RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Here are the latest updates about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in North Carolina.
ABC11's Michael Lozano spoke to Rep. Billy Richardson, a Democrat in District 44, wrote a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper and the General Assembly on Sunday, urging them to reconvene the General Assembly and deploy the N.C. National Guard.
The congressman was compelled to write the 600-word letter after a close friend of his, in Fayetteville, passed away due to COVID-19.
"It touched me so much, because his brother was a dear friend and, um, I said, 'Enough. We've got to, you know, I examined my own conscious and said I'm not doing enough as a representative,'" Richardson said.
A part of the letter says the rising COVID-19 metrics, along with the low vaccination rate, was "disturbing." Richardson told ABC11 the deployment and incorporation of the N.C. National Guard and Emergency Management will make a big impact on state efforts.
"Our healthcare people do not need to be organizing it and doing the nuts and bolts of it. That's what our wonderful guard can do," Richardson said.
The congressman said this move will allow the state to catch up and be on top of vaccinations.
"We're North Carolinians. We may not, we may not start out as fast as others, but we learn quick and we adapt. And, at the end of the day, we're going to get our people vaccinated," said Richardson.
The National Guard released more information on its plan to help with vaccinations in the state.
The North Carolina National Guard said it mobilized approximately 50 personnel yesterday and today in support of the anticipated demand requests from state partners and county health departments. The Guard will be operational this week.
Some of the planned activities include logistics planning, command and control center support, and vaccination teams that will be available to support state efforts and fellow Guard personnel.
Currently the logistics and command and control personnel will be assigned to work with DPS' Division of Emergency Management's Regional Coordination Centers in Kinston, Butner and Concord. The vaccination teams will be mobile with time and locations still under development by DPS and DHHS.
The NC Guard will be administering the COVID-19 vaccine over the next week, on a voluntary basis, to the Guardsmen supporting the state's COVID-19 response.
From March 6, 2020 to July 31, 2020, the NCNG had 940 service members on duty supporting the NC DHHS and DPS COVID-19 response. Their missions were PPE distribution, COVID-19 testing, food distribution, cyber support and warehouse management and operations.
The Guard ceased COVID-19 support in late July 2020 and restarted their COVID-19 support on Sept. 23, 2020 with approx. 180 personnel providing food bank and COVID-19 testing support.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported that 109,799 people have received the first dose of the vaccine so far in the state.
That number may be underreported because there could be up to a 72-hour lag in reporting.
That number also doesn't include the 165,990 doses that have been allocated for long-term care facilities. As of Jan. 4, CVS and Walgreens reported to NCDHHS that there were 13,338 doses administered through the federal program to long-term care facilities in NC.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in North Carolina continues to rise.
On Tuesday, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported that there were 3,781 people in the hospital with the virus. That's up 146 from Monday and a record thus far in the pandemic.
382 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted in the last 24 hours.
The percent of positive tests is at 16.2 percent, well over the state's goal of 5 percent.
A total of 5,285 new cases were reported on Tuesday.
55 more deaths were also reported. That brings the number in the state to 6,996 since the start of the pandemic.
Gov. Roy Cooper is mobilizing the National Guard to help with North Carolina's COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
Cooper tweeted that getting the vaccines administered quickly is the state's top priority. He said utilizing the National Guard will help local health providers increase the pace of vaccinations.
That message comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the state had one of the worst vaccination rates in the country.
Early recipients of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine started receiving their second dose Tuesday at UNC Medical Center.
The hospital said it has vaccinated 14,000 employees since the vaccine became available weeks ago. Those employees are now receiving the follow-up dose, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.
UNC Health said employees at UNC REX in Raleigh will begin receiving their second doses Thursday.
For the second time, The Cypress of Raleigh has a confirmed COVID-19 outbreak.
The Cypress of Raleigh is a retirement community and nursing center located in North Raleigh.
The facility had its first outbreak in August. The state defines an outbreak as two or more confirmed cases in a congregate setting.
Under NCDHHS rules, the facility must now fall back to previous restrictions and not allow any visitors for 28 days.
Specifics on the number of cases confirmed at the facility or if those cases are among staff or residents have not been released.
TUESDAY MORNING STORYLINES
Seniors at one Raleigh community center will receive potentially life-saving vaccines Tuesday.
