RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina, like many other states across the country, is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
Orange County's mask mandate took effect as many UNC-Chapel Hill students return for the new school year.
The mandate applies to Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough buildings and businesses.
It applies to anyone 2 years and older, regardless of vaccination status.
Mayor of Chapel Hill Pam Hemminger says it's disheartening that the mask mandate has to be reinstated, but necessary considering that numbers have started to trend in the wrong direction.
"We know that masking is one of the ways to help reduce the spread of this virus. It's much more contagious. People who have been vaccinated have been getting sick as well," Hemminger said.
She says the mandate went into effect with businesses in mind.
Wake County Manager David Ellis announced Wednesday that all Wake County Government employees must be fully vaccinated by Sept. 15 or get tested weekly for COVID.
"I wouldn't be encouraging our employees to get vaccinated if I didn't think it was the right thing to do," said Ellis. "We've led the effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 since it first appeared in our community, and this is the next step we must take to protect our 4,200 employees and the people they serve every day."
More than 76% of adults in Wake County have gotten at least one vaccine dose, but the contagious Delta variant continues to spread in the community.
Wake County Government employees who are already vaccinated or get vaccinated by Sept. 15 will receive $250 and two days of bonus leave.
"As a county government, we have a responsibility to protect our workforce and those we serve - some of whom are at high risk for COVID-19 complications," said Dr. Jose Cabanas, Wake County's Chief Medical Officer. "By offering these incentives, we can increase our vaccinate rates, which will help safeguard the health of our community and reduce the strain the virus is putting on our local hospitals."
Employees who opt out of vaccination by the Sept. 15 deadline will get tested for COVID-19, starting Sept. 20. The requirement will remain in place until the county's positivity rate is less than 5%.
UNC Chapel Hill announced that it has identified a cluster of COVID-19 cases related to an event in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy. A "cluster" is defined by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as five or more cases that are deemed close proximity in location and/or are epidemiologically linked.
The individuals in the cluster have been identified and are isolating and receiving medical monitoring.
4,963 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Wednesday.
The percent of positive tests declined slightly to 12.8%.
2,304 people are currently hospitalized in the state with COVID-19.
This comes after NCDHHS said the state on Tuesday saw the largest single day jump in hospital ICU admissions since the beginning of the pandemic. Weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations among people ages 20-49 are at an all-time high, health officials said.
342 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted in hospitals in the last 24 hours.
Currently there are 586 adult ICU COVID-19 patients.
So far this week, NCDHHS has reported over 16,000 vaccine doses administered.
Wake County Public Health said it will be expanding its free drive-thru testing program starting next week due to an increase in demand.
Starting Monday, all five drive-thru testing locations throughout the county will run Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There is no cost, no ID required and no appointment necessary. All sites use self-administered PCR tests. Results should come back within 12-24 hours.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 1 million people who have received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine have gone back for an unauthorized third booster shot.
Florida is among the states reporting the highest number of people opting for a booster shot, followed by Ohio, California, Illinois and Tennessee.
The estimated 1.1 million, included in an internal CDC briefing document reviewed by ABC News, likely is an undercount because although it counts Moderna and Pfizer shot recipients it ignores people who may have received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine and got another shot.
It's also unclear whether people who received a third shot did so under the direction of a doctor. The Food and Drug Administration hasn't authorized a third shot to boost immunity, although there are reports of some physicians encouraging severely immunocompromised patients to do so.
Boosters for the immunocompromised may be recommended by the FDA within weeks.
WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
A new mask mandate takes effect in Orange County today at 5 p.m.
Anyone over the age of two is required to wear a mask while inside any building in Orange County--unless that person is alone in an individual office or actively eating.
Orange County has a 76% COVID-19 vaccination rate, but county health officials are still seeing a spike in cases.
Durham County, Carrboro, and Boone are places in North Carolina that have also reinstated indoor mask mandates amid the coronavirus resurgence.
Wake and Cumberland counties have mask mandates inside government buildings, but neither have extended that mandate to all buildings.
More local schools are also requiring masks for everybody. Cumberland County Schools, Johnston County Schools and Warren County Schools all voted in favor of mask mandates Tuesday.
Roanoke Rapids City Schools voted Tuesday to make masks optional for all students and staff.
According to the CDC data spanning from January 2020 to August 2021, there have been 105,645 cases of pregnant women infected with COVID-19, resulting in 124 deaths and more than 18,000 pregnant women hospitalized.
"Essentially all of the patients that we have seen that required hospitalization because they were sick, were unvaccinated," Duke OBGYN Dr. Brenna Hughes told DeJuan Hoggard. "Once that patients hear that there is a lot of safety data and that in fact, it may be even more important now that they're pregnant that they get vaccinated, protect themselves and their babies, that, that they're more likely to be willing to consider vaccination."
