COVID-19 booster shots may not be needed, CDC panel says

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 p.m.
President Joe Biden arrived in Raleigh just about 15 minutes later than expected Thursday afternoon.

The 46th President of the United States was scheduled to arrive at Raleigh-Durham International Airport at 3:30 p.m. However, he was slightly delayed, as the president spoke around 2 p.m. about a new bipartisan infrastructure deal.

He scheduled this visit to encourage more people in our state to get vaccinated.

3:48 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports just two new cases since June 17 for a total of 5,679 total positive COVID-19 cases.

Two additional deaths were reported in the last week and the county total stands at 114.

11:38 a.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said there are 394 new cases.

The daily percent positive stands at a satisfactory 2.1%. In all, 55% of the state's adult population is at least partially vaccinated.

There have been 13,408 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

11:20 a.m.
Shaw University is eliminating outstanding balances for students who owed money for summer classes.

The HBCU in Raleigh cited hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for the generosity.

For more, click here.

10:35 a.m.
The national eviction moratorium designed to help tenants unable to may rent payments during the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended.

The moratorium was scheduled to end June 30, but the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that the moratorium would be extended until July 31.

The White House said the eviction moratorium is designed to be temporary but hasn't revealed exactly how to transition away from it without massive social upheaval.

8:20 a.m.
An advisory panel at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said COVID-19 booster shots may not be necessary.

The panel said at this time there is not enough evidence to support recommending booster doses for any of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines.

The experts on that panel said that could change as more data becomes available--including research on the spread of COVID variants and how well doses protect people long-term.

Top officials for the companies who produced the vaccines have previously said booster shots will likely be needed.

5:26 a.m.
One lucky North Carolinian is $1 million richer this morning, but that person's identity remains a mystery.

The state held its first ever vaccination lottery Wednesday. Officials used a random number generator to pick a winner from the pool of people vaccinated against COVID-19.

State health officials then had to figure out who corresponds with that randomly generated number and double check that the person is eligible to win the money.

Once that's done the state will contact the winner via email or phone.

The process could take several days, but whoever does win will be required to let the state publicly identify them.

5 a.m.
Free food is being handed out Thursday to any family in need.

It's happening at Carrboro High School between 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Officials with Orange County and the Town of Carrboro will be placing boxes of food in trunks of cars.

The drive-thru event is open to any family in need.

Face masks will also be given to anyone who asks for them.

WEDNESDAY
2:45 p.m.
President Joe Biden will give his remarks in Raleigh Thursday at the Green Road Community Center on Green Road, sources tell ABC11.

He's coming to North Carolina in an effort to encourage more people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The visit comes as part of Biden's "National Month of Action," the nationwide sprint to get 70 percent of adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4.

1 p.m.
The U.S. government is stepping up efforts to get younger Americans vaccinated for COVID-19 amid growing concern about the spread of a new variant that threatens to set the country back in the months ahead. It also comes as the White House acknowledges it will miss two key vaccination benchmarks. The push to vaccinate younger Americans is underway as the delta variant has come tp represent more than 20% of coronavirus infections in the U.S. in the last two weeks. That's double what it was when the government last reported on the variant's prevalence.

12 p.m.
North Carolina has randomly selected a $1 million winner and a $125,000 scholarship winner in its first COVID-19 lottery drawing.

However, the winners have not yet been identified.

The selection happened around 10 a.m. Wednesday, but we won't know who won for at least a few days.

"We'll leave voice mail messages; we'll send an email if we have an email address on file. We'll leave a callback number so the person can call back us when they get that message and claim their prize," Hattie Gawande with the NC Department of Health and Human Services said.

Gawande said there were 4.9 million entries into the $1 million drawing and 348,000 entries into the scholarship drawing.

The state hopes the next drawing (July 7) has a lot more entries, because that will mean more people have opted to get vaccinated.

11:50 a.m.
North Carolina health officials are reporting 461 new COVID cases on Wednesday with a 2.3% positive rate.

There are 442 COVID-19 patients in North Carolina hospitals, down 21 from Tuesday.

There have been 11 more deaths in the state from the virus.

According to NCDHHS data, 55% of North Carolina adults have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 52% are fully vaccinated.

9:25 a.m.
Frontier Airlines is now making passengers pay a "COVID Recovery" surcharge.

