3 Durham elementary school classrooms close to in-person learning after COVID-19 positive tests

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

9:40 p.m.
"In one sense, it's a great step, but I think we shouldn't have waited this long to get the vaccine," said Rita McDaniel, who has several high-risk conditions that make her eligible to receive a vaccine as part of Group 4.

While the state recently bumped up the timeline by a week for the first part of Group 4, they had earlier moved people with chronic conditions down from Group 2 to Group 4.

"(Having) to wait this long, it's given us a wide span of time to catch the virus. So some of my friends will not come out of the house, will not venture out, have food delivered to them, and their groceries. Some of the people I know will carry on like (usual), but they wear a mask," said McDaniel.

McDaniel, who works with a community organizer with the NC AIDS Action Network, acknowledged despite her health issues, she shared safety concerns about the vaccine.

"In the Black community, a lot of us have fears and doubts. I've had family members, friends say they're not going to take it because they're not sure what they're getting injected with," said McDaniel.

The future is also where Rhonda Carroll and her son Joseph, who has Down syndrome, are looking toward.

Joseph turns 18 later this month, and while eligibility for Group 4 includes those 16 and older, only the Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for people younger than 18.

People living in congregate settings such as shelters will also be eligible beginning Wednesday, March 17, with the rest of Group 4 able to get their shots beginning on April 7.

While vaccine production has recently ramped up, state officials share that demand outpaces supply, and adding millions of more eligible people will add another layer to scheduling. Despite this, State Health Director Dr. Betsy Tilson is confident in providers' ability to handle the influx of sign-ups.

"(People who were) eligible still remain eligible. A lot of our outreach to employers and trying to bringing vaccines to worksites, they'll be able to vaccinate people who have or don't have chronic health conditions at that work site as well. So I think we'll be okay as we move forward and be able to accommodate people," said Dr. Tilson.

Doctors are urging people not to delay getting the shot, and to sign up when their Priority Group is eligible.

8 p.m.
Cumberland County Schools announced Tuesday night it will transition to Plan A on April 12. Under Plan A, Pre-K through grade 12 can attend class in person on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of each week. Virtual learning remains an option open to students.

2:37 p.m.
The 4th Fighter Wing Medical Group is hosting a COVID-19 mass vaccine line for specific groups of authorized TRICARE beneficiaries at the base Fitness Center at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

On Thursday, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. first doses for persons aged 65 and older and persons 16 and older who are at increased risk of severe illness in accordance with CDC guidelines, and beneficiaries who received their first dose from the 4th Medical group who still require their second dose are welcome to receive the vaccine.

On Friday, March 19th, from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. or while supplies last, first doses for persons aged 65 and older, persons 16 and older who are at increased risk of severe illness, beneficiaries who received their first dose from the 4th Medical group who still require their second dose, and all other TRICARE beneficiaries are welcome to receive the vaccine. Persons 65 and older or 16 and older at increased risk of severe illness in accordance with CDC guidelines will have waiting line priority throughout the day on Friday.

2:29 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports two new cases for a total of 5,071 positive COVID-19 cases.

The death toll remains at 102 -- 2% of total cases.

2:12 p.m.
North Carolina native and NASCAR legend Richard Petty recently received a COVID-19 vaccine.

The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, and all-time leader in premier series race wins with 200, Petty was vaccinated at a drive-through vaccination center located near his hometown of Level Cross.

In a public service announcement released by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Petty, 83, shares his reasons for getting vaccinated and urges others to find their spot and take their shot.



"I talked to my doctor, and he highly recommended that I go ahead and get a shot," Petty said. "It doesn't only help me; it helps my family and all of the people I associate with. You are not only helping yourself; you are helping your neighbors."

Petty recorded the PSA in partnership with NCDHHS as part of the state's Your Spot Your Shot COVID-19 public education campaign. To date, more than 1.2 million North Carolinians are fully vaccinated.

12:50 p.m.
Two new studies add to evidence that a virus variant first detected in Britain is more deadly than the previous dominant form.

Other research had already demonstrated the strain is more transmissible, but a new paper published Monday in the journal Nature suggests the U.K. variant may also be associated with an increased risk of death.

