COVID-19 stimulus package likely passes Congress, arrives on Biden's desk this week

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

MARCH 2020 TIMELINE: Here's a look back at the key COVID-19 developments from this time last year
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This time last year, the world changed--seemingly overnight. Here are some of the key developments from March 2020.



9:30 p.m.
The CDC released new guidelines Monday saying fully-vaccinated people can gather with other vaccinated people without masks.

UNC epidemiologist Dr. David Weber said the new guidance is fair but studies are still unclear about if people are entirely immune with the vaccine.

"There cannot be people in any of those bubbles who themselves are not following safe procedures, going to bars and restaurants without masks and not following mitigation procedures nor do you want to do if you have someone in the bubble who is unimmunized who is in the bubble who is at high risk for disease," said Weber.

Dr. Weber said the new CDC guidance is measured but people should still remain in their "bubble" and not to start gathering with others right away, even if vaccinated.

"It means you can eat and drink together, which means the visit can be a little longer and more like a normal family life," said Weber. "Keep in mind, these are reasonable precautions, opening of precautions but keep in mind if you want absolute safety, you should stay within your bubble. There is a small risk even to opening things up."

6:30 p.m.
Wake County health officials will conduct a COVID-19 vaccine town hall in Spanish on March 11 at 7 p.m. The public will be able to ask questions to local physicians, health workers and immigration experts to dispel rumors about the vaccine.

The event will be streamed on the WakeGov Facebook page and questions can be asked here.

Are you on numerous COVID-19 vaccine waitlists? You're not alone

3:15 p.m.
Wake County health officials have reported a COVID-19 outbreak at Woodland Terrace Assisted Living Facility located at 300 Kildaire Woods Drive in Cary.

This is the second outbreak at this facility.

Q&A: How do providers decide which vaccine a patient is given?


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Q&A: Duke's Dr. Lisa Pickett answers your vaccine questions as availability opens in North Carolina.



2:30 p.m.
The U.S. hit a daily vaccination record on Saturday, the same day the $1.9 trillion stimulus package passed, of 2.9 million in a day. Biden adviser Andy Slavitt said the the US is at a pace "seen nowhere else around the world."

And yet, the U.S. still has more than 90% of the population to vaccinate. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said 9.2% of the whole country has been vaccinated, and about 12% of adults 18 and older.

On equity, Biden adviser Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith said the U.S. is still collecting race and ethnicity data on just half of people getting vaccines, which is making it very hard to see where the inequities are. But it's clear they're there, as the data that is in shows less vaccinations in Black and brown populations.

"On that very same Saturday, we set a new record for single-day recorded vaccinations. We are vaccinating a seven day average of nearly 2.2 million Americans a day, up from about 900,000 when we came into office. Saturday was as high as 2.9 million doses reported administered, a new daily record and we're at a pace seen nowhere else around the world," Slavitt said.

Slavitt also acknowledged the challenging undertaking, but said the message is "keep going."

"I know the pace is challenging. This is a war, and we can't let up," he said.

1:30 p.m.
Lee County Government (LCG) Health Department is suspending COVID-19 vaccine registrations until further notice due to limited vaccine supply. The Health Department has vaccine supply available to complete all currently scheduled vaccine clinics.

New registrations will not be accepted until additional vaccines have been secured.

This does not impact anyone currently registered and scheduled to participate in a county vaccine clinic.

For additional information about COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, please contact the Lee County Health Department at health@leecountync.gov or (919) 718-4640.

1:15 p.m.
One of the Oxford University scientists who helped develop AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine disputed that simply making intellectual property rights freely available would significantly widen access to vaccines.

Agencies, including the World Health Organization, have called for pharmaceuticals to waive patent rights.

At a press briefing on Monday, Sarah Gilbert of Oxford University said freely available IP rights would not get the world "anywhere close to solving this problem" of limited vaccines, saying that "it's not just the rights to the technology that's needed." Gilbert said other essential technical goods were needed, including cell banks and testing reagents.

Last year, WHO began a patent pool that asked companies to share their COVID-19 technology and know how for vaccines, treatments and diagnostics. Not a single company has yet joined and Gilbert said she had never heard of the initiative, despite Oxford University's pledge to make its vaccine available to countries globally.

1 p.m.
President Joe Biden will deliver his first primetime address to speak to the nation on Thursday to mark the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that Biden would note the sacrifices and losses suffered by Americans during the last 12 months. More than 525,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus.

It was March 11, 2020 when the pandemic hit home for many Americans and lockdowns began. That was the night the NBA suspended play, actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson announced they had tested positive and then-President Donald Trump addressed the nation.

The anniversary comes as the administration has bolstered vaccine supply, and some states have begun reopening even as worries remain about virus variants.

12:05 p.m.
Monday's report from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services included 1,228 newly-reported COVID-19 cases.

There were a total of 1,126 hospitalizations and the daily percent positive rate was 4.6%.

Sadly, 11,535 people have died since the start of the pandemic.

11 a.m.
The Centers for Disease Control says vaccinated people can gather with those at low risk for the coronavirus without masks but should still cover their faces in public.