The charge is intended to offset costs such as "increased sanitation and cleaning on board the aircraft and in the airport, shields at the ticket counters and gate areas, and personal protective equipment for employees," according to the airline's site.

The airline said in a statement to ABC News that the $1.59 charge was implemented in May, and is applied to bookings on a per-passenger, per-segment basis.

WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
One lucky, vaccinated North Carolinian will become a millionaire today.

"Your Shot at $1 Million" is the name of North Carolina's COVID-19 vaccine lottery. The program will award four people with $1 million (as well as four teens with $125,000 in scholarship money).

Anyone who has been vaccinated has had their name automatically entered into the drawing. If you got your vaccine on or after June 10, your name was entered twice.

The first drawing happens at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 23. Three other drawings happen every other Wednesday until August 4.

MORE: Everything you need to know about the NC COVID-19 lottery

The Bull City is throwing a party as part of a push to get more people vaccinated.

Durham County Department of Public Health is hosting a series of summer block parties starting Wednesday night at 5 p.m.

The first will be held at Marquis Garden Apartments on Chalk Level Road and will offer a choice of vaccines.

The Players Retreat near NC State reopens officially Wednesday, but only fully vaccinated people will be allowed to eat and drink indoors.

Unvaccinated patrons will be welcomed to sit on the outside patio.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet Wednesday to discuss a heart ailment found in children and young adults.

A CDC committee will hear about reports of 300 cases of the heart enlargement that have happened after children were vaccinated against COVID-19. The ailment is fairly common and easily treatable.

The CDC committee will look to see if there's a link between the ailment and the vaccines and if the risk of the ailment outweighs the benefits of being vaccinated against COVID-19.

TUESDAY
4:45 p.m.
NCDHHS announced that on Wednesday, June 23 at 10 a.m., it will conduct the first random number generator drawings for the Summer Cash Drawing and Summer Cash 4 College Drawing.

The drawings are part of the state's Bringing Summer Back get-out-the-vaccine campaign.

More about Your Shot at $1 Million here.

4:40 p.m.
During a briefing on Tuesday, the White House COVID-19 Task Force emphasized that one of their biggest challenges ahead, in their efforts to get the country vaccinated, may be convincing some young, and hesitant Americans to get the shot.

"Where the country has more work to do is particularly with 18- to 26-year-olds," said COVID response coordinator Jeff Zients. "The reality is many younger Americans have felt like COVID-19 is not something that impacts them, and they've been less eager to get the shot. However, with the Delta variant now spreading across the country and infecting younger people worldwide, it's more important than ever that they get vaccinated."

According to ABC News, to date, about one-third of 18-24 year-olds are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but the group currently has one of the highest country's highest case rate per capita, tied with 25-34 year-olds age group.

3 p.m.
NCDHHS is expanding the number of locations providing $25 Summer Cards for getting vaccinated.

Beginning this week, participating vaccination sites in 38 counties will offer the cards to anyone 18 and older who gets their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine - or drives someone to their vaccination.

The $25 Summer Card program is available at participating vaccination sites in the following counties: Alleghany, Ashe, Beaufort, Bertie, Buncombe, Caswell, Cleveland, Cumberland, Duplin, Edgecombe, Gaston, Greene, Guilford, Harnett, Hertford, Jackson, Johnston, Lee, Lenoir, Madison, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, New Hanover, Orange, Pamlico, Pender, Person, Pitt, Robeson, Rockingham, Rowan, Rutherford, Stanly, Wake, Watauga, Wayne and Wilson. More information here.

The expansion builds on the pilot program launched in May in Mecklenburg, Guilford, Rowan and Rockingham counties.

During that program, 1,700 Summer Cards were given to vaccine recipients and more than 700 cards were given to drivers, according to the health department.

"Some people need help covering the cost of taking time away from work and for transportation, and the Summer Cards are one way to help. What's really exciting is that we saw some people who received their first dose at a Summer Card event then drove others to help them get their vaccine," said Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.

1:10 p.m.
The White House says more than 70% of Americans age 30 or older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That's even though President Joe Biden is set to fall short of reaching his goal of giving a shot to the same percentage of all American adults by Independence Day. The White House says meeting Biden's vaccination goal is less important than the pace of the nation's reopening, which is exceeding even its own internal projections. The overwhelming majority of the nation's most vulnerable people are fully vaccinated. And cases and deaths are at their lowest rates since the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic.

