LATEST: National Guard receives first shipment of vaccine

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Here are the latest updates about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in North Carolina.

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5:12 P.M.
The North Carolina National Guard said it has received the first allocation of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Medics will begin providing the voluntary vaccine shots to Guardsmen currently supporting the state's COVID-19 response after completing the prescribed vaccine training in the coming week.

5:08 p.m.
An offender with pre-existing medical conditions at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women who tested positive for COVID-19 has died at a hospital.

"We continue working diligently to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in our prisons because the health and safety of the staff and the offender population continues to be our top priority," said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons. "We sympathize with the offender's family, as losing a loved one is hard enough, but especially so during the holiday season."

The offender, who was in her mid-40s, tested positive for COVID-19 on December 27 and was hospitalized the next day. Her condition worsened, and she died Wednesday.

4:54 p.m.
The Cumberland County Department of Public Health reports 440 new COVID-19 cases and four additional death since the last report on December 23.

Cumberland County has a total of 13,392 COVID-19 cases and 138 deaths.

Cumberland County remains in the Red Tier of the NC County Alert System. This tier signifies critical spread in Cumberland using COVID-19 case rates, the percent of tests that is positive and the hospital impact in the area.

Because of the significant increase in daily cases, contract tracing is expanding to notify people as quickly as possible if they have tested positive for or been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Starting this week, all residents who have provided cell phone or email addresses will receive an automatic text or email message to connect people to follow-up resources and supports.

People receiving a text or email will be directed to a secure website that provides additional information about how to protect themselves and their loved ones, how to get support if needed to safely isolate, and how to contact someone immediately for additional information.

Cumberland County is in Phase 1a of the Vaccination Plan. This phase vaccinates public health and health care workers fighting COVID-19 and Long term Care staff and residents.

The Cumberland County Health Department and Cape Fear Valley Hospital System began vaccinating Phase 1a residents in mid-December. According to the NC DHHS Dashboard, more than 2,500 initial doses have been given in Cumberland County.

4:35 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 2,835 total positive COVID 19 cases and four additional deaths.

A total of 47 new positive COVID 19 cases were reported Wednesday.

The county has 49 COVID 19 related deaths

The health department also started vaccinating those in the 1A category this week. People in direct patient care are included in the 1A group.

Health officials said they hope to move into the 1B category the second week of January and that response to the vaccine has been good.

4:13 p.m.
The Lee County Government Health Department reports five county residents have died as a result of COVID-19 related complications.

The county death toll is now 44.

Three of the individuals who died were hospitalized at Central Carolina Hospital in Sanford.

"We ask the community to join us in offering our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the five individuals who have passed away from COVID-19 that we reported today," said Heath Cain, Director of the Lee County Health Department. "We continue to see troubling COVID-19 trends in Lee County and are worried about the impacts of the virus on our community. We know people tend to gather with family and friends over the holiday season but we are strongly suggesting that people avoid in-person gatherings and keep celebrations to those within your immediate household."

Lee County has begun administering the COVID-19 vaccine following the phased vaccine rollout plan determined by NCDHHS.

4:09 p.m.
The Sampson County Health Department said it has 233 new cases since December 23 for a total of 13,801 COVID-19 cases.

There were no deaths reported in the past week and the total deaths remain at 59.

The Sampson County Health Department began administering its COVID vaccine allocations Wednesday morning. Based upon distribution prioritization guidance approved by the State and developed by the National Academy of Medicine Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 and CDC Advisory Committee Immunization Practice, the first vaccines were administered to healthcare workers and providers (group 1a). It will be some time before vaccines are offered broadly to the general public.

3 p.m.
Wake County Public Health has confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 at PruittHealth-Raleigh, a nursing and rehabilitation center at 2420 Lake Wheeler Road.

This is the second outbreak confirmed at this facility. The previous outbreak occurred in June. No additional information about residents or employees within the facility will be disclosed.

2 p.m..
Gov. Roy Cooper gave an update on North Carolina's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I'm asking every North Carolinian to double down on our prevention efforts and protect each other by wearing a mask, being responsible, following the protocols and making good decisions," Cooper said at the briefing.

Cooper said all precautions must be taken seriously.

Vaccines are available for everyone but supplies are limited, NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said. She said vaccines will be administered in phases and we remain in phase 1A.

She also said phase 1b will be opened in groups, beginning in January with people ages 65-74.

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Cooper also said he has signed an executive order extending the eviction moratorium through January to help keep people in their homes.

"Too many families are living on the edge, trying to do the right thing, but left with impossible choices," Cooper said. "This will help them stay in their homes which is essential to slow the spread."

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 8,551 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number ever reported in a single day.

However, the agency clarified that a reporting error on Tuesday caused numbers to be higher on Wednesday because it accounted for 36 hours of data instead of 24. Similarly, the state reported 155 more COVID-19 deaths-a sharp jump from previous days for the same reasons.

The percentage of positive tests rose to 14.8 as of Monday - the highest level thus far in the pandemic.

