RALEIGH, N.C. -- Here's the latest news and information on COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines.
During a Wake County school board meeting Tuesday afternoon, county staff were told to work on a voluntary COVID-19 testing program for students.
The district said it is too short-staffed to run the testing program itself, but there was an understanding there will be an additional burden on staff in some capacity.
The board is also in the process of figuring out the best way to comply with the soon-to-come federal mandate that requires companies with 100 or more staff have to be vaccinated or tested weekly.
"Increased testing at schools would ensure all students and teachers regardless of socioeconomic status have access to a test," said Christina Jones, Wake County mother of a first and second-grader. "We are the largest school district in North Carolina so it is our responsibility to lead the way for the rest of the state, it is time to be bold and strong for our kids
"This is about public health, vaccine mandates have been in place for years. Schools have always required you show vaccine records when you enter schools. This is no different, the only difference is that it's a new illness and we're in a pandemic," said Shruti Adiga, mother of a kindergarten student at Penny Road Elementary. "The more layers the better, the earlier we catch asymptomatic infections, the less transmission we'll have of the virus, the less students out on quarantine."
Adiga spoke at Tuesday's meeting to ensure the mask mandate stays and that there will be a robust testing program.
"Let me remind you that y'all were elected to make sure our kids get a great education. It is a parent's right, not yours to make medical decisions for our children," said Jessica Lewis, Wake County mom. "Why do the children have to sit six seats apart in the cafeteria, not allowed to talk and then hurry up and put their masks back on? My family can go into a restaurant and not even be asked to put a mask on and we are closer to other people."
Gov. Roy Cooper held a briefing to update residents on the status of the state's COVID-19 response and highlighted an effort to get faith leaders involved in strengthening community vaccination efforts.
"We remain laser focused on helping more North Carolinians make the decision to get vaccinated," Cooper said. "(State Health) Secretary (Mandy) Cohen and I are sharing a letter to faith leaders asking them to encourage their congregations to get vaccinated and to help combat misinformation about vaccines and treatment. Some houses of worship have served as vaccination sites and I hope more will. Faith leaders from all religious backgrounds can be trusted figures in their communities. Their word can go a long way in encouraging people to talk with doctors and understand that vaccines are safe."
In the letter, Cooper and Cohen wrote:
"Getting vaccinated is one of the deepest expressions of our shared values to protect human life and love our neighbor. It is an act of love to our families and our communities. While we have made much progress in the state, too many people are needlessly getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, and dying. Our hospitals are strained, and in other states we've seen that care is not readily available for people experiencing non-COVID life-threatening health crises. We need your help."
The letter outlines three actions that faith leaders can take, including directing their congregation and faith community to trustworthy sources about COVID-19 vaccines, serving as vaccine ambassadors, and hosting vaccination events.
Cooper also again urged vaccinations, saying it's not too late to get vaccinated if you haven't done so already.
"Every vaccine given is a potential life saved," Cooper said.
He noted that 90% of North Carolinians 65 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine
Cooper talked about an initiative to get faith leaders to encourage those in their congregations to get vaccinated.
The governor also said state government is pressing employees to comply with vaccination or testing requirements.
"Under my Executive Order, NC cabinet agencies are working to require employees to verify they have been vaccinated or collect their weekly COVID test results," Cooper said. "It's positive that many agencies are reporting high percentages of vaccinated employees, but there is more work to do."
To date, North Carolina has administered over 11 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 63 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated. Sixty-eight percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The American Rescue Plan Act provides U.S. cities and counties with $130.2 billion through December 31, 2024. The City of Raleigh will receive more than $73.2M as part of this allocation.
At the Tuesday City Council work session, staff presented on Phase 2 of the City's plan to allocate American Rescue funding. Phase 2 will focus on meeting community needs for recovery from COVID-19 and the associated economic impacts. Staff received feedback from City Council on prioritizing the following areas: Economic Recovery, Housing/Homelessness, Community Health, Infrastructure and Transit.
Based on City Council feedback, staff proposed the following budget amendments:
$10 million for affordable housing strategic acquisition
$10 million for health initiatives awarded through a request for proposals (RFP) and review process
$5 million for small business assistance through the Carolina Small Business Development Fund
$500,000 to support the development of outdoor seating to turn public spaces into vibrant community spaces
City Council authorized the budget amendments on Tuesday.
4,381 new daily COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Tuesday.
The percent of positive tests in the state is at 11%.
3,464 people are currently hospitalized in the state with COVID-19.
There are 908 adult ICU COVID-19 patients.
334 confirmed COVID-19 patients have been admitted into hospitals in the last 24 hours.
The number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators is on the decline after months of increases.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is preparing to send 50 ambulances and 100 personnel to North Carolina to help with the COVID-19 response.
The FEMA support information was detailed in a federal planning document obtained by ABC News.
Ambulances were provided to the state of Mississippi last month and Louisiana earlier this month.
