North Carolina's COVID-19 metrics have plateaued, Gov. Cooper says

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

10 p.m.
UNC Health said the Friday Center will administer 1,800 shots Wednesday.

Dr. Wohl continues to encourage persistence to those having issues getting a vaccination appointment.

"We need adults vaccinated by the end of May if not sooner," said UNC's Dr. David Wohl. "I feel for people: I'm frustrated people have to wait on phone lines for a long time, I wish we had a better system across the state."

Why doctors are encouraging younger people to get vaccinated as Group 5 begins in North Carolina

6:20 p.m.
The Wake County Public Schools System is making changes to on-site health screenings beginning this week.

This week, schools will begin placing signs at main entrances and other common gathering areas such as gyms and auditoriums, telling students, staff, and visitors to stay home if they suspect they may be infected or exposed to COVID-19.

There will also be reminders during daily announcements, in principals' messages to families, and during athletic and extracurricular activities.

Starting Wednesday, April 7, schools will no longer conduct on-site health screenings.

5:30 p.m.
The Wake School Board is meeting and planning a virtual academy in some form for the next school year.

There are no orders from Gov. Roy Cooper that any school districts must offer virtual options for the 2021-22 school year, but Wake County officials said they want to plan for such contingencies.

Wake County school officials will share more with families on April 9 addressing possible dates for a 2021-2022 virtual academy registration window.

While a registration window ending in early May will seem early for some families, school officials said information is needed to ensure schools have time to create master schedules and hire the appropriate staff.

Get more details in the video below:
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The Wake School Board is meeting and planning a virtual academy in some form for the next school year.



2 p.m.
NCDHHS on Tuesday released its latest county alert system map. It was the first map with no red counties.

One county is in green for the first time, meaning low impact.

31 counties are in light yellow, meaning moderate impact.

1:30 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper gave an update Tuesday on the state's COVID-19 response.

Cooper started by noting that as of Tuesday, North Carolina has had 923,430 total cases with 870 new cases reported since Monday.

In all, 982 people are hospitalized -- 75 more than the previous day -- and 12,189 people have died in North Carolina, including 16 newly reported deaths.

Cooper said his focus continues to be getting North Carolinians vaccinated.

"The most common side effect is pure joy," Cooper said. "I've seen that relief and sparkle in people's eyes at every vaccination clinic I have visited."

At least 25.7% of NC adults are fully vaccinated, Cooper said. At least 38.4% of residents 18 and older are at least partially vaccinated.

"We are so close, and every day counts," the governor added. "Every time we wear a mask makes a difference. Every person who gets a shot makes our whole state safer and healthier and helps move our economy forward. If we all do our part, we can put this pandemic in the rearview mirror once and for all."

He also said he will be announcing soon what the state can expect this summer in terms of restrictions.

Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the state's key COVID metrics have plateaued.

COVID syndromic cases seen in the emergency room are close to baseline, COVID cases since February have leveled, the percent of positive tests is level and so is the number of hospitalizations.

10:50 a.m.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded North Carolina more than $94 million.

The money is earmarked to help the state increase vaccine access--specifically by targeting programs that ensure greater equity and access to groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

The award is part of $3 billion in funding the CDC sent to different areas to increase distribution, access and acceptance of vaccines.

"We are doing everything we can to expand access to vaccinations," said CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH. "Millions of Americans are getting vaccinated every day, but we need to ensure that we are reaching those in the communities hit hardest by this pandemic. This investment will support state and local health departments and community-based organizations as they work on the frontlines to increase vaccine access, acceptance, and uptake."

10:15 a.m.
According to NCDHHS, this week North Carolina expects to receive 216,030 first doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine and 149,800 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine allocated to the state to be further allocated to providers. Allocations to federal programs are not included in that total.

The nearly 150,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson are a large increase from 58,000 the week before.

9:25 a.m.
Duke University said its COVID-19 positive rate is down to 0.14%.

The university tested nearly 19,000 faculty, staff and students between March 29 and April 4. Only 30 of those tests came back positive.

That's a steep decline from a few weeks ago when the university issued a stay-in-place order and reported 218 tests in one week

In addition, the university said all students, faculty and staff have been offered an opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

9:10 a.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper moved up his planned COVID-19 briefing Tuesday.

The governor will now start at 1:30 p.m. instead of 2 p.m. ABC11 will still broadcast his update on television and on our digital platforms.

9:05 a.m.
President Joe Biden is set to announce that he's shaving about two weeks off his May 1 deadline for states to make all adults eligible for coronavirus vaccines.

A White House official says Biden will make the announcement later Tuesday.

