RALEIGH, N.C. -- Here's the latest news and information on COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines.
At a Monday meeting, the Harnett County school board voted to keep masks optional.
Students attending Sunnyside Elementary School in Cumberland County will temporarily transition to virtual remote learning from October 5-15 because of multiple positive COVID-19 cases.
The students are scheduled to resume face-to-face learning on October 18, the district said Monday.
Families will be contacted by Cumberland County Schools' Office of Health Services if it is believed their child was exposed.
District officials have asked parents to monitor their child's health and their families for COVID-19 symptoms.
Although pediatric COVID-19 infection rates remain at an "exceptionally high" level, this week, the U.S. finally reported its first notable decline in new reported cases and hospitalization figures among children, as the delta surge continues to abate across the deep South.
Last week, the U.S. reported more than 173,000 child COVID-19 cases, marking the first week with fewer than 200,000 new cases reported since mid-August, according to a newly released weekly report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children's Hospital Association (CHA).
Since the onset of the pandemic, nearly 5.9 million children have tested positive for the virus, and in the last five weeks alone, the U.S. has reported more than 1.1 million pediatric cases.
Twelve people incarcerated in the Orange County Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19, the county announced.
"Unfortunately, we are hearing from jail professionals across the state that numbers of COVID cases within detention facilities are surging. Despite our best efforts, we are also experiencing this increase in our facility," Chief Deputy Jamison Sykes said in a statement.
No one who tests positive is in a cell with anyone negative, the county said.
Officials said the outbreak "appears to stem from an individual who had no symptoms and a negative rapid test when he entered the facility."
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released COVID-19 numbers for the weekend.
The state reported 4,738 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, 3,728 on Sunday and 2,219 on Monday.
The average of new daily cases has been declining since a spike in mid-September.
The daily percent of positive tests is at 8.4%.
2,690 people are currently hospitalized in North Carolina with COVID-19.
There are currently 732 adult ICU COVID-19 patients.
209 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted into hospitals in the last 24 hours.
The US is "turning the corner" on its current Covid-19 surge but vaccination remains key to ensuring cases continue trending downward ahead of the holiday season, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday.
The US is averaging around 107,000 new infections every day, according to Johns Hopkins University -- down from more than 150,000 just last month. Rates of hospitalizations and deaths have also been on the decline.
But Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC's "This Week" that over nearly 20 months of the pandemic, Covid surges have subsided only to come back again.
MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES
More local businesses will start requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
DPAC said it will start requiring proof of vaccination or proof of a negative test in the last 72 hours.
That requirement will be enforced for all events at DPAC, including Broadway performances, concerts, comedy shows and special events.
The Carolina Theatre in Durham is also starting to require proof of vaccination. The theatre said anyone attending needs to bring their physical vaccine card--pictures of the card will not count.
Meanwhile, North Carolina Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen is set to be recognized for her role in guiding the state through the pandemic.
Wake Education Partnership will present Cohen with the Vernon Malone Friend of Education award at its annual Stars of Education Gala, which is scheduled to happen Monday night.
The Vernon Malone Friend of Education award has been awarded every year since 1990 to someone who shows exceptional commitment to public education.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 4,963 new cases Friday, the fifth day in a row that the state reported fewer than five thousand cases.
The state also reported fewer than 3,000 hospitalizations for the second day in a row as the percentage of positive tests remained below 8% at 7.9%.
North Carolina passed 16,600 COVID-19 deaths--with 16,605 deaths as of Friday.
An experimental COVID-19 pill reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half in people recently infected with the coronavirus, according to U.S. drug maker Merk.
If cleared, Merck's drug would be the first pill shown to treat COVID-19, a potentially major advance in efforts to fight the pandemic. All COVID-19 therapies now authorized in the U.S. require an IV or injection.
The company said it would soon ask health officials in the U.S. and around the world to authorize use of the pill.
FRIDAY MORNING HEADLINES
The debate over requiring children to wear masks at schools rages on, but not among doctors, scientists or teachers, according to ABC News.
Multiple recent studies have shown that masks effectively slow virus transmission and prevent school closures. Three such studies were just published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's weekly report on infectious diseases.
Kara McCormick-Lyons, a seventh grade teacher and president of the White Plains Teachers' Association in Arizona, said the new findings weren't surprising.
"Of course it works," McCormick-Lyons said. "Physical distancing, masking, being outdoors when you can, all of these things make a difference."
Whatever mild discomfort children may experience from wearing a mask, she added, is a small price to pay and "if that's what we have to do to all stay here (in school), then it's well worth it."
One recent study from Arizona found the odds of an outbreak were 3.5 times higher in learning environments without a mask requirement. Additionally, schools that implemented mask mandates before school restarted in the fall have had fewer outbreaks compared to schools that more recently adopted the policy.
Meanwhile, a group representing school board members around the country asked President Joe Biden on Thursday for federal assistance to investigate and stop threats made over policies including mask mandates, likening the vitriol to a form of domestic terrorism.
The request by the National School Boards Association demonstrates the level of unruliness that has engulfed local education meetings across the country during the pandemic, with board members regularly confronted and threatened by angry protesters.
School board members are largely unpaid volunteers, parents and former educators who step forward to shape school policy, choose a superintendent and review the budget, but they have been frightened at how their jobs have suddenly become a culture war battleground. The climate has led a growing number to resign or decide against seeking reelection.
"Whatever you feel about masks, it should not reach this level of rhetoric," NSBA Interim Executive Director Chip Slaven told The Associated Press by phone.