The long-awaited guidance from the CDC begins the process of providing clarity to Americans anxious to learn how the nation will begin returning to normalcy as vaccinations ramp up.

Under the guidelines, fully vaccinated people could gather in groups without masks or social distancing. Vaccinated people could also come together in the same way with people considered at low risk for severe disease, such as in the case of vaccinated grandparents visiting a healthy child and grandchildren.

The release comes as more than 30 million Americans have completed their COVID-19 regimens, with tens of millions more set to reach that milestone this month.

The CDC says people are not considered "fully vaccinated" until two weeks after receiving the last required dose of vaccine.

MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Democrats in the House of Representatives expect to send the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that passed the Senate last week to President Joe Biden's desk sometime this week.

The Senate-approved bill passed without a single Republican voting for it, despite Democrats bowing to moderate and conservative demands to remove a minimum wage increase, reduce the number of Americans who will get stimulus checks and reduce unemployment benefits.

Biden reportedly supports the changes made to the bill, satisfied that it meets many of his key campaign promises around COVID-19 relief.

According to ABC News, the bill includes a child tax credit that gives families $3,000 per child per year, $350 billion for state, local and tribal governments, $50 billion for contact tracing, $16 billion for vaccine distribution, $130 billion for K-12 education, funds for rental and mortgage assistance, support for restaurants and bars, funding for nutrition programs and more.

New COVID-19 numbers in North Carolina are expected out around noon Monday. The metrics will be the first released since Saturday. NCDHHS said it does not plan to release metrics on Sunday going forward.

Wake County is adding new COVID-19 testing sites this week at Barwell Road Park and Buffaloe Road Athletic Park in Raleigh.

The sites will open at 11 every day this week. For more information on getting tested in Wake County, click here.

People in group 4 can start registering for the COVID-19 vaccine in Lee County.

Group 4 includes people with a high-risk medical condition. Lee County said it will not start vaccinating group 4 until later this month.

SUNDAY
3:10 p.m.
Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Watauga) will hold a press conference regarding school reopening plans, including a potential vote to override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of Senate Bill 37. The conference will take place on Monday, Mar. 8 3 p.m.

12 p.m.
NCDHHS officials said starting March 6, state COVID-19 metrics will only be released on Monday through Saturdays.

7:50 a.m.
According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been 28,953,217 COVID-19 cases in the United States since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

SATURDAY

2:30 p.m.
One Wake County pharmacy received 200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Tony Gurley told ABC11's Anthony Wilson all doses given to Glenwood Pharmacy were spoken for after people made appointments.

"It's very important that the pharmacies administer all of the vaccines that we have scheduled for that day, 'cause at the end of the day you can't have partial vials left over," said Gurley. "We'll be finished by Monday, and my understanding is pharmacies who distribute the vaccines correctly and quickly are higher in the order of receiving some in the future. So we hope to get some more next week or the week after."

11:55 a.m.
North Carolina health officials said Saturday there are 2,027 more COVID-19 cases reported throughout the state.

According to NCDHHS data, 56 more people have died from the virus in North Carolina. This brings the total of deaths to 11,502.

As of Saturday, there are 47 less COVID-19 patients in North Carolina hospitals, bringing the total number of hospitalizations to 1,179.

The state reported a daily percent positive test rate of 4.2%.

7:30 a.m.
According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been 28,895,608 COVID-19 cases in the United States since the pandemic began.

FRIDAY
4:45 p.m.
The Lee County Government Health Department announced that it will expand vaccine registration to include individuals in Group 4 beginning Monday.

Beginning Monday, the county vaccine registration call center will register anyone in Groups 1, 2, 3, or 4 for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccine registration call center may be reached at (919) 352-3360 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. To register in Spanish, please call (919) 718-4640 and select option 8.

The county also provides an online registration form.

Lee County Health Department is administering the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine. The county has not received any doses of the recently approved J&J vaccine.

4:39 p.m.
Durham Public Schools said it will now allow a limited number of spectators to cheer on their student-athletes at high school games.

Beginning March 12, DPS student-athletes will be allowed two guests per contest, for home games only. Guests will be required to purchase tickets online prior to the event.

Upon entry, guests will have their temperatures checked, be required to answer health screening questions, and provide identification for contact-tracing purposes. Wearing face coverings and maintaining physical distancing will be required.

"We are excited to allow our student-athletes to compete in front of their families again," said Dr. Pascal Mubenga, DPS Superintendent. "We are being cautious as we bring spectators back to our games. The health and safety of our athletes, staff, and guests are still our highest priority."

DPS made the decision based on Gov. Roy Cooper's Executive Order 195 and revised guidance issued by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association,

Streaming options for athletic events are still available for those unable to attend in person.

3:46 p.m.
North Carolina Central University is now a COVID-19 vaccine distribution site. The university has received a limited supply of the COVID-19 vaccine and will be offering doses on a first-come, first-served basis.

The COVID-19 vaccine clinic will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 9 through March 11. (Hours may vary based on vaccine availability.

People on the NCCU campus and from the greater Durham community who are eligible as members of Groups 1, 2 and 3 may register for an appointment.

