Gov. Roy Cooper signs new executive order extending COVID-19 measures

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

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4:23 p.m.
Cumberland County officials say the county continues to see a downward trend of critical statistics.

Through the last several weeks, Cumberland County has seen fewer COVID-19 cases and an overall downward trend in positive cases. More than 27% of the county population has received at least a partial vaccination and 24% are fully vaccinated. These figures do not reflect Fort Bragg, Indian Health Service, or the Veterans Affairs numbers.

The Health Department also reports that eight Cumberland County residents have died of COVID-19 since May 27, bringing the total to 317 deaths. There have been 29,950 cases in Cumberland County reported since the onset of the pandemic.

Cumberland County's COVID-19 positive test rate is at 5.2%.

All people ages 12 and older may schedule appointments on the county's COVID-19 vaccine page.

4 p.m.
The U.S. is confronted with an ever-growing surplus of COVID-19 vaccines, looming expiration dates and stubbornly lagging demand at a time when the developing world is clamoring for doses to stem a rise in infections. Million-dollar prizes, free beer and marijuana, raffled-off hunting rifles and countless other giveaways around the country have failed to significantly move the needle on vaccine hesitancy, raising the specter of new outbreaks. The stockpiles are becoming more daunting each week, with states halting new orders and giving millions of doses back to the federal government. The nation seems likely to fall short of President Joe Biden's goal of dispensing at least one shot to 70% of the nation's adults by July 4.

3 p.m.
Legislation that includes more than $2 billion in tax reductions over the next two years and the phaseout of North Carolina's corporate income tax by 2028 received bipartisan approval again in the Senate on Thursday.

The Republican-authored measure, which also would send up to $1 billion in federal COVID-19 recovery aid to hundreds of thousands businesses and nonprofits, already received the Senate's initial OK on Wednesday. Seven Democrats joined all Republicans present in voting 34-13 for the bill on Thursday.

The bill now heads to the House, where action isn't expected. Rather, the Senate will insert the package in its state government budget plan later this month and negotiate it with the House after that chamber approves a competing tax and spending proposal.

The Senate plan would reduce the individual income tax rate of 5.25% to 4.99% next year, and increase the amount of income not subject to taxes for all filers by increasing the standard and per-child deductions. The corporate rate - currently the lowest among those states that have such a tax at 2.5% - would start falling in 2024.

Democrats opposing the bill say it would give tax breaks to out-of-state corporations and high wage-earners that don't need them.

2:15 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new executive order that will be in effect until July 30.

Some pandemic restrictions have been lifted but the State of Emergency remains in place.

Cooper announced on Friday that the following measures will also remain for now:
  • State Evictions Prohibitions
  • Face covering requirements in certain settings such as public transportation, schools, health care and childcare facilities, in accordance with CDC guidance
  • Unemployment Insurance flexibility


"We are seeing tremendous improvement with fewer cases, hospitalizations, deaths and safety restrictions, but this is no time to hang up a "Mission Accomplished" banner in our fight against the pandemic," said Cooper said in a statement. "We are laser focused on getting more shots in arms, boosting our economy and protecting unvaccinated people from the virus and this Executive Order is essential for those efforts."

12:20 p.m.
425 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Friday.

The percent of positive tests in the state is at 1.6%.

535 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

19 more deaths were reported Friday.

9:30 a.m.
Leaders from the Group of Seven industrialized nations meet to commit to share at least 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses with struggling countries.

Half of those 1 billion will come from the U.S. with another 100 million from the U.K.

U.S. President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are leading the push.

6:30 a.m.
The NC Hops Festival returns to the NC State Fairgrounds this weekend.

The festival features craft drinks from North Carolina vendors, live music, food trucks and local artisans.

A ticket for a 4-hour tasting session costs $45; designated drivers can get in for $10.

Tickets can be purchased here.

Friday morning headlines
A new executive order is expected to come from Gov. Roy Cooper's office sometime today.

Cooper hinted that his updated executive order will have to do with his state of emergency declaration. That state of emergency allows North Carolina to use federal money and get vaccine doses more quickly.

That comes a day after the governor announced a vaccine lottery which will pay out $1 million to four vaccinated North Carolina adults and four $125,000 college scholarships to teens.

