Gov. Cooper takes aim at unvaccinated people, says they are causing COVID-19 resurgence

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Friday, July 30, 2021
Coronavirus NC: Latest updates on COVID-19 in North Carolina
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Coronavirus NC: Latest updates on COVID-19 in North Carolina

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

CDC COVID-19 Transmission Levels by U.S. County

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5:52 p.m.

Johnston County students and staffers will be under a mask-optional policy for the coming school year.

At a Special Called Session on Thursday, the Johnston County Board of Education voted 4-3 to make face coverings optional for all students and staff.

The school board did not immediately release any further details regarding the decision.

4:15 p.m.

President Joe Biden is urging local governments to offer $100 to those who get vaccinated with funding from the American Rescue Plan.

Biden will also announce Thursday that all federal government employees and outside contractors will be asked to "attest to their vaccination status," and those who aren't vaccinated must social distance, get tested once or twice a week and wear a mask at work no matter where they live. This includes members of the Armed Forces and National Guard.

3:30 p.m.

Governor Roy Cooper and Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen on Thursday announced all state government employees in his administration must prove their vaccination status or submit to regular testing for COVID-19 and wear a mask.

"Our trends have turned sharply in the wrong direction," he said ahead of that announcement.

Central North Carolina residents react to Cooper's announcement:

Cooper said he "urges" and "implores" local businesses, corporations, universities, and other government agencies in the Council of State to adopt his administration's new protocols "at a minimum."

Cohen said there's a rapid rise in new COVID-19 cases in the state.

"This is because the COVID virus is now much, much more contagious," she said.

Cohen said that the original COVID spread from one person to an average of two to three people. But now, the Delta variant spreads from one person to an average of six people.

2:45 p.m.

Approximately one year ago, in late July of 2020, the U.S. had just experienced its COVID-19 summer surge, and was beginning to see a downturn, after six weeks of steady increases throughout the late spring, and early summer.

On July 27, 2020, the U.S. average was averaging about 63,400 new COVID-19 cases a day, down from its peak of 68,000 cases reported a day, a week prior.

Now, a year later, on July 27, 2021, the U.S. case average is back at similar levels, now averaging nearly 62,000 new cases a day.

1 p.m.

A whopping 3,268 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Thursday.

That's a significant spike from Wednesday and well above the 7-day average.

The number of tests completed also shot up in the state to more than 29,000. That shows that more people in the state are worried they might have COVID.

The percent of positive tests in the state is at 9.3%.

1,141 people are currently hospitalized in the state with COVID-19.

13,618 deaths have been reported since the beginning of the pandemic.

12:15 p.m.

"It's time to step up. It's time to get that shot now. Do not wait. Do it for yourself. Do it for your family. Do it for your friends. The shot is safe. The shot is effective," Gov. Roy Cooper said at a vaccine site in Nashville, North Carolina.

Cooper visited the McDonald's in Nashville where the National Guard has set up a COVID-19 vaccination site.

The site allows people to get vaccinated without leaving their cars. People who got the shot also received a coupon for a free McDonald's sandwich.

Cooper spoke at the event, but declined to talk about pending changes to the state's vaccination requirements or mask guidelines. Cooper will address those topics during his 3 p.m. press conference--which you can watch in the above video player or on ABC11.

Instead, Cooper praised North Carolinians who already received the vaccine and encouraged them to keep advocating for their friends and family to get vaccinated.

"People who are vaccinated I know are frustrated and mad right now, because they have stepped up and done their part. But I want vaccinated people to encourage the unvaccinated now more than ever. Because vaccinated people can be some of our best messengers."

Cooper went on to say the only way to finally get back to what life was like before the virus is to get vaccinated.

"It's time for us to step up and put this pandemic in the rear-view mirror, and we can't do it until we get more people vaccinated."

8:45 a.m.

President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that millions of federal workers must show proof they've received a coronavirus vaccine or submit to regular testing and stringent social distancing, masking and travel restrictions.

An individual familiar with the president's plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity to confirm details that had yet to be announced publicly, emphasized that the new guidance is not a vaccine mandate for federal employees and that those who decide not to get vaccinated aren't at risk of being fired.

