North Carolina COVID-19 stay-at-home order set to expire in 5 days

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

11 p.m.
On the eve before North Carolina educators are able to get a COVID-19 vaccine, ABC11 spoke with a UNC doctor who helps run the clinics ready to administer shots to the next group of eligibility.

Dr. Sachin Gupta of the UNC Physicians Network manages clinics outside of the Friday Center including four in Wake County. Dr. Gupta is excited to enter the next phase but still forsees supply chain issues.

"We are not having problems putting vaccines into arms, just the biggest challenge is getting that supply and part of it is the weather," said Gupta. "It's not only about the adults it's for the kids as well and being able to get them back into school is critical.

Gupta says he believes more people will become less leery of getting a shot as more people get vaccinated.

"I'm cautiously optimistic that the tide is starting to shift a little bit. As we start to get more and more people vaccinated, we're hearing good results. People seemed a little leery of the side effects. We've seen those numbers be really low so I feel more people are getting comfortable with this," said Gupta.

7:30 p.m.
Nearly 100 vaccine providers in North Carolina reported discarding COVID-19 doses, according to records the ABC11 I-Team obtained from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services .

Of the 1.8 million doses the state has administered, 2,346 doses (0.1%) were deemed unusable as of Feb. 18.

Vaccine providers attribute the waste to shipping issues, lack of patients, refrigeration problems and user errors.

1:45 p.m.
1,514 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Tuesday.

That's the lowest number of new cases this month but tests completed were also lower than average in the last 24 hours.

1,563 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-10 in the state. That number has been declining since January.

Still, 139 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted in the last 24 hours.

31 more deaths were reported Tuesday, bringing the total to 10,965 since the start of the pandemic.

1:19 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reported nine new cases for a total of 4,943 positive COVID 19 cases. There have been 95 deaths countywide -- 1.9% of cases.

1 p.m.
Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky addressed the National Forum on the COVID-19 vaccine and shared that more than 44 million people in the United States have now received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. Walensky also said that 75 million vaccine doses have been delivered and some 64 million vaccine doses have been administered so far.

"More than 75 million vaccine doses have been delivered, and approximately 64 million doses have been administered. This represents more than 44 million people who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. And approximately 20 million people who were vaccinated receiving two doses," Dr. Walensky said.

12:21 p.m.
The Orange County Health Department said it will work with the two public school systems, private and charter schools and childcare providers within the county to develop a plan to vaccinate eligible staff. More information about the process will be available soon on the Orange County website.

Orange County continues to register people in Groups 1 and 2 (healthcare workers and long-term care providers and anyone 65 or older). The county will announce its plans for registering the other essential frontline workers from Group 3 soon.

11:54 a.m.
The Sampson County Health Department said it has 39 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 6,770. One additional death was reported for a total of 90.

Sampson County is holding a drive-thru vaccination clinic for second dose administration on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sampson County Expo Center.

Second dose administration is guaranteed for those persons 65 and older who received their first dose vaccine on Jan. 23.

On Saturday, there will be a drive-thru vaccination clinic for childcare and grade-school employees from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sampson County Expo Center

This is a first dose vaccination event for childcare and grade-school employees. Participants are encouraged to bring their teacher IDs or other form of employee identification. Vaccines will be available as supply allows.

11:05 a.m.
With COVID-19 numbers decreasing across North Carolina and vaccine distribution increasing, a group representing bars and taverns in the state has formally asked Gov. Roy Cooper to allow bars to reopen and end the stay-at-home curfew.

"We're not asking to go back to business as usual," said Zack Medford, president of the N.C. Bar and Tavern Association. "We're just asking for Gov. Roy Cooper to turn the dimmer switch up a notch. We're asking him to allow bars to operate at 30 percent capacity inside, and let them serve until 11 p.m. We can do it safely. We can do it wearing masks, and we can do it socially distant."

NCBATA released a proposal back in September with guidelines for reopening bars safely. The proposal calls for all bars to require masks, social distancing and capacity restrictions.

"No one knows better than bar owners that this pandemic is an immediate threat to our community and that we must all do our part to help stop the spread of Covid19," said Medford. "Bar owners know the stakes, and are willing to follow this guidance to the absolute best of their ability."

9 a.m.
A year into the coronavirus pandemic, doctors and researchers are still striving to better understand and treat the epidemic of COVID-19-related anosmia - loss of smell - draining much of the joy of life from an increasing number of long-term sufferers.

