By the numbers, Aug. 29 marked North Carolina’s highest daily increase of COVID-19 cases: 2,585, up from a previous record of 2,481 new cases on July 18, according to data from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. But Saturday’s figure was inflated by approximately 1,000 cases, tested over the first half of August, that had previously gone unreported to NCDHHS by LabCorp, one of the state’s biggest commercial laboratories.
NCDHHS officials are “working with LabCorp to understand the cause of the delayed reporting,” according to an Aug. 29 press release, but have yet to explain how the mistake occurred and how the delayed results will impact the state’s overall COVID-19 metrics.
The error generated a spike in the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests reported through the state’s dashboard: On Aug. 29, the statewide positivity rate jumped to 8.8%, the metric’s highest level of the month. The positivity rate had previously been “stabilizing” around 7%, said Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s secretary of health and human services, at an Aug. 25 press conference.
The unreported cases mark the second major reporting error from LabCorp. Earlier in August, the Burlington-based laboratory overcounted the state’s COVID-19 tests by more than 200,000. At the time, North Carolina’s key metrics were not impacted by the miscalculation.
LabCorp did confirm to NCDHHS that individuals were not delayed in receiving their test results. Since March, LabCorp has processed more than 12 million COVID-19 tests, according to an Aug. 26 press release. The lab currently has the capacity to test 200,000 samples per day.
Cooper launches program to help with rental and utility payments
The first day of September means rent is due for millions of North Carolina residents. On Aug. 25, Gov. Roy Cooper committed $175 million of federal funding to help families avoid eviction and utility cutoffs as the COVID-19 pandemic wears on.
Cooper’s rent and utility support initiative is distributed among three programs: Roughly $94 million will go to the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency to support rental and utility payments, $53 million to NCDHHS through the Emergency Solutions Grant-Coronavirus Program and $28 million to local governments via the N.C. Department of Commerce.
According to projections from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, up to 42% of North Carolina households are at risk of eviction in the coming months.
“COVID-19 has strained family finances across North Carolina, and many people are struggling to make ends meet,” Cooper said in an Aug. 25 press release. “People need a safe, stable place to call home, especially during this pandemic, and we must help keep people in their homes and keep their utilities on while our economy recovers.”
In other news
- North Carolina ranks fourth among U.S. states for child marriage, according to new research from Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Risinger. Compiled with help from the International Center for Research on Women, the data suggests that over 9,100 marriage license applications involving more than 9,700 minors were issued across the state from 2000-2019.
- The Eliada Home is seeking volunteers aged 18 and up to help with the organization’s annual corn maze. Shifts are two to three hours; all volunteers will receive a free ticket to the corn maze and a refreshment after every shift.
- All Buncombe County government offices will be closed on Monday, Sept. 7, in observation of the Labor Day holiday. County-run community COVID-19 testing is also canceled on Sunday, Sept. 6, and Tuesday, Sept. 8.
- The city of Hendersonville is soliciting public feedback in the search for its new police chief. Community members are asked to complete a survey to help the city gather information about the chief’s desired qualities; all responses must be submitted by Friday, Sept. 11.
- A detention officer at the Buncombe County Detention Center has tested positive for COVID-19. The officer was not in close contact with jail staff or inmates while contagious, according to a statement from the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, and has been self-isolating at home since the initial exposure.