus Saturday as deaths, hospitalizations, and new case counts continued increased, according to the latest data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
State labs confirmed 51,389 cases of COVID-19 Saturday, including 1,549 new cases confirmed since Friday. As of Saturday, labs had processed more than 731,000 tests, DHHS said.
North Carolina's coronavirus death toll increased to 1,212 Saturday following 15 new deaths since Friday. The news comes as the state saw another record-breaking day for hospitalizations, with 883 people hospitalized for COVID-19 illness, up from 871 reported Friday.
The increase in hospitalizations has left four out of every five hospital beds occupied. That's according to a DHHS survey of about 87 percent of the state's hospitals, which showed 80 percent of inpatient and 77 percent t of intensive care unit hospital beds were occupied Saturday. Ventilator readiness, by contrast, was greater with only about 29 percent of the state's supply reportedly in use Saturday.
COVID-19 outbreaks in congregate living facilities — such as nursing homes, residential care facilities and correctional facilities — rose to 7,172 confirmed cases Saturday. The case count represents about 14 percent of the total cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the state.
As of Saturday, 107 of the state's 409 nursing home facilities had a COVID-19 outbreak. State health officials also reported outbreaks at 60 residential care facilities and 20 correctional facilities. About 62 percent of the deaths from COVID-19 in North Carolina have occurred in such congregate living facilities, according to state health data.
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Early next week, Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to announce the next steps for the state, which is currently under a "Phase 2" reopening order set to expire Friday, June 26. Those next steps could possibly include a mandate requiring residents to wear masks.
Under the current restrictions, for example, masks must be worn by personal care workers, such as in hair and nail salons.
"The health experts are looking carefully at the numbers and the science, and we will let the people of North Carolina know at the first of next week whether we will go into the next phase, and if so, what that phase will look like," Cooper said during a news conference Monday.
Masks could possibly be a component of the decision, he said.
"It's absolutely in discussion right now regarding whether we make cloth face coverings mandatory and in what way we do it," Cooper said. "We want people to voluntarily to do this, but we are looking at additional rules to potentially make these mandatory."
An informal survey of Patch 1,160 readers this week found that a majority support the use of face coverings as a collective means to slow the spread of coronavirus in North Carolina, and that mask use — or the lack thereof — is affecting personal decisions about where to spend money and how to socialize.
As of Saturday, 9 percent of all tests in North Carolina were positive. The World Health Organization recommends that governments have a percent positive rate of 5 percent or lower for at least 14 days before reopening.
North Carolina was one of 17 states identified as having a higher-than-recommended positivity rate and in need of increased COVID-19 testing capacity, Johns Hopkins University said. As of June 19, it had the eleventh highest positivity rate in the country, behind Georgia and ahead of Nebraska. The U.S. positivity rate Friday was 13.75 percent.
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