"This is your shot at a million. Regardless of who wins, there's no way to lose," Cooper said. "A chance at a million dollars is pretty good motivation. But even if your name isn't drawn, the worst you'll do is get strong protection from a deadly virus."

WATCH: Duke professor explains why cash incentives for vaccinations work
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North Carolina's financial incentive plan is similar to the one in Ohio, which led to a large increase in vaccinations.



THURSDAY
3 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced a cash drawing for people who get or have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.

As part of a program called Your Shot at $1 million, Cooper said a $1 million cash prize will be given to four people every two weeks over eight weeks.

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Gov. Roy Cooper introduces new incentive for vaccinations



Four $125,000 college scholarships will also be given out for teenagers.

The first drawing will be on June 23 and they will occur every other week until the last one on August 4. The drawings will take place every other Wednesday.

12:25 p.m.
Johnson & Johnson said Thursday that U.S. regulators extended the expiration date on millions of doses of its COVID-19 vaccine by an extra six weeks.

The company said a Food and Drug Administration review concluded the shots remain safe and effective for up to 4 and a half months. The shots were originally approved for just 3 months.

12:15 p.m.
464 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Thursday.

The percent of positive tests in the state is at 1.8%, which is the lowest since the start of the pandemic.

548 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

16 more deaths were reported on Thursday.

50% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.

12 p.m.
U.S. consumer prices continue to climb sharply while weekly jobless claims are falling, according to two pieces of economic data released by the Department of Labor on Thursday.

The Consumer Price Index, which measures what consumers pay for everyday goods and services and is often looked at as an inflation barometer, jumped 5% over the last 12 months -- the largest increase since August 2008.

9:15 a.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper will speak publicly at 3 p.m. Thursday to give a COVID-19 update.

The governor is expected to talk about the ongoing efforts to get more North Carolinians vaccinated against the virus.

Cooper previously said that financial incentives have proven effective in getting more people to get vaccinated.

NCDHHS previously launched pilot programs in four counties offering $25 cash cards for anyone who gets vaccinated or drives someone to get their shot.

9:10 a.m.
Moderna has filed with the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine for people ages 12 to 17, according to a news release from the company.

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is currently authorized for people ages 18 and older.

9 a.m.
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell for the sixth straight week as the U.S. economy reopens rapidly after being held back for months by the coronavirus pandemic.

Jobless claims fell by 9,000 to 376,000 from 385,000 the week before, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The number of people signing up for benefits exceeded 900,000 in early January and has fallen more or less steadily ever since. Still, claims are high by historic standards.

Before the pandemic brought economic activity to a near-standstill in March 2020, weekly applications were regularly coming in below 220,000.

WEDNESDAY
1:51 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports two new cases for a total of 5,667 positive COVID-19 cases. The death count remains at 112.

1 p.m.
544 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Wednesday.

That's an increase from last Wednesday when 265 new cases were reported.

The percent of positive tests in the state is at 2.7%.

554 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. This marks the fifth day under 600.

18 more deaths were reported on Wednesday.

50% percent of the adult population in North Carolina is fully vaccinated.

9 a.m.
COVID-19 variants are still threatening to spread in the U.S., National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci warned Tuesday, saying the possible threat of variants is a reason more Americans need to get vaccinated.

Case rates have continued to decline in the U.S. as more Americans get vaccinated, overall cases have declined 94% since January and the number of new cases is at the lowest amount since March 2020.

But Fauci said that doesn't mean there isn't a risk of variants like the one that devastated India and spread to the U.K., causing more serious illness and increased risk of hospitalizations in the U.S.

Fauci said 6% of cases in the U.S. where the virus has been sequenced were a variant known as Delta which was first detected in India. The majority of cases in the U.K. are now that same variant which is primarily spreading in adolescents and young adults, which Fauci said is a reason it's even more important for Americans to get vaccinated.

"COVID is not over," said Dr. David Wohl, infectious diseases specialist at UNC Health. "We may be a very decisive point in the history of this pandemic."

Dr. Wohl has led the COVID fight across UNC Health and helped organized the large-scale vaccination effort at the Friday Center.

He said history has taught them that whatever strain is most dominant in the UK will become the most lethal here.