The new policy amounts to a recognition by the Biden administration that the government - the nation's biggest employer - must do more to boost sluggish vaccination rates, as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations rebound, driven largely by the spread of the more infectious delta variant.


Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to share new COVID-19 guidelines when he speaks publicly this afternoon at 3.

Coronavirus cases are on the rise in North Carolina and across the country. New research on the highly contagious Delta variant shows even vaccinated people can spread it.

That new research prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to change its mask guidance--now suggesting that all people wear masks inside in areas where cases are prevalent.

The CDC also now suggests vaccinated people get tested for COVID-19 after they are exposed to a known positive case.

SEE ALSO: Some Triangle businesses reinstate mask mandate as COVID cases surge

But what do these changes mean for North Carolina? That's what we expect Gov. Cooper to address this afternoon.

Wednesday saw the state confirm more than 2,600 new cases, with a positivity rate at 10.8 percent. That's the second straight day above 10 percent and the highest daily case count since February.

Health experts continue to stress how important it is to get vaccinated. As the vast majority of all these cases, and even more so the cases that result in hospitalization, are among unvaccinated people.

WATCH: Healthcare worker has message for vaccine-resistant hospital workers


5:15 p.m.

North Carolina State University announced that face coverings will be required in classrooms and laboratories for the first three weeks of the semester.

Face masks will not be required outdoors.

In other indoor spaces, those who are vaccinated are the exception to this requirement. The university encourages anyone who has not been fully vaccinated to continue wearing masks indoors and when in close contact with others.

The requirement extends to the campus' bussing system.

4:30 p.m.

Duke University announced all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear face masks in all Duke-owned and leased buildings effective Friday, July 30, until further notice.

The university cited the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in North Carolina related to a combination of the Delta variant and the number of people who remain unvaccinated, as its reasoning.

Masks will not be required in on-campus residence halls.

Triangle hospitals say they are seeing an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Dr. Lisa Pickett, chief medical officer at Duke University Hospital, said their numbers are double from what they were two weeks ago.

While they don't know if patients have the Delta variant since they don't sequence at the time of admission, they presume many do, since it's the most prevalent strain in our area, Dr. Pickett said.

WakeMed Health & Hospitals is reporting their COVID inpatient hospitalizations tripled in the last month.

A spokeswoman said more than 92 percent of COVID inpatients are unvaccinated and that the Delta variant is responsible for a spike in cases. She is stressing vaccination and said the comprehensive use of masks and other personal protective equipment inside all of their facilities is helping keeping staff and patients and their families safe.

UNC Health has 150 COVID patients in hospitals. That's about the same as a year ago and up from about 50 patients a month ago, according to a spokesperson. UNC Health said most of their cases are among the unvaccinated and due to the Delta variant.

"A couple of days ago (North Carolina) crossed 1,000 people again for the first time in quite a few months in terms of hospitalized bed numbers and it is baked into the system, that the number is going to go up for at least a couple of weeks," said Dr. Cameron Wolfe, Duke Health infectious disease specialist, in a virtual news conference Wednesday.

A new Lambda variant was first identified in Peru and some cases have been reported in the U.S. but the World Health Organization doesn't consider it a variant of concern. It does consider the Delta variant one though.

Q&A: Is it still safe to travel amid rising COVID-19 cases?

"We're part of a team that works with the people who are doing the genetic surveillance and looking at what other variants are out there," said Dr. David Montefiori, director of the Laboratory for AIDS Vaccine Research and Development at Duke University Medical Center, in the news conference. "They're not prevalent enough to be a variant of interest or a variant of concern yet but do they have the potential to escape our vaccines? Does this virus have the ability to completely escape our vaccines? That's a question that we're studying and that other people are studying."

Dr. Wolfe said if you're outdoors, there's typically a lower risk of contracting the Delta virus than indoors. He said vaccinations matter and that a mask helps further reduce the spread.

