North Carolina A&T and UNC Pembroke among UNC System COVID-19 vaccine clinics launching across state this week

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Here are the latest updates about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in North Carolina.

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5:35 p.m.
The Wake County Health Department announced Wednesday that it will cancel its large-scale COVID-19 vaccine event at the PNC Arena set for Thursday, Feb. 18 due to the threat of winter weather.

"Based on the current forecast, Wake County could see ice accumulating on the roads until mid-day tomorrow," said Ellis. "The safety of our residents and employees is our top priority, so I've made the decision to delay opening, as well as adjust our COVID-19 testing and vaccination operations."

The county will move Thursday's appointments to Monday, Feb. 22. Anyone with conflict of timing can contact the COVID-19 call center at (919) 250-1515.

3:20 p.m.
The North Carolina House passed Senate Bill 37 Wednesday. The bill called In-Person Learning Choice for Families requires state schools to offer some sort of in-person learning option amid the ongoing pandemic.

The bill is now headed to Gov. Cooper. Cooper has supported the return of students to classrooms but says the bill is flawed.

"Children should be back in the classroom safely and I can sign this legislation if it adheres to DHHS health safety guidance for schools and protects the ability of state and local leaders to respond to emergencies," Cooper said. "This bill currently falls short on both of these fronts."

1 p.m.
The University of North Carolina System announced campuses will soon operate COVID-19 vaccine clinics with an emphasis on reaching underserved and rural populations.

University of North Carolina Asheville, University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Western Carolina University will open their community clinics this week. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University launched its vaccine operation on Feb. 11 and will administer up to 700 doses each week in conjunction with Cone Health.

"The faster we can distribute these vaccines, the faster we can get North Carolinians back to work, back to family gatherings, back to normal life," said UNC System President Peter Hans. "Our public universities will do everything in their power to bring that day closer."

UNC Asheville's clinic could offer up to 1,950 shots per week, depending on staffing and vaccine supply.

"As a key community partner in Western North Carolina, UNC Asheville is honored to collaborate with MAHEC to provide lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines to our community," said UNCA Chancellor Nancy J. Cable.

Working with the Robeson County Health Department, UNC Pembroke will administer 500 shots in its first allotment, starting Friday.

"Barriers to access exist in our communities and the goal with our mobile clinics is to remove obstacles and making sure the vaccine is available to everyone," said UNCP Chancellor Robin Cummings.

NC A&T will offer clinics with Cone Health, with first shot clinics on Thursdays and, beginning in March, second shot clinics on Tuesdays. Due to impending icy conditions, the Thursday clinic this week will be postponed until Monday, Feb. 22.

12:55 p.m.
NCDHHS announced Wednesday it will be issuing additional benefits of Feb. 19 through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Program.

The benefits will be received over several days for those who already have an EBT card for Food and Nutrition Services or P-EBT benefits.

The program helps families purchase food for children whose access to free or reduced-price meals has been impacted by the pandemic.

"Having enough healthy food every day is an essential part of children's health and well-being," said NCDHHS Deputy Secretary for Human Services Tara Myers. "The P-EBT program provides families essential help buying groceries for children who would normally have access to free and reduced lunch at school."

Families do not need to apply for P-EBT. Eligibility criteria are based on requirements from theU.S. Department of Agriculture. A school-aged child is eligible if their school participates in the National School Lunch Program and the student is eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals during the 2020-21 school year.

12:25 p.m.
North Carolina is reporting 3,167 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 829,507.

Throughout the state, 108 more people have died from the virus.

According to 96 percent of North Carolina hospitals, 1,954 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. That is four less than Tuesday.

The state's daily percent positive test rate is currently 7.7%, which is up slightly from Tuesday's 7.4%.

12:09 p.m.
Due to inclement weather, the Wake County COVID-19 vaccine clinic scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 18, at WakeMed Raleigh Campus (Andrews Center) will open at 11 a.m. The event is by appointment only.

Anyone with appointments scheduled between 6:30 and 10:50 a.m. will receive a call to reschedule.

11:43 a.m.
The Cumberland County Department of Public Health is pausing accepting first dose COVID-19 vaccination appointment requests until Feb. 22 while it prepares for Group 3 vaccinations. This pause will allow vaccination clinics to administer time-sensitive second dose vaccinations to those in the most vulnerable Groups 1 and 2. Cumberland County has around 2,700 individuals in Groups 1 and 2 who are waiting for their second dose.