One doctor slid a miniature camera into a patient's right nostril, making her whole nose glow red with its bright miniature light.

"Tickles a bit, eh?" he asked as tears welled in her eyes.

But the patient, Gabriella Forgione, wasn't complaining. The 25-year-old pharmacy worker was happy to be examined at the hospital in Nice, in southern France, to advance her increasingly pressing quest to recover her sense of smell. Along with her sense of taste, it suddenly vanished when she fell ill with COVID-19 in November and neither has returned.

Being deprived of the pleasures of food and the scents of things that she loves are proving tough on her body and mind, causing her to lose weight and self-confidence.

"Sometimes I ask myself, 'Do I stink?'" she confessed. "Not being able to smell bothers me greatly."

Some doctors are concerned that growing numbers of smell-deprived patients, many of them young, could be more prone to depression, cognitive issues and other difficulties.

8 a.m.
Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson says it will be able to provide 20 million U.S. doses of its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March, assuming it gets the greenlight from federal regulators.

J&J disclosed the figure ahead of a Congressional hearing on Tuesday looking at the country's vaccine supply. White House officials cautioned last week that initial supplies of J&J's vaccine would be limited.

The company reiterated that it will have capacity to provide 100 million vaccine doses to the U.S. by the end of June. That supply will help government officials reach the goal of having enough injections to vaccinate most adult Americans later this year. On a global scale, the company aims to produce 1 billion doses this year.

U.S. health regulators are still reviewing the safety and effectiveness of the shot and a decision to allow its emergency use is expected later this week. J&J's vaccine would be the first in the U.S. that requires only a single shot.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses spaced weeks apart. Executives from both companies and two other vaccine makers will also testify at Tuesday's hearing.

7 a.m.
The Food and Drug Administration said Monday that it won't require huge, months-long studies if COVID-19 vaccines eventually need tweaking to better match a mutating virus -- small, short studies will suffice.

The vaccines now being rolled out do still protect against different variants of the virus, the FDA stressed. But viruses mutate constantly, and some new versions are starting to raise concerns. So FDA issued new guidelines for vaccines -- as well as for virus tests and treatments -- on steps that companies can start taking to get ready.

"We're trying to be prepared in advance," said Dr. Peter Marks, the FDA's vaccines chief.

Already major manufacturers have started updating their vaccine recipes if regulators eventually decide that's necessary.

Marks said the needed tests would include a few hundred people rather than thousands, and could take just two or three months. Volunteers would receive experimental doses of the tweaked vaccine and then have their blood checked to see if it revved up the immune system about as well as the original vaccines do.

6:25 a.m.
Durham City Council is organizing a virtual town hall to reach out to immigrants and refugees with information about COVID-19 and the vaccine.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. and last approximately 2 hours. Its agenda was set by community members in order to get answers about the pandemic from local elected leaders.

The round table event will be broadcast in three different languages simultaneously.

For English, click here.

For Spanish, click here.

For Arabic, click here.

TUESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
With COVID-19 numbers improving across the United States and in North Carolina, many people are wondering when business restrictions will be lifted.

The current stay at home order in North Carolina is set to end on Feb. 28. The order was put in place Dec. 22 and then extended in January.

But daily cases and the percent positive rate at the time was much higher than it is now. Plus, the state's county alert map now shows 27 counties with critical community spread of the virus--the lowest number since the creation of the map.

Gov. Roy Cooper has not announced when, or if, he'll give a COVID-19 update this week. However, we expect that he will do so sometime in the coming days.

On Wednesday, the state will begin offering COVID-19 vaccines to teachers and other school staff members. In Wake County, 10,000 school workers have already signed up for the waitlist.

MONDAY
10 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper has ordered the U.S. and North Carolina flags at state facilities to be lowered to half-staff beginning Monday until Feb. 26 in remembrance of those who have died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

"As we reflect on the lives lost to this cruel virus, let's remind ourselves this is far more than a grim statistic," said Gov. Cooper. "Each of these 500,000 deaths represents an American whose communities are in mourning and I encourage North Carolinians to honor them with a moment of silence."

9:45 p.m.
Gov. Cooper is expected to make an announcement regarding the current executive order which is set to expire soon. Gyms and bars are hoping looser restrictions are on the horizon as COVID-19 metrics turn in the right direction.

O2 Fitness plans to reopen saunas, kid clubs and group fitness next week and are hoping to breakeven for the first time in a year this coming March.

