RALEIGH, N.C. -- Here's the latest news and information on COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines.
The government's top infectious diseases expert says families can feel safe trick-or-treating outdoors this year for Halloween as COVID-19 cases in the U.S. decline, especially for those who are vaccinated.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that it's an important time of year for children, so "go out there" and "enjoy it."
He added that people wanting to enjoy Halloween on Oct. 31 should consider getting the shots for that "extra degree of protection" if they are not yet vaccinated.
COVID-19 vaccines so far have been approved for people 12 years and older. The Food and Drug Administration plans a meeting in late October to consider Pfizer's request for emergency use authorization of its vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.
Nationwide, there are about 95,000 new COVID-19 cases a day. Fauci called the downward trend "good news" but cautioned against declaring a premature victory since cases have bounced back in the past.
He said he'd like to see cases drop to fewer than 10,000 a day before dropping COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, such as shedding masks indoors in public places.
UNC-Chapel Hill will reduce required testing for students who have not attested to COVID-19 testing.
Those who do not attest their vaccination status will now only have to be tested once a week.
The change comes as the university reports a decrease in asymptomatic and symptomatic positivity for the virus.
Data shows the asymptomatic positivity rate has decreased from .54% to .44% and symptomatic positivity has decreased from 3.3% to 2.5%
The university said most of the positive cases on campus have been mild and Campus Health has not received any reports of student hospitalizations for COVID.
Wake County Public Health has confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 at Spring Arbor, an assisted living and memory care facility at 901 Spring Arbor Court in Apex.
This is the facility's first outbreak. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services defines an outbreak as two or more people - residents or employees - testing positive for the virus.
Another 4,078 people tested positive for COVID-19, according to Friday's metrics from North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Another 85 people died from the virus, raising the state's total death toll to 17,104. This month alone, 580 people in North Carolina have died from COVID-19.
The current number of people hospitalized with the virus dropped by 47 to 2,467.
FRIDAY MORNING HEADLINES
The Class of 2020 at UNC is finally getting its commencement ceremony.
Like many other graduations in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced UNC to abandon ceremonies that year. But this weekend, the university will spend three days honoring that class.
The graduates can do the traditional Bell Tower climb Friday, will be recognized at UNC's home football game Saturday against Florida State, and enjoy their commencement ceremony--featuring former men's basketball coach Roy Williams--in Kenan Stadium on Sunday.
A group of people is camping out in Nash Square, raising awareness for what they say is an eviction crisis. It's been over a month since the US Supreme Court overturned the eviction moratorium saying the CDC did not have the legal authority to stop evictions.
Now the federal government is giving out billions of dollars to help renters and landlords pay the bills, but the protesters at Nash Square say the money isn't coming fast enough.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced that 70 percent of North Carolinians age 18 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
"COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be our best tool for preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "Seventy percent of North Carolinians have sought out reliable information and decided to protect themselves and others with tested, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. If you're not vaccinated, it's not too late. Just don't wait."
Duke University Athletics announced health and safety protocols for men's and women's basketball events at Cameron Indoor Stadium this season.
All guests and staff are required to present proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, which shows two dates for the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines and one date for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Guests and staff who are exempt from or ineligible to receive the vaccine can still attend by showing a negative COVID-19 (antigen or PCR) test result within 72 hours of the game you plan to attend.
A test result must be in the form of written medical documentation (paper or electronic copy) and the documentation must include: test result, type of test, entity issuing the result, and the specimen collection date.
For those unable to complete a test prior to game day, a testing site operated by SafeSite will be available in Blue Devil Tower on game day. The rapid antigen test is $45, and all positive antigen tests will be confirmed with a PCR test for no additional charge.
Guests and staff can upload their vaccination card or negative test for each event at DukeCheckIn.com.
Hospitals, nursing homes and adult care and hospice care facilities in North Carolina would be required to allow patient visits in a measure given final legislative approval on Wednesday.
The bill is the result of constituent complaints last year about family members being unable to visit loved ones in person during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate voted unanimously for the compromise measure, two weeks after the House voted for the bill.