The U.S. reported more than 225,000 child COVID-19 cases, marking the fourth consecutive week with over 200,000 new pediatric cases reported, according to a newly released weekly report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.
In the last five weeks alone, the country has reported more than 1.1 million pediatric cases, according to the organizations.
"The weekly figure is now about 26 times higher than it was in June, when just 8,400 pediatric cases were reported over the span of a week," the organizations wrote in their report.
The South accounted for about half --110,000-- of last week's pediatric cases, according to the report.
The organizations added that more than 2,200 children are hospitalized with a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection.
A second dose of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine given two months after the first leads to stronger protection, according to the company.
The new data, announced in a press release, adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that booster shots could enhance vaccine protection against breakthrough infections -- though experts agree all three vaccines are still doing their job to protect against more serious illness.
Compared to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Johnson & Johnson's single-shot vaccine always had slightly lower efficacy. Peak efficacy from the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines was 95% and 94%, respectively, against symptomatic illness.
But two Johnson & Johnson shots, given two months apart, resulted in a similarly high effectiveness level: 94% protection against any symptomatic infection in the U.S., and 100% against severe disease.
Q&A: What do families need to know about Pfizer's data on shots for kids
Tuesday morning headlines
Gov. Cooper and members of the Coronavirus Task Force will share an update on COVID-19 in the state at 3 p.m. today.
During the Raleigh City Council meeting on Tuesday, city staff, along with staff from the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Centennial Authority, will provide Council with an update on the status of tourism in Raleigh amid the pandemic, current and future challenges, expectations for the coming year and status of hotels.
Council is also expected to discuss the current status of the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, review the city's indoor face covering proclamation, and discuss current vaccine/testing requirements for employees.
The deadline for Duke Health employees to get vaccinated is Tuesday. On Monday, a spokesperson told ABC11: "Nearly 97% of Duke University Health System employees have fulfilled the COVID vaccination requirements as of today."
The workers who have not complied with the vaccine requirement by 10 a.m. could get a final written warning, followed by administrative action, including loss of their jobs.
The Wake County School Board is meeting on Tuesday. During the work session. Paul Koh, Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services and Kelly Creech, Senior Director for Health Services are expected to share information and potential strategies for COVID-19 testing and vaccination for the 2021-2022 school year.
UNC Health spokesperson Alan Wolf said COVID vaccination statuses or granted exemptions have been confirmed for 95 percent of employees. The status of 1,400 employees is still awaiting confirmation.
"We are confident we will get the vast majority of our teammates vaccinated. We want to keep everyone employed who wants to stay with UNC Health, and are working hard to accommodate employees with medical and religious concerns. We've approved about 1,100 exemptions for medical or religious reasons," said Wolf.
Any employees who are non-compliant as of Sept. 21 will enter a probationary period. The period ends Nov. 2 and employees have until then to enter receiving a complete vaccination series.
NCDHHS has announced four new locations offering monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19 treatment.
"While vaccines provide the best protection from COVID-19, treatment options such as monoclonal antibodies are available for people at high risk for severe illness if you have had symptoms of COVID-19 for 10 days or less or have been exposed to COVID-19," said Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, NCDHHS State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer. "Expanding access to this potentially lifesaving treatment can, if taken early, reduce the risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death."
The four new sites are located in Harnett, Robeson, Johnston and Wilkes counties.
The Johnston County school board voted to keep its mask mandate in place during a Monday meeting.
The board voted 4-3 in favor of the mandate.
Masks remain required inside all JCPS facilities and buses for all students, staff, and guests.
Wake County announced that 87% of its employees have attested that they are fully vaccinated.
Out of 4,185 employees, 3,623 have responded that they are fully vaccinated, the county said.
In August, Wake County announced a program that required staff to attest by Sept. 15 that they were fully vaccinated, or they would be required to get tested weekly for the fast-spreading virus.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 3,257 new COVID-19 cases Monday, the third-straight day of declining new cases since the state reported 7,905 cases Friday.
The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 also continued to drop, falling to 3,323. Currently, there are 887 adults in ICUs across the state with COVID-19.
However, the percentage of positive tests rose above 10% for the first time in four days--as of Saturday 10.3% of tests are positive.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 15,776 people have died from COVID-19. That's an increase of 161 deaths since Friday.
The Union County Board of Education held a special meeting at 7 a.m. on Monday as it faces legal action from the state's health department over the district's COVID-19 protocols inside schools.
Just after 8:30 a.m., the School Board voted 8-1 to "continue following its legal obligations of reporting positive cases to the local health department and providing relevant information to the local health department," according to WSOC.
The School Board also agreed to require students who are symptomatic or have tested positive for COVID-19 to stay home, and the district will recognize quarantines in accordance with state law, of students and staff who are considered close contacts with a COVID-19 positive case.
The board previously passed a motion to halt all activity of contact tracing and quarantine by Union County School staff and nurses and called for the immediate return of all students who were excluded from school because of COVID-19 exposure.
The House Wake! COVID-19 Financial Assistance Program is making changes.
