COVID-19 hospitalizations tick back up, percent positive remains near record high

Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Coronavirus NC: Latest updates on COVID-19 in North Carolina
Coronavirus NC: Latest updates on COVID-19 in North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. -- 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

4:52 p.m.

Sampson County reports 81 new cases since Friday.

In all, 12,257 tests have been performed since the start of the pandemic and Sampson County has had 4,362 positive cases.

A total of 54 people have died from COVID-19 issues countywide.

4:35 p.m.

Durham VA Health Care System announced that it has been selected as one of 37 VA sites to receive initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

DVAHCS was selected for its ability to vaccinate large numbers of people and store the vaccines at extremely cold temperatures.

"We are very excited to provide a vaccine that has the potential to help get COVID-19 under control when used alongside public health measures such as masking, physical distancing and frequent handwashing," said Mr. Paul Crews, Durham VA Health Care System Executive Director.

Veterans seeking additional information can visit the VA Coronavirus FAQs webpage or contact their primary care team.

4:10 p.m.

Lee County said it has 159 new cases of COVID-19 since Thursday for a total of 2,922 cases.

In Lee County, 2,542 people have recovered. Since the pandemic began, 36 people in the county have died from COVID-19, including a new death reported Monday of a patient who had been hospitalized at Central Carolina Hospital in Sanford.

"We offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends who have lost their loved one to COVID-19 and ask the community to keep them in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time," said Heath Cain, Director of the Health Department. "We know the holiday season is typically a time of togetherness, but with new cases of COVID-19 surging across the state, we want to stress the importance of following the guidance of the CDC during this critical time. Please follow the 3 W's - wear a mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands and when possible, avoid indoor gatherings with individuals outside of your immediate household. These actions will help to keep your family, friends and neighbors safe."

4 p.m.

All Cape Fear Valley Health System locations, including hospitals and outpatient clinics, will be closed completely to visitors until further notice with the following exceptions: Laboring mothers may have one support person/coach, pediatric patients, patients who need a healthcare decision-maker or require communication assistance and end-of-life patients.

3:47 p.m.

The United States crossed the 300,000 deaths threshold on the same it day it launched the biggest vaccination campaign in American history, with health care workers rolling up their sleeves for COVID-19 shots Monday.

The U.S. accounts for nearly 1 out of 5 confirmed virus deaths worldwide, far more than any other country despite its wealth and medical resources.

3:34 p.m.

The Orange County Health Department will be hosting various free COVID-19 testing events during the week. Find a location and get the latest information here.

3:10 p.m.

Moore County health officials are reporting five deaths related to COVID-19. Three deaths were residents of St. Joseph of the Pines.

The Moore County Health Department has been notified of five Moore County residents whose deaths were determined to be related to COVID-19 infection. Three of the individuals were residents of St. Joseph of the Pines

12:40 p.m.

Atrium Health in Charlotte has started vaccinating front line workers against COVID-19.

The hospital group said Dr. Katie Passaretti was the first person in North Carolina to receive the Pfizer vaccine since the FDA authorized it Friday.

"I couldn't be more excited. I feel perfectly fine; I've had no issues with the vaccine," Passaretti said.

12:57 p.m.

The Halifax County Health Department reports 87 new cases and one additional death.

In all, there have been 2,350 total positive COVID 19 cases and 41 deaths in the county.

11:55 a.m.

After the first decline in weeks, COVID-19 hospitalizations ticked back up to near-record highs with 2,553 people currently battling the virus under the care of hospital staff.

292 patients with confirmed COVID-19 cases were admitted in the last 24 hours. 257 suspected COVID-19 patients were admitted in the same time frame.

The latest numbers from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services show another 32 people have died from the virus, increasing its death toll to 5,855 since the start of the pandemic.

The percent of tests coming back positive remained at 11.6% and 4,770 new cases were reported. That's a drop from previous days but that lower case number is typical on Monday; the percent positive is what state officials will be worried about, as their goal has always been to keep that number under 5%.

The turnaround time for testing is at 3.3 days and is steadily increasing.

You can look at the numbers for yourself at NCDHHS's website.

11:15 a.m.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen released a video message on Twitter, supporting the state's effort to get as many people vaccinated against COVID-19 as possible.

"There's good news in the fight against COVID," Dr. Cohen says in the video. "Tested, safe and effective vaccines will be available to all, starting with those most vulnerable to the virus. Rest assured, you have a spot and you'll be able to take your best shot against COVID."

A website was launched with more information about the state's COVID-19 vaccination plan.

9:55 a.m.

Gov. Roy Cooper confirms the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have landed in North Carolina, calling it "a remarkable achievement for science and health."

9:15 a.m.

UNC Health does not expect to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine until Tuesday.

Thousands of doses of the newly authorized vaccine began shipping out across the country Monday.

However, UNC Health tells ABC11 its main campus is not expecting to receive any doses until Tuesday. Other campuses in the system expect to receive shipments later in the week.