"We've had really good compliance. We will continue to operate with masks, all of our members will continue to have their own personal spray bottle with a hospital grade disinfectant to make sure we stay safe and stay healthy," said Justin Mascho, senior vice president.

Sean Umstead, the co-owner of Kingfisher, said it's time for bars to rejoin North Carolina's hospitality industry in a limited capacity and feels it's been arbitrary as to what qualifies as a bar during the pandemic.

Umstead feels a 25 percent capacity would be fair.

"The folks who work here are in a position where they have to accept to a degree losing multiple days of earnings to the weather and they're doing it because they believe in Kingfisher and they believe that they want to see this bar open one day," said Umstead. "This is a for-profit business. It should function as such and they should be in a position to make a living without having to be weather dependent."

Umstead also hopes to-go cocktails become a permanent fixture.

5:30 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Monday updated the COVID-19 County Alert System.

The latest map shows 27 counties are currently in the red - a decrease from 61 red counties on the previous report.

That's the fewest number of red counties in the state since the start of the County Alert System.

5 p.m.
The COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. topped 500,000 Monday, all but matching the number of Americans killed in World War II, Korea and Vietnam combined. The lives lost, as recorded by Johns Hopkins University, are about equal to the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and greater than that of Miami; Raleigh, North Carolina; or Omaha, Nebraska.

And despite the rollout of vaccines since mid-December, a closely watched model from the University of Washington projects more than 589,000 dead by June 1.

4:05 p.m.
Lee County health officials are reporting 107 new COVID-19 cases since last Monday, bringing the total to 5,319 since the pandemic began.

3:30 p.m.
The Wake Forest Board of Commissioners agreed to suspend certain town events through July 2021, including Family Movie Nights at Joyner Park, Six Sundays in Spring, Friday Night on White and the two-day Independence Day celebration.

Like last year, the July 3 Fireworks Spectacular will be offered as a virtual event.

The town's decision is based on the expectation that residents will not be allowed to assemble in large numbers for the foreseeable future. Once the state loosens restrictions, officials will consider hosting events that are able to allow crowds.

The board's decision does not apply to Wake Forest Renaissance Centre camps, workshops and virtual events or Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources' programs, including youth and adult athletics leagues, and classes and camps being offered at limited capacity.

12:25 p.m.
Monday's report from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services included 2,133 newly-reported COVID-19 cases. There were a total of 1,567 hospitalizations. This marks the 8th day below 2,000 hospitalizations -- a 33% reduction in patients in last two weeks.

The daily percent positive rate was 6.2%, a slight increase from yesterday's 5.9%.

8 more deaths were reported Monday, totaling10,934 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

747,703 people are fully vaccinated in the state. That's about 7% of North Carolina's estimated population.

MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Teachers, child care workers and other educational support staff--like custodians, cafeteria workers and bus drivers--can start signing up for COVID-19 vaccines today.

Starting Wednesday, they can begin receiving the shots.

The group includes about 240,000 people in North Carolina.

Educational leaders across the state say this is a vital step in having students safely return to the classrooms.

Fallout continues in Durham after some Duke University students held an unmasked party off campus.

The university said it plans to test the approximately 50 students who attended the party.

University officials said they may also punish the students for their actions.

President Joe Biden will announce changes to the Paycheck Protection program later today.

The changes include a 2-week window for businesses with fewer than 20 employees. That begins Wednesday at 9 a.m.

The changes also emphasize equity, by approving $1 billion in loans for businesses owned by women and people of color.

At this point, the program is not expected to be extended past March 31.

The United States is approaching a grim milestone.

Today our country is expected to pass 500,000 deaths related to COVID-19. That's more American lives lost than those from World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined.

On Monday night, President Biden is scheduled to hold a candle light ceremony to honor those who have died.

SUNDAY
9:30 p.m.
Duke University said it will test students who attended an off-campus, unmasked party. Some of them may even be punished.

An investigation is underway at Duke to find students who went to an off-campus party during a pandemic.

School leaders said as many as 50 people were gathered wearing no masks.

5:40 p.m.
COVID-19 deaths in the United States are approaching the half-million mark.

Johns Hopkins University said the latest numbers show 498,715 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 nationally and the case count is 28,121,178.

According to the CDC, of the 75,204,965 total vaccine doses that have been distributed nationwide, 63,090,634 have been administered with more than 43 million of those being first doses.