The Cardinal at North Hills senior living community will host a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for roughly 300 staff members and residents. The group is among those who are at risk and part of the demographic eligible for the state's early phases of the vaccine rollout plan.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said some areas can move to Phase 1B in the vaccine rollout plan. That phase includes adults 75 years or older and frontline essential workers.
This happens while some healthcare workers in Phase 1A still have not been offered the vaccine.
All of this comes as state and federal officials admit the vaccine rollout has not gone as smoothly as they hoped.
"There have been a couple of glitches. That's understandable," Dr. Anthony Fauci said. "We are not where we want to be, there's no doubt about that."
There are still no specific dates on when the next vaccine rollout phases will begin or any procedure for where you can signup to be notified when it's your turn.
Health officials say it's important to be patient. NCDHHS is directing people to this website for more information about the vaccine phases.
In an effort to up its vaccination distribution, the Cumberland County Department of Public Health is suspending its testing sites effective immediately, according to a Monday press release.
Since Dec. 18, the department had been offering free COVID-19 testing twice a week at Manna Church and Second Missionary Baptist Church.
Dr. Jennifer Green, the director of the health department, told ABC11's Michael Lozano that it was decision they didn't take lightly, saying, "We wanted to make sure that there was staff capacity or there was capacity for testing in our community. And once we felt comfortable there was, we felt comfortable moving in that direction."
Dr. Green said the department's received more than 3,500 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the last few weeks; however, in that time, they've only been able to distribute to more than 300 people, under Phase 1A.
"We received the vaccine about a week or two after the hospitals did, so we are still navigating through the first phase," Green said.
A major gap that the CCDPH hopes they can close with the help of its 250 nurses and staff. Green says they're all trained to distribute vaccines or operate the sites so they can rotate and maintain other department operations.
According to local health officials, Cumberland County has a total of 14,430 COVID-19 cases, 140 total deaths, and a positivity rate of 15.4%.
Green told ABC11 that there are still more than 20 free COVID-19 testing locations in the county, which made their decision to close theirs down a lot more reasonable. She believes the loss of a few testing sites won't drastically affect the data the department is collecting.
"There are many test sites that are available to the public that are also free and readily available," Green added.
The CCDPH will receive another shipment of 975 Pfizer doses this week and work to vaccinate first-timers and individuals returning for the second dose. The department will also work to get some more testing sites back up.
"We still are going to continue our work with our state health department vendor; they just won't be staffed by the health department," Green said.
Despite the county falling behind, Dr. Green told ABC11 they expect to catch up and will start Phase 1B next week alongside most of the state.
No word yet on how many vaccinations sites will be available.
The Harnett County Board of Education approved for students to return to in-person instruction on Jan. 19. Kindergarten through fifth grade will get face-to-face instruction four days a week. Middle and high school students will continue on an A/B schedule
Pre-K will continue five-day face-to-face instruction.
Starting this week, those age 75 or older can register to receive a COVID-19 vaccination from the Wayne County Health Department under Phase 1B.
The Wayne County Health Department only has 550 doses of the vaccine to register for at these two vaccination events. More information can be found here.
The daily percent positive test rate for COVID-19 in North Carolina has jumped to a concerning 16.5%, the highest of the pandemic.
The high comes after Sunday's 13.6% rate and Saturday's 15.5% rate.
The state reported 5,187 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and there are 3,635 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, also a new high.
There have been 6,941 deaths (an increase of 31 from Sunday's report) from COVID-19 and 570,111 total cases. Complete statistics are available on the state's COVID-19 dashboard.
MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES
The U.K. has given out the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. Officials said they have 530,000 doses of the vaccine and will continue to give out the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Dialysis patient Brian Pinker was the first to get the new vaccine shot at Oxford University Hospital.
Free COVID-19 testing is continuing this week in Wake County. You can get a free COVID-19 test at Roberts Park, Marsh Creek Park and Method Community Park in Raleigh this week. No ID or insurance is required. More information is available at the Wake County COVID-19 website.
Today is also the first day some American patients will receive the second dose of their COVID-19 vaccine. It's 21 days since the first authorized Pfizer vaccines were given to frontline workers.
The vaccine requires a second dose 3 weeks after the initial dose in order to provide the best level of protection against getting COVID-19.