With states gradually expanding eligibility beyond such priority groups as seniors and essential, front-line workers, the president plans to announce that every adult in the U.S. will be eligible to be vaccinated by April 19. That's about two weeks earlier than Biden's original May 1 deadline. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Biden's plans before the formal announcement.

9 a.m.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on cleaning and disinfecting everyday household surfaces, saying that in "most situations" with no known coronavirus exposure, a thorough scrub with soap and water will suffice -- rather than disinfectant sprays and wipes -- to ward off COVID-19, ABC News reported.

TUESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Variants of COVID-19 are putting children at a higher risk of contracting and spreading the virus.

That comes as many schools in North Carolina are bringing more children back into the classroom. For example, Lee County Schools welcome back elementary students today; middle and high school students will return next Monday.

Health leaders are urging schools to stay on top of property safety measures, such as masks and social distancing--especially since most students are too young to get vaccinated.

However, students 16 or older will be eligible to get vaccinated starting tomorrow. Some county health departments and health care groups have already opened sign ups, so check with your local provider to see if you can get in line to be vaccinated.

WATCH | Vaccination eligibility opens up for those 16 and older in some North Carolina counties, but will they get it?
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Doctor Brenda Weis, the Wayne County Health Director, said that this next stage of eligible people will be much more hesitant or just not interested in getting a vaccine.



A little more than 25 percent of adults in North Carolina are fully vaccinated, and more than 38 percent are partially vaccinated.

Initial research into the vaccines shows they are holding up well against many of the circulating variants of COVID-19. However, experts said vigilance is needed for a least a little while longer.

"We are not out of the woods yet, and there's a very real possibility or probability of a fourth surge if you will, that may be starting in the Midwest and parts of the country now and could come to North Carolina," Duke University Hospital President Dr. Thomas Owens warned.

Gov. Roy Cooper is scheduled to give a COVID-19 update at 2 p.m. You can watch him live on ABC11 and in the ABC11 North Carolina app on your smart television.

MONDAY
3:35 p.m.
Lee County officials said 61 more COVID-19 cases have been reported since last Monday. Since the pandemic began, 5,728 Lee County residents tested positive for the virus.

2:17 p.m.
Across UNC Health, clinics have received nearly 21,000 first doses to give out this week, including 8,900 at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill. Those totals are the highest weekly allocations since the system started providing vaccines in January.

There are still some available for this week.

UNC Health has now administered more than 300,000 doses across all clinics.

1:17 p.m.
The latest COVID-19 numbers by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services show 1,054 newly reported cases -- nearly half of Thursday's reported number of cases, but the 6.0% daily percent positive has increased.

There are 907 people hospitalized, that's 78 fewer people than Thursday, and 37 additional deaths were reported, bringing the death toll in North Carolina to 12,173.

The numbers show that 38.4% of adults in the state are at least partially vaccinated, and 25.2% are fully vaccinated.

1:10 p.m.
Across UNC Health, its clinics have received nearly 21,000 first doses to give out this week, including 8,900 at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill. Those totals are the highest weekly allocations since UNC Health started providing vaccines in January.

Appointments for Group 5 are opening starting Wednesday at YourShot.org. There are still some available this week as of 1 p.m.

UNC Health has administered more than 300,000 doses across all its clinics.

1:09 p..m.
Sampson County reports 46 new cases since April 1 for a total of 7,599 positive cases.

The death coll remains at 101 countywide.

The Sampson County Health Department has several vaccination opportunities scheduled for April. For each event, first-dose vaccinations are available for those 18 and older who have not had any vaccine within 14 days of the event.

There will be an event Wednesday from noon to 8 p.m. at the Sampson County Expo Center, 414 Warsaw Road, Clinton; an event April 14 from 8 a.m. to noon for first and second doses at Union High School, 1189 Kader Merritt Road, Rose Hill; and an event April 17 from 8 a.m. to noon at Royal Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, 7660 Ivanhoe Road, Ivanhoe.

12:33 p.m.
Rural Health Group at their Halifax Medical Specialists (HMS) location, 270 Smith Church Road in Roanoke Rapids, will offer first-dose Moderna vaccine to all groups every Monday and Tuesday during April. The vaccination is available to anyone 18 and older. Registration is required to ensure adequate seating and vaccine supply.

Click here to register,

Drugco Pharmacy will offer first and doses for all groups by online registration only. All its vaccine clinics will be held at Kirkwood Adams Community Center, 1100 Hamilton St., Roanoke Rapids.

To schedule a second-dose appointment with Drugco for Moderna vaccine for Monday-Wednesday, click here

To schedule a first-dose appointment with Drugco for the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday click here.

To schedule an appointment with Drugco for the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccine for Friday, click here.

6:25 a.m.
Children are now getting and transmitting COVID-19 at a higher rate than previously thought.

