Number of COVID-19 patients in North Carolina ICUs quadruples in a month

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Wednesday, August 18, 2021
Coronavirus NC: Latest updates on COVID-19 in North Carolina
Coronavirus NC: Latest updates on COVID-19 in North CarolinaWake County Schools details plan for in-person learning as pandemic rages on

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina, like many other states across the country, is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

UNC doctor Alexa Mieses-Malchuck answers your questions about COVID-19 and its vaccine

11 p.m.

During a Tuesday Wake County school board meeting, health and safety protocols were discussed.

At a previous meeting, the board unanimously voted to require masks.

There will be required seating charts in classrooms, cafeterias and on buses.

Wake County Schools details plan for in-person learning as pandemic rages on

As for a quarantining policy, teachers must have daily communication with a student and give them access to meaningful and aligned learning resources. Students or families should not go for multiple days without receiving individualized communication from their teacher.

When an exposure requires the entire classroom to quarantine, the class will become virtual when feasible, including live instruction for the duration of the quarantine.

"We may see clusters, we may see more clusters we've often have said that as we've seen COVID in the community, we'll see it in schools so our job is mitigating the spread," said Chair Keith Sutton. "We're ready, we're excited to have our students back and we imagine those parents are excited for them to get back to face to face instruction."

5:30 p.m.

The Carolina Panthers said all guests and staff must wear a mask in indoor spaces, including the indoor concourses on the 300 and 400 levels.

Face coverings are not required outdoors. Masks will be available at stadium entrance points as well as at guest relations and security booths.

As public health officials have recommended, guests who are not fully vaccinated are encouraged to wear a mask in all areas.

"Our stadium operations staff has worked diligently to provide a game-day experience that is both safe and enjoyable," the Panthers said. "Many of the same protocols that were utilized in 2020 will remain, including cashless transactions, mobile ticketing, enhanced cleaning procedures and hand sanitizer stations throughout the stadium. We will continue to monitor public health guidelines and communicate any further updates."

4 p.m.

Wake County Public Health has confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 at the following facilities:

  • Cary Health and Rehabilitation Center at 6590 Tryon Road in Cary. This is the center's fourth outbreak, with previous outbreaks occurring in June 2020, November 2020 and December 2020.
  • Wellington Rehabilitation and Healthcare at 1000 Tandal Place in Knightdale. This is the facility's third outbreak. Previous outbreaks occurred in April and December 2020.

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.

2:47 p.m.

The Moore County Health Department will begin administering third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine starting Aug. 25 to people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems who have already received two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Appointments for boosters must be scheduled by calling (910) 947-SHOT (7468). No walk-ins will be accepted.

The Health Department's appointment line is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"With hospitalizations and case counts rapidly increasing over the last few weeks, we want to provide the most protection possible from vaccination, particularly to one of our most vulnerable populations -- the immunocompromised," said Health Director Robert Wittmann.

The Moore County Health Department, at 705 Pinehurst Ave. in Carthage, continues to offer weekly COVID-19 vaccine clinics to anyone seeking their first or second dose. Appointments can be made by calling (910) 947-SHOT (7468) and walk-ins for first or second doses will also be accepted on vaccine clinic days, which are held each Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.and from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.

2:37 p.m.

Effective Wednesday, a face-covering requirement will be reinstated in all Moore County government facilities.

The Executive Order does not require face coverings for certain situations, including people with certain medical or behavioral conditions or disabilities.

It also does not apply to:

  • Any person who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious or incapacitated, or is otherwise unable to put on or remove the face covering without assistance
  • Is younger than five
  • Is actively eating or drinking
  • Is seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired in a way that requires the mouth to be visible
  • Is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience
  • Is working at home or is in a personal vehicle
  • Is temporarily removing his or her face covering to secure government or medical services or for identification purposes
  • Would be at risk from wearing a face covering at work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulations or workplace safety guidelines
  • Has found that his or her face covering is impeding visibility to operate equipment or a vehicle
  • Is a child whose parent, guardian, or responsible person has been unable to place the face covering safely on the child's face

1:05 p.m.

IBMA World of Bluegrass will require proof of vaccination for anyone attending the event.

The festival is scheduled to take place Sept. 28 - Oct. 2 in Raleigh.