The Health Department will reopen the appointment request form for first doses on Monday, Feb. 22, for Groups 1 and 2 and K-12 teachers and daycare who are in-person or anticipate an imminent return to an in-person work setting. Appointment requests will be prioritized for second dose appointments and those already in Groups 1 and 2 on the waitlist for dose one. Eligible individuals who are unable to get an appointment should consider using the stand-by lane on Fridays.

Some Wake County students on the traditional calendar return to the classroom today.

This will be the first time many of the students are in a physical classroom in over a year.

All students in kindergarten through 3rd grade can return to class, while students in 4th-12th grades return in hybrid learning rotations to allow for more social distancing.

Meanwhile, the race to vaccinate continues outside PNC Arena in Raleigh.

Wake County Health Department is on track to give more than 1,400 shots today in the parking lot of the entertainment venue.

The severe weather across the country is throwing another wrench into the vaccine efforts. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention alerted North Carolina health officials to tell them there would be some disruptions to vaccine deliveries this week.

That is because of the winter weather stretching across the country.

The state is working to minimize the potential shipment delays.

11 p.m.
Despite the threat of delayed shipments of Pfizer across the state, Wake County health officials say they are set to administer more than 1,400 shots at PNC Arena on Wednesday.

10 p.m.
Some Wake County high school students are returning to the classroom for the first time in nearly a year. ABC11's Josh Chapin spoke to one family who's ecstatic as Wednesday morning approaches. The Wake County school board acknowledges that there will be hiccups but with more students back inside the classroom, they will be able to be able to assess the environment.

3:45 p.m.
Due to severe weather, the CDC has notified NCDHHS that there may be delays in some shipments and deliveries of COVID-19 vaccine this week, according to a statement from an NCDHHS spokesperson. NCDHHS said it will continue working with the CDC and vaccine providers to help minimize the potential effects of these delays.

2:30 p.m.
Tuesday's report from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services included 1,988 newly-reported COVID-19 cases. It's the first time we fell below 2,000 since mid-November.

There were a total of 1,958 hospitalizations on Monday.

The daily percent positive rate was 7.4%, a slight decrease from yesterday's 7.7%.

There were 61 deaths added, bringing the state total to 10,562 since the start of the pandemic.

12:05 p.m.
A Nash Correctional Institution offender with existing medical conditions who tested positive for COVID-19 has died at a hospital.

The offender tested positive for COVID-19 on Feb. 8 and was hospitalized the next day. His condition worsened, and he died Feb. 15.

The offender was in his early 70s and had underlying health conditions.

"We continue to work hard to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in our prisons. The health and safety of the staff and the offender population is our top priority," said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons.

12:04 p.m.
Sampson County reports 30 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 6,604 since the start of the pandemic.

The death toll remains at 86.

12 p.m.
According to the latest report from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, cases, COVID-19 hospital admissions, and test positivity continue to decline nationally.

The U.S. continues to see a five-week, downward trend in new cases resulting in a 64% decline in the 7-day average since the peak on January 11, 2021 (from 249,048 to 89,747).

The number of confirmed new COVID-19 patient admissions has decreased 22% since the previous week (7-day daily average from 9,900 to 7,740).

The number of deaths is up slightly (+0.3%), in part due to Ohio in recent days reporting 4,275 previously unreported deaths dating back to Oct 2020.

Overall, 54,260,570 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the United States.

In total, 12% of the population (39.1 million people) has received 1 or more doses and 4% of the population (14.6 million people) has received 2 doses.

11:20 a.m.
The WCPSS Board of Education is meeting today to discuss updates on the current and future work to support students who are not attending regularly, and for students who are experiencing academic difficulties as the district prepares for a return to in-person instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

9:26 a.m.
The city of Rocky Mount's Tar River Transit service is offering free rides to those with scheduled appointments to "drive-up" vaccination sites.

Transportation is available from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday to vaccination sites in Nash and Edgecombe counties. Residents who are interested in transportation to and from vaccination sites may call Tar River Transit at (252) 972-1174, (252) 972-1514, (252) 972-1515, (252) 972-1516 or (252) 972-1517.

All appointments may be scheduled the day before the trip. Healthcare facilities may also call and schedule transportation on behalf of their patients. Free rides will be available until at least June 30.

There is a push to ramp up vaccinations in the Latinx community. Latinos have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 but account for about 2% of those getting vaccinated in North Carolina. The Wake County Health Department is partnering with El Centro Hispano to turn that around by holding clinics focusing on the Latinx community.