Worldwide, there are 111,277,667 recorded COVID-19 cases and 2,464,390 deaths.

3:30 p.m.
Wake County is partnering with Raleigh, Cary, Garner, Wendell and a Raleigh church to add five locations for COVID-19 testing this coming week.

These drive-thru sites make it easy for residents who live in these communities to get tested. All sites are free, and residents do not need an appointment, insurance or ID.

Wake County will offer testing from Monday through Sunday this coming week at the following locations:
  • Hill Street Park, 2307 Hill St., Raleigh
  • WakeMed Soccer Park, 201 Soccer Park Drive, Cary
  • Garner Town Hall, 900 7th Ave., Garner


The hours for testing are:
  • Monday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Tuesday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Davie Street Presbyterian Church is hosting a temporary testing site at 300 E. Davie St. in Raleigh on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Wendell Community Center is also hosting a temporary testing site at 601 W. 3rd St. in Wendell from Monday through Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Testing for anyone but is not recommended for people who have already had a positive viral COVID-19 test in the past 90 days and do not currently have symptoms of COVID-19.

11:30 a.m.
North Carolina health officials are reporting 2,541 COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 842,637 since March 2020.

Throughout the state, 30 more have died from the virus. That brings the total to 10,926 deaths since the pandemic began.

There are 61 fewer patients in North Carolina hospitals from Saturday. This means 1,647 are currently being hospitalized for COVID-19.

The state's percent positive test rate is currently 5.9&, up slightly from Saturday's 5.7%.

7:15 a.m.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, there have been 28,078,638 COVID-19 cases in the United States since March 2020.
SATURDAY

6 p.m.
Johnson & Johnson has applied to the World Health Organization for an emergency approval of its COVID-19 vaccines, which should help speed up its use in countries around the world.

J&J said Friday that its Janssen-Cilag International subsidiary has submitted to the WHO the last testing data needed on its vaccine's efficacy and safety, completing the New Brunswick, New Jersey company's application for an emergency use listing.

Obtaining that listing will expedite access to J&J's single-dose vaccine for United Nations procurement agencies and scores of countries. The listing also is required for Johnson & Johnson to supply doses of its vaccine to what's called the COVAX Facility, a WHO-backed project to ensure equitable access to vaccines for about 190 low- and middle-income countries. Johnson & Johnson in December agreed to provide up to 500 million doses of its vaccine to COVAX through 2022.

Duke Health part of clinical trial testing COVID-19 vaccine in children

"If we are to end the global pandemic, life-saving innovations like vaccines must be within reach for all countries," Johnson & Johnson Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Paul Stoffels said in a statement.

The company is supplying the vaccine at not-for-profit prices during the pandemic's acute phase.

Besides requiring only one dose, J&J's vaccine can be stored for at least three months at standard refrigerator temperatures, making it a good fit for poor and rural areas and developing countries that lack infrastructure for the ultracold storage some other COVID-19 vaccines require.

Interim results from a 44,000-volunteer late-stage testing found the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe cases of COVID-19 in Latin America and 57% effective in South Africa, where a more-contagious variant is spreading. It was 72% effective in the U.S.

Testing also indicated the vaccine was 85% protective against the most serious symptoms - and starting 28 days after their shot, researchers found no one who got the vaccine needed hospitalization or died.

5 p.m.
Enrollment at U.S. community colleges dropped 0% from fall 2019 to fall 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

That's according to The National Student Clearinghouse, which says community colleges were hit the hardest among all types of colleges in terms of enrollment drops.

Four-year universities in the U.S. fared better than many had expected, seeing only slight enrollment decreases.

There are myriad reasons for the community college downturn. Fewer freshmen are enrolling and some are delaying college until campuses fully reopen.

But the pandemic has also taken a heavy toll on older adult students. Many lost jobs or have no time for their own schooling as they supervise their children's online classes.

More Americans typically turn to community college education amid economic downturns, seeking to learn new job skills or change careers. But education experts say the pandemic seems to have upended usual trends.

12:30 p.m.
North Carolina health officials are reporting 3,446 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 840,096.

However, 685 of these cases are delayed reports from a UNC Health Southeastern testing site going back to Dec. 30, 2020.

Throughout North Carolina, 76 more people have died from the virus. That brings the total to 10,896.

With 97 percent of hospitals reporting, 72 fewer patients are being hospitalized for COVID-19, bringing the total to 1,708.

