Here are the latest updates about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in North Carolina.
Gov. Roy Cooper said during a news conference on Wednesday that financial support is making a difference in getting more people vaccinated in North Carolina.
Right now, almost 80% of people 65 and older have been vaccinated.
NCDHHS previously launched pilot programs in four counties offering $25 cash cards for anyone who gets vaccinated or drives someone to get their shot.
"We're glad to see private businesses, schools and community groups sponsoring vaccine events on-site. We continue to explore other creative ways to bring people in," Cooper said.
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He acknowledged that he's seen some of the vaccine lotteries and other incentives in other states and is exploring those possibilities here.
Cooper also gave an update on the HOPE Program, which has provided rental and utility assistance to those in need during the pandemic.
The first round of the program awarded more than $133 million in assistance to help more than 36,000 families statewide, he said.
Two weeks ago, North Carolina opened a second application period for the program using funding from the American Rescue Plan.
Cooper said checks are now in the mail for people who applied.
As of Wednesday, 924 checks for a total of $1.1 million have already been mailed to help North Carolinians in need, he said.
Those who need help can call 888-9ASK-HOPE or visit hope.nc.gov to apply.
North Carolina is reporting 265 new COVID-19 cases and a 3.5% positive rate.
Throughout the state, eight more people are being hospitalized for COVID-19 and nine more have died from the virus.
In North Carolina, 53.4% of adults have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 49.2% are fully vaccinated.
Giving bonuses to North Carolina's unemployment benefit recipients who get a job soon would help both business struggling to fill vacancies and residents who need a nudge to return to work, Republican lawmakers said Tuesday.
The state Senate voted 35-10 for legislation that would provide $1,500 to people who accept reemployment within 30 days of the bonus program starting. The bonus would drop to $800 if they begin employment on or after 30 days but before 60 days.
Brewing company Anheuser-Busch announced Wednesday that it's partnering with the White House to give one free beer to Americans 21+ once 70% of U.S. adults are partially vaccinated.
To date, 62.8% of the adult U.S. population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 133.6 million are fully vaccinated.
WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Gov. Roy Cooper and the state's Coronavirus Task Force will speak today at 3 p.m.
ABC11 will stream the full press conference live in the above video player and in our app available on your other streaming devices.
Cooper and the team are expected to give the latest updates on how the state is doing in the fight against COVID-19. In addition, they will also make an announcement about rent and utility assistance for people still struggling in this challenging times.
This announcement comes ahead of a new Executive Order taking effect Sunday which requires anyone asking for unemployment benefits to prove they're looking for work.
Meanwhile, Moderna and Pfizer announced their COVID-19 vaccines appear to be safe and effective to use on pregnant women.
The director of the National institutes of Health said a pair of studies show the vaccines protect the women and even appear to provide some level of protection for their babies.
The US just recorded a seven-day average of fewer than 20,000 new daily COVID-19 cases for the first time since March 2020.
The daily average of new cases dropped to about 17,248 as of Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. However, that number might be lower than reality, as some cases from the weekend and the Memorial Day holiday might not have been reported yet.
WATCH: Should people who had COVID-19 still get vaccinated?
268 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the state on Tuesday. That's the lowest number of new cases since May 4, 2020 when there were 184 but the holiday weekend could delay some data.
The percent of positive tests is at 3.7%.
602 people are hospitalized in North Carolina with COVID-19. That's the lowest number in more than a year. The last time hospitalizations were that low was May 19, 2020.
23 more COVID-19 deaths have been reported in the state since Friday.
49.1% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.
Wake County Public Health is moving vaccinations and testing under the same roof at four locations.
The Southern Regional Center in Fuquay Varina and the Eastern Regional Center in Zebulon will offer testing and vaccination on the same schedule:
Sundays & Mondays: CLOSED
Tuesdays & Thursdays: 12:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Wednesdays & Fridays: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Saturdays: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Northern Regional Center in Wake Forest will offer free testing and vaccination on this schedule:
Sundays & Wednesdays: CLOSED
Mondays & Fridays: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Tuesdays & Thursdays: 12:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
And the Wake County Human Services Center on Departure Drive in northeast Raleigh will offer free vaccination Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and free drive-thru testing Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Vision Church.
Those who received their vaccine from Kroger Health now have a shot of taking home a million dollar cash prize. Kroger, parent company of Harris Teeter, is giving out $1 million to 5 lucky winners who have received their vaccine from any of the company's pharmacies.
The company will also give away free groceries for a year to 50 winners over the course of five weeks. Registration for the chance to win in the #CommunityImmunity sweepstakes begin June 3.
The giveaways are part of Kroger's latest effort to incentivize more across the country to receive their COVID-19 vaccine. The company is working in conjunction with the Biden Administration to meet the White House's goal of getting 70% of U.S. adults, with at least their first dose of the vaccine, by July 4.
Kroger Health has distributed over 4.6 million doses of the vaccine so far, from their pharmacies and clinics across 35 states, including North Carolina.
The World Health Organization is announcing a new nomenclature for the COVID-19 variants that were previously - and somewhat uncomfortably - known either by their technical letter-number codes or by the countries in which they first appeared.
Hoping to strike a fair and more comprehensible balance, WHO said it will now refer to the most worrisome variants - known as "variants of concern" - by letters in the Greek alphabet.
So the first such variant of concern, which first appeared in Britain and can be also known as B.1.1.7, will be known as the "alpha" variant. The second, which turned up in South Africa and has been referred to as B.1.351, will be known as the "beta" variant.
