Claire Donnelly

Health Reporter

Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia. 

Spectrum Center
Erin Keever / WFAE

Updated 4 p.m.

The mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, and Georgia's governor tweeted on Tuesday that their states "would be honored" to host the Republican National Convention if it leaves Charlotte. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, meanwhile, said he's looking forward to "continued talks" about COVID-19 safety with RNC organizers after President Trump tweeted that the convention could be moved to another state.   

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during a visit to Charlotte on Thursday that he and local leaders, including Atrium Health CEO Gene Woods and North Carolina Republican Congressman Richard Hudson, had discussed the Republican National Convention and ways federal and local officials could work together to obtain “extra surge supplies” of materials needed to perform coronavirus diagnostic tests, like swabs and substances called reagents.

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Why can’t bars and gyms open in the state’s modified Phase 2? How long will this second phase of reopening last? WFAE’s Lisa Worf and health reporter Claire Donnelly break it down. 


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Restaurant dining rooms across North Carolina can reopen at reduced capacity beginning Friday at 5 p.m. under a modified Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday. Many have been closed to dine-in customers for more than two months because of the coronavirus.



North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to announce as early as Wednesday whether the state can move this weekend into Phase 2 of its three-phase reopening plan. On Monday, he said officials wanted “a couple more days” to look at the state’s coronavirus data. 


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Photo by Kevin Bidwell from Pexels

Gov. Roy Cooper has begun gradually reopening North Carolina in a series of three phases. If you're not sure what to expect under each of those three phases, don't worry! You're not alone. Lots of WFAE listeners have been writing in with questions, and we're here to help.

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The head of Charlotte retirement community Southminster said his facility is struggling to access coronavirus tests three days after reporting its first positive case. 

DonkeyHokey / flickr/CC BY 2.0


Maria Gonzalez and her husband have both been out of work for about a month and a half because of the coronavirus pandemic. Gonzalez normally cleans houses and her husband works as a house painter. 

Vesna_Pixi / Pixabay

Mecklenburg County plans to test an additional 5% of its population -- about 55,000 more people -- for the coronavirus over the next 30 days, under a plan announced Thursday by county Public Health Director Gibbie Harris.

Transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19, formerly known as 2019-nCoV. The spherical viral particles, colorized blue, contain cross-sections through the viral genome, seen as black dots.
Hannah A Bullock; Azaibi Tamin / CDC


Mecklenburg County Public Health director Gibbie Harris said the county likely needs to double its number of daily coronavirus tests as North Carolina moves into its three-phase reopening plan.

Claire Donnelly / WFAE


A small table with a bottle of hand sanitizer and a box of face masks sits at the entrance to Paper Skyscraper in Charlotte. Bright orange signs read, “Please use hand sanitizer,” and “Please take a mask.”



Dr. Elly Steel normally works as a dentist for the Cabarrus Health Alliance, the county’s health department. But her role has shifted since the middle of March. With nonessential dental work paused because of the coronavirus, Steel has a new job: contact tracing, the process of finding and monitoring people who come into contact with an infected person.


N.C. Department of Public Safety

Gov. Roy Cooper announced he's extending North Carolina's stay-at-home order until May 8, saying the state was "not ready to lift restrictions" in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 


North Carolina’s stay-at-home order has hit many small businesses hard. A group called Reopen NC is holding a protest Tuesday at the state capitol in Raleigh, calling on leaders to lift restrictions on businesses ordered to close because of the coronavirus. But there’s no sign of whether Gov. Roy Cooper will let the order expire at the end of the month.


We're now more than a month into the coronavirus crisis in North Carolina with still no end in sight, and the number of people out of work continues to climb higher and higher. According to some estimates, the U.S. unemployment rate could touch 16% by July -- higher than at any point since the Great Depression.

Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris
Claire Donnelly / WFAE


Gibbie Harris has had some trouble sleeping lately. Part of it, as Harris said recently, is that her biggest struggle is "shutting her brain down at night."

It's no wonder. The Mecklenburg County Public Health Director, a previously somewhat behind-the-scenes role, now leads the local response to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. She gives press conferences at least weekly. She fields criticism and angry emails. And she's responsible for keeping people in the county healthy and safe.


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Atrium and Novant health systems now say that a field hospital is not needed in Charlotte, as social distancing measures in Mecklenburg County have helped slow a projected surge of coronavirus patients.


Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center are leading a new study of the state’s outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Five Oaks Rehab

There are at least 67 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Five Oaks Manor, a nursing home and rehabilitation center in Concord. The Cabarrus County facility has 134 residents and 230 staff members, according to administrator Drew Richard.

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In the last week, the number of new COVID-19 cases in Mecklenburg County has slowed dramatically, as the stay-at-home order enters its third week.