Comparing cases in more than 1 million people infected in England, researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimated the risk of death was about 55% higher for those with the new variant versus the previous one.

For men in their 50s or 60s, that meant the risk of death went from 0.06% to 0.09% with the new strain.

In a University of Exeter study published in the British journal BMJ last week, researchers followed about 100,000 positive COVID-19 cases, matching pairs of participants on age, sex and other factors. They also found those with the U.K. variant were at higher risk of death during the study.

The variant has been found in all but a few states in the U.S. and is expected to become the dominant strain later this spring.

12:40 p.m.
Moderna announced Tuesday it is beginning a study of its COVID-19 vaccine in children younger than 12 - one that will include babies as young as 6 months.

The announcement comes exactly a year after the first adult received a test dose of the shot, created at the National Institutes of Health. It's now being used across the U.S. and in multiple other countries.

Moderna also has tested the vaccine in 12- to 17-year-olds but hasn't yet released the findings. The study in younger children will be more complex because researchers need to determine whether to use smaller doses than in adults and adolescents.

The study aims to eventually enroll about 6,750 children in the U.S. and Canada. That's after a phase-in portion to determine the best dose to test in children age 2 and older and the right dose in those younger than 2.

12:33 p.m.
Sampson County reports 27 new cases for a total of 7,260 cases.

The county death toll remains at 95. In all 11,948 people have tested negative for COVID-19 countywide.

The health department will hold a vaccination event from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday at Sampson Agri Expo Center, 414 Warsaw Road in Clinton.

Second doses will be provided from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to those who have received their first dose Feb. 10 and 17. First doses will be provided from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

12:30 p.m.
NCDHHS on Tuesday reported 1,093 new COVID-19 cases in the state.

1,021 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. 91 confirmed patients were admitted in the last 24 hours.

The percent of positive tests in North Carolina is at 6.7 percent.

12.6 percent of the state is fully vaccinated. 16.2 percent of adults are fully vaccinated.

12 p.m.
After opening his presidency by playing down expectations for combating the pandemic, President Joe Biden and his top messengers are touring the country to raise hopes over his $1.9 trillion relief package. The president - as well as his vice president and his wife - is promising that the spending will bring transformational change. It's a sharp turn from the start of the Biden administration, when vaccination goals were relatively modest and Americans were warned the country might not return to normal until Christmas. Biden is heading to Pennsylvania on Tuesday to highlight the benefits of the plan, specifically focusing on aid for small businesses.

11:45 a.m.
Stocks were mixed in afternoon trading Tuesday as Wall Street looked to match its longest winning streak of the year. Investors continue to closely watch the bond market, with even minute changes in bond yields causing stocks to fluctuate. Investors are also working through economic data that showed Americans cut back spending last month. European shares were mostly higher despite news that AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine, which was being used heavily in Europe and Asia, had reports of blood clots after usage. The vaccine's usage is suspended in Europe.

11:30 a.m.
Durham Public Schools said its precautions reduced the risk of anyone getting COVID-19 from the two students who tested positive after the first day back in school in a year.

"We know that these students did not get COVID-19 at school. We know that we are people who are living in a community that is fighting COVID-19 all along. We're taking every step possible to limit its impact on our teachers and students," DPS Public Information Officer Chip Sudderth said.

Two Southwest Elementary School students tested positive after Monday's return to in-person learning. At least one of those students rode a bus home.

"Our buses are regularly cleaned anyway. But students who rode that bus with the student who later was found to have tested positive, they are going to be staying home and doing remote learning as well," Sudderth explained. "We're being very, very intentional about limiting the opportunities for COVID to spread."

Durham Public Schools had previously announced it would not do in-person classes this school year. But that changed when Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican legislators hashed out a deal to require schools to offer in-person classes.

"The legislature and the governor have made moves to require all of our schools to offer in person learning. We know that we're going to be living with COVID for quite some time, even with vaccinations and with all the safety precautions that we've been taking. We are learning from other districts that have been dealing with this all along, who have been taking the steps to minimize the disease," Sudderth said.