Today, state house leaders are scheduled to present a plan to provide weeks of additional in-classroom learning recovery for North Carolina students who may have fallen behind during virtual learning. This would take place over the summer.

5 p.m.
The makers of COVID-19 vaccines are figuring out how to tweak their recipes against worrisome virus mutations - and regulators are looking to flu as a blueprint if and when the shots need an update.

"It's not really something you can sort of flip a switch, do overnight," cautioned Richard Webby, who directs a World Health Organization flu center from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Viruses mutate constantly and it takes just the right combination of particular mutations to escape vaccination. But studies are raising concern that first-generation COVID-19 vaccines don't work as well against a mutant that first emerged in South Africa as they do against other versions circulating around the world.

The good news: Many of the new COVID-19 vaccines are made with new, flexible technology that's easy to upgrade. What's harder: Deciding if the virus has mutated enough that it's time to modify vaccines - and what changes to make.

3:40 p.m.
The Lee County Government Health Department confirmed a total of 5,212 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, an increase of 162 cases since the department's last report on Feb.8.

The county reports 66 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

The Health Department continues to register people for the COVID-19 vaccine eligible under Groups 1 and 2 of the NCDHHS vaccine rollout plan. This includes healthcare workers that have direct contact with patients, staff and residents of long-term care facilities, and adults aged 65 and older. The department is also registering K-12 educators and childcare workers who are eligible to receive the vaccine beginning February 24th. All others in Group 3 (frontline essential workers) must wait until March 10 to register.

The Health Department has opened a temporary call center for vaccine registrations in Lee County. Individuals currently eligible to register may call (919) 352-3360 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. To register and speak with a staff member in Spanish, please call (919) 718-4640 and select option 8. Eligible individuals may also choose to complete a registration form online. Health Department staff will contact those who register within five to seven business days to complete registration and provide information for the next available vaccine clinic.

The county will hold a second dose COVID-19 drive-thru vaccination clinic at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center in Sanford on Tuesday.

12 p.m.
Monday's report from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services included 2,458 newly-reported COVID-19 cases; a 20% decrease from last week.

There were a total of 1,941 hospitalizations. That's 48 less than Sunday.

The daily percent positive rate was 7.7% and 10 more deaths were reported, totaling 10,501 since the start of the pandemic.

11:35 a.m.
Wake County Public Health is set to receive 7,825 doses from the state for the week of Feb. 15. These are all 1st doses.

Appointments will be offered at the following locations:
3,500 to Wake County Public Health Center & Wake County Commons Building (our two indoor locations)
1,000 to Strike Teams
Group 1: 200 to Long Term Care
Group 2: 1,000 to Equity Community Outreach (historically-marginalized focused events in partnerships with black, Hispanic, church, and other organizations)
3,325 to PNC Arena community partner outdoor drive-thru

In addition, WakeMed is going to partner and bring another 975 of its doses to give out at PNC. Total appointments at PNC for Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday of this week will be 4,300.

9:40 a.m.
Cumberland County announced a first dose COVID-19 vaccine clinic for today.

The clinic is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Crown Complex.

It is a drive-thru clinic and no appointments are needed.

Vaccines will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis for those who meet eligibility requirements.

Some Wake County students are returning to class for in-person learning today.

Year-round students will go back to the classroom Monday, while other students will have to wait until Wednesday.

Classroom layouts will look much different than before the COVID-19 pandemic. They will be spaced out and socially distant, while hallways will have arrows telling students which way they should be walking.

Signage is also up throughout the schools reminding students to keep their masks on at all times. Masks can only be removed during designated breaks and during lunch.

All students will also be required to go through a health screening when they arrive at the school.

Elsewhere in the United States, researchers have identified a batch of new COVID-19 mutations. Up to this point, researchers have been studying variants of the virus first identified in other countries--such as South Africa and the United Kingdom.

But now, they say there is a US mutation that affects the protein that helps the virus attach to cells.

It's unclear yet if this mutation changes how contagious or how dangerous the virus is.

Meanwhile, North Carolina continues its push to make COVID-19 testing available to those who need it.

Four new locations are opening this week in Wake County: Anderson Point Park, Halifax Community Park, and South Park (Fuquay-Varina). There will also be a testing site at Aversboro Baptist Church in Garner from Thursday through Saturday. More on COVID-19 testing here.
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