UNC Health statement:

"UNC Health officials were notified by NC DHHS late Sunday that UNC Medical Center is expected to receive vaccines on Tuesday. Other hospitals in our system, including UNC REX, are expected to get vaccines later in the week. We continue to work on preparations so that we can begin inoculating our frontline staff as soon as possible once the vaccines arrive."


The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines is expected to arrive Monday in a hopeful update in the fight against the virus. Many doses of the vaccine will ship out from a Pfizer plant in Michigan.

In the first round of shipments, 145 locations in 50 states will receive thousands of doses of the vaccine. Throughout North Carolina, hospitals are set to get 85,000 doses. UNC REX and Duke Hospitals expect to get 2,925 doses each in their first shipments with WakeMed expecting 3,900 doses between its Raleigh and Cary campuses.

Frontline healthcare workers could start getting their shots as early as today. Families and the general public aren't expected to get vaccinated until early 2021.

The Wake County Public School System will meet on Monday at 3 p.m. to consider returning exclusively to virtual learning.

The state reported more than 6,800 new COVID-19 cases Monday, the second-highest total of the pandemic.

Free drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites are opening this week at Green Road Park, Barwell Road Park and Lions Park in Raleigh.


1:50 p.m.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield has accepted an advisory committee's recommendation that the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine may be given to people ages 16 and older, meaning that shots of the vaccine can now be administered in the United States.

11:50 a.m.

North Carolina health officials are reporting 6,819 more COVID-19 cases, bringing the to-date total to 436,595. This is the second-highest single-day case increase since 7,540 on Friday.

Throughout the state, 27 more people have died from the virus, bringing the total to 5,823.

With 95 percent of hospitals reporting, 2,520 people remain hospitalized for COVID-19. That is down 57 in the first decrease the state has seen since late November. However, hospitalizations numbers remain among the highest they have been during the pandemic.

The daily percent positive rate of tests is currently 11.6%, down slightly from Saturday's 11.7%.

Nearly 6 million tests have been completed throughout the state since March.

9:20 a.m.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 16 million COVID-19 cases in the United States since March.

7:30 a.m.

Millions of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are being loaded into containers at drug maker Pfizer's Michigan loading facility.

FIRST LOOK: COVID-19 vaccine doses leave Pfizer's Michigan facility

The first trucks carrying a COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use in the United States were getting ready to roll out of a Michigan manufacturing plant Sunday morning.


6 p.m.

North Carolina hospitals will get 85,800 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the first week.

"Fingers crossed, we get it shipped and we can start rolling it out," said Dr. Linda Butler, UNC REX Healthcare Chief Medical Officer.

UNC REX Healthcare in Raleigh is expecting to get 2,925 doses on Monday, with vaccinations starting as soon as Tuesday.

Dr. Butler said frontline workers treating COVID-19 patients and healthcare workers in areas at high risk of exposure will get the vaccine first.

"It's not going to keep them from getting tired," Dr. Butler said. "It's not going to keep patients from coming into our beds but at least it'll protect them from getting sick."

Combined, UNC Health locations will get more than 14,000 doses of the vaccine in the first week.

Duke University Hospital is expecting 2,925 doses that will be stored in their ultra-cold freezers with vaccinations starting Tuesday.

Cape Fear Valley Health System is slated to receive nearly 5,000 doses in the first week.

"We intend to distribute it very much the same way we did for our employees when we vaccinate them for flu," said Cape Fear Valley Health System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sam Fleishman. "After that, we'll have to develop a longer-term plan of how we're going to distribute that to the rest of the community."

Dr. Fleishman said it may take some time before the general public can get the vaccine.

"We want people to be patient, understand there's optimism on the horizon," Dr. Fleishman said. "We're almost there but we need them to be smart in the interim. Right now, our health systems across the state are being challenged."

In the meantime, Dr. Fleishman is reminding everyone to keep practicing COVID-19 safety protocols, such as social distancing, wearing a mask and washing their hands.

"This thing is not over," he said.

"We'll do whatever we need to do to get this vaccine to, first, our coworkers, who are on the frontlines taking care of these COVID patients and then later on to other coworkers and the community in general," Dr. Butler said. "This is the first thing we can really do to stop this pandemic. So we're excited and we're happy to be getting vaccine delivered, hopefully, Monday."

12 p.m.

North Carolina health officials are now reporting 429,776 total COVID-19 cases since March with 6,153 new cases reported. This is the fifth time in a week where cases have increased by more than 6,000 in a single day.

Throughout North Carolina, 44 more people have died from COVID-19. This brings the total to 5,796.

With 97 percent of hospitals reporting, a record 2,577 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19. That is up 63 from Friday.

NCDHHS said the percent positive test rate has risen to 11.7% from 10.4% on Friday.

US says Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to start arriving in states Monday

7:15 a.m.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, there have been 15,851,735 COVID-19 cases in the United States.