North Carolina's old state Capitol building reopens to public for first time in 15 months

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

4:58 p.m.
The Lee County Government Health Department confirmed 44 cases since Mya 10 for a total of 6,072 residents who have tested positive for COVID-19.

There have been 79 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Lee County. The latest death was a person hospitalized at Central Carolina Hospital in Sanford.

To register for the COVID-19 vaccine, people in Lee County may call (919) 842-5744 or to register in Spanish, (919) 718-4640 option 8.

4:20 p.m.
When Gov. Cooper lifted most of the state's mask mandate, it put the onus on businesses to decide and regulate mask requirements.

NCDHHS released the following statement to ABC11:

Businesses may choose to continue to require that their customers wear masks, particularly because it would be hard to know who is vaccinated and who is not. North Carolina does not have a vaccine passport. For people who get vaccinated at a state-supported provider, we will continue to work to make it is easy as possible for them to access their own vaccine record if they ask for it.

MORE: Target no longer requiring masks for fully vaccinated customers, workers | List of store policies

2 p.m.
President Joe Biden says the U.S. will share an additional 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines with the world in the coming six weeks. The move comes as domestic demand for shots drops and global disparities in distribution have grown more evident and will bring the total U.S. commitment to 80 million.

Biden said Monday from the White House that "we know America will never be fully safe until the pandemic that's raging globally is under control." The doses will come from existing U.S. production of Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine stocks. The administration previously committed to share about 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of June.

1:30 p.m.
The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is defending the decision to ease mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, stressing that increasing political pressure had nothing to do with the abrupt shift in guidelines. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told FOX News Sunday that she delivered the science as soon as it was available.

To date more than 156 million Americans, or more than 47% of the population, have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 121 million are fully vaccinated. Walensky cautioned that even with the new guidelines, it was still too early to declare victory, but added that she was cautiously optimistic about the pandemic.

1 p.m.
The Treasury Department said Monday that 39 million families are set to receive monthly child payments beginning on July 15.

The payments are part of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which expanded the child tax credit for one year and made it possible to pre-pay the benefits on a monthly basis. Nearly 88% of children are set to receive the benefits without their parents needing to take any additional action.

12:30 p.m.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released updated COVID-19 metrics.

The state said it added just 688 newly reported cases to the database--a positivity rate of 4.7%.

Just over 900 people remain hospitalized with the virus.

Click here to take a look at the numbers for yourself.

12:21 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 10 new cases since Friday for a total of 5,606 total COVID-19 cases. There have been 112 deaths countywide.

12 p.m.
People in Durham who planned to roll up their sleeves for COVID shots from the county health department have just three days to get it done this week.

Supply is not the issue, said deputy health director Kristen Patterson. In fact, she told ABC11, anybody and everybody is welcome to walk-in to get their vaccine--no appointment necessary.

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The vaccine site where many Durhamites are getting inoculated against COVID-19 now has shorter hours of operation.



"They can come in, either Monday, Wednesday or Friday," Patterson said.

In a statement, County health authorities cited the gas shortage as the reason for the reduced hours.

"We want to ensure that our nurses, other clinic staff, and guests are able to travel safely to and from our clinic," said Health Director Rod Jenkins. "Right now, gas shortages have impacted our clinic staff's ability to arrive and provide vaccinations, so we've made the decision to temporarily cut back on our clinic hours."

If you'd still like to make an appointment, you can learn how to do that here.

8:30 a.m.

The old state Capitol building in downtown Raleigh is reopening to the public after being closed for 15 months during the pandemic.

Starting Monday visitors can enter the 1840 Greek Revival-style building for self-guided tours on weekdays during normal business hours. There won't be guided tours for now, but docents will make presentations twice daily outside. A gift shop also will be open.

The Capitol once housed offices of the governor, the Supreme Court and the House and Senate chambers.

The General Assembly and the Supreme Court have their own buildings now. Many of the governor's offices remain inside, as well as a statue of George Washington and the old House and Senate chambers.

The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources announced the reopening before Gov. Roy Cooper repealed last Friday nearly all of the statewide mask-wearing mandates. The Capitol will provide protective barriers at information desks and hand sanitizer stations.

8 a.m.
The immunologist who leads the COVID-19 response in the United States says "the undeniable effects of racism" have led to unacceptable health disparities. Dr. Anthony Fauci says those especially hurt African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans during the pandemic. Fauci spoke Sunday by webcast from Washington, to a graduation ceremony for Emory University in Atlanta. He says many people in minority groups face obstacles starting at birth, including lack of an adequate diet and lack of access to health care. Fauci says correcting societal wrongs will take decades. He's urging the college graduates to be part of the solution.

FRIDAY
4:15 p.m.
Triangle YMCA said fully vaccinated people are no longer required to wear a mask inside YMCA facilities, at YMCA programs, as spectators, while working out, while on the pool deck or while taking an indoor group fitness class.

People who are not fully vaccinated are expected to follow NCDHHS' mask wearing requirements.

All staff, members, guests, etc. can continue wearing a mask if they want.