The state's percent positive test rate remains the same at 5.7%.

7:10 a.m.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, there have been 28,006,474 COVID-19 cases throughout the United States since the pandemic started.

US data shows a big decline in new COVID-19 cases. Here's why it could be deceptive

FRIDAY
7:25 p.m.
The Chatham County Public Health Department will continue to vaccinate people in Groups 1 and 2 - health care workers with in-person patient contact and adults ages 65 and older - while beginning COVID-19 vaccinations with school and childcare workers ages 50 and older starting Feb. 26.

Next week, pending the receipt of its scheduled allocation, the department will schedule appointments with individuals in the CCPHD vaccine database who work in the county's public, public charter and private schools and child care centers. That database already has nearly 1,000 individuals from these facilities, with around 40% ages 50 and older.

"We have been working closely with Chatham County Schools, public charter and private schools, and child care facilities for several weeks to prepare for these vaccinations," said Chatham County Public Health Director Mike Zelek. "Thanks to these relationships, we will be able to hit the ground running. At the same time, we will continue to vaccinate healthcare workers and adults ages 65 and older. Because of increases in our allocations from the State and more options to get the vaccine in Chatham, we do not anticipate the pace of vaccinations to these individuals will slow as we phase in this new group."

For each of the next three weeks, the CCPHD is slated to receive 600 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, up from 400 doses. Planning is underway for events to allocate the 1,000 doses the department will receive next week, including 400 first doses the department expected to receive this week but have not yet arrived because of weather-related shipping delays.

"We are excited that our educators will have the opportunity to receive vaccinations soon, and we appreciate the Chatham County Public Health Department taking steps to meet the needs of the entire community," added Chatham County Interim Superintendent Dr. Randy Bridges.

The process to phase in Group 3 is similar to Group 2, when adults ages 75 and older (and soon after ages 65 and older) became eligible as healthcare workers continued to be vaccinated.

"Our child care teachers and staff have been working hard throughout this pandemic, putting themselves on the line to support essential workers and maintain stability for our youngest children," said Genevieve Megginson, Executive Director of the Chatham County Partnership for Children. "Like our school teachers, we need to protect them with the vaccine as soon as possible!"

Once the allocations are received, vaccination events will be scheduled at the Chatham County Agriculture and Conference Center in Pittsboro. The next three planned vaccination events are as follows:
  • Feb. 22: Second doses for Groups 1 and 2
  • Feb. 26: First doses for Groups 1 and 2 and school and childcare staff ages 50 and older
  • March 1: First and second doses for Groups 1 and 2, and first doses for school and childcare staff ages 50 and older
  • Future vaccination events will continue to include individuals in Groups 1 and 2, as well as school and childcare staff younger than 50 years old.


According to the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) COVID-19 vaccination dashboard, 13,777 first doses and 6,813 second doses of the vaccine had been administered to Chatham County residents as of noon Friday. The percentage of Chatham County residents who have received the first dose of vaccine, 18.5%, is among the highest in the state.

As of Feb. 15th, the CCPHD had administered 3,061 total doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and all of its first doses - 2,337 first doses and 724 second doses.

Chatham County also has a new COVID-19 vaccine provider, Siler City Pharmacy in Siler City. To request a vaccination appointment, call (919) 663-5541.

4:50 p.m.
Effective Monday, Feb. 22, Cape Fear Valley Health will allow for one visitor per day for most inpatients. Visitors, or "Care Companions," must wear masks at all times, and they must wear their masks correctly. Visitors will be screened with a brief verbal questionnaire and a temperature scan before being allowed entry. Those who refuse to answer the questions or who have a temperature above 100.3 Fahrenheit will be denied entry.

Adult inpatients at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, Hoke Hospital, Bladen County Hospital and Cape Fear Valley Rehabilitation Center may have one Care Companion during the hours of noon to 8 p.m. Long-Term Acute Care (LTAC) patients at Highsmith-Rainey Specialty Hospital remain unable to receive visitors at this time due to the facility's highly vulnerable population. Outpatients at clinics should continue to arrive alone for appointments unless they require a healthcare decision maker or communication assistance.

4 p.m.
Vaccine providers in North Carolina and across the nation continued to be hampered by delayed shipments and deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines due to severe weather. This afternoon, the federal government notified impacted states that vaccine shipments are expected to resume the beginning of next week.