3:11 p.m.
Sampson County reports 21 new cases for a total of 7,073 total positive cases.

The death toll remains at 92 in the county.

With the vaccine eligibility criteria expanding this week, Sampson County has scheduled a number of vaccine opportunities.

  • March 10, at Union High School, 1189 Kader Merritt Road, Rose Hill, NC from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eligible Groups: Groups 1-3 -- residents 65 and older, frontline healthcare workers, childcare employees, pre-k through 12th-grade employees, and frontline essential workers)
  • March 17, at Sampson Agri Expo Center, 414 Warsaw Rd., Clinton, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eligible Groups: Second dose will be provided 9 a.m.-1 p.m. to those who have received their first dose on Feb. 10 and 17. First doses will be provided 1 p.m.-4 p.m. to Groups 1-3 -- Citizens 65 and older, frontline healthcare workers, childcare employees, pre-k through 12th-grade employees, and frontline essential workers)
  • March 24, at Charles E. Perry School - 705 Boone St., Roseboro, from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. (Eligible Groups: Groups 1-4* -- residents 65 and older, frontline healthcare workers, childcare employees, pre-k through 12th-grade employees, frontline essential workers, and residents18 and older with high-risk medical conditions, homeless, or incarcerated)
  • March 31, at Sampson Agri Expo Center, 414 Warsaw Road, Clinton from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. (Eligible Groups -- Second dose will be provided 9 a.m.-1 p.m. to those who have received their first dose on March 3. First doses will be provided 1 p.m.-4 p.m. to Groups 1-4* -- residents 65 and older, frontline healthcare workers, childcare employees, pre-k through 12th-grade employees, frontline essential workers, and residents 18 and older with high-risk medical conditions, homeless, or incarcerated)


2:38 p.m.
The secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mandy Cohen, and the Rev. William Barber got their COVID-19 vaccines Friday at the PNC Arena mass vaccination clinic in Raleigh.

Both received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

"We know it's on par with the other two in terms of preventing, particularly, the severe form of COVID that might end you up in the hospital or unfortunately taking someone's life," Cohen said. "So I was grateful to get it."

2:12 p.m.
The Moore County Health Department said it has been notified of the deaths of five county residents whose deaths were determined to be related to COVID-19 infection.

Four of the people who died were older than 75. The fifth was between 65 and 74.

The county has recorded 171 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Of those, 95 have been linked to outbreaks in long-term care facilities.

There have been 8,056 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Moore County.

12:36 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports just five new cases for a total of 5,021 positive COVID 19 cases. The county death toll remains at 97.

12:30 p.m.
Wake County Public Health is transferring thousands of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to various providers.

"Some people just have a comfort level of going to their own provider or going to their own pharmacy," Wake County Public Health Pharmacy Director Dr. Jason Whittes said.

Twenty-nine different providers will receive a portion of 4,200 Johnson & Johnson doses, as well as 250 Moderna doses.

The Johnson & Johnson doses are being specifically given to small pharmacies in rural areas as well as mobile clinics. That particular vaccine only requires one dose and is easier to store safely, so it is better suited to travel to certain harder-to-reach communities.

The goal for Wake County Public Health is that strategically sharing these doses of the vaccine will help more quickly vaccinate more people in the county.

12:25 p.m.
Friday's report from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services included 2,093 newly-reported COVID-19 cases.

There were a total of 1,226 hospitalizations and the daily percent positive rate was 4.3%.

In all, 11,446 people have died in the state since the start of the pandemic.

FRIDAY MORNING HEADLINES
The race to vaccinate in North Carolina sees a slight shift Friday in Wake County.

County leaders are taking steps to get the vaccine to patients, instead of waiting for patients to get to the vaccine.

Mass vaccination clinics, like the one at PNC Arena, have been a successful tool in inoculating large numbers of people. However, Wake County now wants to reach out to essential workers in smaller communities.

The county is transferring 4,000 doses of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine to 29 different vaccine providers.

For more information about getting the vaccine in Wake County, click here.

Meanwhile, it remains unclear why the Center for Disease Control and Prevention delayed its release of new health and safety guidelines for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The agency was set to formally share its newest recommendations Thursday, but that update never happened.

The latest guidelines are expected to include asking fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks in public. Stay with ABC11 to learn if and when the CDC makes that guideline official.

THURSDAY
3:20 p.m.
Six North Carolina counties are at critical risk for community spread as of March 4, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. That's down 27 red counties from last Monday.

"North Carolinians are pulling together to slow the spread of the virus by getting vaccinated and keeping up the 3Ws," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "While we are pleased with the improving trends, there is still more work to do to protect each other."

Thirty-four counties remain in orange -- substantial risk of community spread -- and 60 counties remain in yellow -- significant risk of community spread.

State officials say North Carolina's key metrics continue to move in a positive direction with decreasing trends in the numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations reported.

"Red and orange counties need to do even more to slow the spread of COVID-19 in their communities; it is strongly recommended these counties go further and build upon current requirements outlined in the County Alert System," state officials said.