Beginning Sept. 20 applicants can self-attest to the information required to process their application when documentation is not readily available. They are also eligible for up to six months of additional financial assistance and have in-person access to support from Legal Aid of North Carolina at the Wake County Courthouse.
In addition, landlords can now receive bulk payments for rent owed to them instead of monthly payments and the online portal for the program will be launching tonight.
President Joe Biden will ease foreign travel restrictions into the U.S. beginning in November, when his administration will require all foreign travelers flying into the country to be fully vaccinated.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients says they'll need to demonstrate proof of vaccination before boarding, as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of flight.
Biden will also tighten testing rules for unvaccinated American citizens, who will need to be tested within a day before returning to the U.S., as well as after they arrive home.
Data shows the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for children ages 5 to 11, the companies announced Monday morning.
"We are eager to extend the protection afforded by the vaccine to this younger population, subject to regulatory authorization, especially as we track the spread of the delta variant and the substantial threat it poses to children," Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. "Since July, pediatric cases of COVID-19 have risen by about 240 percent in the U.S. -- underscoring the public health need for vaccination."
There were 2,268 participants ages 5 to 11 in the trial, which, while it still followed a two-dose regimen, used a lesser dose than the amount given to people ages 12 and older, for the "safety, tolerability and immunogenicity" of younger children.
Wake County Vaccine Clinics
Starting Monday, all five permanent Wake County Public Health vaccine locations in the county are adding staff, expanding hours and offering both Pfizer/Comirnaty and Moderna.
That's to prepare for the potential approval of booster shots for all Americans.
In addition, all vaccinations will require appointments beginning Monday.
"Temporarily ending walk-ins and moving to only appointments will allow slots to be reserved for those seeking first and second doses, those with weakened immune systems needing additional doses, and those seeking booster doses," Wake County Public Health said.
Wake County's Northern Regional Center in Wake Forest and Southern Regional Center in Fuquay Varina had only been administering Moderna at their vaccine clinics. Now, they are adding Pfizer.
Wake County officials say the changes will help them administer about 2,000 vaccine doses per day.
Johnston County COVID-19 protocols
The Johnston County School Board meets on Monday to take up the mask mandate debate.
Last week, hundreds of people -- including U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn -- showed up to the Johnston County School District Headquarters to rally against a mask policy.
The Johnston County school board was initially going to make a decision on whether to continue requiring face masks in schools on that day. However, the vote was delayed due to a death in the family of a chairwoman.
The vote will now be considered on Monday at 2 p.m.
Governor Roy Cooper did not extend the order that was in place last year that required schools at a state level to mandate mask wearing. Now, the decision is being left up to individual school districts. However, a new law does require school boards to vote monthly on their masking policies.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends students older than 2 wear masks in school to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, which is now infecting children at higher rates than ever before seen.
WWE RAW returns to Raleigh
WWE RAW returns to Raleigh for the first time in a decade on Monday.
The event will be held at PNC Arena.
Masks are required upon entry. There are no vaccination or testing requirements for the event.
The National Institutes of Health director says a government advisory panel's decision to limit Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots to Americans 65 and older as well as those at high risk of severe disease is a preliminary step and predicts broader approval for most Americans "in the next few weeks."
Dr. Francis Collins told "Fox News Sunday" that the panel's recommendation Friday was correct based on a "snapshot" of available data on the effectiveness of Pfizer's two-shot regimen over time. But he said real-time data from the U.S. and Israel continue to come in showing waning efficacy among broader groups of people that will need to be addressed soon.
Collins, who also appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation," said: "I think there will be a decision in the coming weeks to extend boosters beyond the list that they approved on Friday."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, on Sunday praised the advisory board's plan for covering a "good chunk" of Americans. But he stressed that "this is not the end of the story" based on evolving data and said the recommendations will likely be expanded in the coming weeks to months.
The Food and Drug Administration will consider the advisory group's advice and make its own decision, probably within days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also is set to weigh in this week.
COVID-19 in South Carolina
South Carolina is setting records for COVID-19 hospitalizations, and new cases are approaching the peak levels of last winter.
Since ending South Carolina's state of emergency on June 7, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has maintained that parents alone should decide if children wear masks in schools, even as the state's new cases soared from 150 a day on average to more than 5,000.
Now teachers, students and parents are struggling with the fallout as more young people contract the delta variant, forcing nearly two dozen schools and two entire districts back to online learning within a month of returning in person.
State health and education officials say the statewide mask ban in schools took away one of their best tools to stop the spread of COVID-19. The state hit nearly 2,600 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in early September, a record.
"We spiked the football too early. Instead of continuing to listen to medical professionals and interpreting the data, he has been guided by Republican Governors Association talking points," Democratic state Sen. Marlon Kimpson of Charleston said.
Some lawmakers from both parties are pushing for a special session to repeal the rule and allow local governments to make decisions. The state Supreme Court is considering a lawsuit over whether the mask provision is legal.