"In the interest of safety and a rapidly changing health environment for all the attendees, volunteers, and artists, the International Bluegrass Music Association Board of Directors has unanimously approved changes to the health and safety protocols for the event," the organizers said in a statement.

The event will allow no exceptions to its vaccination policy. Attendees must show proof of vaccination when checking into the festival.

In addition, masks will also be required at all indoor activities.

Anyone who already bought tickets but does not wish to follow the updated health and safety policy will be offered a refund.

12:20 p.m.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 3,575 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday. The increase in cases comes as the percentage of positive tests jumped to 13.5%--the highest in a week. The percentage of positive tests has been above 10% for more than two weeks.

Currently, 2,828 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, an increase of more than 150 people from the previous day. There are 708 COVID-19 patients in ICUs across the state--a month ago there were 160. That means the number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU has more than quadrupled in the last month.


The Town of Cary is bringing back its indoor mask mandate. Starting Wednesday at 5 p.m., anyone in Cary will be required to wear a mask if they want to go inside any buildings.

UNC faculty and staff are petitioning the school to halt in-person classes before they begin Wednesday.

So far a couple hundred people have signed the petition, which calls for classes to be online only for the first four-to-six weeks.

U.S. experts are expected to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all Americans, regardless of age, eight months after they received their second dose of the shot, to ensure lasting protection against the coronavirus as the delta variant spreads across the country.

Federal health officials have been actively looking at whether extra shots for the vaccinated would be needed as early as this fall, reviewing case numbers in the U.S. as well as the situation in other countries such as Israel, where preliminary studies suggest the vaccine's protection against serious illness dropped among those vaccinated in January.

An announcement on the U.S. booster recommendation was expected as soon as this week, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.


8:30 p.m.

The Orange County School Board voted not to require COVID-19 vaccinations for athletes and employees and others involved in extracurricular activities.

Protesters were lined up outside of the county courthouse Monday afternoon ahead of the school board's vote.

5:12 p.m.

The Town of Cary is issuing an indoor mask mandate that covers all public and private indoor spaces within Cary's town limits.

It goes into effect Wednesday at 5 p.m. and applies to everyone regardless of vaccination status.

As part of the declaration, a face covering is now required indoors for people older than 5 anytime they will be in contact with others outside of their household.

In conjunction, Mayor Harold Weinbrecht issued a State of Emergency that he said will help to ensure that Cary's government has access to the resources and flexibility it needs to protect residents during times of crisis.

"This new phase of the pandemic has brought some old challenges roaring back, but our experience in 2020 taught us an important lesson: Masks work," Weinbrecht said. "Because Cary citizens decided to protect each other by masking up last year, we were able to keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed. With the delta variant spreading quickly, we need that community spirit now more than ever."

Weinbrecht said that vaccines continue to be the most important tool to stop the spread of the Delta variant.

"I'm urging anyone who is eligible for the vaccine but has not yet received it, to go get one as soon as possible. Masks are important right now, and vaccines are our best and quickest way out of the danger zone," he said.

If you have specific questions about Town services or operations, dial 311 anywhere in Cary, (919) 469-4000 outside town limits, or email

5 p.m.

North Carolina hospitals are feeling strained as beds and ICUs fill to capacity.

At Duke University Hospital in Durham, federal data shows the hospital has been at or near full capacity for more than a month. Last week was the fourth week in a row the hospital reported an average of 100% of inpatient beds occupied each day. The percentage of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients in those beds doubled in the last month.

Last week, 38% of emergency department visits at WakeMed in Raleigh were for COVID-like symptoms--one of the highest rates in the state. On average each day, 91% of inpatient beds were occupied, and the average percentage of those beds that were filled with COVID-19 patients tripled in a month from 4 to 13%.

Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville reported 81% of its inpatient beds were full on average each day--but more of those beds were filled with COVID-19 patients. That percentage increased four times from a month ago.

4:27 p.m.

The Johnston County Public Health Department will offer vaccine clinics for first, second and third doses (for those eligible) Monday-Friday at the Health Department at 517 N. Brightleaf Blvd. in Smithfield, NC from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Tuesdays, the clinic will run from 9 6 p.m.