WakeMed and UNC Hospitals did not say if they have seen an increase in pregnant women being hospitalized with the virus.
"I unfortunately can say that we have had more positive pregnant patients in the past week than we have had for the last couple of months," said Dr. Hughes.
Dr. Hughes also said that patients who were "sick enough to be admitted were unvaccinated."
Cumberland County Schools voted unanimously to require all students, staff and visitors to wear face masks at the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
The requirement is for everyone, regardless of vaccination status. Masks are also required on public school transportation.
"From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic until now, we have made decisions based on the science and guidance from medical professionals," said Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr., CCS superintendent. "Our top priority is to operate our schools in-person all year as safely as possible. Universal masking is one of the best ways we can help prevent the spread of COVID-19."
The Johnston County Board of Education voted 4-3 to make face coverings required indoors in all Johnston County Public Schools campuses and on all buses for students, staff, and guests.
The updated mask requirement is effective immediately.
President Joe Biden warned this afternoon of dueling crises coming together this month -- hurricanes and the Delta variant of COVID-19.
"Let me be clear. If you're in a state where hurricanes often strike, a vital part of preparing for hurricane season is to get vaccinated now. Everything is more complicated if you're not vaccinated and a hurricane or natural disaster hits. If you wind up having to evacuate, if you wind up having to stay in a shelter, you don't want to add COVID-19 to the list of dangers that you're going to be confronting. Get vaccinated now, so you're ready for whatever may come this month. And it's likely that some serious hurricanes are going to come this month," he warned.
It's clear government officials fear sites like the George Brown Convention Center in Houston, or the SuperDome in New Orleans, which hosted hurricane evacuees for weeks, could become super spreader events if those in need are unvaccinated.
NCDHHS said the state on Tuesday saw the largest single day jump in hospital ICU admissions since the beginning of the pandemic. Weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations among people ages 20-49 are at an all-time high, health officials said.
ICU admissions related to COVID-19 jumped to 557 yesterday from 502 the day prior. From Aug. 3 through Aug. 9, there were 547 people ages 20-49 admitted to the hospital due to COVID-19.
"These high-levels of COVID-related admissions jeopardize the ability of our hospitals to provide needed care in our communities," said Kody H. Kinsley, Chief Deputy Secretary for Health at NCDHHS. "The vast majority of our COVID-19 hospitalizations are in unvaccinated people. This underscores the need for everyone to be vaccinated against the virus and use preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19."
In addition to getting vaccinated, NCDHHS recommends everyone wear a mask in indoor public spaces.
Wake County Public Health has confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 at four long term care facilities in Wake County.
A third outbreak has been reported at The Cypress of Raleigh - Rosewood Health Center, 8710 Cypress Club Drive, in Raleigh. The previous outbreaks occurred in January and August 2020. UNC REX Rehabilitation and Nursing Care Center of Apex, 911 S. Hughes St., in Apex has also experienced its third outbreak. Previous outbreaks happened in December and May of 2020.
The Addison of Fuquay-Varina Assisted Living and Memory Care, 6516 Johnson Pond Road, in Fuquay-Varina has confirmed its second outbreak. The first outbreak occurred in December.
This is the second outbreak at BellaRose Nursing and Rehabilitation, 200 BellaRose Lake Way, in Garner. The previous outbreak happened in July 2020.
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.
Orange County plans to issue a mandate later this week that will require masks indoors, a county official said on Tuesday.
The mandate will be in effect for Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough buildings and businesses.
Get all the details here.
2,985 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Tuesday.
The percent of positive tests went up to 14.0%. This is the highest that number has been since Jan. 10, at the height of the pandemic.
2,179 people are currently hospitalized in the state with COVID-19. That's much higher than the count of 2,006 on Monday. Hospitalizations have doubled in the last two weeks and are almost double the patients this day last year. Hospitalizations have not been above 2,000 since February.
272 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted into hospitals in the last 24 hours.
Currently, there are 557 adult ICU COVID-19 patients.
13,768 COVID deaths have been reported in North Carolina since the start of the pandemic.
About 62% of the adult population of the state is vaccinated with at least one dose.
Lurie Children's Hospital will require its 7,500 workers to get COVID-19 vaccines, making it the latest Chicago-area hospital to mandate the shots as the highly contagious delta variant spreads nationwide.
The hospital's requirement will apply to employees, students, contractors, many vendors and volunteers, who will be expected to be vaccinated by Oct. 18. Lurie may make exceptions for religious or medical reasons.
The requirement comes as the delta variant spreads and case numbers continue to grow in Illinois. The number of children being hospitalized with COVID-19 across the U.S. has been growing in recent weeks.
With the mandate, Lurie joins a growing list of hospitals and businesses requiring vaccines for workers. Advocate Aurora Health, which has 10 hospitals in Illinois, announced last week that it was mandating vaccines for its 75,000 workers in Illinois and Wisconsin.