8:00 a.m.
Moderna will start testing its COVID-19 vaccine on babies and children.

The company said it's looking to enroll 7,000 children between six months and 12-years-old for the trial.

7:30 a.m.
A day after Durham Public Schools welcomed students back into the classroom, two students have tested positive for COVID-19.

DPS said the students attended Southwest Elementary School and rode bus 185 on Monday afternoon.

Three classrooms will close to in-person learning for 10 days. The students who may have come in contact with either of the COVID-19 positive students will participate in remote learning for at least 10 days.

The school and local health department are working to contact any students or faculty members who had contact with the students.

6:15 a.m.
Federal and state officials are working to discuss what your office will look like as we move past the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many workers have not been into their office in a year. Working from home has become the new normal, but what will working look like when the pandemic is over?

That's the question North Carolina-based Catapult wants to dive into Tuesday.

The company is hosting a discussion with NC Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen and Andy Slavitt, a senior advisor for President Joe Biden's COVID-19 Task Force.

Employees are encouraged to join in as Cohen and Slavitt talk about how the pandemic has changed our workplaces and how those changes will look in the coming months and years.

The discussion is scheduled for 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. You just need to register at least 5 minutes before the event begins.

You can learn more about the event and register here.

TUESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
The push to get more students back to class continues with education leaders in Wake and Cumberland counties holding discussions Tuesday.

Wake County Public School System welcomed 4th- and 5th-grade students back to class Monday. The district's school board is scheduled Tuesday to discuss plans to bring the remaining 6-12th grade students back to class.

A petition is already circling, calling on the board to bring back all students by April 7. The board's meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30.

Leaders with Cumberland County Schools are having similar discussions. Their meeting starts at 6 p.m.

Roanoke Rapids Graded School District is welcoming students back to class Tuesday.

Pre-K through 5th-grade students are starting back to in-person classes full time.

The rest of the students will be divided into two groups: Grades 6-8 will alternate weeks in person & grades 9-12 will attend in person two days a week.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may tweak recommendations for physical distancing in schools.

The CDC is looking into a Harvard study published last week that found no difference in transmission when masked children were three feet apart, as opposed to the currently recommended six feet apart.

MONDAY
4:40 p.m.
Lee County health officials said 44 more COVID-19 cases have been reported in the last week. In total, there have been 5,549 cases and 73 county deaths since the pandemic began.

3:40 p.m.
Johnston County health officials are reporting a COVID-19 cluster at Cleveland Elementary School.

NCDHHS defines a cluster as a minimum of five cases with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period and plausible epidemiologic linkage between cases.

Johnston County school officials told ABC11 the impacted classroom moved to remote instruction following the first case and there are no plans to close the school.

12 p.m.
Monday's report from the NCDHHS included 1,337 newly-reported COVID-19 cases.

976 people were hospitalized and the daily percent positive rate was 5.2%, a slight decrease from Saturday's 5.4%.

18 more deaths were reported, totaling 11,709 since the start of the pandemic.

12.3 percent of the population of North Carolina is fully vaccinated. 19.5 percent of the population is partially vaccinated.

6:55 a.m.
NC Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen toured the state's only FEMA-run COVID-19 vaccination site on Monday.

That site is in Greensboro at the Four Seasons Town Centre off Interstate 40.

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Dr. Mandy Cohen gave a COVID-19 update from the state's largest mass vaccination site.



It's open seven days a week and can vaccinate 3,000 people every day--although appointments are still required to get vaccinated.

6:50 a.m.
Lunches will be one of the most different aspects of returning to class.

Students obviously won't be required to wear masks while eating lunch. However, that means other safety measures need to be in place to keep COVID-19 from spreading.

In Wake County, all lunches will be individually packaged and directly handed to each student. Students will not be able to serve themselves like they have in the past.

Moreover, all breakfast and lunches will be free to all students. The students will not need to show their student ID to receive their meal.

6:20 a.m.
Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr. spoke to ABC11 Monday morning as students prepared to return to class for the first time in a year.

"It is an exciting day here in Cumberland County. We're so excited to have 29,000 of our students choosing in-person learning to start out this week," Connelly said.

