North Carolina providers have 'rapidly accelerated' vaccination process, Dr. Cohen says

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

Have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine? Send them to us here

4:45 p.m.
Nash County Public School officials announced Thursday that all students will return to hybrid-learning on March 22.

Students were slated to return on January 25, however, the decision was made in response to the rising COVID-19 cases in the area.

In the meantime, students will continue second-semester instruction in remote-learning.

4:30 p.m.
The Wake County Health Department has confirmed its first COVID-19 outbreak at Phoenix Assisted Care located at 201 W. High St.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services defines an outbreak as two or more people - residents or employees - testing positive for the virus.

4:14 p.m.
The Durham County Department of Public Health (DCoDPH) announced that 12 Guardsmen from the North Carolina National Guard will support vaccination efforts in Durham County. These guardsmen arrived at DCoDPH beginning Wednesday and will continue to support daily efforts moving forward.

"Being in the National Guard means not only deploying overseas to combat zones, but also serving in our communities during times of need and disaster," said Lt. Col. Matt DeVivo, NC Guard State Public Affairs Officer. "The Guard is here in Durham working alongside this great team of healthcare providers as well as in over a dozen other locations across the state, assisting as needed to help get the COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of our fellow Carolinians."

This includes a Vaccination Team consisting of six personnel; two medics to administer vaccines; two administrative staff to enter data into the state's COVID-19 vaccine management system; and two logistics personnel as well as an Administrative Support Team consisting of six personnel who will provide additional support at the facility allowing health providers flexibility to focus on day-today operations and other tasks.

"We are very pleased to be joined by such an honored team in support of our vaccination efforts," said Health Director Rod Jenkins. "Getting vaccines into the community is our top priority, and it will require partnerships like these to expand our vaccination capacity. We couldn't have asked for better partners, and we are excited to continue working together moving forward."

3:23 p.m.
The South Granville Water and Sewer Authority (SGWASA) is notifying all Creedmoor-area customers that are on an Executive Order related payment plan that no further extensions are expected on the utility shutoff moratorium. Customers are currently scheduled to pay past due bills by January 31 to avoid disruptions to water and sewer service. For more information, call (919) 575-3367 or click here.

3:15 p.m.
North Carolina Central University announced Thursday that because of the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, the Eagles football program will be opting out of competition during the spring semester.

In a statement, university officials noted how football can be a close-contact sport and did not want to jeopardize student-athletes' health.

(Courtesy of North Carolina Central University)



"This was a very tough decision to make, and my staff and I gave this a lot of thought. We evaluated our student-athletes after completing their first week of workouts this semester and determined we would not be physically prepared by the start of the season," Head Coach Trei Oliver said in a statement. "We are very disappointed. As a competitor, you try to do all that you can to play, but I am not going to risk the well-being of my players."

In the meantime, NCCU said it will continue to prepare student-athletes, staff to compete in the fall.

3:11 p.m.
Sampson County reports 103 new cases for a total of 6,004. The death toll from COVID-19 stands at 75 countywide.

The Health Department and Sampson Area Transportation are working together to offer vaccine ride assistance for those with scheduled appointments. Check here for more information as it becomes available.

The Health Department will hold a drive thru vaccination event on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m, at the Sampson County Expo Center. Vaccinations will be available to those persons 65 years of age and older who have not had any vaccination within 14 days of the event, while vaccine supplies last. The Expo Center parking lot will open at 7:30 a.m.

1:45 p.m.
The Orange County Health Department said it is receiving an extremely high volume of phone calls and emails regarding vaccine registration. It is asking for the public's patience.

"We understand your frustrations with the COVID-19 vaccination process," said Orange County Health Director Quintana Stewart. "We feel the same frustration due to the limited doses of the vaccine, and we are training additional staff as quickly as possible to answer calls and emails."

The Health Department is currently only scheduling Phase 1 and 2 for vaccine appointments. These groups are health care workers, long-term care residents and staff and older adults ages 65 and up.

To schedule an appointment with the Health Department, complete the vaccine interest form or call (919) 913-8088 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. This is the only phone number available for vaccine appointment scheduling.