That is being blamed on a spreading variant of the virus that was first identified in the United Kingdom.

The B.1.1.7 variant has already caused problems in schools in Minnesota and sent more children to the hospital in Michigan.

One epidemiologist said it's time to rethink previous guidance about children going back to school.

MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES

This is a big week in the push to return to normal after more than a year of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some Wake County students in 6-12th grades head back to classrooms full-time. On Thursday, all students on the traditional calendar return to the classroom.

This comes as North Carolina is set to make COVID-19 vaccines available to anybody over the age of 16. That is scheduled to happen Wednesday.

A brand new mass vaccination clinic opens in Northeast Raleigh today. Wake County Health Department is turning a location that has performed free COVID-19 testing into a place to administer COVID-19 vaccinations.

The location at 5809 Departure Drive has conducted more than 70,000 COVID-19 tests in the last five months. Now, it will pivot to vaccinating people against the virus it had been testing for.

The testing clinic will move across the street to the parking lot of Vision Church RDU

At the Fort Bragg Fairgrounds, anyone 16 or older will be able to get their shot starting Tuesday--one day earlier than the rest of North Carolina.

You still must make an appointment online to get vaccinated.

All of this comes as health experts across the country warn that America could be on the brink of a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases.

"If we don't control covid-19, that gives the virus opportunities for new mutations to arise," Dr. Douglas Golenbock said. "Now is not the time to let our guard down."

With increased travel and relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, many states are reporting an increase in cases and hospitalizations.

"We're just at the beginning of this surge. We haven't even begun to see it yet," epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm said.

LAST WEEK
The Lee County Government Health Department reported that a county resident has died of COVID-19 related complications. This raises the total number of COVID-19 deaths confirmed in Lee County to 75 since the first case was reported last March.

"Please keep the family and friends of the individual in your thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time and join us in offering our condolences for the loss of a loved one," said Heath Cain, Director of the Lee County Health Department. "This is a sad reminder that COVID-19 is a serious illness that causes a significant number of those infected to become seriously ill. We ask everyone to consider getting vaccinated to protect yourself against COVID-19."

Vaccinations remain the strongest defense against the virus and everyone who is eligible is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated. The Lee County Health Department is now accepting registrations for the COVID-19 vaccine from Groups 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the NCDHHS vaccine rollout plan. This means anyone 18 and older (16 and older for Pfizer) is eligible to register for the vaccine.

To register for the COVID-19 vaccine, people may call (919) 842-5744 or to register in Spanish, (919) 718-4640 option 8. Calls will be accepted Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m.

3 p.m.
The General Assembly gave unanimous approval to the "Summer Learning Choice for Families", also known as House Bill 82, which would require school districts to offer six weeks of learning recovery and enrichment after the school year ends.

The bill aims to "mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on at-risk students and to require the implementation of innovative benchmark assessments.

For students in kindergarten through third grade, in-person instruction would focus on reading and math. There would be more focused science instruction for third-grade students. For students in fourth through eighth grade, in-person instruction would focus on reading, math and science as well as at least one enrichment activity.

The bill is now headed to Gov. Roy Cooper's desk.

1 p.m.
2,027 new COVID-19 cases were reported by NCDHHS on Thursday.

985 people are currently hospitalized in the state with COVID-19.

113 confirmed patients were admitted in the last 24 hours.

The percent of positive tests in North Carolina is at 4.4.

18.3 percent of the total population of the state is fully vaccinated.

5:10 a.m.
Cary's Koka Booth Amphitheatre is reopening.

Scheduled events at the entertainment venue start today with the WakeMed Movies by Moonlight.

Koka Booth Amphitheatre will open with reduced capacity and pod seating. You will also be required to wear a mask and remain socially distant from other groups.

Get more information here.

THURSDAY MORNING HEADLINES
The deadline to decide if students will return to class or remain in virtual academy has arrived in Wake County.

Some students have been coping with virtual learning for more than a year, but this month they will all have the opportunity to return to full classrooms.

Parents of students in Wake County Public School System have no more time to weigh the options. They can finish the year in virtual academy or slide back into daily in-person learning. WCPSS said classrooms should be opened by April 19.

RELATED | UNC psychiatrist provides tips on how to to reenter a post-COVID world

Meanwhile, this is the first week in over a year that all areas of state parks are open.

Many of the trails at state parks have been open, but now the full resources are available for use.

"It was a really difficult time because not only were we trying to protect visitors but we're also trying to protect staff," State Parks Superintendent Jay Greenwood said.

This comes as the vaccine rollout continues on. North Carolina expects to receive 547,000 COVID-19 doses this week. That includes 168,000 Pfizer first doses, 91,000 Moderna first doses, and 59,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson.
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