Select North Carolina Publix pharmacies to open COVID-19 vaccine appointments Monday

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

SUNDAY

10:50 a.m.
Starting Monday, select North Carolina Publix pharmacies will open COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

Vaccinations are provided to people ages 18 and older.

Publix pharmacies in Buncombe, Cabarrus, Catawba, Forsyth, Gaston, Guilford, Haywood, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Wake and Watauga counties will open up appointments for the Moderna vaccine

SATURDAY

Are some COVID-19 vaccines more effective than others?

12 p.m.
Next week, the number of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines allocated to states and other jurisdictions by the federal government is expected to drop 84%, according to a CNN analysis of data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In contrast, the supply of Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines remain steady for next week.

Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine distribution will slow down 84% next week

7:20 a.m.
According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been 31,085,251 COVID-19 cases in the United States since the pandemic began in March 2020.

FRIDAY

7 p.m.
Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine use will be resumed in Wake County as early as Monday following an investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services (NCDHHS).

The clearance comes after several people in North Carolina, Iowa, Georgia and Colorado reported 'adverse reactions' after receiving the one-dose vaccination. The symptoms included lightheadedness, feeling faint and rapid breathing.

"We take any reaction to vaccine very seriously, which is why we did our due diligence to examine yesterday's incident and confer with our CDC, state and local partners," said Dr. Kim McDonald, Wake County Medical Director. "The total adverse reaction rate at PNC Arena was well below the expected rate for reactions, according to the J&J vaccine federal guidance. In fact, it was less than 1% of the total shots given that day."

5 p.m.
WCPSS announced the registration window for next year's Virtual Academy will be open for approximately 10 days and will begin no sooner than April 22.

Students must commit to attend the Virtual Academy for the entire school year.

WCPSS discourages virtual academy for students in grades PreK-3, but it will still be allowed for those age groups.

Virtual Academy students will be able to participate in extra- and co-curricular activities such as athletics, arts and clubs at their assigned school, the district said.

2:04 p.m.
Publix will begin offering COVID-19 vaccinations at its North Carolina supermarkets.

Starting Monday, at 7 a.m. the online appointment reservation system will open for Moderna COVID-19 vaccination appointments at select Publix Pharmacy locations.

The Moderna vaccine is only authorized for those 18 years of age and older.

Vaccinations are provided by appointment only, while supplies last, through the online reservation system at publix.com/covidvaccine.

Publix pharmacies will administer the vaccine at select stores in the following North Carolina counties, while supplies last: Buncombe, Cabarrus, Catawba, Forsyth, Gaston, Guilford, Haywood, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Wake and Watauga.

2:01 p.m.
After a short restriction in visitation, Cape Fear Valley's Long-Term Acute Care (LTAC) facility, Highsmith-Rainey Specialty Hospital, will again allow visitation from those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, beginning Saturday.

Visitation will be limited to 45-minute time slots on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

"We know that support from family and friends plays an important role in the healing process," said Michael Zappa, M.D., President of Highsmith-Rainey Specialty Hospital and Associate Chief Medical Officer of Cape Fear Valley Health. "LTAC patients, however, are among those most vulnerable to the coronavirus. It is important we take every precaution to protect them while allowing them to visit with their loved ones."

Visitors should be prepared to show their vaccination card or proof of their COVID-19 vaccination and must make an appointment for visitation by calling (910) 615-1450.

1:48 p.m.
Pfizer announced that it submitted a request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 12.

This is the next step toward possibly beginning shots in this age group before they head back to school in the fall.

1:15 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper has signed into law House Bill 82: Summer Learning Choice for NC Families. The bill is aimed at mitigating the effects of COVID-19 on at-risk students.

"This pandemic has challenged students and teachers like never before. Providing a summer opportunity for academic growth plus mental and physical health will help schools begin to address those challenges," Cooper said.

You can read the full bill here.

1:05 p.m.
North Carolina reported 2,509 new cases, the highest daily increase since the end of February. In all, the state has 929,406 COVID-19 cases.