2:58 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports nine new cases for a total of 5,016 positive COVID-19 cases.

The county has had 97 COVID-19 related deaths.

2:15 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will be expanding access to COVID-19 rapid testing in K-12 public schools to protect students, teachers and staff from COVID-19. When schools implement testing combined with the state's strong mitigation strategies, they can detect new cases to prevent outbreaks and reduce the risk of further transmission.

Tests will be available at no cost to all Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and charter schools to test students and staff who have COVID-19 symptoms and to screen staff.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends diagnostic and screening testing as an additional prevention measure to the essential mitigation strategies of mask use and physical distancing, among others, which aligns with DHHS's StrongSchoolNC guidance.

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12:56 p.m.
The Sampson County Health Department reported 43 new cases for a total of 7,052. One new death was reported for a total of 92 countywide.

Sampson County will hold a mass drive-thru vaccination event March 10 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Union High School, 1189 Kader Merritt Road in Rose Hill for eligible Group 3 people.

12:50 p.m.
UNC-Chapel Hill announced plans for its 2021 Commencement. The university said there will be a live graduation with graduates being able to invite two guests.

The two Commencement speakers will be two of the biggest names in COVID-19 research: Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a Carolina alumna.

12:45 p.m.
North Carolina health officials are reporting 2,502 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 868,056.

Throughout the state, 36 more people have died from the virus. This brings the total number of deaths to 11,399.

There are 13 fewer people in the hospital with 1,290 currently hospitalized.

10:25 a.m.
NCDHHS said new COVID-19 cases in North Carolina long-term facilities have declined rapidly in the last several weeks. Data says case rates are down more than 15-fold in skilled nursing facilities, adult care homes since the peak of transmission in January 2021. Given those decreases, most facilities meeting criteria can resume indoor visitation.

Health officials said the rapid decline in cases can be attributed to early vaccination prioritization for residents in those long-term care facilities and decreasing community transmission. According to NCDHHS, more than 205,000 vaccines have been administered to long-term care staff and residents.

"Protecting our residents and staff in long-term care has been a top priority in our pandemic response efforts and seeing cases decrease in these settings is heartening," said NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "I know it has been a long, difficult year for residents and families, but those measures saved lives and are now allowing us to resume safe, indoor visitation. While we need to continue infection prevention practices, this decrease is also a positive sign of the impact vaccinations have in our communities."

While facilities may conduct visits at any time for residents with compassionate care needs, federal and state guidelines have additional criteria for facilities to resume indoor visitation, which include following infection prevention practices and having no new cases of COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

9 a.m.
The NC State Board of Education will vote Thursday on whether to adopt new school guidelines released by NCDHHS. The updated guidelines encourage schools to offer in-person learning to the highest extent while following health protocol and allowing higher-risk students to opt for remote learning.

7 a.m.
It's a big day for PNC Arena as the Carolina Hurricanes are set to welcome back fans Thursday evening. PNC will host fans at 15 percent capacity when the Canes take on the Detroit Red Wings at 7 p.m.

"The Caniacs are the backbone of our franchise, and we are thrilled to welcome them back to PNC Arena," said Don Waddell. "Our staff has worked extremely hard to put protocols in place to protect the health and safety of our fans, as well as our players and staff. We want to express our gratitude to Governor Cooper, Dr. Mandy Cohen and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services for working with us to finalize this plan, and for their diligent work to keep the citizens of our state safe throughout the pandemic."

Everyone entering PNC Arena will be required to wear a two-ply cloth mask or face covering that covers both the mouth and nose.

Carolina Hurricanes fans welcome back to PNC starting Thursday: Here's what you need to know before game

5 a.m.
La Semilla is partnering with the Durham County Health Department, Duke Health, Latin-19 and Greenlight to host a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for Hispanic essential workers along with those who qualify in Groups 1 and 2.

The event will take place Thursday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Asbury United Methodist Church at 805 Clarendon Street in Durham. Pre-registration is required by calling 919-308-4965.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected the Hispanic community in North Carolina," said a news release from the organization, La Semilla. "One of the key factors that has contributed to this reality is the fact that Hispanic/Latinx workers are essential to North Carolina's workforce. While sustaining North Carolina's workforce, Hispanic frontline essential workers have been at high risk of contracting COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic."

WEDNESDAY
March, 3, 2021 marks one year since the first COVID-19 case was reported in North Carolina.

11 p.m.
A single mother spoke with ABC11 about going into quarantine with her four children after her twins came into close contact with a student who tested positive for COVID-19 at Joyner Elementary School.

4:05 p.m.
As North Carolina schools move closer to reopening, the state Department of Health and Human Services released updated guidelines to lower the spread of COVID-19 among students and teachers.

The new guidelines stress offering in-person learning "to the fullest extent possible while following all public health protocols" by only allowing higher-risk students and families to opt for remote learning for their children.

The updated guidelines come as COVID-19 metrics and trends continue to move in the right direction and amid Gov. Roy Cooper's continued easing of restrictions.

