Camp counselors Ashley Galloway and Bethany Spears at the Hickory Foundation YMCA provide day care for the children of local emergency personnel.

The coronavirus has slowed business in North Carolina, bringing a slew of unemployment claims.

After Gov. Roy Cooper ordered restaurants to close except for carryout food, the state lowered unemployment requirements. The actions brought in a flood of unemployment claims in just two days.

Between Tuesday at noon and 10 a.m. Thursday, the N.C. Division of Employment Security got 17,874 unemployment claims. The average week brings 3,000, Employment Security Public Information Officer Larry Parker said.

Some applicants have faced difficulty signing up because of the high call volume and website traffic, Parker said. Typically, the Employment Security website gets 6,000 visitors in a day. Thursday, it got 68,500 visitors.

The state did not have local unemployment claim numbers available.

Child care

The state has given child care facilities guidance on how best to handle the coronavirus but has not recommended child care programs close yet.

In response to the coronavirus, YMCA of Catawba Valley is offering child care for first responders and medical professionals for their children 6 months to 18 years old. Child care is available at the Hickory and Conover YMCAs.

President and CEO Nat Auten said YMCA decided to close to members to serve as a child care facility because of the need for front line workers.

“First responders and medical professionals are essential to our community being able to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and these groups communicated their need to the YMCA,” Auten said.

The YMCA has over 100 children under their care now. They are still getting requests for care, and they have community partners willing to lend space if needed, Auten said.

“It’s a good thing they (the YMCA) is doing,” Catawba County Sheriff Don Brown said Friday. He added that emergency personnel and law officers are vital in the face of a pandemic.

Brown said he told deputies and Sheriff’s Office employees that he needs them “healthy and at work.”


The Catawba Valley Interfaith Council is holding an online panel about the virus Sunday. The panelists will include Dr. Bert Cain with the Western North Carolina chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, local historian Richard Eller and Nancy Stahl, chaplain with Frye Regional Medical Center.

The online panel will start at 3 p.m. More information and directions on how to join can be found on the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council Facebook or the “Interfaith and Community Response to Covid-19” Facebook event page.

Religious leaders in the Bethlehem community are joining together to bring a glimmer of light to the community during a stressful time — the Bethlehem Star. The star will be lit outside of the Christmas season for the first time ever starting Saturday, according to a release from Mount Pisgah Lutheran Church.

Editor Eric Millsaps

contributed to this story.

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