Gov. Roy Cooper encourages law enforcement to enforce COVID-19 safety protocols

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

3 p.m.
Fort Bragg received its first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at 10:30 a.m. and administered the first shot at 1 p.m.

Roni Paul, an emergency room nurse at Womack Army Medical Center, was the first person at the base to receive the vaccine.

Paul is a former Army medic who has worked on Fort Bragg since 1994.

"This is a milestone moment for us here on Fort Bragg," said Lt. Gen. Michael "Erik" Kurilla, commander of XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg. "We would not have arrived at this moment without our first responders, medics, health care workers, and the incredible staff of the Womack Army Medical Center."

2:15 p.m.
Governor Roy Cooper and Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen on Tuesday praised the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination plan but warned North Carolinians that there will still be quite a bit of time before the vaccine has an impact on COVID-19 metrics in the state.

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Governor Roy Cooper praised the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination plan but warned that there will still be quite a bit of time before the vaccine has an impact on COVID-19 metrics in the state.



"We are experiencing a staggering increase in our pandemic trends, and I am particularly worried about our hospital capacity," Dr. Cohen said.

"Our numbers are still too high, and the vaccine can't yet have a significant effect," Cooper said. "We must get these trends turned around. Seeing vaccinations underway gives us hope at the end of a hard year. But this virus continues to be extremely contagious and deadly."

Cooper said he, along with NCDPS Secretary Erik Hooks and Dr. Cohen, sent a letter to local government officials last week encouraging enforcement of COVID-19 safety protocols.

He said governments can enforce safety protocols with civil penalties for violations instead of criminal charges "which we believe can be more effective."

"Our aim is not to get people in trouble," Cooper said. "It is to get people to do the right things to slow the spread of this virus and keep it from overwhelming our hospital systems. I'm grateful to the many local governments already taking action to keep their communities safe."

Late last week, North Carolina started to see the impacts of Thanksgiving gatherings on COVID-19 metrics, with case counts surging over 7,500.

Cooper said Tuesday that he expects the Christmas holiday to be worse.

He encouraged people to have virtual or outdoor gatherings.

"And remember, a negative test doesn't give you a free pass, it just makes it safer," he said. "You still need to wear a mask, stay outdoors and practice social distancing in case you contracted the virus after you got tested."

2 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced that it will offer more than 300 no-cost, walk-up or drive through COVID-19 testing events over the next two weeks ahead of and during the holidays. This includes testing in partnership with new retailers in seven counties across the state.

In addition to existing testing events throughout North Carolina, retailers in Buncombe, Durham, Harnett, Iredell, Lee, Mecklenburg and Wake counties are offering testing Dec. 18-20 and Dec. 26-27 in the parking lots of select Agri Supply, Carlie C's IGA, Home Depot, Piggly Wiggly and Wegman's stores.

Find all testing events throughout the state here.

12 p.m.
Another 182 people are in the hospital with COVID-19 in North Carolina. That brings the state to a record high of 2,735 with 96% of the state's hospitals reporting.

There were 5,236 newly-reported positive COVID-19 cases, which is in line with the number of new cases reported every day over the last week.

The daily percent positive rate dipped to 10.9%, a decrease from Monday's 11.6% but still above the state's goal of 5%. There have now been 446,601 total cases in the state since March.

Another 26 people have died from COVID-19, bringing the total to 5,881 in North Carolina.

For complete coronavirus-related data, check out the state's COVID-19 dashboard.

11:24 a.m.
UNC Medical Center received its first vaccines this morning; 2,925 doses. They plan to begin vaccinating some employees at UNC Medical Center and its Hillsborough hospital Tuesday afternoon.

10:45 a.m.
UNC Medical Center expects to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine today and begin administering it to front line workers.

UNC's main hospital is ready to receive just under 3,000 doses Tuesday.

Employees who care for COVID-19 patients will be the first ones to receive the vaccine.

TUESDAY MORNING STORYLINES



More local hospitals expect to receive their COVID-19 vaccine shipments Tuesday. Hospitals in the Triangle will get more than 85,000 doses this week. WakeMed is expected to get its first shipment in the coming days. Cape Fear Valley Medical Center could receive its first round of vaccinations on Tuesday.

"We need a critical mass of people to be immune to this virus for this to really change," said Dr. David Wohl with UNC Health. "Hopefully, this vaccine will do that." Wohl will be one of the first to have access to the vaccine.

Gov. Roy Cooper will give an update at 2 p.m. on the state's response to COVID-19. The briefing will be carried live on ABC11 and abc11.com. This will be Cooper's first remarks since the vaccine was shipped. Cooper called Monday's arrival of the vaccine "a remarkable achievement for science and health."

Meanwhile, Wake County Public School System is expected to vote Tuesday on pausing in-person classes. The school board met Monday to talk about increased cases among students and staff members.

The proposed plan would move students back to remote learning from Jan. 4 to Jan. 15.

MONDAY


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."

MONDAY MORNING STORYLINES



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.

SUNDAY


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

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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.

Copyright © 2021 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.