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

Mecklenburg, Buncombe Report Coronavirus Deaths As NC Cases Top 1,000

A sign on Interstate 277 in Charlotte reminds people there's a "stay at home" order in effect for Mecklenburg County due to the coronavirus.

Updated 5:45 p.m. Sunday

North Carolina passed a milestone on Sunday morning with more than 1,000 cases of the coronavirus reported throughout the state. Those include two new deaths — in Buncombe and Mecklenburg counties.

Mecklenburg Public Health Director Gibbie Harris speaks Sunday at a press conference announcing the county's first coronavirus-related death.

"This unfortunate situation is a reminder to all of us how serious this particular pandemic is across our country and in our community," Mecklenburg Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said Sunday at a news conference announcing the Charlotte-area death.

Harris said the person in Mecklenburg who died was 60, had several underlying conditions and had been hospitalized. In Buncombe County, health officials said an elderly patient died Saturday at Mission Hospital in Asheville.  

Sunday's announcements mean there have been seven deaths related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, reported across North Carolina, including one person from Virginia who was traveling through. Four of those have happened in the Charlotte metro area.

As of Sunday morning, North Carolina Health and Human Services was reporting 1,167 diagnosed cases of the coronavirus, but its tally usually lags behind reports from individual county health departments. Mecklenburg is reporting 315 cases – far more than any other county in the Carolinas.

"At this point in time, 20% of our new cases are requiring hospitalization," Harris said. "Our hospitals are seeing increased severity in illnesses in the number of individuals requiring admission, and all of our hospitals are seeing individuals needing to be on ventilators at this point."

According to the state, 91 people were hospitalized for the coronavirus across North Carolina as of Sunday morning. North Carolina's first confirmed coronavirus case was reported just March 3 and Mecklenburg's March 12.

Neighboring South Carolina, meanwhile, was reporting 774 cases of the coronavirus as of Sunday afternoon. Sixteen people in South Carolina have died from complications of the virus, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Harris said the patient who died in Mecklenburg was likely infected via community spread.

“We do have community spread, and you need to assume that you are going to be exposed if you are out and about in our community,” Harris said.

Some Ignoring 'Stay At Home' Order

A statewide "stay at home" order goes into effect at 5 p.m. Monday in North Carolina. Several counties, including Mecklenburg, have already enacted similar restrictions.

Locally, that order bans most gatherings and mandates that people not leave home unless doing something deemed essential like grocery shopping or approved work. People are also allowed to go outside and exercise as long as they keep a safe distance from one another, and county parks have remained open with a few restrictions.

But not everybody is playing by the rules. On Sunday, Harris implored residents to take the "stay at home" order seriously. She specifically mentioned crowding at parks and on sandbars in the lakes.

“We have emphasized that people need to be six feet apart,” Harris said. “Social distancing is critical in this situation… In the parks, there were way more people. You couldn’t social distance even if you wanted to.”

She said further discussions on the "stay at home" order could be coming this week.

County Manager Dena Diorio said park rangers are "dispersing crowds that are using our playgrounds."

Harris said "there have been many" complaints coming in through 311 about people and some businesses not adhering to the "stay at home" order. She did not provide a specific number.

You can get more details about the county's stay-at-home order here.

Nearly 19,000 people had been tested for COVID-19 as of Sunday morning in North Carolina, but it’s important to note that not everyone who has the virus necessarily gets tested.

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Dash joined WFAE as a digital editor for news and engagement in 2019. Before that, he was a reporter for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia, where he covered public safety and the military, among other topics. He also covered county government in Gaston County, North Carolina, for its local newspaper, the Gazette.