The percent positive is 4.6%; it was 5.1% Thursday but still higher than last Friday's 4.3%

In all, 977 people are hospitalized for COVID-19, 27 fewer than Thursday and about the same as a week ago (976)

There were 24 more deaths reported, for a statewide total of 12,248 (1.3% of cases)

In all, 31.5% of the overall NC population is at least partially vaccinated and 22.2% of the population is fully vaccinated.

1 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 14 new cases for a total of 5,312 positive COVID 19 cases. There have been 106 deaths countywide.

8:50 a.m.
UNC Health will resume giving Johnson and Johnson vaccines Saturday.

The health care provider paused its use of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine amid reports of side effects at Wake County's mass vaccination site at PNC Arena.

"We believe that the J&J vaccine is safe. Very few people (less than 1%) who have received this vaccine at our clinics have reported lightheadedness or fainting. On April 9, the CDC stated that it has found no evidence of a safety concern for the J&J vaccine after looking at cases in NC and other parts of the country," UNC Health said in a statement explaining its decision to resume use of the vaccine.

7:15 a.m.
Nearly 300 people canceled their COVID-19 vaccination appointment at PNC Arena on Friday.

Those cancelations come after the site announced it would be using Pfizer's vaccine instead of Johnson & Johnson. That change came after a handful of people had reactions to the vaccine and were taken to the hospital.

Experts said there do not appear to be any problems with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Still, Wake County Health Department decided to switch to the Pfizer vaccine out of an abundance of caution.

A Wake County spokesperson said the majority of the 285 Friday cancelations have rescheduled for a later date.

5:30 a.m.
Wake County Public School System is set to share more information about its virtual academy for the next school year.

This afternoon the school district is set to inform families about registration, dates for a virtual open house and other program details.

Registration for the 2021-2022 virtual academy is expected to end in early May. The school district said the registration window must be closed that early due to the district's need to create master schedules and hire the necessary staff.

"A later registration date means student schedules could be delayed and class changes would be unavailable," the district said.

FRIDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Controversy surrounds the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Friday morning.

Four out of 2,300 people who received the vaccine at Raleigh's PNC Arena went to the hospital to be evaluated for reactions to the vaccine. All four had reactions "consistent with known common side effects from receiving the vaccine," according to Wake County Health Department.

A similar thing happened at a mass vaccination clinic in Denver, Colorado, earlier this week.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services notified Johnson & Johnson as well as the federal government. All parties are investigating what happened.

As a precaution, Wake County will use the Pfizer vaccine for all appointments at PNC Arena on Friday. UNC Health announced it would also pause administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Duke Health, which received the same lot number of Johnson & Johnson vaccine (but got the shipment delivered directly instead of through intermediaries), said it plans to continue to use the vaccine.

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THURSDAY
5:30 p.m.
With more than 1,200 students set to become alumni, Fayetteville State University plans to hold its spring 2021 commencement in person on May 8.

The event will be held at the Luther "Nick" Jeralds Stadium on the FSU campus.

The university promises that COVID-19 protocols will be followed and commencement will be held rain or shine.

For more details on the spring 2021 commencement, check here.

4:38 p.m.
Granville Health System is offering a COVID-19 vaccination clinic Friday where first doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be given.

Everyone 16 years and older who wants a vaccine is eligible and the event will run from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. in the parking lot of Granville Primary Care & OB/GYN, 110 Professional Park Drive in Oxford on the campus of Granville Medical Center.

Appointments can be made by visiting this website and clicking at the red bar at the top of the page.

1 p.m.
In a call, UNC Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said UNC-Chapel Hill is "cautiously optimistic" but is planning for a return for an on-campus working environment for staff by mid-summer.

"If we do this by mid-July it gives us a month out before students return to campus in mid-August for in-person classroom teaching and really to restore the on-campus residential environment that everyone has been craving," he said.

