NC reports record COVID-19 hospitalizations for 23rd time this month

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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6 p.m.
As North Carolina experiences daunting COVID-19 metrics, vaccination dispersals continue across the state.

"I'm super concerned. We've got a surge from Thanksgiving that we're honestly just dealing with now," said Dr. Joanne Fruth with Avance Care in Raleigh, about the rising number of cases and hospitalizations.

Mass vaccinations will take months to implement. State health officials urge people to continue wearing masks, avoid gathering with people outside their homes, social distance, and frequently hand-wash.

5:54 p.m.
The Moore County Health Department provided its first doses of COVID-19 vaccine to some of Moore County's frontline healthcare workers. Among the first to receive doses were Health Department staff, Moore
County Public Safety Staff, and Moore County Emergency Medical Services staff.

One of the first doses was given to April Grant, a Medical Lab Technician for the Health Department. "This is a day we have anxiously waited for in public health," said Grant. "I'm excited about getting the vaccine and I really hope that others will choose to get vaccinated when its available to them."

So far, the Health Department has received two initial shipments of COVID-19 vaccine totaling nearly 1,200 doses. The Health Department will continue vaccinations for individuals in "Phase 1A."

4:33 p.m.
Lee County Government Health Department confirmed 105 new cases since Monday for a total of 3,506 residents who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The county has had 44 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases in Lee County is 30.57 and the percent positive tests is 14.1%.

2:25 p.m.
Sampson County reports 36 new cases for a total of 5,041.

There have been 59 COVID-19 related deaths in the county.

2 p.m.
Orange County has had 246 new cases in the past week, bringing the county's COVID-19 total to 4,949. There have been 63 deaths in the county.

1:33 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 64 new cases for a total of 2,899 positive COVID 19 cases. There have been 49 deaths in the county -- 1.7% of cases.

1:15 p.m.
In Chatham County, 708 people have received the first dose of vaccine. The numbers continue to increase as Chatham Hospital and the CCPHD - along with Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy reaching long-term care facilities in Chatham County through a federal government program - work to vaccinate those in Phase 1a of the state's prioritization guidance.

"We are excited to be giving COVID-19 vaccines, which is a milestone in our pandemic response," said Chatham County Public Health Director Mike Zelek. "This process will take time though, and our current focus remains on vaccinating those in Phase 1a who are at highest risk of exposure and severe illness. We will update the Chatham community once we are ready to move to additional phases, which will depend on how quickly we reach Phase 1a individuals and our ongoing supply of vaccine."

12:15 p.m.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 6,715 new COVID-19 cases as the percent of positive tests dipped slightly to 13.3%.

A notice on the NCDHHS website notes, however, that the number of new cases reported Thursday would be lower than expected because of an error in reporting on Tuesday.

Currently, 3,493 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide--the 23rd time this month the state has reported a record number of hospitalizations and the 10th-straight day more than 3,000 people have been hospitalized. Additionally, the state reported a record number of 774 adults in the ICU with COVID-19. There are currently 367 ICU beds available statewide.

9:43 a.m.
Wake Forest residents have a new option for testing. Wake County is contracting with clinical laboratory Radeas at 907 Gateway Commons Circle, to provide free, drive-thru testing Monday-Saturday from 7 a.m.-2 p.m.

The service is free, and no appointment is necessary. The testing typically takes about seven minutes, and results are usually provided in 24-48 hours.

THURSDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Wednesday's record setting COVID-19 metrics were artificially inflated, according to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

The numbers, while accurate, reflected 36 hours instead of the normal 24. That is because of a reporting error Tuesday, which caused that day's numbers to include fewer than 24 hours.

This error caused seeming record jumps in COVID-19 cases and fatalities. However, the percentage of positive tests also rose to a record 14.8%--which shows the raw numbers are still concerning.

In light of the ongoing pandemic, Gov. Roy Cooper asked all North Carolinians to double down on steps to prevent the spread of the virus.

On Wednesday, he passed on a new warning from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, saying anyone older than 65 with underlying health problems should not be indoors with people who are not wearing masks.

"The Task Force stresses that gatherings of people not wearing masks, public or private, simply are not safe. We must take these recommendations from the White House and all safety precautions seriously. As our fatality numbers show starkly, this is a matter of life or death," Cooper said.

The Task Force also said all people under the age of 40--whether showing symptoms or not--should consider themselves infected if they gathered with people outside their household for the holidays.

This means those people could be spreading the virus; therefore, they should isolate from people outside their households.

WEDNESDAY
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.
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