Percentage of positive tests remains high as fewer people get tested for COVID-19

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

Have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine? Send them to us here

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 ben 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 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 Latinx 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.

TUESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Three new free COVID-19 testing sites are open in Raleigh.

Marsh Creek Park, Roberts Park, and Method Community Park are the three new sites joining Departure Drive Building, Radeas Labs, and Swinburne Parking Lot as drive-thru testing locations.

Click here for more information about each location.

Health officials suggest anyone returning from holiday travel or gatherings to get tested three to five days after your last contact with people outside your bubble.

The tests at these drive-thru locations are completely free and usually return results in 24-48 hours.

Meanwhile, another COVID-19 vaccine candidate is moving ahead. Novavax is now the fifth company to launch a large-scale trial in the US.

That vaccine is being mass produced in Morrisville at Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies. Fujifilm has added 85 new jobs in Morrisville this year, and the company said it's looking to expand again in 2021.

The already FDA-authorized vaccines are now being distributed to nursing homes and long-term care facilities in our state.

CVS and Walgreens started vaccinating residents and staff members of those facilities Monday.

In the meantime, North Carolina is reporting more COVID-19 patients in hospitals than ever before: 3,192. That number includes a record 733 adults in intensive care.

Despite the push to increase the number of tests performed, the positive rate continues to climb--reaching 14.7%, which is much higher than the state's goal of below 5%.

New COVID-19 metrics are set to be released around 12 p.m.

MONDAY
5 p.m.
Stadium capacity will be adjusted to 1,500 for the Carolina Panthers final home game versus the New Orleans Saints on Jan. 3, 2021, the team announced Monday.

PSL Owners who purchased a ticket for the game have the option of receiving a refund or applying payment to their 2021 invoice. An automatic refund of all single-game ticket purchases through Ticketmaster will be applied to the same method of payment used to purchase tickets within 30 days. Tickets purchased through other channels are subject to their respective policies.

4:40 p.m.
Residents and staffers at nursing homes and long-term care facilities across North Carolina began receiving the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Monday.

CVS and Walgreens pharmacies are administering the vaccines, but because of privacy concerns are not identifying the specific locations receiving the first shots.

According to CVS, nearly 128,000 people will get vaccinated at nearly 900 locations during the next three months across the state.

4:13 p.m.
Congressman G.K. Butterfield said he received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The North Carolina Democrat tweeted a photo of himself and said that "following CDC recommendations & direction of the Office of Attending Physician, I received my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. While this is a critical step in crushing the virus, we must continue science-based safety measures: Practice social distancing. Wear a mask."



3:41 p.m.
Wake County is providing six sites for free COVID-19 testing this week and into 2021, with several sites open on New Year's Day and park locations offering Sunday hours.

There's no cost, no appointment necessary, no insurance needed, and no ID required. Walk-ups are welcome.

The following locations will be open Monday through Saturday every week, including testing on the Friday, January 1 holiday:
  • Swinburne Parking Lot Drive-Thru Testing, 2845 Kidd Road, Raleigh, 27610, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Departure Drive Building Drive-thru Testing, 5809 Departure Drive, Raleigh 27616, 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays)
  • Radeas Labs Drive-thru Testing, 907 Gateway Commons Circle, Wake Forest 27587, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.


Starting Tuesday, Wake County will offer free testing at three City of Raleigh parks:

  • Roberts Park, 1300 E. Martin St., Raleigh, 27610
  • Marsh Creek Park, 3050 N. New Hope Road, Raleigh, 27604
  • Method Community Park, 514 Method Road, Raleigh, 27607


Testing at all park sites is as follows:
  • Tuesday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Wednesday & Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Friday-Sunday, Jan 1-3 NO TESTING
  • Monday, January 4, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Tuesday - Saturday, January 5-9, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Sunday, January 10, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.


For the latest testing times and locations, check here.

2:53 p.m.
The Lee County Government Health Department confirms 218 new cases of COVID-19 since last Monday for a total of 3,401 cases of COVID-19.

1:14 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports one new death and 145 new cases of COVID-19.

In all the county has had 45 deaths and 2,628 total positive COVID 19 cases.

11:50 a.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Monday reported 3,888 new COVID-19 cases on Monday -- the second day of daily increases under 4,000. Those numbers are abnormally low, however, the number of tests completed over the last two days is also abnormally low. This likely is due to lower processing volumes during the holiday.

Hospitalizations, on the other hand, set a new record high on Monday with 3,192.

366 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted to hospitals in the last 24 hours. 286 suspected patients were admitted in the same time frame.

The number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU also saw a record high Monday with 733. Last Monday there were 686 COVID-19 patients in the ICU.

84 percent of hospitalized patients are over the age of 50. However, the majority of cases (40 percent) are in the 25 to 49 age group.

6:20 a.m.
Transportation Security Administration announced it screened more than 1 million people the day after Christmas.

The day after Christmas was the second most traveled day since the pandemic began. The most traveled day happened the day before Christmas, when TSA screened 1,191,123 people.

The daily numbers this holiday season are about half the number of travelers screened on the same day in 2019.

The TSA numbers come as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention urges Americans to stay home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As cases continue to surge in the wake of Thanksgiving-related travel, health experts warn a similar surge will likely happen in a couple weeks because of the travel related to the end of year holidays.

Monday Morning Headlines
Residents at North Carolina nursing homes and long-term care facilities will begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccine Monday.

CVS and Walgreens are organizing the vaccinations, but due to privacy concerns, they are not identifying the specific locations that will receive the shots first.

We do know that CVS is administering the vaccines at nearly 900 North Carolina facilities, and more than 40,000 nationwide, starting Monday. The group expects to vaccinate as many as 4 million residents and staff members.

CVS said it will begin offering the vaccine to the general public sometime next year.

Meanwhile, North Carolina's COVID-19 metrics remain at or near record levels.

To date, more than half a million people have tested positive for the virus in North Carolina, with at least 6,549 dying from it. Updated numbers will be released around noon.
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