Currently, 3,339 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide.

WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
More than 63,000 people in North Carolina have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The state is also reportedly receiving around 100,000 more doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines this week. Those doses are still being reserved for specific workers and there is not a specific date yet for when the vaccines will be offered to the general public.

Gov. Roy Cooper and other state health officials will give a COVID-19 update at 2 p.m. today. ABC11 will broadcast that update on television and online.

The IRS will begin sending out the second round of stimulus checks to millions of Americans on Wednesday. The checks include $600 for qualifying citizens and $600 for each dependent child.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked two Democratic attempts to increase the amount of those checks to $2,000. McConnell is trying to link those check increases with other Republican wish list items, such as reviewing the 2020 Presidential Election and repealing protections for social media companies.

New COVID-19 metrics in North Carolina are expected to be released around noon Wednesday. Yesterday's metrics showed a continued increase in the number of people hospitalized with the virus.

TUESDAY
4 p.m.
Wake County Public Health has confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 at Wellington Rehabilitation and Healthcare, at 1000 Tandall Place in Knightdale.

This is the second outbreak confirmed at this facility. The previous outbreak occurred in April. No additional information about residents or employees within the facility will be disclosed.

2 p.m.
A Central Prison inmate with pre-existing medical conditions, who tested positive for COVID-19, has died at a hospital, the Department of Public Safety said.

"We sympathize with the offender's family, as losing a loved one is hard enough, but especially so during the holiday season," said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons. "We continue working diligently to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in our prisons because the health and safety of the staff and the offender population continues to be our top priority."

The offender tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 18 and was hospitalized that same day. His condition worsened, and he died on Dec. 24.

The offender was a male in his early-70s who had underlying health conditions, the Department of Public Safety said.

1:01 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 15 new cases for a total of 2,788 positive COVID 19 cases.

There have been 45 deaths in the county -- 1.7% of COVID 19 cases.

12:40 p.m.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 3,563 new COVID-19 cases, in line with the past two days of reporting but lower than previous weeks. However, the state only recorded 18,846 new tests, a sharp decrease from previous weeks when the state was reporting at least double that amount each day.

Consequentially, the percentage of positive tests reached 13.5% Sunday, nearly three times the state's benchmark of 5% or lower. Hoke County has one of the highest percentages of positive tests in the state at 17.9%.

Currently, 3,377 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, the highest number reported thus far in the pandemic. In the last 24 hours, 361 confirmed COVID-19 patients have been admitted to hospitals. In total, 761 adult COVID-19 patients are in the ICU, the highest ever recorded. Statewide, 397 ICU beds are currently available and more than 2,000 are in use.

11:11 a.m.
The Lee County Government Health Department said it has begun administering the COVID-19 vaccine to frontline healthcare workers in accordance with phase 1a of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) vaccine distribution plan.

"The department received the county's first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine on December 22nd," said Heath Cain, LCG Director of Health. "We have a limited supply and have concentrated our initial efforts on administering the vaccine to frontline healthcare workers who have the greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19. The department continues to work closely with NCDHHS but we are unable to predict how quickly we will move through the various phases of the vaccine rollout plan as we do not know when and how much vaccine we will receive. The department will share additional information on the availability of vaccines as information becomes available."

The county health department has received one shipment of the vaccine. The vaccine delivered to the Lee County Health Department has been manufactured by Moderna and will require a second shot after four weeks.

The vaccination rollout plan will take several months to complete; in the meantime, the public is reminded that in order to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19, the public should continue to follow the three W's - Wear a mask; Wait six feet or more away from others to maintain a safe social distance and Wash your hands.

11 a.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is partnering with the North Carolina Central University's Advanced Center for COVID-19 Related Disparities (NCCU ACCORD) to ensure comprehensive COVID-19 information is effective in reaching underserved communities in North Carolina. The partnership aims to help everyone make informed decisions about COVID-19 vaccines.

"As the pandemic continues to disproportionately affect historically marginalized communities, it is essential that we reach those most impacted," said NCDHHS Deputy Secretary for Health Services and co-lead of the Historically Marginalized Population Working Group, E. Benjamin Money Jr., MPH. "By partnering with ACCORD, we are able to better ensure that we engage American Indian, African American and (Latino) populations, as well as those without internet access, to build confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines."

NCDHHS and ACCORD have partnered on a joint survey to complement the state's existing consumer research data and support ongoing communications efforts. The data will help inform materials and outreach efforts to provide accurate and reliable information that aligns with the needs and concerns of different communities.

"As a two-way exchange of information, this resource-sharing platform will greatly benefit all North Carolinians and help us better serve the state and its communities of color," said Deepak Kumar, Ph.D., Director of the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical Biotechnology Research Institute (BBRI) and founder of the ACCORD program. "The partnership will support our efforts to serve as a resource for underserved communities through our network of community leaders and health partners."

9:47 a.m.
A drive-thru COVID-19 testing event has been scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Moore County Health Department, 705 Pinehurst Ave. in Carthage.
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