A third that first appeared in Brazil will be called the "gamma" variant and a fourth that first turned up in India the "delta" variant. Future variants that rise to "of concern" status will be labeled with subsequent letters in the Greek alphabet.
WHO said a group of experts came up with the new system, which will not replace scientific naming systems but will offer "simple, easy to say and remember labels" for variants.
TUESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Wake County Public School System employees working at Central Services do not have to wear face coverings anymore.
These employees are extremely unlikely to come in contact with students. Anyone five and older still must wear a face covering when indoors at school buildings where students are located.
In the race to vaccinate, the rate of shots in North Carolina lag behind the national average.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said nearly 63 percent of adults across the country are at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, but in North Carolina that number sits at 53 percent.
Dr. Michael Zappa, the Chief of Emergency Services for Cape Fear Valley Health, said the COVID-19 patients needing treatment at his hospital have been trending younger.
State metrics show that 18-24 year old's make up 9.4% of the population, but just 6.5% of vaccinations. Zappa and other health officials said targeting younger people will be the key to meeting the goal of having 70 percent of eligible Americans vaccinated by July 4.
Meanwhile, Duke Gardens is reopening to the public at limited capacity Tuesday.
The area will open from 8 a.m. until dusk seven days a week.
Masks are not required, unless you wind up in a crowded area where social distancing is not possible.
"We are excited to be able to welcome visitors to spend time in the beauty and serenity of Duke Gardens once again," executive director Bill LeFevre said.
Children at summer camps can skip wearing masks outdoors, with some exceptions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted the guidance Friday. Children who aren't fully vaccinated should still wear masks outside when they're in crowds or in sustained close contact with others - and when they are inside.
But fully vaccinated kids need not wear masks, indoors or outside. It's the first in a wave of guidance updates that seek to incorporate recent CDC decisions to tell Americans they don't have to be as cautious about using masks and physical distancing outdoors.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared Friday that public schools no longer have his permission to require masks for coronavirus protection, though his executive order fell short of banning such mandates outright.
The Republican governor's written order came two days after Kemp gave a preview in a Fox News Channel interview Wednesday, declaring: "The time for mandates is over."
"We're not going to have a mask mandate for our kids," Kemp said. "Our teachers have had the ability to get vaccinated. It certainly doesn't keep anyone from wearing a mask."
The actual order adjusting Georgia's few remaining coronavirus restrictions isn't so strongly worded.
Instead, Kemp's order says Georgia school districts can no longer claim their authority to require masks comes from the governor.
It's unclear how many Georgia districts ever required employees and students to wear masks. While a number of metro Atlanta school districts enforced the requirement, many districts in outer suburbs and rural areas only strongly recommended masks.
Anthony Michael Kreis, a constitutional law professor at Georgia State University, said school boards can likely require teachers and staff to wear masks without the governor's permission, much like they impose dress codes.
Kreis said Kemp's order "punted this as a political issue back to the local school boards and said, I don't want you to do this and you can't use me as your justification.'"
Kemp is running for reelection in 2022 and has been taking steps to shore up support among Republican voters still restive over claims that Kemp didn't do enough to overturn President Joe Biden's election victory in Georgia.
In Colorado, two sheriff's deputies who contracted COVID-19 have died in less than two weeks.
The Denver Sheriff's Department announced the death of Deputy Daniel "Duke" Trujillo on Thursday. The former Marine was a seven-year department veteran who worked for the city's downtown jail. His death followed the death of Deputy James Herrera. Herrera worked for the department for 25 years and was also assigned to the downtown jail.
After Trujillo's death was announced, criticism of some of his social media posts that seemed to express skepticism about coronavirus vaccinations surfaced. Like other workplaces, the department says employees aren't required to be vaccinated.
The Chatham County Public Health Department announced that COVID-19 vaccination clinics that occurred regularly through May in Pittsboro, Siler City and Goldston would continue throughout the month of June.
As of Friday, 36,208 Chatham County residents had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, marking 48.6% of the county's population; 32,339 are fully vaccinated, making up 43.4% of the county's population.
Even more Chatham residents have the opportunity to receive their vaccine at these locations:
- The Chatham County Public Health Department is offering first- and second-dose Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations at its Siler City clinic (1000 S. 10th Ave.) on Fridays. To make an appointment, call (919) 742-5641. Walk-ins will also be welcome.
- StarMed Healthcare is continuing to operate Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination clinics at the Chatham County Agriculture and Conference Center in Pittsboro on Fridays and Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. To register, visit starmed.care or call (980) 445-9818. Walk-ins are also accepted.
- StarMed Healthcare is providing Pfizer vaccinations at the Goldston Town Hall (40 Coral Ave. A) from 2 p.m.to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. Second-dose appointments will follow three weeks later. To register, visit starmed.care or call (980) 445-9818. Walk-ins are also accepted.
"We are thankful to all of the COVID-19 vaccine providers in Chatham County, who have been instrumental in our efforts to beat the pandemic," said Chatham County Public Health Director Mike Zelek. "We remain grateful to them for their ongoing commitment to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines across the county."
The Halifax County Health Department reports four new cases for a total of 5,643 positive COVID-19 cases. No new deaths were reported. The death toll remains at 112.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 738 new cases, down more than 100 cases from the previous day (849).
The positivity rate remained low, at 3.1%, just a tad higher than the previous day's 2.8%, which was the lowest percent positivity rate since the state started tracking it.
A total of 694 people are hospitalized and 13,078 deaths have been recorded, including 23 newly reported ones.
In all, 53.1% of adults have received at least a partial vaccination and 48.8% of the state's adults are fully vaccinated.