North Carolina vaccines scheduled to arrive on Feb.16 and 17, but were not shipped, are now scheduled to arrive between Feb. 22 and 24. Allocations for the next week are also expected to arrive during the same time period. Typically, providers receive COVID-19 vaccine shipments of first doses on Tuesday and Wednesday and shipments of second doses on Thursday and Friday.

3:41 p.m.
The Lee County Government Health Department reports 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 67.

"I am saddened to report another county COVID-19 death today," said Heath Cain, Director of the Lee County Health Department. "Please keep the family and friends of the individual in your thoughts and prayers and join us in offering our sincere condolences for the loss of their loved one. We are reminded that even as the number of new cases identified declines, COVID-19 remains a serious public health threat that requires the community maintain health and safety measures to help slow the spread of the virus. The Health Department continues to support COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and vaccinations; and we ask that people remain vigilant and continue following the three W's - Wear a face mask when in public, Wait six feet or more away from others, and Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently."

The Health Department is registering people for the COVID-19 vaccine in Groups 1 and 2 of the NCDHHS vaccine rollout plan that includes essential healthcare workers, long-term care facility staff and residents, and adults age 65 and older, as well as teachers and childcare workers who become eligible to receive the vaccine on Feb. 24. The county will begin registering other individuals in Group 3 starting on March 10.

To register for the vaccine with the Lee County Health Department, the public may call (919) 352-3360 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.. To speak to someone in Spanish, please call (919) 718-4640, option 8.

3:38 p.m.
Wake County Public Health is ready for Group 3 frontline essential workers in a school or child care setting to request a COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday. Those eligible under Group 3 will start receiving their shots on Wednesday. To be considered for this first wave of Group 3, you must work in-person for your employer or anticipate an imminent return to an in-person work setting.

"The county has been working hard to ensure that we will be prepared to start delivering doses to educators and child care professionals on the first possible day," said Matt Calabria, Chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. "We are ready. Starting Monday, the people who have been working so hard to educate and care for our children will be able to sign up for their shots by phone and on our website."

On Monday, Wake County will update the online vaccine request form. Anyone needing assistance using the form can call the vaccine hotline at (919) 250-1515 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Wake County Public Health will continue to vaccinate healthcare workers and those 65 and older.

As supply allows, eligible requesters will be notified via email, phone or text that it's their turn to receive the vaccine. They will then make an appointment online or over the phone to get the shot at a convenient date and time.

Wake County Public Health has been vaccinating approximately 2,000 people a day through its three mass vaccination sites.

"We're continuing to throw our entire vaccination playbook at this effort, including sending our vaccine strike teams into the community, but the fastest and most efficient way to get shots into the arms of our teachers, school and child care staff will be through our indoor and outdoor mass vaccination sites," said Ryan Jury, the Wake County Vaccine Branch Director. "That means they need to take a few minutes to fill our brief request form, so we can collect their information and contact them immediately to make an appointment once we have supply."

3:10 p.m.
The Moore County Health Department has been notified of the deaths of seven county residents whose deaths were determined to be related to COVID-19 infection. The deaths happened from Dec. 19 through Feb. 12.

All seven people who died were 75 or older, Six of them were residents of assisted living centers.

A total of 164 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 in Moore County. Of those, 91 are linked to outbreaks in long-term care facilities.

There have been 7,677 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Moore County to date.

2:53 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 4,917 total positive COVID 19 cases, including 14 new ones.

The county's death count remains at 95, or 1.92% percent of cases.

2:04 p.m.
Sampson County reports 55 new cases for a total of 6,604. Two additional deaths werereported for a total of 88.

Effective Feb. 24, North Carolina will move to vaccinate Group 3 front line essential workers. However, because vaccine supply is still very limited and the population of frontline essential workers is so large, the health department said this shift will begin first with anyone working in childcare or in Pre-K-12 schools starting Feb. 24.

The Sampson County Health Department will hold drive-thru vaccination events for childcare and grade school employees on Feb. 27 from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. and on March 3 from 1 p.m. - 4 p.m., both at the Sampson Expo Center. In addition, it has set aside several appointment slots on Feb. 26, March 5 and March 12 at the Sampson County Health Department specifically for these populations. Those childcare and grade school employees needing appointments should call (910) 490-1056 or (910) 592-1131, ext. 4001.

Participants are encouraged to bring their teacher IDs or other form of employee identification. Vaccines will be available as supply allows to childcare and school employees who have not received any vaccine within 14 days of the event.