"Extensive research tells us we can bring students back to the classroom with the right measures in place," said NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen. "And students need in-person school not only for academics, but to learn social skills, get reliable meals, and to continue to grow and thrive."

NCDHHS said the State Board of Education will vote Thursday on whether to adopt the update.

4:02 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports four new cases, for a total of 5,007 positive COVID-19 cases. There have been 97 deaths countywide -- 1.9% of cases.

3:57 p.m.
The Durham public health department said it has appointment spaces available at a state-sponsored vaccination event in Durham starting Thursday for those in groups 1, 2 and 3. To make an appointment, call the new registration number at (877) 505-6723 from Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

3:55 p.m.
The state House approved House Bill 128 to increase the number of spectators allowed to attend North Carolina school sporting events and graduation ceremonies. The bill passed 77-42.

The legislation, which would apply to all K-12 schools and public community colleges and universities, will expand seating capacity to 30% for both indoor and outdoor events while providing local flexibility to increase capacity up to 50%.

Currently, Gov. Roy Cooper's order caps outdoor attendance at 30% and indoor at 15%.

"We've all heard the complaints from families across the state who've been unable to watch their child or loved one play due to the Governor's stadium restrictions," said bill sponsor Rep. Kyle Hall, R-Stokes. "It simply does not make sense that restaurants, gyms, pools, museums, and amusement parks, can open at 50% capacity, yet outdoor sporting events are restricted to 30% and indoor venues to 15%. These arbitrary limits are not based in science and unfairly punish our students and their families.

Under HB 128, all venues and events would still be required to follow health and safety protocols, including guidance issued under the NC Department of Health and Human Services' StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit.

The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

3:30 p.m.
The state House of Representatives approved legislation on Wednesday directing $1.7 billion of additional COVID-19 relief funding to North Carolina communities.

House Bill 196 2021 COVID-19 Response & Relief Act extends COVID-19 regulatory relief to North Carolinians in addition to funding.

The bill directs more than $600 million statewide for testing, tracing, and prevention needs, as well as $100 million for K-12 public school needs and $290 million for higher education emergency relief. It includes another $40 million to support summer learning programs in addition to education funds approved by the legislature last month.

House Bill 196 also provides funds for farms, fisheries, food banks, small business grants, broadband, summer school programs, mental health and substance abuse services, and upgrades to the NC COVID Vaccine Management System, among other allocations.

"The General Assembly is committed to delivering additional funding relief and regulatory flexibility to help North Carolinians still suffering in this crisis as soon as possible," Senior House Appropriations Chairs Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, and Dean Arp, R-Union, said in a joint statement: "This relief measure builds on our successful approach to addressing the top priorities of North Carolinians early in this legislative session."

H.B. 196 now goes to the North Carolina Senate for consideration.

3:15 p.m.
El Centro Hispano is hosting a COVID19 vaccination event in collaboration with Orange County Health Department for Latinos in groups 1, 2 and 3 including those who are 65 and older, medical professionals, teachers, daycare workers and other essential workers. This event is by appointment only. Contact El Centro at (919) 283-9108 to set up an appointment for that day.

The event is Saturday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at UNC RR Lot (parking lot), 1071 Estes Drive, Chapel Hill.

3:10 p.m.
Saturday's NC State game against Virginia Tech men's basketball game has been canceled after VT's team was forced to quarantined following a COVID-19 contact tracing review.

2:08 p.m.
Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin posted to social media that she has received the COVID-19 vaccine.

"I've never been so happy to get a shot," Baldwin wrote. "Please get vaccinated when it's your turn."

She also thanked all the "healthcare heroes."

12:25 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said the state has 2,145 new cases for a total of 865,554 cases statewide since the pandemic began. The daily percent positive is 6.1%, an increase from 5.7% the previous day.

In all, 75 more people died from COVID-19, bringing the state total to 11,363.

The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 related illnesses is 1,303, a decrease of 40 from the day before.

12 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The governor got a shot of the Pfizer vaccine just after 12 p.m.

WATCH:
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WATCH: Gov. Roy Cooper receives Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine



The 63-year-old Democratic governor who has long said he'd wait until it was his turn in line to get vaccinated got his first shot of the Pfizer vaccine at the WakeMed Raleigh Campus. He was able to get the vaccine Wednesday after he updated state distribution guidance a day earlier to make eligible all frontline essential workers not yet vaccinated, including elected officials.

He hopes his getting vaccinated will encourage others to do so as well.

"I wanted to come out on the first day that we opened to essential workers to send a signal to them how much I appreciate them but also to encourage them to take a shot," Cooper said at the clinic.

Cooper said he was not aware which doses were available at the clinic before he walked in. Upon arrival, he said he learned Pfizer doses were the only ones available at the time of his shot.

"I didn't even know which one they had here. My understanding was they only had Pfizer here, so that's what I got," he said.

The governor decided to get his vaccine after a handful of fellow state leaders across the country received their doses. Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, 69, got his shot on Dec. 14. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a 70-year-old Republican, received his first dose Jan. 18. Ohio's Republican governor, Mike DeWine, was vaccinated on Feb. 2 after waiting his turn alongside other residents who are at least 70 years old.