He spoke briefly about the safety measures in place for students and faculty, saying that other than those precautious Monday is going to be just like any other first day of school.

Connelly also warned families, students and anyone on the roads Monday to be extra patient.

"Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Everyone on the highway be watchful- we have 440 buses on the road this morning. So everyone be cautious and be safe."

MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES

Some students in Central North Carolina head back to their classrooms Monday for the first time in a year.

In Wake County, 4th- and 5th- graders are headed back to full-time in-person classes. They'll join kindergarten through 3rd-grade students who started back in-person a couple weeks ago.

Durham Public Schools is welcoming students back to the classrooms for the first time in a year. Classrooms are socially distant and everybody will be required to wear masks.

All elementary school students are included in the DPS return to school. However, they are returning to a mixture of in-person and virtual learning--as opposed to a full-time return to the classroom.

Some students in Cumberland County are also making their return to the classroom today.

Cumberland County, like Durham, is returning students to a Plan B schedule. This schedule brings one group of students into the classroom Monday and Tuesday and a second group into the classroom Thursday and Friday--with both groups working remotely on Wednesday.

SUNDAY
1:45 p.m
North Carolina health officials will not update the COVID-19 dashboard today. As of last weekend, the dashboard will only be updated on Monday though Saturday.

On Saturday, NCDHHS said a technical error on Friday will cause Monday's data to be elevated.

7:20 a.m.
According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been 29,400,898 COVID-19 cases in the United States since the pandemic began in March 2020.

SATURDAY

8:30 p.m.
Duke University is demanding that their undergraduate students to stay-in-place for a week after witnessing a 'steady rise' in COVID-19 cases following recent off-campus fraternity-related events.

The order, which goes into effect at midnight, will not be relieved until 9 a.m. on Sunday, March 21.

Officials said over the past week, more than 180 students had to go into isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 while another 200 students are in quarantine after being exposed to the virus.

"This is by far the largest one-week number of positive tests and quarantines since the start of the pandemic," Duke wrote in a statement.

An update will be provided on Thursday, March 18.

Students who are on-campus are asked to remain in their dorm or apartment rooms at all times except for 'essential activities.' A curfew is also in place for all undergraduate students by 9 p.m.

As for off-campus students, they are asked not to come to campus for any purpose other than a few exceptions regarding student health.

For full details on the extent of the stay-in-place order, check here.

3:45 p.m.
A North Carolina inmate has died after testing positive for COVID-19, prison officials said Saturday.

The Franklin Correctional Center offender was in his 60s, pre-existing medical conditions, tested positive for the virus on Feb. 19 and was hospitalized on Feb. 22.

The man died on March 12.

"We are continuing our extensive efforts 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. "I urge the staff and offenders to be vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. It's important."

1:45 p.m.
Urban Ministries was able to administer 100-second doses of the Moderna vaccine Saturday.

"It's gonna be our way, our path back to getting things closer to normal. It may take a long time to do that, but any steps we can take back to normal, this is definitely something that everyone should consider," said Elizabeth A. Campbell, medical director of the Urban Ministries Open Door Clinic

That advice is especially to anyone hesitant after hearing about side effects, including headaches, chills and temporary discomfort.

"We're learning more and more about the side effects of having severe coronavirus. And the side effects pale in comparison to having a long term, severe coronavirus," said Campbell.

Organizers are not done yet, knowing more will roll up their sleeves if the vaccine is available.

"So next week, on Thursday the 18th of March we're starting to register more of our patients for a second series of the Moderna shot," said Campbell.

12:20 p.m.
North Carolina health officials said technical issues are causing lower COVID-19 cases and test counts.

Saturday, NCDHHS said 892 new COVID-19 cases were reported.

Throughout North Carolina, 28 more people have died from the virus, bringing the total to 11,691.

Nine fewer COVID-19 patients are being hospitalized, bringing the total to 1,028 statewide.

The state reported a 5.4% positive test rate.

Health officials said data on March 15 will be higher as it incorporates case and test data that would have been reported today.

7:25 a.m.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, there have been 29,347,849 COVID-19 cases in the United States since March 2020.
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