"If your outdoor activity is a spaced out game on the soccer field, in reality your risk is extremely low," Dr. Wolfe said. "So athletics last year, for example, were very good at going through degrees of proving that in fact on field transmissions were exceptionally uncommon."

"I think if your situation is an outdoor concert venue where for protracted periods of time, you're sitting in close proximity, perhaps yelling and screaming at the concert, that risk has gone up," Dr. Wolfe said. "And the way that it stands at the moment is our chance of having someone in close proximity to you, who has, unbeknownst to them, COVID, has also gone up."

Montefiori said it's critical to keep the pandemic under control to keep the virus from mutating and becoming more resistant to vaccines, something routinely seen with influenza strains.

"Every time the virus gets transmitted from one person to another, it has an opportunity to mutate, to change, and so the more we can shut this pandemic down and slow down the spread of the virus, the less opportunities it's going to have to continue to mutate and change and become more contagious and potentially even escape our vaccines," he said.

That leads to the question on booster shots and Montefiori said that could be a real possibility.

"I think we're probably getting very close to a time where we're going to know if and when a boost is necessary," he said. "I believe that boosting will be necessary. It's very likely going to strengthen the immune response against the variants."

4:25 p.m.

The Durham County Department of Public Health will offer COVID-19 vaccines at Durham Academy and Lakewood Shopping Center during the week of July 26, 2021.

When: Thursday, July 29, 4:30pm-6:00pm

Where: Durham Academy. 3116 Academy Rd., Durham, NC 27707

Vaccines offered: Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson; first & second doses

How to be vaccinated: Appointments & walk-ins. Open to all people 12 and older. To schedule an appointment, call 919-560-9217.

When: Saturday, July 31, 5:00pm-8:00pm

Where: Lakewood Shopping Center. 2000 Chapel Hill Rd., Durham, NC 27707

Vaccines offered: Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson; first & second doses

How to be vaccinated: Appointments & walk-ins. Open to all people 12 and older. To schedule an appointment, call 919-560-9217.

2:45 p.m.

Pfizer released new data showing its vaccine's ability to protect against severe illness remains strong six months out. Efficacy against symptomatic disease also remains high, but appears to taper off over time.

Pfizer is using this data to bolster its argument that booster shots are needed six months out.

But the FDA - not the company - will decide if and when booster shots are needed. This data has not yet been peer reviewed.

12:15 p.m.

2,633 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Wednesday. That's even higher than the count on this day last year -- which was 1,805 new cases. This marks the highest daily cases since Feb. 27.

The percent positive in the state is at 10.8%. Tuesday marked the first time over 10% since the end of January. Tuesday's percent positive was 10.2%.

1,091 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state. Tuesday marked the first day with hospitalizations above 1,000 since May 7.

The number of patients hospitalized has doubled in the last two weeks.

13,606 people have died since the start of the pandemic.

The percent of the adult population that has at least one dose of the vaccine in North Carolina has inched up one percent to 61%.

Despite vaccines declining since early June, the state finally saw an increase last week. Last week, about 94,000 doses were administered. That's a 17% increase from the week before. Most of the new vaccines were first doses. 17,000 more people got a first dose last week than the week before. 59,000 total people last week got a first dose.

12 p.m.

In the last week, the US reported the highest number of new COVID cases in the world, according to the WHO.

For the week of July 19-25, the US reported a 131% increase in new COVID cases, over the previous week, according to the latest WHO epidemiological report.

There were 3.8 million new COVID cases reported worldwide in the last week, an 8% increase over the previous week.

The number of new COVID related deaths increased sharply this week to over 69,000, up 21% from 57,000 last week.

The Americas and European regions are reporting the highest weekly case incidence per capita: 123.3 and 108.3 new cases per 100,000 residents respectively.

10:50 a.m.

Anyone working for NCDHHS at state-operated facilities will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 30.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released a statement about its decision Wednesday saying the vaccine is the most effective weapon in the fight against the pandemic.

The agency's decision falls in line with recommendations from the North Carolina Healthcare Association, the American Medical Association and the American Nursing Association.