The Associated Press contributed.

10:59 a.m.
Halifax County Health Department is taking first-dose appointments by online registration only for the following groups:

Group 1 includes:
  • Health care workers caring for and working directly with patients with COVID-19, including staff responsible for cleaning and maintenance in those areas
  • Health care workers administering the vaccine
  • Long-term care staff and residents - people in skilled nursing facilities and in adult, family and group homes.


Group 2 includes:
  • Anyone 65 years and older, regardless of health status or living situation


Group 3: Frontline essential workers
  • The CDC defines frontline essential workers as workers who are in sectors essential to the functioning of society and who are at substantially higher risk for exposure to COVID-19

  • First responders (firefighters and police officers), corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the education sector (teachers and support staff members) as well as child care workers.


Halifax County Health Department will offer first dose appointments by online registration only Wednesday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Weldon at Halifax Community College Building 700.

Beginning Thursday, you MUST enter Halifax Community College via the main entrance (Julian Allsbook Hwy entrance). Please follow the signs posted to direct you to the 700 Building. Please be advised that anyone who has a scheduled appointment will receive a call from the health department to pre-register you for your vaccine. To schedule a first dose appointment, please click here.

Rural Health Group will offer first-dose appointments by online registration only for Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3 for Sunday, March 7, 2021, beginning at 8:30 am. To schedule a first dose appointment, please click here.

Drugco Pharmacy will offer first- and second-dose appointments by online registration only for Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3. To schedule a first dose appointment, please click here.

To schedule a second dose appointment, please click here.

10:40 a.m.
La Semilla, in collaboration with Durham County Department of Public Health, Duke Health, Latin-19, and Greenlight, will host a vaccination event focusing on Hispanic frontline essential workers on Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Asbury United Methodist Church, 805 Clarendon St., Durham.

Registration is required for vaccination. Those who qualify may register by calling (919) 308-4965. La Semilla's Rapid Response Operators and volunteers will also be distributing personal protective equipment kits and food boxes to families of those who receive the vaccine that evening.

9 a.m.

A North Carolina inmate with pre-existing medical conditions has died after testing positive for COVID-19, according to NC Public Safety officials.

Officials said the inmate tested positive on Feb. 7, was hospitalized on Feb. 8 and Feb. 14. The man died on Feb. 26.

"We are continuing our extensive efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in our prisons. The health and safety of the staff and the offender population is our top priority," said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons. "I urge the staff and offenders to be vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. It's important."

7 a.m.
A drive-thru COVID-19 vaccine clinic held by the Johnston County Health Department will take place Wednesday at West Johnston High School located at 5935 Raleigh Road, Benson, NC 27504. The clinic will be taking place from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. or until supplies last.

The department will be administering the Moderna vaccine.

As of 6 a.m., some cars were already lined up at the site, waiting for the clinic to open up.

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Cars line up early for Johnston County COVID vaccine clinic as Group 3 eligibility starts



4:30 a.m.
All of Group 3, including frontline workers, are now eligible to schedule an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine

The US is about to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Here's how it's different from the others

The first doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine coming to North Carolina are set to arrive Wednesday. Around 80,000 doses are expected to arrive to the state by the end of the week.

Infectious disease expert: How the J&J vaccine differs from the others



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Dr. David Wohl, UNC Health infectious disease expert, explains how the Johnson & Johnson vaccine differs from the others.



TUESDAY

2:30 p.m.
Governor Roy Cooper on Tuesday announced that a boost in supply means all frontline essential workers in Group 3 can sign up for their COVID-19 vaccinations as early as Wednesday -- a full week before the originally scheduled start date of March 10.

Read more about that here.

2 p.m.
Roughly 360 military medical and support personnel will head to Illinois and North Carolina to assist vaccination sites at the request of FEMA later this week, U.S. Army North announced Tuesday.

A 222-person team from the U.S. Army is set to arrive at the community vaccination center at the United Center in Chicago, Il. on Friday. A 139-person team from the Air Force will arrive to support the Four Seasons Town Centre in Greensboro, NC, also on Friday.

"These military medical and support personnel join approximately 1,900 others already supporting the federal vaccination effort in California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and in the U.S. Virgin Islands," a U.S. Army North statement said.

1 p.m.
Tuesday's report from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services included 1,239 newly-reported COVID-19 cases.

1,352 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

The daily percent positive rate was 5.7%, a slight increase from yesterday's 5.5%.

Sadly, 11,288 deaths have been reported since the start of the pandemic.

11:20 a.m.
The Town of Chapel Hill said a celebration on Franklin Street will not be allowed if the UNC Men's Basketball team beats Duke March 6.

"Governor Roy Cooper's COVID-19 crowd limits prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people outdoors due to the risk of spreading the coronavirus," said Emergency Management Coordinator Kelly Drayton. "In fact, the Governor's decision to stick to 50 people outdoors while loosening other restrictions should be a clear message about its importance. We must adhere to these public health guidelines to continue this important battle we've all been in for nearly a year."