Many care providers and organizations across the nation have implemented such requirements based on conclusive evidence that vaccines are safe, effective and critical to saving lives and ending the pandemic.
618,000 new COVID-19 vaccine doses were reported administered Tuesday morning. Last Tuesday, that number was at 453,000. The new numbers include 424,000 newly vaccinated. The 7-day average reported for newly vaccinated is 503,000. According to the White House, new people are getting vaccinated at the highest rate in over 2 months.
In the U.S., more than 8,300 patients are hospitalized with COVID each day. And the forecasts used by the CDC now say by September 4 the US could see hospitalizations as high as 33,300 a day. And even the lowest end of these forecasts -- 9,600 a day - is much higher then where we are now.
Last week, ABC News reported there were about 7,000 new COVID patients hospitalized each day in the US and that the the CDC predicted hospitalizations "will likely increase over the next four weeks" - possibly to as high as 24,000 a day by the end of this month.
As for deaths: "Weekly totals of observed deaths in each of the next four weeks will be between 3,900 and 7,100 deaths with around 638,800 deaths by September 04."
The CDC gets its forecasts from the COVID19 Forecast Hub at U Mass Amherst.
Cape Fear Valley Health says recent research is supporting the safety of COVID-19 vaccinations for pregnant women.
Pregnant women were excluded from the initial clinical trials for the vaccines but almost 140,000 pregnant women have voluntarily joined the CDC's V-safe COVID-19 Vaccine Pregnancy Registry since December 2020, the health system said.
"So far, the data show no increased risk of miscarriage, birth defects, preterm birth. or stillbirth," said Cape Fear Valley Perinatology's Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist Stuart Shelton, M.D. "Basically, there's no increased risk of any adverse pregnancy outcomes. Data are still being collected and analyzed."
Amazon will begin requiring all of its 900,000 U.S. warehouse workers to wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status.
The move follows steps by a slew of other retailers, including Walmart and Target, to mandate masks for their workers. In many of those cases the mandates apply to workers in locations of substantial COVID-19 transmission.
Click here for the full story.
TUESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urged the FDA to expedite authorizing the COVID-19 vaccines for children under 12 years old.
"We need to be approaching the trials in the authorization of the COVID vaccine for children with the same urgency that we did with adults. Just as it's a serious disease in adults, it can be a very serious disease in children," AAP President Dr. Lee Savio Beers said.
SEE ALSO: What we know and don't know about the COVID vaccine timeline for children under 12
In Wake County last week, 723 children under 17 tested positive for COVID-19. In Durham that number was 82 and in Cumberland that number was 118. Nationally, nearly 94,000 kids tested positive for COVID-19 last week, compared to 72,000 the week before.
Experts are still working to learn if the delta variant of COVID-19 is more dangerous for children.
According to CDC data, the rate of pediatric hospital admissions -- which is children 17 and under per 100,000 people -- is now 3.75 times higher than it was one month ago; the rate is also now equal to its highest point in the pandemic in January 2021.
Q&A: COVID and RSV in North Carolina children
Meanwhile, local hospitals are seeing an uptick in patients. Duke University Medical Center put up tents outside the hospital to help treat patients who do not have COVID.
The hope is to get them in and out quickly and reduce their potential exposure to COVID-19.
A Durham restaurant will mandate the COVID vaccine for any potential diners.
Starting Aug. 10, Rue Cler will require proof of a COVID vaccine.
We ask Duke's Dr. Lisa Pickett: What do we know about transmission of the Delta variant outside?
Durham's mask mandate takes effect. What you need to know:
Raleigh City Council member Jonathan Melton said he has tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated.
He said he has some sinus congestion, but that's really been his only symptom.
Melton told ABC11 that he was notified last week that he had an exposure so he went and got tested and it came back positive.
He said he's been isolating at home.
Melton said he got the Pfizer vaccine back in March.
"My symptoms have been very mild and I'm very, very fortunate and glad I got the vaccine," he said.
As COVID-19 infections surge again in the U.S., health officials are warning of a concerning uptick in pediatric cases and hospitalizations across the country, just as many children head back to the classroom.
After declining in the early summer, child COVID-19 cases have steadily increased again in recent weeks. In a newly released weekly report, which compiles state-by-state data on COVID-19 cases among children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children's Hospital Association (CHA) found that nearly 94,000 new child COVID-19 cases were reported last week, a continued "substantial" increase.
Since the onset of the pandemic, just under 4.3 million children have tested positive for COVID-19, with children representing 15.0% of all reported COVID-19 cases, in the last week.
In a similar trend, pediatric COVID-19 related hospital admissions in the U.S. have seen their steepest and most significant increase, since the onset of the pandemic.