This week the Health Department will be offering Pfizer and Moderna vaccines throughout the county via its community outreach clinics:

  • Wednesday: Benson Housing Authority/Raymond Sanders I - 1 p.m.- 3 p.m.
  • Thursday: Selma Middle School - 5 p.m.- 7 p.m.
  • Friday: Clayton High School - 8 a.m.- noon
  • Sunday: BrightLeaf Flea Market - 9 a.m.- 1 p.m.

4:10 p.m.

North Carolina providers and federal providers together reported more than 50,000 shots given since Friday across the state. More than half, about 30,000, were first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Wake County and Mecklenburg County each boasted more than 3,000 first doses over the weekend. Durham, Cumberland, Forsyth and Guilford all reported more than 1,000 more since Friday.

Wake County is now reporting that 60% of the county's total population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In Durham County, 62% of the population has gotten at least one shot and 58% is fully vaccinated. Orange County is the only county in the state with more than 70% of the total county population fully vaccinated.

3:34 p.m.

North Carolinians who are moderately to severely immunocompromised and received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines can begin receiving an additional dose to better protect themselves from COVID-19, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said Monday.

"This additional dose will offer valuable protection to those who need it, especially as we face a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant," said Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, NCDHHS State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer. "I encourage those who are eligible to get this additional dose. In addition, if you are not fully vaccinated, please do so now to protect yourself and others - like those who are immunocompromised - from severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19."

Immunocompromised people eligible for an additional dose of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines should contact their health care provider or they can visit or call (888) 675-4567 to find a vaccine location near them.

It is not recommended that immunocompromised people who were vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine get an additional dose at this time.

3:30 p.m.

Wake County Public Health has confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 at the following facilities:

  • Wake County Detention Center located at 3301 Hammond Road in Raleigh. This is the facility's third outbreak. The previous outbreaks occurred in August 2020 and July 2021.
  • Strategic Behavioral Health Center located at 3200 Waterfield Drive in Garner. This is the facility's fourth outbreak. The previous outbreaks occurred in July 2020, February 2021 and May 2021.

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.

12:05 p.m.

Wake County is now offering third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to people who qualify.

The FDA and CDC said Americans with weakened immune systems are eligible to get a third dose of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. That's because new studies show that those individuals did not build as much resistance to the virus as expected.

"In the transportation industry, we're around so many people and I have diabetes," Carl Munson said.

Munson was one of the first in line Monday to get his third shot. He's part of the 3 percent of Americans now eligible to get the booster.

Wake County health department said anyone with a moderately or severely compromised immune system can get the third shot at any county vaccination site.

12 p.m.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 3,778 new COVID-19 cases Monday, more than three times the number of new cases reported a month ago.

The increase in cases comes as the percent of positive tests remains above 10% for the 16th-straight day, meaning community spread is high.

The number of patients in the hospital with COVID-19 continues to rise. As of Sunday, 2,651 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, the highest number since early February, before vaccines were widely available.

6:50 a.m.

Surging COVID-19 cases across the state has county health departments expanding testing capabilities.

In Wake County, drive-through locations open at 7 a.m. Click here for a list of the testing sites closest to you.

The testing sites accept walk-ins and you don't even have to have any particular identification.

The sites remain open until 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.


The rise in COVID-19 cases in the US is hitting younger populations especially hard in the South.

In Texas, children are driving the surge in hospitalizations with many pediatric ICUs reporting full capacity.

"As an adult, I guess we're not thinking about the little ones because we already vaccinated, but it's pretty dangerous for them because they are not able to get the vaccine," said a Texas mother of a 9-year-old who was hospitalized with COVID-19.

In North Carolina, students young and old are starting back to school in the coming weeks.

NC State University, NC Central and Wake Tech all have their first day of classes Monday

At NC State, all students, faculty and staff must be vaccinated or agree to be tested weekly for COVID-19. Face coverings will be required indoors for unvaccinated and vaccinated alike.

Classes don't start at UNC until Wednesday, but new student convocation is Monday night in Kenan Stadium. UNC's COVID policies match those of NCSU.


7 p.m.

Wake County health officials confirmed a COVID-19 outbreak at the N.C. Correctional Institution for Women on Friday.

According to the county, the women's prison had a previous outbreak in July 2020.

6:30 p.m.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released the most recently available breakthrough COVID-19 data to the ABC11 I-Team.

Since January 1, 15,989 COVID-19 cases, 523 hospitalizations and 92 deaths have been reported in patients who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

This year, the state has reported 517,559 COVID-19 cases and 6,976 deaths. That means 97% of cases and 98% of deaths have been in unvaccinated people since the beginning of 2021.

Additionally, of the nearly 5 million people who have been vaccinated in North Carolina, 3 in 1,000 have gotten COVID-19, 1 in 10,000 have been hospitalized, and 2 in 100,000 have died.

6:20 p.m.

Wake Forest officials issued a statement Friday evening following Fuquay-Varina in announcing that they would not be issuing a mask mandate for town residents. Officials cited inconsistent requirements across the state and limited enforcement ability as their reasoning for not reimposing a mandate despite rising hospitalizations due to the Delta variant.

Instead, officials strongly urged all residents to wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status, and get vaccinated.

"Our decision not to issue a mask mandate at this time should not be interpreted as a refusal to acknowledge the seriousness of our current situation," town officials wrote in an emailed statement.

5 p.m.

The City of Raleigh's indoor mask mandate went into effect at 5 p.m. for all residents, regardless of vaccination status.

4 p.m.

Football scrimmage start for many North Carolina schools as the NCDHHS issued guidance for those involved in youth sports.

The guidance includes limiting the use of shared hydration stations and instead having students bring their own water bottles. The guidance also recommends that players not shake hands or give any sort of congratulatory contact.

Cumberland County school athletes do not have to wear a mask while competing but are required to wear them while waiting on the bench.

3:50 p.m.

The Town of Fuquay-Varina says instead of issuing a mask mandate, it will be encouraging residents to wear masks indoors as Wake County experiences a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases.

"We support businesses requiring a mask to be worn within their facility just as the Town of Fuquay-Varina has done at our facilities," officials wrote.

The town continues to encourage residents to practice the three Ws to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

3:30 p.m.

Wake County Public health officials have confirmed two additional COVID-19 outbreaks at two facilities Friday.

Raleigh's Wake Assisted Living Memory Care at 2800 Kidd Road is experiencing its second outbreak since July 2020. Meanwhile, Universal Health Care of Fuquay-Varina at 410 S. Judd Parkway is experiencing its third outbreak since July 2020.

NCDHHS defines an outbreak as two or more people --residents or employees testing positive for COVID-19.

1:40 p.m.

North Carolina providers have now administered more than 10 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, NCDHHS announced.

Vaccinations are trending upward as the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus spreads through the state, officials said.

COVID-19 vaccines are tested, safe and have been shown to be highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

Sixty-two percent of adults 18 and older in the state have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 58% of the adult population is fully vaccinated against the virus.

Last week, overall doses administered for COVID-19 vaccines were up more than 16% and first doses increased more than 30% compared to two weeks prior.

"Thank you to the many North Carolinians who are protecting themselves and their friends, family and neighbors by getting a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination," said Kody Kinsley, NCDHHS Chief Deputy Secretary for Health. "This pandemic is not over. The Delta variant is racing across the state, fueled by high rates of unvaccinated individuals. COVID-19 vaccines are our best tool to slow the spread, save lives and put this pandemic in the rearview mirror. Don't wait - vaccinate."

1:15 p.m.

Citing the increase in COVID-19 cases, Raleigh Mayor, with support of the City Council, announced the city is requiring face mask use in indoor spaces within the City limits beginning at 5 p.m. Friday. The requirement will be in place regardless of a person's vaccination status.

In addition, the City strongly encourages mask use in outdoor spaces when social distancing is not possible.

"The number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase in our community and across the state at an alarming rate," said Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin. "The idea that we can hope COVID-19 will just go away on its own is not a reality. It's time to take responsible action and today we are taking an important step to make sure the people of this community, and those who visit us, remain healthy and safe."

Mayor Baldwin also encouraged vaccinations.

"We must remain vigilant and committed to doing everything we can to keep one another safe," she said. "It's going to take all of us, working together, to reduce the spread of this highly contagious virus. But the single most important thing we can do to slow the spread of COVID is to get vaccinated. I encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible so we don't have to go back to shutdowns and stay-at-home orders."

12 p.m.

The number of new daily COVID-19 cases in North Carolina surpassed 6,000 for the second time in a week.

6,628 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Friday.

The percent of positive tests in the state is 11.6%.

2,483 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in North Carolina. That number has continued to climb since just after the July 4th holiday weekend.

There are 635 adult COVID-19 patients in ICUs across the state.

339 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted into hospitals in the last 24 hours.

13,826 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in the state since the beginning of the pandemic.

11:45 a.m.

In Mrs. Rivers' room, there will be no shortage of hand sanitizer and excitement.

"I'm excited to be back in it and I'm nesting like my kids are coming back! My kids are coming back!" Said Nicole Rivers, Gray's Creek High School teacher.

The 2021 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year, this is her 16th year of teaching. But in the midst of a pandemic, Mrs. Rivers says this year does feel different.

"At the forefront of my mind definitely is social-emotional learning-making sure I am in the headspace understanding some of these kids have not stepped foot in the classroom in a year and a half as far as school years are concerned," Mrs. Rivers said.

Cumberland County schools just voted for a universal mask mandate. All students, faculty, staff and visitors will have to wear a mask in the building.

"We understand that no one at this point really wants to wear a mask however for the greater good and to keep everyone safe, that is what we have to do at this time," said Lindsay Whitley, CCS Associate Superintendent.

Regardless, Mrs. Rivers says nothing beats having students back in her classroom.

"I'm excited that the kids can come back and I can be in this space with them. And that we are as a community facing the challenge of COVID together," she said.

Cumberland County students head back to the classroom on Aug. 23.

11 a.m.

Duke and Durham County Department of Public Health have identified two clusters of COVID-19 cases related to gatherings of two groups of students over the last week. A "cluster" is defined by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as five or more related cases that are deemed to be in close proximity of time and location, such as a residential hall or apartment complex.

The first cluster included 29 Duke medical students and the second cluster included seven members of the Duke women's field hockey team, all of whom tested positive following gatherings in various locations in Durham.

In both clusters, all the students involved were vaccinated and most have reported no symptoms. The rest have reported mild symptoms including headaches and nasal congestion.

Students who test positive for COVID-19 will have to isolate for 10 days. Contact tracers have identified others who may have had close contact with these individuals, and they will be subject to enhanced testing protocols over the next week

10:15 a.m.

Wake County leaders met virtually, along with public health experts, to discuss masking guidance in the county.

Nicole Mushonga, Assistant Physician Director and Epidemiology Program Director, told leaders that most of the counties in North Carolina (including Wake County) are experiencing high rates of spread of COVID-19, largely due to the Delta variant.

She also said that there has been a significant increase in the COVID-19 case count in the county during the first 13 days of August.

There was unanimous support on the call for an indoor mask mandate. County officials said they will be preparing a modification via an emergency declaration to require masks indoors. They are still working on developing a list of exceptions.

Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria said the mandate would probably go into effect next week.

10 a.m.

Governor Roy Cooper, NC DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen and State Health Director Dr. Betsey Tilson announced that they sent a letter to school boards that have failed to adopt the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit guidance.

"The science is clear that children learn better when they attend school in person and the science is also clear that masks reduce COVID infections so we can keep them there. The Delta variant is moving fast and I strongly urge school leaders who have made masks optional to reconsider and make them mandatory," said Governor Roy Cooper.

"In-person learning is very important for the academic and overall wellbeing of our children," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "following the recommendations in the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit, school districts can greatly lower the risk of viral spread to children and staff in the classroom this year."

The letter outlines the increasing rates of COVID-19 infection in children and higher numbers of hospitalizations for pediatric patients, as well as how overall cases have increased by more than 50 percent in the past seven days. The letter also emphasizes that vaccines remain the best weapon to fight the pandemic, but since children under 12 are ineligible they remain vulnerable. It also offers state health leaders help to local school systems and county public health officials to assist with the implementation of the toolkit health protections.

9:45 a.m.

Chatham County's COVID-19 case numbers saw a recent peak on Aug. 3, when 30 new cases were reported, a number that had not been reached since late January 2021.

In light of these numbers, the Chatham County Public Health Department continues to urge residents to get vaccinated, wear masks in indoor public places and be tested if they are exposed to the virus or begin experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.