North Carolina COVID-19 hospitalizations decline but ventilator use still at an all-time high

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

2 p.m.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy expressed confidence that the levers the federal government pulled to vaccinate millions of Americans will be in place to distribute booster shots to Americans who need it.

"The infrastructure that helped deliver more than 200 million first shots will be ready to go to deliver booster shots as well," he said.

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients also emphasized that when the boosters start rolling out that there wouldn't be a supply problem, as there was earlier this year when the vaccine administration began.

"We have plenty of supply of all three vaccines for boosters obviously pending the FDA and the CDC recommendations, we have supply in inventory and we also have supply on order," he said. "So supply is in good shape for all Americans to get boosters as recommended by the agencies."

1 p.m.
7,905 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Friday.

The daily percent of positive tests is at 9.7%.

3,573 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

There are currently 927 adult ICU COVID-19 patients in the state.

353 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted to hospitals in the last 24 hours.

North Carolina saw a record high number of people on ventilators again on Friday with 697.

8 a.m.
With the potential approval for booster doses on the horizon, Wake County Public Health is making changes.

Starting Monday, Sept. 20, all five permanent vaccine locations in the county are adding staff, expanding hours and offering both Pfizer and Moderna.

All vaccinations will require appointments beginning Monday.

County officials say temporarily ending walk-ins and moving to only appointments will allow slots to be reserved for those seeking first and second doses, those with weakened immune systems needing additional doses, and those seeking booster doses.

FRIDAY MORNING HEADLINES


Influential government advisers will debate today if there's enough proof that a booster dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective - the first step toward deciding which Americans need one and when.

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday posted much of the evidence its advisory panel will consider. The agency struck a decidedly neutral tone on the rationale for boosters - an unusual and careful approach that's all the more striking after President Joe Biden and his top health advisers trumpeted a booster campaign they hoped to begin next week.

Starting today, all Raleigh city workers are required to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Sept. 17 was the deadline that was set when the mandate went into effect. Those not vaccinated must undergo weekly testing. The requirement will remain in effect until Wake County's positivity rate is under five percent and there is no significant community transmission.

U.S. health officials have authorized Eli Lilly's COVID-19 treatment for a new use in preventing disease in people who have been recently exposed to the virus.

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday granted emergency use of the drug for adults and children older than 12 who may have an infection and are at high-risk for getting severe COVID-19. Previously the drug was authorized for high-risk patients with confirmed COVID-19.

Earlier this summer the FDA authorized preventative use for a similar antibody drug from competitor Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

Antibody drugs are one of the only treatments proven to reduce the risk of death from COVID-19, especially for people who are not yet in the hospital. Demand for the drugs has boomed as the delta variant sends cases surging again across the U.S.

Federal officials have reported a 20-fold increase in orders for the drugs since mid-July.

Health officials say the state of Florida has surpassed 50,000 coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tallied 50,811 deaths after adding more than 1,500 COVID-19 deaths provided by state authorities on Thursday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said the latest wave was "really rough," striking younger and healthier people, including numerous police officers and firefighters. More than one fourth of the total COVID-19 deaths in the state occurred this summer as the state battled a fierce surge in infections fueled by the delta variant.

6:50 p.m.
Wayne County Public Schools reported two COVID-19 clusters across two schools: Dillard Middle and Southern Wayne High.

Dillard Middle has an in-school cluster, involving a staff member and eight students from the eighth grade. Southern Wayne High has a football team cluster, involving five team members.

"Our school nurses and school administrative teams are working hard to contact trace and conduct thorough investigations for every case that is reported," said Dr. David Lewis, WCPS superintendent. "Their efforts are critical in helping us and local health officials determine when concerning trends or issues are occurring."

12:45 p.m.
7,160 new daily COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Thursday.

The percent of positive tests in the state is 11 percent.

3,620 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

A record number of COVID-19 patients are on a ventilator. According to the state, 697 people are currently on a ventilator. That's up eight from Wednesday, which was the previous record high.

There are currently 927 adult ICU COVID-19 patients.

353 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted in the last 24 hours.

115 more deaths were reported on Thursday.

The state's first death connected to a K-12 school cluster was also reported on Thursday. There have been three deaths connected to child care clusters in the state.

The cluster report with more information on the K-12 setting death won't be updated until next Tuesday.

660 more COVID-19 cases and 28 new outbreaks have been reported in North Carolina K-12 schools since last week. That's double the number of new cases reported the week before.

9:20 a.m.
On Sept. 13, the Union County Board of Education passed a motion to immediately halt all activity of contact tracing and quarantine by Union County School staff and nurses and called for the immediate return of all students who were excluded from school because of COVID-19 exposure.

In response, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services issued a letter to the Board's Chair outlining required COVID-19 control measures all schools in the state must implement and noting that failure to comply may prompt legal action.

Schools are required to exclude students and staff who need to quarantine.

Union County's seven-day case average is more than five times above the CDC threshold for high transmission and the percent of tests that are positive is 16.2%, NCDHHS said.

The agency also said Union County had the third-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the state for children under 18 for the week ending Sept 11.

THURSDAY MORNING HEADLINES

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday released data from Pfizer's application for COVID-19 vaccine booster doses. In it, the company presents what it considers proof that a third shot will be both safe and effective for most adults, arguing that immunity wanes over time and has so far not been linked to any particular variant.

In a 53-page briefing submitted to the FDA, the pharmaceutical company makes the case that it's time to "restore" full protection from the COVID-19 vaccines, even though they are still protecting most vaccinated people from being hospitalized.

The data comes two days ahead of a critical juncture in the COVID-19 vaccine booster approval process: On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration's independent advisory committee is set to hold a public hearing to discuss the latest data on potential booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

The committee is then expected to vote on whether a booster dose is safe enough for widespread use -- and whether it's necessary and effective at improving protection levels.

