'This is the most worried I have been': Cohen urges NC residents to stay home as state reaches new high of 17.8% positive test rate

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

4:45 p.m.
Wake County health officials have reported a second COVID-19 outbreak at the Brookdale Wake Forest -- Memory Care, located at 611 Brook Street.

Heath officials said this is the second outbreak confirmed at the location. The first outbreak happened in May.

2:15 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday afternoon that he would be extending the current Stay-At-Home order in North Carolina.

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NEWS CONFERENCE: At a news conference from the Emergency Operations Center, Governor Roy Cooper extended his current modified Stay-at-Home order for at least three weeks.



The announcement comes as COVID-19 metrics in North Carolina continue to trend in the wrong direction. NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen walked through the most recent county alert map in which 96% of North Carolina's counties are either red or orange.

The restrictions, in place since Dec. 11, close non-essential businesses like gyms, restaurants and retail at 10 p.m. nightly, and allow them to reopen at 5 a.m. The restrictions also include moving the alcohol curfew to 9 p.m. -- two hours earlier than a previous curfew of 11 p.m.

Cohen also issued a secretarial directive urging North Carolinians to stay home unless they are going to school or work, shopping for food or other groceries, or seeking medical care. She also warned that North Carolinians should not gather with anyone outside their home, and said anyone who has spent time with anyone not in their household should assume they are infected and get a test.

"This is the most worried I have been through this pandemic," Cohen said.

Cooper and Cohen also discussed efforts to increase the speed of vaccinations. Cooper discussed the deployment of the National Guard to administer vaccines and help with logistics, while Cohen repeated that the vaccines are safe and effective.

"We all share that sense of urgency to make sure we get out the vaccine as quickly as possible," Cohen said.

To find vaccine locations and learn when you will be elligible for a vaccine, click here or call toll-free 1-877-490-6642.

12 p.m.
North Carolina surpassed 7,000 COVID-19-related deaths and carried a record 17.8% daily positive test rate in Wednesday's report.

There were 80 more deaths than Tuesday's report, bringing the total to 7,076 deaths since March. There were 6,952 new COVID-19 cases reported.

The percent positive test rate is higher than the 16.2% mark from Monday and the highest rate of the pandemic, well above the 5% total that the state wants to reach.

A total of 3,893 are hospitalized due to the virus in the state, also higher than at any point since March.

531 confirmed COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in the last 24 hours. That is by far the largest spike so far in the pandemic. 344 suspected COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in that same time frame.

80 percent of the newly-admitted hospitalizations are patients over the age of 50.

For complete COVID-19 data in North Carolina, check out the state's COVID-19 dashboard.

10 a.m.
A COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Goldsboro has run out of available doses for the day after opening early due to high demand.

Health care workers at the Maxwell Center began helping vaccinate seniors just before 8 a.m. A limited supply of the vaccine was available to those who waited in line on a first-come, first-serve basis. The clinic's goal is to vaccinate 300 people each day for the rest of the week.



Thursday, the Wayne County Health Department is organizing another clinic for those ages 75 and up at the Peggy M. Seegars Senior Center in Goldsboro from 9 a.m. until noon.

WEDNESDAY MORNING STORYLINES


Gov. Roy Cooper and the state's coronavirus task force will give an update on the state's COVID-19 response Wednesday at 2 p.m. On Tuesday, Gov. Cooper mobilized the NC National Guard to help with distributing the COVID-19 vaccine.

Fifty National Guard personnel have been assigned to emergency management centers in Kinston, Butner and Concord.

WATCH: Is there a lag in COVID-19 vaccinations in NC? NCDHHS' Dr. Mandy Cohen explains
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FULL INTERVIEW: NCDHHS' Dr. Mandy Cohen answers questions about how the vaccination process is going in North Carolina.



"Ensuring COVID-19 vaccines are administered quickly is our top priority right now," Cooper tweeted on Tuesday. "We will use all resources and personnel needed."



You can watch the briefing live on ABC11 and on abc11.com.

More than 3,700 people in North Carolina are in the hospital due to COVID-19. The number of COVID-19-related deaths is expected to surpass 7,000 on Wednesday as that number currently sits at 6,996. The daily percent positive test rate sits at 16.2%, well above the state's target rate of 5%.

More than 3 million Americans were vaccinated Tuesday. That pushes the total number of Americans vaccinated near 20 million.

TUESDAY


9:30 p.m.
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.

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NC Rep. Richardson penned a letter urging the General Assembly to use the National Guard to speed up the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.



"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.
6:40 p.m.
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.

1:20 p.m.
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.

1:15 p.m.
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.

1:05 p.m.
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.

1 p.m.

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.

10:50 a.m.
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.

SEE ALSO: North Carolina among the 7 states with the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate, CDC says

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.
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