Downtown coronavirus

Downtown streets were nearly empty Tuesday morning around 10 a.m. after many businesses have closed with novel coronavirus concerns.

Despite blue skies and pleasant temperatures, it was a tough scene in downtown Winston-Salem Saturday as the city continues to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.

In its daily briefing, the Forsyth County Department of Public Health attributed a local case of COVID-19 to community spread, meaning the person contracted the virus without having traveled outside of Forsyth County and wasn’t knowingly in close contact with someone who has it.

There are at least 12 cases of COVID-19 in Forsyth County, and at least 250 in the state of North Carolina, according to county health departments and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. On Friday, Winston-Salem State University announced one its non-residential students, meaning a student who does not live on campus, tested positive for COVID-19.

While the state’s official total for Saturday is 184, county health departments provided new case totals throughout the day, after the state health department provided its daily briefing.

Health officials expect the case total to grow locally now that there is evidence of community spread.

“This is why it is crucial that people practice social distancing, hand washing, refrain from mass gatherings and monitor themselves for signs and symptoms which are cough, fever and shortness of breath,” County health Director Joshua Swift said in a statement. “If you believe you have been in contact with someone that has been exposed to COVID-19, voluntarily quarantine yourself. All persons with fever and respiratory symptoms should isolate themselves and call their health-care provider for guidance.”

While seven of the county’s 12 cases can be attributed to travel or close contact with a person who has the virus, four cases are being investigated by the health department to determine if they are a result of community spread.

The health department did not release any information about where the person who contracted COVID-19 via community spread had visited in recent days, or when they started showing symptoms.

With health officials across the nation asking people to practice social distancing, and North Carolina restaurants and bars closed to dine-in customers, downtown Winston-Salem was nearly barren of people Saturday.

On a typical Saturday, it is nearly impossible to find a parking spot anywhere on Trade Street, yet almost all of them were open. Fourth Street, lined with café seating for its bars and restaurants, was nearly devoid of all human life.

Nearly every business had some variation of the same sign in their windows: “Closed due to COVID-19.”

Some restaurants are offering takeout — Gov. Roy Cooper hasn’t banned that. The coffee shops still made drinks for customers, but gone were the tables full of people, replaced by barren concrete floors.

There are cases of the new coronavirus in at least 36 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. In the Triad, there at least 20 known cases, including seven cases in Guilford County and one case in Davidson County. Businesses everywhere are feeling the impact of the orders to close. The number of people filing for unemployment — many of them service industry workers laid off in the last week — is rising rapidly.

Davie County health officials announced Saturday the county’s first case of COVID-19, but did not disclose the circumstances around how or where that person contracted the disease.

More than 5,200 COVID-19 tests have been completed in the state as of Saturday morning, according to N.C. DHHS. Burlington-based LabCorp announced earlier this week it had the capacity to test 20,000 people a day.

Speaking at a press briefing, U.S. President Donald Trump said Winston-Salem based HanesBrands would begin manufacturing masks to help boost supplies amidst a national shortage.

As of Saturday afternoon, there were no reported deaths in North Carolina as a result of COVID-19. There are more than 22,000 cases of the new coronavirus in the United States, and at least 278 people have died from the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.

lsanderlin@wsjournal.com

336-727-7339

On Twitter @LeeOSanderlin

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