1:20 p.m.
There are 6 million backlogged doses nationwide because of the winter storm, the White House coronavirus task force said at today's briefing, and the delays have impacted all 50 states.

"The vaccines are sitting safe and sound in our factories and hubs ready to be shipped out as soon as the weather allows. Now, as weather conditions improve, we're already working to clear this backlog. 1.4 million doses are already in transit today. And we anticipate that all the backlog doses will be delivered within the next week, with most being delivered within the next several days," White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said.

The White House also announced an updated, pushed back timeline on vaccines for children. High school students are likely to get vaccinated beginning in the fall, but elementary school students will have to wait until early 2022.

1 p.m.
White House coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt says the drive to vaccinate Americans against COVID-19 has been set back by the winter storms that have spanned the country, shutting down transportation hubs and highways. But Slavitt says it's possible to catch up with a concerted effort.

The weather has led to a 3-day delay in shipping vaccine, or about 6 million doses. Slavitt says the vaccine won't spoil and is "safe and sound" in warehouses.

But as shipments resume and scale up, vaccinators in communities across the country are going to have to work overtime to get shots into arms.

"We as an entire nation will have to pull together to get back on track," Slavitt told reporters at the White House coronavirus briefing.

About 1.4 million doses were being shipped Friday and the rest of the backlog should be cleared in several days.

In addition, the government is opening up five new mass vaccination centers, one in Philadelphia, and four others in the Florida cities of Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville.

12:30 p.m.
NCDHHS on Friday reported 3,227 new COVID-19 cases in the state. More than 44,000 tests were completed in the last 24 hours.

1,780 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. That number has been steadily declining since late January.

Still, 184 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted in the last 24 hours.

The percent of positive tests in North Carolina is at 5.7%. That's just slightly above the state's goal of 5%.

54 more deaths were reported on Friday, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 10,820.

671,215 people are fully vaccinated.

12 p.m.
Dr. Anthony Fauci is pushing back against some scientists who urge that as many Americans as possible get at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, even if that creates supply shortages that delay required second doses. Proponents of the strategy say the spread of more aggressive virus mutations makes it imperative that as many people as possible get at least some protection right away.

But the government's top infectious disease specialist says such an approach could backfire, giving people only fleeting protection, and perhaps even leading to more resistant mutations of the coronavirus.

"That could happen theoretically because of the immunological pressure on the virus," Fauci said at Friday's White House coronavirus briefing. "You might accidentally be inducing more variants."

Fauci said "given the information we have now, we will stick with the scientific evidence" that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines approved in the U.S. should be administered as a two-shot regimen.

Fauci acknowledged that even one shot provides protection against COVID-19, but he explained that without a timely second shot that protection could prove fleeting. "We don't know how durable it is," he said.

11 a.m.
New data indicate the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech could be stored for two weeks without the ultracold storage currently required, potentially making its use a bit easier.

The companies said Friday they've submitted findings from ongoing stability testing to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has authorized the vaccine's emergency use in the U.S., and will send the data to regulators around the world in the next few weeks.

The companies want regulators to update temperature requirements to state the vaccines can maintain their potency for two weeks if kept at -13F to 5F (-25C to -15C), as an additional option.

Freezers and refrigerators used in many pharmacies and hospitals commonly chill to those temperatures - but not to the temperature range currently authorized, from -112F to -76F (-80C to -60C). The vaccine can remain stable at those temperatures for up to six months.

That's why New York-based Pfizer and BioNTech ship the vaccine vials in special thermal containers that can serve as temporary storage for up to 30 days by repeatedly adding dry ice. Still, that can make storing and then thawing and administering the two-dose vaccine challenging in many places, particularly developing countries.

The shot is one of just two vaccines that have emergency use authorization in the U.S., though a third vaccine, created by Johnson & Johnson, is expected to win FDA clearance for emergency use within two weeks.

10 a.m.
Walgreens said it has provided more than 3 million COVID-19 vaccinations across long-term care facilities, as well as additional vulnerable populations prioritized by state and local jurisdictions. Additionally, the company has completed COVID-19 vaccine first-dose clinics in all long-term care facilities that selected Walgreens as a vaccine provider.

Walgreens also began in-store vaccinations in 17 states and jurisdictions as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program on Feb. 12. The company said it administered nearly all 180,000 doses of the first weekly vaccine allotment within three days.

