COVID-19 variant first detected in South Africa found in NC

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

Have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine? Send them to us here

7:50 p.m.
Fayetteville Area System of Transit (FAST) has suspended multiple bus routes after three employees tested positive for COVID-19.

The following bus routes are suspended due to the shortage of drivers:
  • Route 9 - Stacy Weaver Drive/Rosehill Road
  • Route 10 - Strickland Bridge Road
  • Route 11 - Country Club Drive/Pamalee Drive
  • Route 15 - Cape Fear Valley Medical Center/Cross Creek Mall
  • Route 19 - Yadkin Road
  • Route 31 - Owen Drive/Gillespie Street (includes Enterprise Avenue)


Route 7 - Raeford Road will operate on a reduced service schedule.

At least 30 other people are in quarantine following exposure. The initial employee tested positive for COVID-19 on Feb. 10. The City of Fayetteville Human Resource Development team is working on contact tracing

6:30 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported the first identification of the COVID-19 variant B.1.351, a variant first detected in South Africa, in a North Carolina resident.

The B.1.351 variant was detected in South Africa in October and in the United States in January.

The North Carolina B.1.351 variant case was identified in a sample from an adult in the central part of the state who had not recently traveled, according to NCDHHS.

The specimen was tested by LabCorp and selected for sequencing as part of a partnership with the CDC.

North Carolina is the fourth state to report an identified case of this variant. As of Feb. 9, nine cases of infection with the variant had been identified in residents of South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia.

Viruses change all the time, and NCDHHS said it expects to see new COVID-19 variants in the state as the pandemic continues.

Data suggest this variant may be more contagious than other variants but does not suggest that it causes more severe disease. Current COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be effective against this and other new variants.

"While we anticipated the arrival of the B.1.351 variant in NC, it's a reminder that the fight against COVID-19 is not over. The emergence of variants that are more infectious means it's more important than ever to do what we know works to slow the spread - wear a mask, wash your hands, wait 6 feet apart, and get vaccinated when it's your turn," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.

1:10 p.m.
The NC House has passed Senate Bill 37, which requires school districts to provide an in-person learning option for this school year.

The measure, which passed by a 74-44 vote, now goes back to the Senate for a concurrence vote.

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The NC House has passed Senate Bill 37, which requires school districts to provide an in-person learning option for this school year.



If it passes there, the bill will go to Gov. Roy Cooper's desk for approval or veto.

Senate Bill 37 does let students continue with remote learning if they choose.

Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes, a public school teacher and co-chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the legislation provides families certainty in education and economic planning.

"Currently our students are subject to shifting executive orders and mixed messages from the administration which have created confusion and led to local delays, making it very difficult for parents to plan for their jobs and their child's education," Elmore said Thursday. "This legislation gives North Carolina families certainty and access to classrooms by combining over a billion dollars of new education funding with local decision-making to implement a return to in-person learning now."

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said that current restrictions keeping students out of the classroom are forcing parents to miss work or seek education alternatives, and the legislation gives school systems flexibility to adjust student assignments for in-person learning.

"Closing schools has burdened North Carolina families economically while young people fall behind in their studies, producing a devastating impact on student achievement and exacerbating socieconomic disparities," Moore said Thursday. "We are listening to educators, healthcare experts, parents, and most importantly our students, who have a constitutional right to access education communities that serve their academic needs."

11:40 a.m.
The percent daily positive COVID-19 rate continued its precipitous drop with Thursday's updated metrics.

The rate had been in the teens as recently as last week, but Thursday's report showed the rate at 5.9%. The state goal, which it has not achieved since the fall of 2020 is to be below 5%.

The state's metrics showed another 113 new deaths from the virus, bring the total count to 10,294.

One hundred and six fewer people were reported to be hospitalized with the virus.

For a full breakdown of Thursday's metrics, you can click here.

THURSDAY MORNING HEADLINES
The parking lot at PNC Arena opens Thursday as the first COVID-19 mass vaccination site in Raleigh.

However, you will not be able to just show up and get vaccinated. Vaccine supply remains extremely limited; that's why you must have an appointment to get vaccinated at PNC Arena for now.

Slots are all full for today and Saturday. However, you can sign up for the waitlist--if you're a healthcare worker or over the age of 65. At this point, that waitlist reportedly has more than 90,000 people on it.

To do so, go to COVID19.wakegov.com or call 919-250-1515.

Officials said they hope to vaccinate 2,100 people at PNC Arena on Thursday. The goal for the site is to continue operating regularly, but of course that all depends on how many doses of the vaccine the area receives.