The measure now heading to Gov. Roy Cooper's desk says visitations must be allowed to the extent that federal law permits. Compassionate care visits - such as when the patient's relative dies - also must be allowed. State health officials would issue a $500 fine against a health care facility that violates this policy and fails to fix the problem.
The bill, called the "No Patient Left Alone Act," marks the latest measure approved that responds to obstacles in visitor access that surfaced during the pandemic.
Cooper signed bills into law recently that would direct hospitals to let a clergy member visit a patient and tell health regulators to establish by next year visitation policies for nursing homes and adult care homes during declared emergencies.
North Carolina has surpassed 17,000 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
3,781 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Thursday.
The percent of positive tests in the state is at 6.4%.
2,514 are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and other top public health experts strongly urged everyone ages 6 months and older to get an annual flu shot.
According to newly released CDC data, about 52% of the US population got a flu vaccination last flu season - similar to the prior season. The CDC and other public health agencies are trying to get even more people vaccinated this year because experts are worried about a worse flu season this year because population immunity is low due to a mild flu season last year.
"We are preparing for the return of the flu this season. The low level of flu activity last season could set us up for a severe season this year," Walensky said. "It's doubly important this year to build up community immunity."
Red Hat will join the list of companies requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Raleigh-based software company said Thursday that as a company that contracts for the U.S. government, it must meet the government's COVID-19 requirements.
"Red Hat supports the view that vaccination is the best way to contribute to ending the pandemic, and we are demonstrating our commitment to keeping our colleagues, customers, and communities safe," Red Hat CEO Paul Cormier said in a statement.
Red Hat said all employees must be fully vaccinated by November 29.
Pfizer has asked the U.S. government to allow use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11--and if regulators agree, shots could begin within a matter of weeks.
Pfizer already had announced that a lower dose of its vaccine worked and appeared safe in a study of the youngsters.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech on Thursday officially filed its application with the Food and Drug Administration. FDA's advisers are scheduled to debate the evidence later this month.
The number of U.S. children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic may be larger than previously estimated, and the toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans, a new study suggests.
More than half the children who lost a primary caregiver during the pandemic belonged to those two racial groups, which make up about 40% of the U.S. population, according to the study published Thursday by the medical journal Pediatrics.
"These findings really highlight those children who have been left most vulnerable by the pandemic, and where additional resources should be directed," one of the study's authors, Dr. Alexandra Blenkinsop of Imperial College London, said in a statement.
During 15 months of the nearly 19-month COVID-19 pandemic, more than 120,000 U.S. children lost a parent or grandparent who was a primary provider of financial support and care, the study found. Another 22,000 children experienced the death of a secondary caregiver - for example, a grandparent who provided housing but not a child's other basic needs.
In many instances, surviving parents or other relatives remained to provide for these children. But the researchers used the term "orphanhood" in their study as they attempted to estimate how many children's lives were upended.
Federal statistics are not yet available on how many U.S. children went into foster care last year. Researchers estimate COVID-19 drove a 15% increase in orphaned children.
An earlier study by different researchers estimated that roughly 40,000 U.S. children lost a parent to COVID-19 as of February 2021.
The two studies' findings are not inconsistent, said Ashton Verdery, an author of the earlier study. Verdery and his colleagues focused on a shorter time period than the new study. Verdery's group also focused only on deaths of parents, while the new paper also captured what happened to caregiving grandparents.
"It is very important to understand grandparental losses," said Verdery, a researcher at Penn State, in an email. "Many children live with grandparents," a living arrangement more common among certain racial groups.
About 32% of all kids who lost a primary caregiver were Hispanic and 26% were Black. Hispanic and Black Americans make up much smaller percentages of the population than that. White children accounted for 35% of the kids who lost primary caregivers, even though more than half of the population is white.
The differences were far more pronounced in some states. In California, 67% of the children who lost primary caregivers were Hispanic. In Mississippi, 57% of the children who lost primary caregivers were Black, the study found.