The Pentagon will require members of the U.S. military to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 15, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press. That deadline could be pushed up if the vaccine receives final FDA approval or infection rates continue to rise.
"I will seek the president's approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon" licensure by the Food and Drug Administration "whichever comes first," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says in the memo to troops, warning them to prepare for the requirement. "I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the President if l feel the need to do so."
Click here for more on this story.
Durham County Health said it is out of Summer Cash Cards at its vaccination clinic.
Health officials said there will be more Tuesday, but anyone 18 and up who receives their first dose Monday or drives someone to receive their first dose will have the option to have their summer cash emailed to them this weekend.
North Carolina saw a large spike in COVID-19 cases over the weekend.
5,046 new cases were reported on Saturday. That number surged to 6,892 on Sunday.
3,863 cases were reported on Monday.
1,946 people are currently hospitalized in North Carolina with COVID-19.
264 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted to hospitals in the last 24 hours.
The percent of positive tests in the state is at 11.1%. This is the first time the state has exceed 11% since Feb.1.
The state surpassed 5 million first doses with 5,001,487 partially vaccinated.
Durham Mayor Steve Schewel was joined by Durham County Board of Commissioners Chair Brenda Howerton to announce the pending restart of an indoor mask mandate throughout the city and county.
The two leaders stood side-by-side to show unity behind the mask requirements, which go into effect at 5 p.m. Monday.
"Facemasks are a common sense, non-economically damaging way of limiting transmission (of COVID-19)," Schewel said. "If we want to keep our economy open, if we want to keep gathering together--as we are able to do now in public settings--we have got to wear facemasks to limit the spread of the virus in Durham County."
Schewel said the mandate does include fully vaccinated individuals. He said that is because health experts have evidence that the delta variant can still be spread by fully vaccinated people who do not look or feel sick.
Duke Health System had just five COVID cases a month ago. One week ago, the system had 56 cases. Schewel said this is just one practical example that proves the virus is spreading in and around Durham.
"The pandemic that we are experiencing now is a pandemic of the unvaccinated--it's a pandemic of the unvaccinated," Schewel said. "More than 90 percent of the cases are among the unvaccinated. This virus, this delta virus knows no political boundaries. If you are unvaccinated--I just want to make this clear--if you are unvaccinated, the chances are good that the virus will find you."
Schewel said he and city manager Wanda Page are considering installing a vaccine mandate or weekly testing requirement for city employees.
He said many private companies in Durham and across the country have already started requiring vaccines for employees. He said he expects and encourages more companies to do the same.
Cape Fear Valley Health announced that, due to the high spread of cases in the community, it has made modifications to the current visitation policy.
Most Cape Fear Valley Medical Center inpatients, Cape Fear Valley Rehabilitation Center patients, Bladen County Hospital and Hoke Hospital patients may have no more than two visitors from noon and 8 p.m. Visitors must be at least 12 years old, and no more than two visitors at a time are allowed in a patient's room.
Canada on Monday is lifting its prohibition on Americans crossing the border to shop, vacation or visit, but the United States is keeping similar restrictions in place for Canadians, part of a bumpy return to normalcy from COVID-19 travel bans.
U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents must be both fully vaccinated and test negative for COVID-19 within three days to get across one of the world's longest and busiest land borders. Travelers also must fill out a detailed on application on the arriveCAN app before crossing.
Even though travelers have to register, the Canada Border Services Agency won't say how many people they are expecting to enter Canada for the reopening. But travelers should plan for the possibility of additional processing time at the border.
Click here to read more on this story.
MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Masks will once again be required in all Durham buildings starting at 5 p.m. Monday.
A new state of emergency in the city and county will go into effect in response to Durham's COVID-19 positivity rate doubling over the past month.
Leaders said they're concerned about the rise in COVID cases and spread of the delta variant.
Durham Mayor Steve Schewel will talk about the mandate starting at 11 a.m. on ABC11.
"There's no need to pass my germs onto someone I'm only going to see in passing, and I might do something that affects their life irrevocably," D'Nae Henderson said. "That's how I think about it. It's not a big deal. I have a beautiful mask."
Carrboro is also upping its mask regulations. All employees and visitors inside town facilities will have to wear a mask. Town employees are also required to be vaccinated by Sept. 1.
People who still need to get vaccinated will be happy to learn the state's $100 cash cards are back in stock. The cards, which were being given at certain sites to people getting their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, ran out last week.
NCDHHS said the the cards are back in stock Monday. Click here for more on how to get yours.
Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci is hopeful that FDA will fully approve Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine by the end of August.
When that happens, Fauci said it will likely start a new wave of vaccine requirements--with schools, businesses and other organizations requiring people to be vaccinated.
Right now, Pfizer is among three vaccines given emergency use authorization by the FDA.