9:25 a.m.
Duke University released COVID-19 testing data for Feb. 22 to 28. In total, 20,374 tests were administered to 10,430 students and gave 2,771 tests to 1,513 to faculty and staff. There were a total of 26 positive results, 22 of them being students, primarily among graduate and professional students.

6 a.m.
Thousands of Johnson & Johnson vaccines are set to arrive in North Carolina this week. Of those, Wake County is set to receive 5,200 doses, UNC Health will get 4,100 doses and Durham County will receive 1,400 doses of the single-shot vaccine.

4:30 a.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper and members of the Coronavirus Task Force will give an update at 2 p.m. You can watch here.

MONDAY

8 p.m.
The North Carolina Senate on Monday night fell just short of overriding Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of Senate Bill 37, which would have mandated in-person learning options at North Carolina public schools.

The 29-20 override vote was one vote short of the 3/5th majority needed.

Cooper's veto of school reopening bill stands as new statewide test results reveal grim reality of pandemic learning

5:03 p.m.
Republican-sponsored legislation to direct more than $1.7 billion of additional relief funds to North Carolina communities was filed in the state House on Monday and is expected to be advanced by lawmakers this week.

House Bill 196 2021 COVID-19 Response & Relief Act is sponsored by Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, Rep. Dana Bumgardner, R-Gaston, Rep. Kyle Hall, R-Stokes, and Rep. Larry Strickland, R-Johnston. It directs more than $600 million statewide for testing, tracing, and prevention needs.

The bill further allocates more than $100 million to K-12 public school needs and provides $290 million for higher education emergency relief. It includes another $40 million to support summer learning programs in addition to education funds approved by the legislature last month.

State lawmakers previously provided nearly $2 billion in federal relief funds to North Carolinians through Senate Bill 36 COVID Relief Bill Modifications, including $1.6 billion to help local school districts safely reopen and $546 million for emergency rent relief.

House Bill 196 also provides funds for farms, fisheries, food banks, small business grants, broadband, summer school programs, mental health and substance abuse services, and upgrades to the NC COVID Vaccine Management System, among other allocations.

H.B. 196 further contains policy provisions that extend flexibility for notaries, video witness testimony, education requirements, and access to vaccines for pharmacies.

"I appreciate budget leaders preparing this vital legislation that maintains the General Assembly's commitment to addressing the most pressing needs of of North Carolinians as soon as possible this session," House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said Monday.

The House Appropriations Committee is expected to review the legislation on Tuesday.

4:47 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department is now taking first-dose appointments by online registration only for the following groups:

Group 1 includes:
  • Health care workers caring for and working directly with patients with COVID-19, including staff responsible for cleaning and maintenance in those areas
  • Health care workers administering the vaccine
  • Long-term care staff and residents - people in skilled nursing facilities and in adult, family and group homes.


Group 2 includes:
  • Anyone 65 years and older, regardless of health status or living situation


Group 3: Frontline essential workers
  • The CDC defines frontline essential workers as workers who are in sectors essential to the functioning of society and who are at substantially higher risk for exposure to COVID-19
  • First responders (fire fighters and police officers), corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the education sector (teachers and support staff members) as well as child care workers.


Halifax County Health Department will offer first-dose appointments by online registration only for Wednesday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. in Weldon at Halifax Community College Building 700.

You MUST enter Halifax Community College via the Country Club Road entrance. Please follow the signs posted to direct you to the 700 Building.

To schedule a first-dose appointment, please click here.

Drugco Pharmacy will offer first and second dose appointments by online registration only for Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3. To schedule a first dose appointment, please click here. To schedule a second-dose appointment, please click here.

3:50 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 10 new cases for a total of 5,002 positive COVID 19 cases. In all, 97 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 countywide.

3:30 p.m.
The Lee County Government Health Department confirmed 146 new cases for a total of 5,465 positive cases since Feb. 22. In all , the county reports 73 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

2:50 p.m.
North Carolina House Democratic leaders announced the filing of House Bill 192 to provide immediate help to North Carolina workers and small businesses suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to federal funding coming from Washington, North Carolina has more than $5 billion in unreserved cash sitting in state accounts, state Democrats said in a release. They argued that with people out of work and businesses struggling, now is the time to invest this money.

"We can act now to invest this money," said House Democratic Leader Robert Reives, one of the sponsors of the bill. "When you have businesses struggling and workers either out of work or seeing their paychecks fall behind, why wait? We just need to act."

Deputy Democratic Leader Gale Adcock is a co-sponsor of the bill.

"All across North Carolina local governments, small businesses, and families have been tightening their belts," Adcock said. "Our state government has passed bipartisan bills to spend federal money to help. Now it's time for us to do the same to invest state taxpayer funds that are sitting in state accounts, while so many in our state are in need."

Some of the provisions in the bill:

  • $50 million for front-line worker hazard pay
  • $37 million in small business assistance focused on hospitality, tourism, and historically underutilized businesses
  • $30 million to bring high-speed internet to more places in our state
  • $10 million to food banks
  • $2,500 for K-12 teachers and principals
  • $2,000 for Community College and UNC System employees
  • $1,500 for other school workers
  • One-time bonuses for education employees left out of last year's pay raises


The bill would also attempt to bolstering the state's unemployment system, which it called "the worst in the country for a worker who loses his or her job."