6 a.m.
For months, President Joe Biden has laid out goal after goal for taming the coronavirus pandemic and then exceeded his own benchmarks.

Now, though, the U.S. is on pace to fall short of Biden's aim to have 70 percent of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July 4.

The White House has launched a month-long blitz to combat vaccine hesitancy and a lack of urgency to get shots, particularly in the South and Midwest. But it is increasingly resigned to missing the president's vaccination target. The administration insists that even if the goal isn't reached, it will have little effect on the overall U.S. recovery from the virus.

WEDNESDAY MORNING STORYLINES

In-person graduations return in Wake County on Wednesday.

Senior students have been through a lot in the last year. They've missed school dances, time with friends and teachers. So, for some, Wednesday is the big day.

Most Wake County seniors will graduate this week. Because of the pandemic, the district made the decision early on to keep graduation ceremonies at each individual school, rather than the Raleigh Convention Center and the Duke Energy Performing Arts Center like they have in the past. Each school has made the decision to host one large ceremony in their outdoor stadiums or split students up into several small indoor stadiums.

If you are going to one of the ceremonies, you'll be required to wear a mask if you're inside. But if you're outside, you won't need one.

TUESDAY



12:15 p.m.
299 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Tuesday.

The percent of positive tests in the state is at 3%.

568 are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

54% of the adult population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

50% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.

11:30 a.m.
Duke University announced on Twitter that Cameron Indoor Stadium would not have a COVID-19 capacity limit this basketball season.



This announcement comes shortly after the university announced legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski would be retiring at the end of the upcoming season. He will be replaced by former Duke guard Jon Scheyer.

9:40 a.m.
Pfizer is moving into phase 2/3 trials in younger children, and the company will use lower doses of the vaccine on the children.

The trials will enroll up to 4,500 children in the U.S., Finland, Poland, and Spain.

"Today marks an important next step in our efforts to understand the safety and immune response of our COVID-19 vaccine as we initiate the Phase 2/3 trial in children 5-11 years of age," the company said in a statement, saying that the trial on children between 6 months and 5 years will begin at a later date.

8:10 a.m.
A UNC doctor said she is seeing an uptick in respiratory illnesses that are not COVID-19 since more and more Americans have stopped wearing face coverings in public.

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Dr. Alexa Mieses-Malchuck answers questions about mask wearing, COVID testing, and more.



"This is really not surprising. we know that masks work to protect us against COVID, but they also protect us from other viruses. Evidence of this was how relatively few flu cases we had this last season," Dr. Alexa Mieses-Malchuck said.

Mieses-Malchuck said wearing a mask should be a personal choice if you're fully vaccinated. She said those who have been fully vaccinated should do what makes them feel comfortable--whether that's wearing or not wearing a mask.

7:50 a.m.
Envoys from World Trade Organization member nations are taking up a proposal to ease patents and other intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines to help developing countries fight the pandemic, an idea backed by the Biden administration but opposed in other wealthy countries with strong pharmaceutical industries.

On the table for a two-day meeting of a WTO panel opening, Tuesday is a revised proposal presented by India and South Africa for a temporary IP waiver on coronavirus vaccines. The idea has drawn support from more than 60 countries, which now include the United States and China.

Some European Union member states oppose the idea, and the EU on Friday offered an alternative proposal that relies on existing World Trade Organization rules. The 27-nation bloc said those rules currently allow governments to grant production licenses - such as for COVID-19 vaccines or therapies - to manufacturers in their countries without the consent of the patent holders in times of emergency.

MONDAY

Q&A with Duke doctor: Who is still hesitant to get the COVID vaccine?
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Dr. Adia Ross, Duke Regional Hospital's chief medical officer, answers your questions about COVID-19.



12:50 p.m.
359 new COVID-19 cases in North Carolina were reported on Monday.

The percent of positive tests in the state is at 2.7%.

That marks the 5th day in a row under 3%.

546 people are hospitalized in North Carolina with COVID-19.

Monday is the 3rd day under 600.

48 more deaths have been reported since Friday.

54% percent of the adult population is vaccinated with at least one dose.

12 p.m.
Approximately 50 Wake County cafeteria workers walked off the job today.

The workers are reportedly upset over the extra money being offered to traditional employees if they work this summer.