The full statement is below:

"NCDHHS will require that that all employees, volunteers, students, trainees, as well as contracted and temporary workers working at state-operated facilities be fully vaccinated or receive an approved medical or religious exemption by September 30, 2021.
Vaccination for COVID-19 is the most effective prevention against the disease. Over 75% of DSOHF facility staff are vaccinated, with three facilities over 90%. As a health care system, we have a responsibility to protect the patients and residents that we serve - many of whom are at high risk for COVID-19 complications, are without other options for care, and in our care for long periods of time. It is well documented that health care personnel often unintentionally introduce the virus into institutional settings prompting an outbreak. That's why numerous professional organizations recommend that vaccines be required for all healthcare and long-term care staff, including the North Carolina Healthcare Association and over 50 national groups such the American Medical Association and the American Nursing Association.
Rigorous clinical trials among thousands of people ages 12 and older, have proven that vaccines are safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 and virus-related hospitalization and death. More than 160 million Americans have been safely vaccinated."

9:20 a.m.

A third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine can "strongly" boost protection against the delta variant -- beyond the protection afforded by the standard two doses, suggests new data released by Pfizer on Wednesday.

The data posted online, which are expected to be discussed in a company earnings call on Wednesday morning, suggest that antibody levels against the delta variant in people ages 18 to 55 who receive a third dose of vaccine are greater than five-fold than following a second dose.

9:15 a.m.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky says new mask-wearing guidance, coupled with higher rates of vaccination against COVID-19, could halt the current escalation of infections in "a couple of weeks."

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told "CBS This Morning" she hopes more stringent mask-wearing guidelines and other measures won't be necessary as the country heads into the fall.

"We can halt the chain of transmission," she said. "We can do something if we unify together, if we get people vaccinated who are not yet vaccinated, if we mask in the interim, we can halt this in just a matter of a couple of weeks."

With the delta variant fueling a surge of infections across the country, the CDC on Tuesday recommended even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in areas where the variant is prevalent.

Walensky says the new guidance was prompted by data that vaccinated people can pass on the virus. However, the vast number of infections are occurring in unvaccinated people, she noted. Walensky said 80% of the counties with the highest number of infections have less than 40% of people vaccinated.

The nation is averaging more than 57,000 cases a day and 24,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations. The guidance on masks in indoor public places applies in parts of the U.S. with at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week.

9 a.m.

WakeMed Health & Hospitals has told workers it will require them to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The Raleigh-area hospital system is the leading provider in the state's second largest county. It has three acute care hospitals and one physical rehabilitation hospital.

The timeline for when the vaccine requirement will take effect has not yet been determined. The move comes amid growing concern of the more contagious delta variant. Several other North Carolina hospital systems have announced plans to compel workers to come in get vaccinated. WakeMed's vaccine requirement will apply to all employees, providers and volunteers in the "near future."

8:45 a.m.

Duke University announced all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear face masks in all Duke-owned and leased buildings effective Friday, July 30, until further notice.

The university cited the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in North Carolina related to a combination of the Delta variant and the number of people who remain unvaccinated, as its reasoning.

Masks will not be required in on-campus residence halls.


Gov. Roy Cooper and the state's coronavirus task force will not be issuing an update today as previously planned.

The governor's office said Tuesday afternoon that the previously planned Wednesday update would be pushed to Thursday.

Meanwhile, Cooper said he is reviewing mask guidance issued Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC changed its mask recommendations in light of new evidence about the Delta variant of COVID-19.

That variant has become the most dominant form of the virus in the US. The CDC's new evidence suggests that vaccinated people remain well protected against all forms of COVID-19, including the Delta variant. However, unlike other variants, vaccinated people can still spread the Delta variant.

That's why the CDC said all people should wear masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.

Since the COVID-19 vaccines still provide strong protection against the Delta variant, health officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated.

Many healthcare facilities have begun mandating vaccines for their employees.

President Joe Biden is expected to announce federal employees will be required to be vaccinated or else face "stringent COVID-19 protocols."

Q&A: With the Delta variant spreading, can vaccinated people feel safe without a mask?