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

UNC, Duke And ECU Will Partner With NC To Study COVID-19 Cases

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper at a Friday news conference.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced Friday a new partnership with three medical universities to study the scope and spread of COVID-19 cases -- particularly cases that produce mild or no symptoms.

The universities involved in the partnership will be the University of North Carolina, Duke University, and East Carolina University, Cooper said at a news conference.

"This research is part of a coordinated, statewide effort to learn more about what percentage of people have no symptoms, and to better understand the true number of COVID-19 infections in our state," Cooper said.

The universities will study changes in COVID-19 prevalence in Chatham, Pitt and Cabarrus counties. Participants will be recruited across different populations and monitored over several months to understand the spread of the virus.

Testing for COVID-19 has remained limited across the state since the outbreak began, and health officials have warned the number of confirmed cases kept by the state's Department of Health and Human Services is likely an undercount of the true number of infections.

Cooper said testing has increased 88% from two weeks ago, although he wants testing to be more widespread.

"I want us to feel good about whenever there's an outbreak at our congregant care facilities, that we can go and test all of the people there and test staff," Cooper said, "I want us to be able to test people who have symptoms, and I want us to even go beyond that."

Cooper again pressed the federal government to send more personal protective gear like masks and gloves to North Carolina, saying that will equip more healthcare workers to conduct more tests. He said the lack of supplies and protective gear remains one of the state's largest challenges.

Previously, Cooper has said he will consider lifting stay-at-home restrictions once the state sees greater testing capacity and better tracing of existing COVID-19 cases. He also wants to see a decline in the number of new infections. On Friday, the state released data showing the second-largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases, rising the total in the state to 5,859.

At Friday's news conference, Cooper said his administration is considering reopening the state by regions.

"We aren't there at that point yet," he said, "but that's an option that we're keeping open."

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Nick de la Canal is the host of Weekend Edition on Saturday/Sunday mornings, and a reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal