RALEIGH, N.C. -- Here are the latest updates about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in North Carolina.
A COVID-19 cluster is forcing Helena Elementary School to transfer to virtual learning on Monday, Dec. 7 through Tuesday, Dec. 15.
The Person County School system said one staff member and four students tested positive for the virus.
Both Jordan High and Southern School of Energy and Sustainability announced that it will be canceling games for both the junior varsity and varsity volleyball teams after a positive case among the teams.
Southern School of Energy canceled there's through Monday, Dec. 14 while Jordan High School canceled games through Tuesday, Dec. 15.
North Carolina is reporting a record increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The state is reporting 6,438 new cases since Saturday. This brings the total number of cases in North Carolina to date to 394,990.
With 95 percent of hospitals reporting, the state has hit another record of COVID-19 hospitalizations with 2,191 more reported. That is up 20 from Saturday.
In total, 5,543 North Carolinians have died from the virus. That is 27 more since Saturday.
The state is reporting a 10.4% test positivity rate, which is down from Saturday's 10.7%.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, there have been 14,584,707 COVID-19 cases throughout the United States.
WATCH: Debunking COVID-19 vaccine rumors and myths
As of Saturday night, there have been more than 14.5 million COVID-19 cases within the United States, according to data from John Hopkins University. Globally, there have been nearly 66.5 million.
Eyewitness News spoke to Doctor David Weber, a Professor of Medicine and infectious disease expert at UNC School of Medicine, about the upward trend. He says, if the numbers worsen, certain figures project the nationwide number of half-million deaths by April.
"To put in perspective, you know, that Charlotte or Raleigh is just wiped off. Every single person in that whole city has passed away... it's just, it's just an enormous human toll," Weber said.
Dr. Weber says North Carolina, along with the rest of the country, will start to feel the effects of Thanksgiving gatherings and holiday travel.
"On average, people become ill after seven days, after an exposure and could be as long as 14 days," Weber said that means we'll be seeing similar trend for Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations unless people take the virus seriously.
North Carolina is reporting a record increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The state is reporting 6,018 new cases since Friday. This brings the total number of cases in North Carolina to date to 388,552.
The state has hit another record of COVID-19 hospitalizations with 2,171 more reported. That is up 14.
In total, 5,516 North Carolinians have died from the virus. That is 49 more since Friday.
The state is reporting a 10.7% test positivity rate, which is down from Friday's 11.2%.
NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen released a statement Saturday afternoon calling the increase "very worrisome."
"In less than a week, we went from exceeding 5,000 new cases reported in one day to exceeding 6,000. This is very worrisome," said Dr. Cohen. "We are seeing our highest rates of tests that come back positive despite the fact we are doing a lot of testing. This indicates we have even more viral spread across our state right now. We have record numbers of hospitalizations and people in the ICU. I am asking each North Carolinian to take personal responsibility for their actions and slowing the spread of this virus. Always wear a mask when with people you don't live with, keep your distance from other people and wash your hands often. We are looking at what further actions we can take as a state to protect North Carolinians and save lives."
Wake County is offering another free drive-thru COVID-19 testing event in Raleigh. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Raleigh Gethsemane Seventh-day Adventist Church at 2525 Sanderford Road in Raleigh will host the free testing event Saturday and Sunday. You can register here.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, there have been 14,372,568 COVID-19 cases in the United States.
The scheduled men's basketball game between NC State and UConn Saturday has been canceled after NC State learned a member of its traveling party tested positive for COVID-19.
All NC State program members provided a negative tested before travel to Connecticut. All members received a PCR test prior to the matchup against UMass Lowell on Dec. 3. NC State will update its status upon return to Raleigh.
Orange County is reporting 214 new case sin the past week, bringing the total COVID-19 cases to 4,045. There have been 62 deaths in Orange County.
Wake County Public Health has confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 at The Addison of Fuquay-Varina Assisted Living and Memory Care, located at 6516 Johnson Pond Road.
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.
Under NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen's Order No. 3, certain facilities that experience new outbreaks must fall back to previous restrictions and not allow visitors for 28 days. That includes nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult care homes, behavioral health and intellectual/developmental disability services, intermediate care facilities and psychiatric residential treatment facilities.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is launching a pilot program to deploy COVID-19 testing in K-12 public schools to quickly identify students and staff who may have the virus to help slow its spread.
Local education agencies including public school districts, charter school networks or individual charter schools currently offering any in-person instruction - either Plan A or Plan B - are eligible to apply. Selected pilot sites will receive federally funded rapid antigen tests to be used for students and staff with COVID-19 symptoms or who are close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
"Having rapid tests available in our schools in another important tool to both slow the spread of the virus and keep our children in the classroom. With increased community spread, these tests add to the other safety protocols in place at K-12 schools to protect our students, teachers and staff," NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said.
To apply for the program, local education agencies must submit a readiness checklist for each participating school to their local health department. The checklist confirms that a school can meet the program's requirements, including obtaining parental/guardian consent prior to testing, maintaining adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, having trained personnel to administer tests or partnering with a local health provider, and reporting test results to state and local public health agencies. Following review of the readiness checklists, the local health department then submits the application to NCDHHS on behalf of the local education agency.
Pilot applications are due December 8. NCDHHS will select pilot sites based on the pool of eligible applicants. NCDHHS will deliver the rapid tests to pilot sites at no cost to the sites as soon as December 14.
The pilot will use the Abbott BinaxNOW rapid antigen test card, which uses a nasal swab to detect COVID-19 and provides results in 15 minutes without laboratory processing. The swab must be performed by trained personnel.
Gov. Roy Cooper took to Twitter to urge businesses and residents to take seriously the measures in place to combat the spread of COVID-19.
The governor's tweet came as North Carolina reported another day of 5,000-plus cases.
Sampson County reports 40 new cases of COVID-19, bring the county total to 3,951 cases.
There have been 48 deaths countywide.
The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association (NCRLA) announced that is has secured a $172,115 grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA). The grant funds will be used for in-house positions at NCRLA to provide technical support, resources and assistance directly to restaurants and hotels and their employees that have been affected by COVID-19.
"We are proud to receive this funding in partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce and grateful to the many Senators and Members of Congress from the North Carolina delegation who supported our application," said Lynn Minges, president and CEO of NCRLA. "These funds are critical as we help our state's restaurants and hotels navigate the extreme challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic."
The Halifax County Health Department reports 27 new cases for a total of 2,093 positive COVID-19 cases. One additional death was reported, bringing the county's total to 37 (1.7% of cases).
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Friday again saw another record day of hospitalizations with 2,157.
The state saw more than 2,000 in one day for the first time on November 30 and the number has been increasing ever since.
56 more people were hospitalized on Friday than the day before.
Compared to one week ago, 377 more people are hospitalized.
The state's percent of positivity stands at 11.2 percent. Last week at this time it was at 8.7 percent.
5,303 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Friday. That's the second highest single-day increase so far in the pandemic. Thursday's increase was the highest ever.
57 additional deaths were reported on Friday. So far, 5,467 people have died from COVID-19 in NC.
A Tabor Correctional Institution offender with pre-existing medical conditions, who tested positive for COVID-19, has died at a hospital.
"His death is saddening. We are working hard to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in our prisons," said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons. "The health and safety of the staff and the offender population is our top priority."
The offender was COVID tested while in the prison and hospitalized on November 19. His COVID-positive test result was received the next day. His condition worsened, and he died Thursday.
The offender was in his early 70s and had underlying health conditions.
FRIDAY MORNING STORYLINES
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants to see people wear buttons or stickers to show they've gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC is planning to distribute vaccination buttons and stickers to healthcare providers as part of a toolkit to promote awareness for COVID-19 vaccinations. A CDC representative told ABC News about the plans.
Earlier this week, we learned the Department of Defense has plans to send out COVID-19 vaccine cards to everyone getting the vaccine. On Thursday, President-elect Joe Biden said he'll ask Americans to wear a face-covering for 100 days for one of his first acts as president in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. Biden also said he asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to stay on in his administration as a "chief medical advisor."
Youngsville and Franklin County officials are having an emergency meeting Friday in light of the controversy surrounding this weekend's proposed Christmas parade. As of Thursday, the parade was still set to be held, according to Youngsville Mayor Fonzie Flowers.
Wake County Public School System will be serving meal bundles this winter break to help families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bundles are available at no cost for children 18 and under. Families must pre-order the meals by today's deadline.
The bundles include eight breakfasts and eight lunches per child. For more information on how to register, go here.
The Moore County Health Department has been notified of confirmed positive COVID-19 test results for 48 residents and 10 staff members of The Greens at Pinehurst (205 Rattlesnake Trail, Pinehurst). In long-term care or congregate living settings, a COVID-19 outbreak is defined as two or more laboratory-confirmed cases.
Moore County has also scheduled a drive-thru COVID-19 testing event for December 10 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at San Juan Diego Mission, at 6963 Hwy 705 in Robbins.
Gov. Roy Cooper tweeted: "Today's COVID-19 metrics. This virus doesn't care that we're tired of it and it will keep spreading rapidly unless we all work to stop it. We have strong orders in place to slow the spread. People and businesses must follow them if we want to be successful."
Lee County Government Health Department said it had 66 new cases of COVID-19 since Monday for a total of 2570 cases.
The Health Department also reported that 2,353 people have recovered.
The Health Department will hold community testing events at 106 Hillcrest Drive every Tuesday through December 15 from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. by appointment only. To make an appointment, please call (984) 368-2112 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Dr. Mandy Cohen gave an update on the COVID-19 vaccination distribution plans during a news conference on Thursday.
During the briefing, she expressed concern over the record-setting COVID-19 metrics in the state.
"Today, we hit another devastating milestone, going well beyond 5000 new cases reported in just 24 hours," she said. "This number is alarming."
She encouraged North Carolinians to take "personal responsibility" and stay away from family and friends.
WATCH HER OPENING STATEMENTS:
While she said she understood that many people want to gather indoors with family and friends at this time of year, she begged for all to wear a mask and stay distant from people outside their immediate household.
"Limit your social actions as much as possible," Cohen said.
Cohen also explained how several pharmaceutical countries have gotten to the point where they are ready to distribute safe and effective vaccines.
"Corners were not cut," Cohen said. "The vaccines were built upon years of work in developing vaccines for similar viruses."
She also stressed that there is no COVID-19 virus in the vaccine itself, but that the vaccine imitates the COVID-19 infection.
When the first 85,000 doses of Pfizer's vaccine are sent to North Carolina--which could be as early as December 15--Cohen said health care workers that care for or clean areas occupied by COVID-19 patients will be the first to get the shot. However, because Pfizer ships the vaccines in packages of nearly 1,000, not every hospital in North Carolina will get vaccines. Instead, larger hospitals that serve higher populations will be prioritized.
However, Cohen said they expect a larger shipment in the second week, especially if Moderna's vaccine is authorized for emergency use. Those will also go to health care workers, as well as staff and residents in long-term care settings.
North Carolinians with two or more chronic conditions that put them at high risk for severe disease from COVID-19 will be in the next round of vaccinations, particularly those who live or work in congregate settings. Cohen said health officials hope to begin vaccinating this group by early 2021.
"Having a safe vaccine within weeks is an extraordinary scientific achievement, but it's not a quick fix," Cohen said. "It will take several months to have enough supplies that anyone can readily get a vaccine."
The Halifax County Health Department reports 2,066 total positive COVID 19 cases and one additional death
In all, the county 41 new positive COVID 19 cases since Wednesday. There have been 37 deaths countywide -- 1.79% of cases.
The Sampson County Health Department said it has 118 new active positive cases since Tuesday and one additional death from COVID-19.
In all, 48 people have died countywide. Sampson County has had 3,911 cases.
There will be no more changes to the high school sports schedule in North Carolina.
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association Board of Directors decided to continue with the 2020-2021 modified athletic calendar. Basketball tryouts and practices, slated to begin Monday, will go on as planned. A recent executive order will require athletes to wear masks.
Basketball games can begin January 4.
The football season has moved to the spring, beginning in February. The state playoffs start Friday, April 16. There will only be four state champions crowned and teams will only be allowed to play a maximum of 10 games.
A new high of 5,637 COVID-19 cases was included in the state's daily COVID-19 update, a significant increase from Wednesday's 4,199 positive tests.
The daily percent positive test rate was 10.1%, down a little from Wednesday's 11.4%, which was possibly the highest rate the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has logged.
2,101 people are currently hospitalized in North Carolina from COVID-19. That's an increase of 62 from Wednesday's report.
Forty-four COVID-19 related deaths were reported on Thursday, a sharp decrease from the 82 deaths that were reported on Wednesday. The state has conducted 5.4 million tests.
Complete data can be found on the NCDHHS' COVID-19 dashboard.
Secretary of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen will give a briefing and take questions from the media on Thursday at 2 p.m.
Her press briefing will likely come after the state releases new COVID-19 metrics.
For the last several days the metrics have been trending in the wrong direction, setting new records for hospitalizations and deaths.
All those increases have come before the expected uptick health officials predict will happen because of Thanksgiving gatherings.
In the face of warnings from health experts, Youngsville plans to have its annual Christmas parade in person.
According to our newsgathering partners at the News & Observer, the town will have a 1-mile long parade with as many as 300 spectators along the route.
Town commissioners said they will have COVID-19 precautions in place but chose to go against warnings from state and local health officials because of the "overwhelming support" from the community.
THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES
The U.S. Department of Defense has released a preview of COVID-19 vaccination kits and what they look like. One key element - vaccine recipients will get a vaccination record card to show others they're received a vaccine and when the next dose is due.
The card will be small enough to fit in a wallet. It shows that you have had at least one dose of the shot; it also can serve as a reminder for when your second dose needs to be received.
Each vaccine will be reported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthcare workers are expected to be among the first to receive the vaccine--possibly sometime in December.
"Everyone will be issued a written card that they can put in their wallet that will tell them what they had and when their next dose is due," Immunization Action Coalition associate director Dr. Kelly Moore said. "Let's do the simple, easy thing first. Everyone's going to get that."
Gov. Roy Cooper will tour a Morrisville facility playing a key role in fighting COVID-19 on Thursday. Gilero designs medical devices such as face shields and Gov. Cooper reached out to the company in March, asking for help in the state's response to the virus.
A drive-thru testing event in Raleigh will happen on Saturday and Sunday at Gethsemane Seventh-Day Adventist Church on Sanderford Road. The testing lasts from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can register here.
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association will meet on Thursday with basketball season scheduled to start next week. Recently, the NCHSAA made the choice to require all athletes to wear masks at indoor and outdoor events. Right now, only some sports are being allowed to play.
The State Board of Education will meet today to discuss the handling of COVID-19 along with several representatives from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.