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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

32 Cases Of Coronavirus Now Reported In NC; Mecklenburg And Gaston Declare States Of Emergency

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NCDHHS

Mecklenburg and Gaston counties have declared states of emergency as health officials are now reporting 32 likely cases of the coronavirus in North Carolina.

Local state of emergency declarations free up state and federal money to offset the costs of trying to slow the spread of the virus.

The state Department of Health and Human Services updated its count late Sunday morning — and it includes four cases in Mecklenburg County.

The state’s numbers include presumptive positive and confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The “presumptive positive” designation means a state or local test showed COVID-19 but the results haven’t been confirmed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only two of the four cases in Mecklenburg County had been previously reported. Mecklenburg Health Director Gibbie Harris says two new people who tested positive are isolating in their homes. Their family members are in quarantine, and the county is tracking down personal contacts.

Gaston County's declaration, meanwhile, includes restrictions on crowds of 50 or more people, but there are exemptions for businesses. The Gaston County Police Department is asking for voluntary compliance. 

“Let’s take time and be considerate,” Gaston County Commission Chairman Tracy Philbeck said at a news conference. “We don’t have to panic. We don’t have to buy all the toilet paper up at Walmart. We don’t have to do those things. Avoid crowds, wash your hands, and think about those in the community who would suffer greatly if we had a spike in coronavirus.”

On Saturday, Gov. Roy Cooper issued an order banning events of 100 or more people and closing the state's public schools for at least two weeks. That's led to some concern about how children who rely on school meals will be fed. 

In Gaston's case, Superintendent Jeff Booker said Sunday that the district will start its summer feeding program on Tuesday, allowing parents to get meals for qualifying kids at 10 sites throughout the county. 

In addition to the four cases in Mecklenburg, there's also a likely case in neighboring Cabarrus County and one in Watauga County. With the exception of two cases in Forsyth County, the rest of the confirmed coronavirus cases in North Carolina are in the triangle area and the eastern part of the state. 

There is, however, limited testing capacity in North Carolina. On Friday, Harris said Friday that the county had only received three CDC test kits from the state. Health officials are trying to ration those for folks at the highest risk of contracting the disease. 

University and commercial testing is expanding, though. As of Sunday, the North Carolina Health and Human Services was reporting that 259 tests had been completed at the state lab. That number doesn't include tests done by universities or commercial labs. 

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