If you are unable to reach a staff member by phone, call again later. Due to staffing and the high volume of calls, the department is unable to return calls.

1:24 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 3,922 total positive COVID 19 cases, including 46 new ones. One additional death was reported, bringing the county's total to 68 -- or 1.73% of cases.

1 p.m.
At a media briefing, NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen spoke about the challenges of vaccine distribution and warned that it will be months before everyone gets the opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

With that in mind, Cohen stressed that wearing masks, washing your hands frequently and maintaining social distancing remain paramount in the effort against the pandemic.

In response to criticism that the state's vaccine rollout is moving too slowly, Cohen noted that North Carolina has administered 569,334 total doses of vaccine, the 10th most in the nation by that measure.

"Hospitals, health departments and other vaccine providers have rapidly accelerated their rate of getting people vaccinated," Cohen said. "Over the past two weeks, nearly three times the number of vaccines were given that in the prior two weeks."

Still, in terms of percentage of COVID-19 vaccinations administered, CDC data shows that North Carolina is lagging behind. That data shows that the state has administered 38.2 % of its doses that it has received, ranking it 47th in the country.

Cohen noted that there's a lag in reporting at the federal level that she wants to see addressed by the new administration.

"Our NC vaccination data does not match what is on CDC website - there is about a 150,000 difference," Cohen said. "I caution everyone from looking at the various websites and when they are pulling data. We are moving so quickly that many of the rankings and charts are out of date."

She said the goal for vaccine providers is to "use every first dose they have" before the next weekly shipment arrives.

"We will always have supply of second doses on hand to ensure everyone gets both shots, but those first doses need to get off the shelf and given to people each and every week," Cohen said.

Cohen said efforts are continuing to scale up mass vaccination sites across the state and noted that she and Gov. Roy Cooper had the opportunity to tour such a site in Orange County earlier this week.
"You could see the joy and relief on people's faces when they received the vaccine," Cohen said.

Cohen also announced that as part of Cooper's effort to ensure all avenues are met to facilitate vaccine distribution, the NC Department of Transportation will help pay for rides for people who need transportation assistance to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

"Every North Carolinian has a spot and needs to get their shot," Cooper said in a release. "As vaccine supply increases, we are deploying every resource to make sure people have access and are not held back by barriers like lack of transportation."

Each local transit agency will receive funding, and the initiative will continue until funds are exhausted for that agency.

"Fighting the COVID-19 pandemic is everybody's business and every organization has something they can do to help," NCDOT Secretary J. Eric Boyette said. "We are committed to doing everything we can to help get North Carolinians vaccinated as quickly and easily as possible."

People who need transportation assistance to a COVID-19 vaccine should reach out to their local transit agency.

"Partnerships like this are crucial to make it possible for everyone to be able to take their shot when it's their spot," Cohen said.

In the meantime, Cohen also said the state's COVID-19 metrics remain unacceptably high. The County Alert Map shows that 99 of the state's 100 counties remain in red or orange danger zones, with 86 counties in the red.

"We can't take our eye off the ball when it comes to prevention in slowing the spread of COVID-19," Cohen said. "My secretarial directive remains in place. Please stay home and only leave your home for essential activities like school, work or healthcare activities."

She did note that though reports continue to paints a dangerous picture, there is some progress and key metrics "are higher than we want to see, but they are stabilizing a bit."

"Keep doing the 3 W's and staying home so we can slow this virus down until we get everyone a spot to get their shot," Cohen said.

12:30 p.m.
COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to decline in North Carolina. Thursday's report from the state Department of Health and Human Services shows 3,666 are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19-related symptoms. On Wednesday, that number was at 3,740.

However, there were 7,187 newly-reported cases on Thursday, higher than Wednesday's mark of 6,415. The number of deaths rose by 139 to 8,339 since the start of the pandemic.

The daily percent positive test rate sits at 10.3%. For complete COVID-19 data in the state, check out the NCDHSS dashboard. Thursday's numbers come with 97% of state hospitals reporting.