A decision has not been made yet on re-entry testing.

As far as the Fall goes?

"We should be and can be preparing a normal return to classroom environment with the likelihood of still wearing masks as an extra precaution," he said.

He added: "As of residential living, we are preparing to be close to normal capacity. We may keep at least one residence hall, maybe two available for isolation/quarantine."

12:30 p.m.
NCDHHS reported 2,087 new COVID-19 cases in the state, a jump of more than 700 from Wednesday's tally.

In all, 1,004 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in North Carolina. Wednesday marked the first time since March 16 that the state's daily hospitalizations topped 1,000.

The percent of positive tests is at 5.1 percent, a significant drop from 6.7% the previous day.

31.1 of the population of the state is partially vaccinated. 21.5 percent is fully vaccinated.

12:21 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 15 new cases for a total of 5,298 positive COVID-19 cases. One additional death was added, bringing the county total to 106 -- 2% of cases.

12 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released findings from recent public opinion research on COVID-19 vaccine risks, rewards and vaccination motivations across the state.

1,290 NC residents were involved in the survey.

Nearly seven in ten North Carolinians surveyed either have gotten vaccinated, have an appointment, or say they definitely or probably will. Up from 60% in November.

Six in ten said they would advise their friends to get their COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is their turn - double the number from November.

Risk perceptions of the COVID-19 vaccine have dropped significantly since November 2020. Top concerns continue to be potentially harmful side effects and not wanting to be a test case to find out if the vaccine is ok for others.

Biggest concerns among the unvaccinated who have lower intent to get a COVID-19 vaccine are potential side effects, lack of sufficient testing and understanding of how it works.

11:05 a.m.
Students at Broughton High School were excited to get back into the classroom Thursday.

"I got my first vaccine already and I'm waiting on my second one. I think it's going to be a good rest of my senior year," Ryan Kilbride said.

For the first time in more than a year, these students were taking in lessons together in the same room with each other and their teachers.

"It was interesting to see the crowds come back in the room and the building," English teacher Bill Schmidt said. "There's really been very few people in the hallway and this morning was kind of like this is what school is supposed to feel like."

Obviously, health and safety measures remained in place--making the day not totally what students remember from the last time they were all in school.

For example, all of the tables in the cafeteria had been removed and replaced with desks. The desks made it so students would all be facing the same direction and not congregating in large groups during lunch--which is one of the few times they can remove their masks.

Despite the changes, the excitement was still clear. Students and teachers all seem ready to finish the school year strong.

9 a.m.
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to 744,000, signaling that many employers are still cutting jobs even as more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, consumers gain confidence and the government distributes aid throughout the economy.

The Labor Department said Thursday that applications increased by 16,000 from 728,000 a week earlier. Jobless claims have declined sharply since the virus slammed into the economy in March of last year. But they remain high by historical standards: Before the pandemic erupted, weekly applications typically remained below 220,000 a week.

THURSDAY MORNING HEADLINES
The majority of middle and high school students in Wake County are headed back to their classroom full-time starting today.

It's been more than a year since these students were inside a school building on a regular basis, and there will be some changes in store.

Social distancing is still encouraged but with larger numbers of students, it can be a challenge at times. Students will be required to wear a face covering at all times.

SEE ALSO | Children now playing 'huge role' in spread of COVID-19 variant, expert says

Students will not go through on-site COVID-19 screenings. School leaders ask parents to do those screenings at home and to not let children go to school if they are not feeling well or if they have been exposed to COVID-19 recently.

More students are returning to classrooms in Durham today also.

Middle and high school students at Durham Public Schools start a hybrid learning model where they will be in the classroom two days a week on a rotation.

In Cumberland County, public school students will begin (almost) full-time in-person learning Monday. All students will be able to go to class every day except Wednesday.

Wednesday will remain an at-home learning day for all Cumberland County Schools students.

Meanwhile, the University of North Carolina will have a committee meeting Thursday morning to discuss plans for the fall semester.
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