1 p.m.
211 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Tuesday.

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

463 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

14 more deaths were reported since Monday.

42% of the population of North Carolina is fully vaccinated.

9:45 a.m.
Customers getting a COVID-19 vaccine at Walgreens will now also get $25 in Walgreens Cash rewards.

According to Walgreens, the cash rewards will be available immediately following the vaccination for those who have myWalgreens accounts. People without a myWalgreens account can opt to receive a $25 Walgreens gift card.

Parents or guardians of teens who get the vaccine will also be eligible to redeem the cash rewards on behalf of their children.

Walgreens said it is providing the incentive to encourage more individuals to get a COVID-19 vaccine in support of President Biden's National Month of Action.

8:15 a.m.
Deaths among Medicare patients in nursing homes soared by 32% last year, with two devastating spikes eight months apart, a government watchdog reported Tuesday in the most comprehensive look yet at the ravages of COVID-19 among its most vulnerable victims.

The report from the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services found that about 4 in 10 Medicare recipients in nursing homes had or likely had COVID-19 in 2020, and that deaths overall jumped by 169,291 from the previous year, before the coronavirus appeared.

"We knew this was going to be bad, but I don't think even those of us who work in this area thought it was going to be this bad," said Harvard health policy professor David Grabowski, a nationally recognized expert on long-term care, who reviewed the report for The Associated Press.

"This was not individuals who were going to die anyway," Grabowski added. "We are talking about a really big number of excess deaths."

Investigators used a generally accepted method of estimating "excess" deaths in a group of people after a calamitous event. It did not involve examining individual death certificates of Medicare patients but comparing overall deaths among those in nursing homes to levels recorded the previous year. The technique was used to estimate deaths in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017 and in New York City after the first coronavirus surge last spring. It does not attribute a cause of death but is seen as a barometer of impact.

Death rates were higher in every month last year when compared with 2019.

TUESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have dipped below 300 a day for the first time since the early days of the disaster in March 2020, while the drive to put shots in arms hit another encouraging milestone Monday: 150 million Americans fully vaccinated.

The coronavirus was the third leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020, behind heart disease and cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But now, as the outbreak loosens its grip, it has fallen down the list of the biggest killers.

CDC data suggests that more Americans are dying every day from accidents, chronic lower respiratory diseases, strokes or Alzheimer's disease than from COVID-19.

The U.S. death toll stands at more than 600,000, while the worldwide count is close to 3.9 million, though the real figures in both cases are believed to be markedly higher.

About 45% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. Over 53% of Americans have received at least one dose of vaccine. But U.S. demand for shots has slumped, to the disappointment of public health experts.

Dr. Ana Diez Roux, dean of Drexel University's school of public health, said the dropping rates of infections and deaths are cause for celebration. But she cautioned that the virus still has a chance to spread and mutate given the low vaccination rates in some states, including Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Wyoming and Idaho.

"So far it looks like the vaccines we have are effective against the variants that are circulating," Diez Roux said. "But the more time the virus is jumping from person to person, the more time there is for variants to develop, and some of those could be more dangerous."

New cases are running at about 11,400 a day on average, down from over a quarter-million per day in early January. Average deaths per day are down to about 293, according to Johns Hopkins University, after topping out at over 3,400 in mid-January.

In New York, which suffered mightily in the spring of 2020, Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted on Monday that the state had 10 new deaths. At the height of the outbreak in the state, nearly 800 people a day were dying from the coronavirus.

Some states are faring worse than others. Missouri leads the nation in per-capita COVID-19 cases and is fourth behind California, Florida and Texas in the number of new cases per day over the past week despite its significantly smaller population.

The surge is being driven by new cases in a farming region in the northern part of the state and in the southwest corner, which includes the towns of Branson and Springfield. COVID-19 hospitalizations in southwest Missouri have risen 72% since the beginning of the month as of Friday.

The fall will bring new waves of infection, but they will be less severe and concentrated more in places with low vaccination rates, said Amber D'Souza, a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"So much depends on what happens over the summer and what happens with children," D'Souza said. "Anyone who is not vaccinated can become infected and transmit the virus."

Meanwhile, because of regulatory hurdles and other factors, President Joe Biden is expected to fall short of his commitment to share 80 million vaccine doses with the rest of the world by the end of June, officials said Monday.
Copyright © 2021 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.