3:45 p.m.
Commissioner Que Tucker of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association issued the following statement on the removal of capacity limits in North Carolina:

"The NCHSAA is in the middle of Softball and Women's Soccer Championships for this weekend and actively working with our ticketing partners at GoFan to ensure that general admission ticketing is available for the general public for events tomorrow, particularly the softball series at Davie County and North Davidson. For games this evening there will be no changes to the planned ticketing process and procedure."

2 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced Friday that the state is completely lifting all mandatory capacity, gathering limits and physical distancing requirements, effective immediately.

Most mandatory mask mandates will also be lifted.

That means that in most settings, indoors or outdoors, the state will no longer require North Carolinians to wear a mask or be socially distant.

Cooper said the mask mandate will remain in effect on public transportation, in child care, in schools, in prisons and in certain public health settings.

1:56 p.m.
State Chief Justice Paul Newby issued a new order amending the order of May 10, 2021, citing revised guidance on face coverings from the CDC. The amendment eliminates the face coverings in court facilities directive and leaves decisions about face coverings in courtrooms to the discretion of local court officials.

1:49 p.m.

The Carolina Hurricanes released a statement reacting to Gov. Roy Cooper's announcement that he is lifting remaining physical distancing and capacity rules.

"Gov. Cooper has been consistent in his message that we would be allowed to host more fans as case levels dropped and vaccination rates increased," President and General Manager Don Waddell said in a statement. "We thank him and Dr. (Mandy Cohen for their diligence in keeping our state safe, and for now allowing more of our passionate fans into PNC Arena to provide to the legendary playoff home-ice advantage our Caniacs can create."

The Canes open the playoffs at home Monday night at 8 p.m. against the Nashville Predators.

1 p.m.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to ease several COVID-19-related restrictions on Friday, including physical distancing, mask and capacity rules, sources told ABC11.

It's unclear whether the governor will completely mirror the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance or if some restrictions will remain.

Full details will be released during a news conference at 1:30 p.m.

Cooper previously announced that the state would likely back off of most COVID-19 restrictions on June 1, but expressed that he wanted 2/3 of adults to be vaccinated before he did so.

12:50 p.m.
White House reporters saw President Joe Biden at an unannounced appearance outside the West Wing, where he was posing for departure photos with Meredith Webster, Susan Rice's Chief of Staff at the Domestic Policy Council, and her family.

"Are you enjoying your first day without masks?" shouted CBS's Ed O'Keefe.

"Yes," replied the president, over his shoulder, as he walked back towards the West Wing lobby entrance.

12:41 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports six new cases for a total of 5,596 positive COVID-19 cases. In all, 112 people have died from COVID-19 complications in the county -- 2% of cases..

12:29 p.m.
The Hindu Society of North Carolina is hosting a COVID-19 vaccine clinic Saturday, offering Pfizer vaccines for anyone 12 years and older. It will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at HSNC, 309 Aviation Parkway in Morrisville. Click here for more information.

12:24 p.m.
NCDHHS said there are 1,501 new cases for a total of 989,338 statewide. The increase is 22% lower than last Friday (1,932 cases). The percent positive also declined to 3.8%, a slight decline from the previous day 4% and the lowest since March 11.

In all, 926 people were hospitalized in the latest report compared to 1,106 at the same time last week.

Nine additional deaths were reported, for a statewide total of 12,862.

Vaccinations continue to increase as 40.6% of North Carolina's population and 51.2% of adults have received at least one dose. In all, 36.2% of the state's population is fully vaccinated while 45.9% of adults are fully vaccinated.

12:19 p.m.
The Durham County Department of Public Health will temporarily reduce its vaccination clinic hours to 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the week of May 17, 2021 because of concerns about the gas shortage.

Clinic hours are expected to return to normal the following week.

"We want to ensure that our nurses, other clinic staff, and guests are able to travel safely to and from our clinic," said Health Director Rod Jenkins. "Right now, gas shortages have impacted our clinic staff's ability to arrive and provide vaccinations, so we've made the decision to temporarily cut back on our clinic hours."

11:45 a.m.
Senate Leader Phil Berger is encouraging Gov. Cooper to drop the state's mask mandate.

"The CDC finally formalized what many Americans who think for themselves have been doing for months: Those who are vaccinated should resume their normal way of life, and without masks if they so choose," he said in a statement. "Imposing personal restrictions on those who pose no public health risk is senseless and will further undermine what trust remains in public health authorities."

9 a.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper will be joined by members of the state's Coronavirus Task Force to announce changes to the state's COVID-19 executive orders.

The group will speak at 1:30 p.m. ABC11 will broadcast the announcement live on television and in our streaming apps.

This announcement comes less than 24 hours after the CDC released new mask guidance that said fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask inside except in a few special cases.

WATCH: Don't relax your health & safety precautions too quickly, UNC doctor warns
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UNC Dr. Alexa Mieses-Malchuk answers your COVID-19 questions.



FRIDAY MORNING HEADLINES
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask-wearing guidelines for fully vaccinated people Thursday.

If you're fully vaccinated, you can essentially return to life as normal. In the majority of indoor settings, fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks.

EXPLAINER: What fully vaccinated people can, cannot do according to CDC's new mask guidelines

The guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools and other venues - even removing the need for social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.

This guidance does not supersede state, local or business restrictions that may still be in place. At this time, North Carolina still requires masks be worn by everybody inside buildings.
Copyright © 2021 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.