Tomorrow, Walgreens will join the race to vaccinate in North Carolina. The pharmacy is sending including 31,000 doses of the vaccine to 300 stores in North Carolina.

Walgreens is also not accepting walk-ins. You must make an appointment on its website.

You may also see reports that CVS is also opening bookings for COVID-19 vaccine appointments. However, CVS is not yet giving shots in North Carolina.

WEDNESDAY
4:30 p.m.
East Carolina University announced that it has temporarily paused all activities with its men's basketball program beginning Wednesday because of a "positive test, contact tracing and subsequent quarantining of individuals within the program."

ECU said the Pirates' next two games, at Temple on Thursday and home against Temple on Saturday have been postponed.
3:26 p.m.
The Wayne County Health Department said it has administered 5,448 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and has 12,259 names on its waiting list.

Next week, Wayne County will be scheduling second dose shots for those who received their first dose at the Maxwell Center in January.

For more informaton on the COVID-19 vaccine in Wayne County, click here.

2:20 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 21 new cases for a total of 4,793 positive COVID 19 cases. Two additional deaths were reported. In all, 88 people have died countywide because of COVID-19.

2 p.m.
Beginning on Feb. 24, the state will expand the vaccine eligibility to group 3, starting with educators and school personnel and then expand to other group 3 personnel on March 10, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday afternoon.

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FULL VIDEO: Gov. Cooper announces teachers can get vaccines later this month



The priority in group 3 will include teachers, principals, childcare workers, bus drivers and other people who work in and around the school systems, Cooper said. This group encompasses about 240,000 people, the governor added.

"I am grateful to all of our educators and school personnel for going above and beyond in this pandemic to care for children and help them continue to learn," Cooper said. "Starting with a smaller number of Group 3 frontline essential workers helps providers streamline vaccine distribution effectively and efficiently."

Because vaccine supply continues to be limited and the group 3 numbers are so large, the vaccination plan will move forward in phases, NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said.

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FULL VIDEO: NCDHHS Sec. Dr. Mandy Cohen gives update on NC's vaccination efforts



"North Carolina public school educators are eager to get back into their classrooms as soon as it is safe to do so, and today's announcement from Governor Cooper is an important step forward in making that a possibility," said NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly. "By giving all educators, including bus drivers, maintenance workers, nutrition workers, and those who work directly in the classroom vaccination priority, we will be able to resume in-person instruction more quickly and safely. We thank Governor Cooper for listening to the overwhelming message from educators, parents, and the community that educators require vaccination priority.

12 p.m.
North Carolina is now reporting 3,833 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 805,898.

There have been 10,181 deaths in North Carolina due to the virus. That is up 135 from Tuesday.

With 96 percent of hospitals reporting, 2,291 are hospitalized with COVID-19 throughout North Carolina. That is down 83 from Tuesday.
461 ICU beds and 5,036 inpatient hospital beds are currently empty, NCDHHS said.
The state is reporting a 7.9% positive test rate. That is down from Tuesday's 9.3%.

10:30 a.m.
Gov. Cooper has signed the modified 2020 COVID-19 relief bill into law.

"This pandemic continues to strain communities across our state, and this investment of federal funds in critical areas will help us defeat COVID-19 and build back a stronger and more resilient North Carolina," said Gov. Cooper about Senate Bill 36.

WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Gov. Roy Cooper is set to give his second COVID-19 update in as many days.

Cooper will be joined at 2 p.m. with the state's Coronavirus Task Force. You can watch the update live at this URL or on the ABC11 North Carolina app.

Wake County Public School System families are preparing to return to class Monday. The district wants to remind parents that they must fill out a few forms before their children return.

The Student Accountability and Required Health Protocols Signature Page must be filled out by everybody. Plus, if your student is going to ride the bus, this form must be completed.

Also in Wake County, changes are coming to Food Distribution Services. Seven curbside meal distribution locations will end after Friday, Feb. 12. Click here for a full list of those seven locations.

WCPSS said despite the closure of those locations, meals will continue to be free for all students through June 2021.

Race to Vaccinate
A drive-thru clinic opens in Johnston County at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

The clinic is located at North Johnston High School on US-301. It is only for people who need their first dose of the vaccine.

There is no registration for this clinic. The vaccines will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

In Fayetteville at the Crown Complex first and second doses of the vaccine will be distributed starting at 9 a.m.

People with appointments will be inoculated between 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. After 3 p.m., workers will give the remaining doses to people on a first-come, first-served basis.

Both vaccination sites are still adhering to the state's restrictions for who can get the vaccine--meaning only healthcare workers and people over the age of 65 are eligible.
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