North Carolina expands $25 Summer Card incentive program for vaccinations

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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4:45 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.

MONDAY
2:49 p.m.
The U.S. is reaching a pair of encouraging milestones as the COVID-19 pandemic's grip on the nation continues to loosen. COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have dipped below 300 a day for the first time since the outbreak's early days in March 2020. Meanwhile, nearly 150 million Americans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020, behind heart disease and cancer. Now, however, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that more Americans are dying every day from accidents, chronic lower respiratory diseases, strokes or Alzheimer's disease than COVID-19.

11:40 a.m.
North Carolina health officials are reporting 238 new COVID-19 cases and a 2.4% positive test rate Monday morning.

Throughout North Carolina hospitals, 458 people are being hospitalized with COVID-19. That is down 17 from Friday.

Throughout the state, 28 more people have died 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% of adults are fully vaccinated.

6 a.m.
Pandemic restrictions are falling away almost everywhere - except inside many of America's nursing homes. Rules designed to protect the nation's most vulnerable from COVID-19 are still being enforced even though 75% of nursing home residents are now vaccinated and infections and deaths have plummeted.

Frustration has set in as families around the country visit their moms and, this Father's Day weekend, their dads. Hugs and kisses are still discouraged or banned in some nursing homes. Residents are dining in relative isolation and playing bingo and doing crafts at a distance. Visits are limited and must be kept short, and are cut off entirely if someone tests positive.

Family members and advocates question the need for such restrictions at this stage of the pandemic, when the risk is comparatively low. They say the measures are now just prolonging older people's isolation and accelerating their mental and physical decline.

"They have protected them to death," said Denise Gracely, whose 80-year-old mother, Marian Rauenzahn, lives in a nursing home in Topton, Pennsylvania.

Rauenzahn had COVID-19 and then lost part of a leg to gangrene, but Graceley said what she struggled with the most was enforced solitude, going from six-day-a-week visits to none at all.

Rauenzahn's daughters eventually won the right to see her once a week, and the nursing home now says it plans to relax the rules on visits for all residents in late June.

MONDAY
The White House announced Sunday that President Joe Biden will be visiting Raleigh Thursday to encourage COVID vaccinations.

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

US on track to fall short of Biden's July 4 vaccine goal to get 70% of adults partially vaccinated

The latest update from NCDHHS Friday said 55 percent of North Carolina adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

FRIDAY

4:46 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will host a live Spanish-language livestream event on Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to discuss the safety and effectiveness of approved COVID-19 vaccines for youth ages 12 to 17, as well as adults.

NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen will host the event and will be joined by Dr. Edith Nieves Lopez, community pediatrician, advocate and grass-roots organizer.

In addition to the livestream, the event will also include a tele townhall feature. Households will be invited by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone interested can participate. People can also dial into the event by calling (855) 756-7520 ext.74266#.

The event comes as the state continues its push to ensure everyone ages 12 and older is vaccinated, protected and helping reduce the spread of COVID-19. More than 53% of the Latino population 18 years and older has been vaccinated with at least one dose.

11:20 a.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper toured a vaccine clinic in Johnston County on Friday morning.

After the tour he spoke to the press praising the workers at the clinic and all the North Carolinians who have already decided to roll up their sleeve and get vaccinated.

In addition to 55 percent of adults in the state being fully vaccinated, nearly 82 percent of people 65 and older are at least partially vaccinated.

Cooper said the numbers are good, but they could be better.

"We have almost 2.5 million adults who are not yet vaccinated," Cooper said before urging vaccinated people to talk to their friends and family about getting the shot.

"We know that this is the way out. This is the way to put the pandemic fully behind us. The way to stamp out this virus is to get the population vaccinated," Cooper said.

As for the million dollar drawings, the first will take place June 23 and another will take place every other Wednesday until August 4. The governor admitted the lottery is not having much of an impact on people getting their vaccines yet--but it was only announced about a week ago.

"We're trying to find everything that we can," Cooper said. "Even keeping steady would be a positive thing so that we don't keep going down in the number of people who are getting vaccinated. I think we're going to see a resurgence here. I think the drawings will be part of it."

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"We know that this is the way out. This is the way to put the pandemic fully behind us. The way to stamp out this virus is to get the population vaccinated."



11 a.m.
North Carolinians who got their shot through the Veterans Administration or Tribal Health Program are now eligible for the $4 million Summer Cash and College Tuition vaccine lottery through the North Carolina state governemnt.

"Thanks to our partners across the state, we are now able to include veterans vaccinated through the VA and American Indians vaccinated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians," said NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, M.D., in a written statement. "Everyone can protect themselves and their community while also getting a chance to win a million dollars. It's a win-win."

Four vaccinated North Carolina adults (18 or older) will win $1 million each. In addition, four North Carolina teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 will win college tuition.

The first drawings will happen next Wednesday. Anyone who is vaccinated before Sunday, June 20 at midnight will be entered to win twice.

6 a.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper is set to release new details on the million dollar summer cash drawings designed to boost COVID-19 vaccines.

The latest numbers show 55 percent of the adult population in North Carolina is partially vaccinated. Fifty-one percent of adults are fully vaccinated.

Since announcing the vaccine lottery last week, the state has not seen an uptick in vaccinations.

Cooper said he still believes the incentive will help drive more people to vaccine clinics once the drawing gets closer to happening.

He said he believes the state can get to 66 percent of eligible persons vaccinated.

Cooper is scheduled to release new details about his vaccine lottery program at 11 a.m.

THURSDAY
12:30 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports 362 new cases of COVID-19.

The percent positive stands at 1.9% as COVID-19 trends continue to improve in the state.

In all, 55% of adults in North Carolina are at least partially vaccinated.

There have been 13,320 deaths in the state since the start of the pandemic,

12:24 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department said that 12 new cases were reported since June 9 for a total of 5,677 total positive COVID-19 cases.

The county's death toll remains at 112 or 1.97% of cases.

11:19 a.m.
Starting Saturday, the federal agency in charge of leading the nation's pandemic response says it will stop screening its own employees and contractors for COVID-19 symptoms before entering its buildings.

The notice, obtained by ABC News, acknowledges that symptom screening isn't "completely effective" in containing the virus because of the number of people who don't exhibit symptoms even when infected.

"Effective June 19, 2021, HHS will discontinue temperature and COVID-19 symptom screening for those entering our facilities at the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, 5600 Fishers Lane and Perry Point," the Department of Health and Human Services said. "As we entered the pandemic, the purpose of the screening was to identify potential COVID-infected personnel in order to minimize the spread of this infectious disease. Individuals with a positive screen were permitted to enter the workplace facility once it was determined that their symptoms were not due to COVID 19 infection or other communicable diseases. CDC guidance identified screening as one of a number of strategies to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. CDC acknowledged that performing symptom screening with or without temperature screening would not be completely effective because asymptomatic individuals or individuals with mild nonspecific symptoms who have COVID-19 may be undetected on screening. CDC also continues to emphasize that screening and health checks are not a replacement for other protective measures such as vaccination, social distancing, and wearing a mask."

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