'We felt that this was a happy medium': Raleigh's New Year's Eve event makes COVID-19 changes

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Here's the latest news and information on COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines.

10 p.m.
Raleigh's 'First Night' will go on New Year's Eve but with some slight changes.

You'll need proof of a COVID vaccination or a negative test to attend in addition to a ticket to see any part of the event.

Everything has also been moved outdoors because of the spreading omicron variant but masks are not required.

"We felt that this was a happy medium between a full cancelation and an event that was high risk because it was indoors," said Cameron Laws, program director at Artsplosure, who puts on the event.

In years past, tickets were not required to get onto city plaza but that has changed.

In order to ride the rides or see the art exhibits, you'll need to purchase a $12 ticket.

"I really felt people need this," said Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin. "They needed this celebration. I think it's a good compromise to move everything outdoors and still let people gather because we need something to celebrate."

An outdoor event is better, but you can still get infected, according to Dr. David Wohl, an infectious diseases specialist at UNC Health.

"Even if you're outdoors but within inches or a foot or two, maybe with Omicron with another person screaming, yelling or singing, I'd be nervous," said Dr. Wohl.

Wohl said if you are going to go, mask up and ensure you're boosted.

"We always say to have a 'happy and healthy new year,'" said Dr. Wohl. "There are things we can do to keep it healthy. Just use your smart brain, use the tools at your disposal so we can have a future New Years without having to worry about this."

Susan was out with her kids Monday night in Downtown Raleigh. She said she's been to First Night in years past but wouldn't go this year with her daughter Lula unable to be vaccinated.

"I would be wearing my N95 and I'd be making the children wear N95s also," said Susan. "I guess I'm a little extreme but to each their own."

2 p.m.
First Night Raleigh will be held completely outdoors for the first time ever.

Public Health officials, Mayor Mary Ann Baldwin, and Artsplosure--the group that organizes the event--agreed that due to rising COVID-19 cases, the event should take extra precautions this year.

All indoor performances will shift to take place outside.

In addition, every person ages 6 and older must provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from an official Wake County testing site within 48 hours of the event.

Mask wearing will not be required outside, but it will be strongly encouraged as an extra safety measure.

8:55 a.m.
NC State will require all unvaccinated students, faculty and staff to provide a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of returning to campus.

All students living in University Housing and Greek Village, regardless of vaccination status, must also provide a negative COVID-19 test before returning to campus.

Anyone who tests positive within 72 hour of their scheduled return to campus should not return to campus. Instead they should upload their positive test result to the Healthypack Portal.

This comes on the heels of Duke University requiring COVID-19 booster shots for all students, faculty and staff.

Meanwhile, UNC said it will wait a bit longer to decide how it will start its spring semester.

"We believe we are in a better situation if we wait a little bit longer and wait until we have as much information and data as we can to make as informed decision as possible," said Bob Boulin, the executive vice chancellor and provost.

MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES

COVID-19 testing sites in Wake County will reopen Monday after being closed over the holiday break.

All five public testing sites will be open and accepting appointments. You can get an appointment--for both tests or vaccines--by going online here.

Coronavirus cases across the country are as high as they have been in nearly a year. That comes as the omicron variant surges, causing health experts to encourage testing both before and after large gatherings.

The surge in cases is causing problems for airlines. Thousands of flights have been cancelled, with airlines citing staff shortages due to mandatory COVID-19 quarantines.

Jet Blue and Delta have asked the federal government to reduce the required quarantine period for employees who test positive for the virus.

SUNDAY

After closing on Christmas, Wake County will re-open their vaccination and testing sites beginning Monday morning.

The five county-run sites offer free testing, and do not require ID or insurance. Results are typically posted in 12-24 hours. The locations are open from 7 AM to 7 PM, though appointments are required. Testing site locations are:



NCDHHS also offers free at-home testing, where they will send a kit which can be mailed directly to a lab. In that case, results are usually back in 1-2 days from when the lab receives the sample.

The county's vaccination sites will also return to normal schedule beginning Monday; three are open on Mondays (Wake County Human Services Center at 5809 Departure Drive in Raleigh, Wake County Public Health Center in Raleigh, and Wake County Northern Regional Center in Wake Forest), while two others re-open Tuesday (Wake County Southern Regional Center in Fuquay-Varina, and Wake County Eastern Regional Center in Zebulon). If you are coming for your second or third dose, you should bring your vaccination card.

Sunday night, ABC11 found many pharmacies had appointments booked for Monday and Tuesday, though there was availability at multiple locations for a number of time slots Wednesday.

The push for testing comes as TSA reported a sharp rise in holiday travel compared to last year, though it did not meet pre-pandemic levels.
Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the 7-day average of cases topped 175,000 for the first time since January, which is more than twice as high as the beginning of the month.

Wednesday, the last day for which the state reported new data, North Carolina reported 4,889 new cases, up 48% from just two weeks earlier, and the state's test positivity rate topped 10% for the second consecutive day. On a positive note, hospitalizations were at nearly half the level as they were at the same time period last year.

During an appearance on "This Week," Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the President, noted that studies showed the Omicron variant causes less severe symptoms than Delta; however, it is believed to be more transmissible.

"If you have many, many, many more people with a less level of severity, that might kind of neutralize the positive effect of having less severity when you have so many more people," said Fauci.

Monday, Governor Roy Cooper will participate in a National Governors Association phone call with the White House to discuss COVID-19.
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