In a review of Pfizer's data also released Wednesday, the FDA appeared to be noncommittal on the necessity for boosters. The agency pointed out that Pfizer's efficacy data could be hampered by the limitations of studying boosters in real-world situations, which can introduce complicating factors.

This comes as COVID-19 deaths and cases in the U.S. have climbed back to levels not seen since last winter, erasing months of progress and potentially bolstering President Joe Biden's argument for his sweeping new vaccination requirements.

The cases - driven by the delta variant combined with resistance among some Americans to get the vaccine - are concentrated mostly in the South.

While one-time hot spots like Florida and Louisiana are improving, infection rates are soaring in Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee, fueled by children now back in school, loose mask restrictions and low vaccination levels.

The dire situation in some hospitals is starting to sound like January's infection peak: Surgeries canceled in hospitals in Washington state and Utah. Severe staff shortages in Kentucky and Alabama. A lack of beds in Tennessee. Intensive care units at or over capacity in Texas.

WEDNESDAY
North Carolina's Dr. Tilson says we haven't seen effect of Labor Day travel on COVID cases yet
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NCDHHS' Dr. Betsey Tilson busts myths about COVID-19.



12:40 p.m.
Pfizer released a 53-page document in which the company makes the case that the general public needs a booster six months after the second Pfizer dose to "restore" protection to initial levels.

The FDA released its own 23-page analysis of the data presented by Pfizer. The FDA's analysis did not argue for or against boosters.

Rather, the FDA analysis emphasized that a Pfizer booster appears safe based on data from clinical trials. But the data on effectiveness relies more on real-world data, which could introduce "bias," which means it's not as rigorous as a well-designed randomized trial.

The FDA's advisors will be asked to discuss and vote Friday on whether Pfizer has presented sufficient evidence a Pfizer booster is safe and boosts immune response 6 months after the primary vaccination. From there, the decision will go to the FDA's desk.

12 p.m.
A second Charlotte-area school district is making face masks optional for students.

Lincoln County School District's board of education voted Tuesday night to relax its COVID-19 protocols.

The district said masks will become optional starting September 29. Plus, students are not excused from class unless they test positive for COVID-19, are symptomatic or have been given an official quarantine order from the health department.

Lincoln County joins nearby Union County in rolling back COVID-19 safety measures in school. Closer to the Triangle, Harnett County Schools also voted to make masks optional starting Oct. 5.

11:50 a.m.
7,277 new daily COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Wednesday.

The percent of positive tests is 11.9%.

3,630 people are currently hospitalized in the state with COVID-19.

100 more deaths were reported Wednesday.

There are currently 946 adult ICU COVID-19 patients.

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

North Carolina is at an all-time pandemic high for the number of patients on a ventilator.

There are currently 689 COVID patients on a ventilator in the state. That's up four from Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the state saw the highest number of adult ICU patients in the pandemic.

This week, North Carolina surpassed 5 million people with both vaccine shots.

10:35 a.m.
Wake County reached a new COVID-19 milestone, according to Commission Chairman Matt Calabria.

Calabria said 80% of eligible adults in the county have received at least one dose of the vaccine.



According to NCDHHS, just 67% of adults are at least partially vaccinated in the entire state.

9:30 a.m.
The United States has reached another grim milestone in its fight against the devastating COVID-19 pandemic: 1 in 500 Americans have died from coronavirus since the nation's first reported infection.

As of Tuesday night, 663,913 people in the US have died of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University data. According to the US Census Bureau, the US population as of April 2020 was 331.4 million.

9 a.m.
COVID-19 vaccines for children between the ages of 5 and 11 could get the green light from the US Food and Drug Administration sometime this fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
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"If you go to the pediatric hospitals, particularly in the south where you are, you will see the pediatric hospitals are crowded with kids with COVID."



"If you look at the studies that we at the (National Institutes of Health) are doing in collaboration with the pharmaceutical companies, there will be enough data to apply for an emergency use authorization both by Pfizer, a little bit later by Moderna," Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN's Jake Tapper on Tuesday.

8:50 a.m.
Another staffing shortage is causing reduced hours at a local business.

The Chick-fil-A on North Harrison Avenue in Cary said it will close at 3 p.m. Wednesday and then be open from 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.



One of North Carolina's most popular grocery chains, Harris Teeter, just announced effective Sept. 15, all locations will have temporary hours of 6 a.m. through 9 p.m. until further notice.

In a statement sent to ABC11, Harris Teeter representatives said the reason for the reduction was: "We believe closing our stores earlier will allow our valued associates to: take their earned days off; efficiently process ExpressLane orders; manage labor in this difficult employment environment; ensure excellent closings to better prepare for the following day; and make certain that our stores are a clean, safe place to work and shop."

Recently, Publix stores around the Triangle have been announcing they will be closing early as well.

WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
The United States spent nearly $6 billion treating unvaccinated people in hospitals over the last three months, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

From June to August, approximately 287,000 unvaccinated adults were hospitalized for COVID-19. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated the cost of a preventable COVID-19 hospitalization was about $20,000.

UNC has bushed back its vaccine requirement deadline from Sept. 15 to Oct. 1. The university said it made that decision because it has seen an uptick in the number of faculty and staff attesting to being vaccinated.

Starting Oct. 1, unvaccinated faculty, staff and students will have to get tested once a week for COVID-19.

Active-duty soldiers in the US Army must be fully vaccinated by mid-December. Reserve and National Guard units will have until the end of June 2022 to be fully vaccinated.

Soldiers who refuse full vaccination could be subject to what the Army calls "career-ending reprisals."

The Carolina Hurricanes are setting an example for the community. The team announced that the entire team has now been fully vaccinated.
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