1:39 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper released the following statement on Senate Bill 37:

"The question on SB 37 that I vetoed is not whether our children should be in the classroom in person. They absolutely should. The question is whether we do it safely. The bill allows middle and high school students to be in school without following NCDHHS and CDC guidelines on social distancing. SB 37 also removes authority from state and local officials to put students in remote learning in an emergency like a new COVID variant hitting our schools. I have asked legislative leaders to compromise with me on these two issues but so far they have not. I will continue talking with legislators and I will work diligently with the State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction to make sure all of our children and educators are in the classroom, in person and safe."

1:15 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Monday reported new COVID-19 data for the first time in two days.

2,156 new COVID-19 cases were recorded on Sunday and 1,466 were reported Monday.

1,319 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

As of Sunday evening, 834,852 people in North Carolina have received both doses of the vaccine.

The percent of positive tests in the state is currently at 5.5 percent.

12:57 p.m.
The Johnston County Health Department has scheduled a drive-thru clinic for North Carolina residents only (please bring ID) on Wednesday, Mar. 3, from 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. or until supplies last at West Johnston High School located at 5935 Raleigh Road, Benson, NC 27504.

The Health Department will be administering the Moderna vaccine.

The first dose COVID-19 vaccine clinic is for individuals in Group 1 (health care workers, long-term care staff and residents), Group 2 (adults 65 and older) and Group 3 (frontline essential workers are people who: Must be in-person at their place of work and work in one of the eight essential sectors which include critical manufacturing, education, essential goods, food and agriculture, government and community services, health care and public health, public safety, transportation.

Vaccinations will be administered on a first-come, first-serve basis until the capacity has been reached.

For a deeper dive into Group 3 eligibility, please visit https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines/find-your-spot-take-your-shot/deeper-dive-group-3.

11 a.m.
The N.C. Senate will vote this evening to override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of Senate Bill 37, which requires schools to offer some form of in-person instruction. The measure passed the legislature with bipartisan supermajorities.

A poll conducted last week shows 73% of voters support requiring schools to reopen while 22% oppose.

Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said, "Three Democratic senators - Sens. Kirk DeViere, Paul Lowe, and Ben Clark - prioritized children's interests when the bill passed the first time. If they stick to their convictions and side again with the overwhelming majority of parents, this bill will almost certainly become law."

Senate Bill 37 grants local school districts broad flexibility in how to provide in-person instruction. The measure allows school districts to choose Plan A or Plan B, and the bill provides a two-week grace period for schools to prepare.

10 a.m.
More than 80,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are expected to arrive in North Carolina this week, beginning on Wednesday.

"A third COVID-19 vaccine means North Carolina can get more people vaccinated sooner, which will save lives and slow the spread," said North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.

7 a.m.
Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky appeared on Good Morning America on Monday.

He said the company wants to get the shots in arms within the next 48 hours. Distribution started Monday morning.

The US is about to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Here's how it's different from the others

He said the company will have 100 million doses by June and they anticipate delivering 20 million doses by the end of March.

"Consistent with Dr. Fauci and Dr. Jha, everyone should get the first shot they can get, all these vaccines are incredibly effective," Gorsky said. "It's important to remember about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is we did the clinical trials roughly from October of 2020 to January of this year and it was really during the peak of the incidence rate of this virus, that's number one. Number two, we did it in a broad number of countries, in fact, about 40% of the patients in the trial were in Latin America, we had about another 15% in South Africa, in South Africa over 90% of those patients were infected with the South African strain. And so what you're seeing are really strong efficacy rate, 85% of the time with severe disease we kept all the patients out of the hospital. We kept all the patients from dying. And, again, this is with a single dose against some of the most difficult strains during the most challenging times of this pandemic. That's why it's going to be so important to add this vaccine to what's available out there today."

4:30 a.m.
Nearly 4 million doses of the newest COVID-19 vaccine are being delivered to U.S. states for injections starting on Tuesday.

The White House said the entire stockpile of the newly approved single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will go out immediately. J&J will deliver about 16 million more doses by the end of March and 100 million total by the end of June, but the distribution would be backloaded.

Though the new shot is easier to administer and requires only one dose, the administration is not altering its distribution plans.

The White House is encouraging Americans to take the first dose available to them, regardless of manufacturer.

Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted overwhelmingly Sunday to recommend the vaccine for adults 18 years old and up. It adds to the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna that were authorized in December.

MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES

Wake County is slated to receive 5,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as early as this week following emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday. UNC Health expects to receive 4,100 Johnson & Johnson doses

This week, some Johnston County students are heading back to the classroom more often -- four days a week. This Plan A applies for pre-k through fifth grade students. Wednesdays will be asynchronous days to left staff clean the schools. All other students will stay on Plan B.

Sunday's NC State basketball game against Pittsburgh welcomed fans back to PNC Arena for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Governor Cooper's latest executive order allows arenas like PNC to operate at 15% of their capacity.
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