12:20 p.m.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is organizing a statewide virtual job fair.

With unemployment still high but in person events a challenge, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state agency is getting creative to help fill open positions.

The virtual job fair will take place Tuesday, Jan. 26 from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Registration is required; click here to register.

If you're interested in a job with NCDHHS but cannot attend the job fair, all openings are posted here.
11:35
Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Don Waddell described the team's situation as 'day-to-day' and hopes the team will be ready to play next week.



On Wednesday, the team postponed play through Jan. 23, impacting Thursday and Saturday dates against the Florida Panthers at PNC Arena. That came one day after the team's road game against the Nashville Predators was postponed.
On Tuesday, the Hurricanes added Warren Foegele, Jordan Martinook, Jaccob Slavin and Teuvo Teravainen to the COVID protocol list. Jordan Staal was already on the list.

11:30 a.m.
New data obtained by ABC11 shows that North Carolina is at the back of the line in the U.S. when it comes to the percentage of COVID-19 vaccinations administered.

The state has administered 38.2 % of its doses that it has received, ranking it 47th in the country. Only Arizona, Georgia, California, Virginia and Alabama trail it. A total of 4.4% of the state's population of 16 and older have received the first doses and .7% received the second doses.

The top five are North Dakota, Washington D.C., West Virginia, South Dakota and New Mexico, who all have distributed more than 60%.

10:50 a.m.
NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen will talk about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine rollout Thursday afternoon.

Cohen will host a press conference at 1 p.m. ABC11 will broadcast the event on television and on our digital platforms.

Cohen will be joined by NCDOT Secretary J. Eric Boyette, although the department did not specify what Boyette planned to address.

8:18 a.m.
The Lee County Government Health Department will hold a drive-thru vaccination clinic on Tuesday at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center at 1801 Nash St. in Sanford for people scheduled to receive their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. First dose vaccinations will not be provided at this clinic.

The clinic is open to those who received their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on or before, Tuesday, January 5 or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on or before Tuesday, December 29.

People are asked to bring the vaccination record card that was provided when receiving their initial dose of the vaccine. The vaccination record card will include the date and type of vaccine received in the first dose. This information is required to confirm eligibility to receive the second dose of vaccine. Failure to bring the vaccination record card will result in processing delays and increased wait times; in some circumstances the absence of the vaccination record card may prevent individuals from receiving the second dose of vaccine on that day.

For additional information and questions, please contact the Health Department at (919) 718-4640.

8 a.m.
Several popular grocery chains such as Aldi, Trader Joe's and Dollar General are paying their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Instacart, an on-demand grocery delivery platform, is also providing financial help to in-store workers and independent contractors who get vaccinated.

THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES


As the U.S. enters "what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus," President Joe Biden is putting forth a national COVID-19 strategy to ramp up vaccinations and testing, reopen schools and businesses and increase the use of masks - including a requirement that they be worn for travel.

Biden also will address inequities in hard-hit minority communities as he signs 10 pandemic-related executive orders on Thursday, his second day in office. A White House press briefing is scheduled for Thursday at 4 p.m.

"We need to ask average Americans to do their part," said Jeff Zients, the White House official directing the national response. "Defeating the virus requires a coordinated nationwide effort."

Biden acknowledged the urgency of the mission in his inaugural address. "We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus," he said before asking Americans to join him in a moment of silence in memory of the more than 400,000 people in the U.S. who have died from COVID-19.

The next COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Fayetteville will be held Friday at the Crown Complex from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Appointments are required until 1 p.m.

Vaccinations are also starting in Wayne County at the Maxwell Center, where 1,500 doses will be distributed through Friday to those with an appointment.

The supply of vaccines is running short in New York, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo expecting to exhaust available first doses within two to three days. California has ruled the Moderna vaccine safe again after allergic reactions caused vaccinations to temporarily stop.

Overnight, the U.S. reported 178,255 new cases of COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins Coroanvirus Resource Center. 4,229 people died from COVID-19 on Wednesday, the second-highest single-day total of the pandemic.
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