Those incentives are in place due to COVID-19 related shortages and expected increases in summer school attendance. The traditional calendar workers who opt to work this summer could get an extra $1,200.

That same bonus and incentive pay is not being offered to cafeteria workers at year-round schools.

A spokesperson for Wake County Public School System said the extra pay is required by state law to pay employees who would otherwise be off.

9:35 a.m.
One-third of unvaccinated U.S. adults say they will only get in line for the COVID-19 jab once it's fully approved, but medical experts say it can be risky to wait.

Moderna and Pfizer have both applied for full approval from the FDA (both vaccines are currently authorized, but not fully approved)

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation's latest vaccine monitor report, nearly a third -- 32% -- of unvaccinated adults are waiting for full FDA approval of a vaccine before getting it.

"My sense is that it probably means more to the general public than it actually should," Dr. William Moss of the International Vaccine Access Center told ABC News. "To think that that approval process is going to be the be-all and end-all is misguided to me."

Both authorization and approval are rigorous processes that look at the safety and efficacy of a vaccine, Moss said. A key difference between the two is that at least two months of follow-up data from phase 3 clinical trials are considered for authorization, versus at least six months for approval.

9:15 a.m.
As the second school year disrupted by the pandemic winds down, summer school plans are taking shape around the country.

"Getting them back into it, helping them socialize back with their friends, maybe meet some new people, and, of course, pick up the things that they lacked on Zoom," Durham mom Aja Purnell-Mitchell said. This coming summer school session will be the first time her children are in a physical classroom since spring 2020.

Across the U.S., more children than ever before could be in classrooms for summer school this year to make up for lost learning during the outbreak, which caused monumental disruptions in education.

An influx of federal funding included in COVID-19 rescue legislation is letting districts broaden programming and offer spots to more students than ever before. The Biden administration is requiring states to pour at least $1.2 billion into summer enrichment programs.

Districts also must reserve at least 20% of the windfall to address learning loss, which could include summer school, with a focus on students who have been most affected by the shift away from in-person learning.

The U.S. Education Department said it is too early to know how many students will sign up for summer school. But the number is all but certain to exceed the estimated 3.3 million who went to mandatory or optional summer school in 2019, before the pandemic.

In Montgomery, Alabama, for example, more than 12,000 of the school system's 28,000 students signed up before the June 1 deadline. Typically about 2,500 go to summer school. Philadelphia had enrolled 14,700 by Friday and was expecting more for the mostly in-person programs, up from the 9,300 students in last summer's all-virtual sessions.

"It's an understatement to say the needs are greater this year," said Kalman Hettleman, an education policy analyst in Maryland.

Hettleman worries most about the reading skills of disadvantaged younger students who were falling behind even before COVID-19 closed schools and were likely to encounter technological hurdles afterward.

"It's not realistic to think that summer school, no matter how good and intense, will close all the gaps because many of these kids had gaps before the pandemic," said Hettleman, who wants to see sessions mandatory for low-performing students in Baltimore. "But it will help, and it will at least give them a fighting chance if there are intense interventions during the regular school year."

In North Carolina, Purnell-Mitchell's children will have access to five or six weeks of full-day programs that include academics and activities like sports or music. Districts also will provide transportation and meals, thanks to the influx of federal spending.

Under a unanimously passed North Carolina law, the nearly 1 in 4 students deemed to be in danger of falling behind - about 200,000 students statewide - are being given priority for summer school, with extra slots open to others who want them. Some districts are inviting all of their students.

The expanded programs around the country have greatly increased the need not only for teachers but for bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria employees.

Some North Carolina teachers will get a $1,200 bonus. There are also bonuses for teachers in certain grades whose students show improvement in reading and math.

Purnell-Mitchell said her children had different reasons for wanting to go to school this summer. Her older daughter, Kyra Mitchell, who has autism, missed the one-on-one interaction with teachers that helps her learn, while Kyla Mitchell did well remotely but wasn't able to make new friends and socialize. Her son, Cartier Mitchell, said he had had enough time off and was ready to go back.

"I think it's going to give them some of the milestone markers that they might have missed and give them a better outlook for going into the doors" in the fall, Purnell-Mitchell said, "instead of feeling like they've lost a year and a half of knowing what they're doing."
Copyright © 2021 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.