Beginning Feb. 25, Walgreens will receive a weekly allocation of more than 480,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses and support administration in the following states and jurisdictions, including: Arizona, Alaska, California, Chicago, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, New York City, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

FRIDAY MORNING HEADLINES
The weather is causing delays in the vaccine rollout in North Carolina.

Durham County Health Department clinics open at 11 a.m. today. If you had a second dose appointment scheduled before 11, the county should have called you about rescheduling.

Anyone in Durham who was supposed to get their first vaccine dose between yesterday and next week, the health department is working to contact you to set up a new appointment.

In Person County, all appointments scheduled for today are being rescheduled. The health department asks that you do not call it; representatives are working to reach out to everybody as soon as possible.



THURSDAY
6 p.m.
Due to inclement weather, the Durham County Department of Public Health COVID-19 vaccination clinic will open at 11am on Friday, February 19. Individuals with second-dose vaccine appointments scheduled before 11am will be contacted on the evening of Thursday, February 18, with more information about moving their appointments to a later time on Friday, February 19.

All first-dose appointments scheduled for Thursday, February 18 through Wednesday, February 24 will be contacted Friday, February 19 to reschedule their appointment for a later date.

4:57 p.m.
A Nash Correctional Institution offender who tested positive for COVID-19, has died at a hospital.

The offender, a man in his early 60s with underlying health issues, tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 22. He was hospitalized on Jan. 31. His condition worsened, and he died Wednesday.

4:49 p.m.
The Wayne County Health Department has administered 5,994 first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, 1,960 second doses, and has 7,115 people on the waiting list.

The health department said the severe weather has delayed its shipment of vaccine doses this week and it was forced to re-schedule a portion of second dose appointments.

County leadership is working closely with Wayne County Public School leadership to develop a plan for vaccinating teachers. At this time, there are still residents in Phase 1 and Phase 2 who have not received a vaccine and these two groups remain a priority as more individuals become eligible in Phase 3.

2:30 p.m.
Gov. Cooper said in his news briefing that 91 of 100 county school districts are providing in-person instruction and, in March, that will be up to 95 percent of districts.

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Gov. Roy Cooper and Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry outlined impacts and response to the winter storm, including weather-related delays to vaccine distribution.



He encouraged all school districts to take that step. But he said it's critical that parents and teachers have confidence in the health and safety aspects of returning.

The North Carolina House passed Senate Bill 37 on Wednesday. The bill called In-Person Learning Choice for Families requires state schools to offer some sort of in-person learning option amid the ongoing pandemic.

The bill is on his desk but he reiterated on Thursday that he doesn't believe that the bill adheres to DHHS health safety guidance for schools and protects the ability of state and local leaders to respond to emergencies.

He said he will talk to lawmakers before taking action on the bill.

2:15 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper and Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry outlined impacts and response to the winter storm, including weather-related delays to vaccine distribution.

"Delays in vaccine shipment from the federal government are frustrating to us all, but providers are working to get appointments scheduled and we are pushing to get more vaccine to our state," Cooper said.

Winter weather across the nation this week has resulted in shipping delays from vaccine manufacturers to health departments and medical providers across the country. NCDHHS said it is in communication with the CDC and providers to give as much information as possible about when new shipments will arrive so appointments can be rescheduled.

As of Thursday, Cooper said North Carolina has administered almost two million doses of vaccine. The state is working to make progress in the equity of vaccine distribution. Last week, 23% of doses were administered to Black North Carolinians, up from just 13% five weeks ago.

12:50 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 3,916 new COVID-19 cases in the state.

That's an increase from days prior but more tests were also recorded -- more than 47,000 in the last day.

1,892 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state. 214 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted in the last 24 hours.

The percent of positive tests is at 6.2 percent -- nearing the goal of 5 percent.

THURSDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Gov. Roy Cooper, members of the Coronavirus Task Force and NC Emergency Management will give an update on COVID-19 and inclement weather. The conference is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

NCDHHS has been notified by the federal government of continued delays in some shipments and deliveries of the COVID-19 vaccine this week, due to severe weather. Both first and second dose shipments have been impacted.

The Department is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and vaccine providers to help minimize the potential effects of these delays.

Moderna vaccines have not been shipped this week and only a limited number of Pfizer vaccines have been shipped. Both Pfizer and Moderna have a backlog of orders due to weather.

These delays may cause vaccination appointments to be postponed or rescheduled. As there is not enough vaccine in the state to shift or transfer supply in order to cover the delayed vaccine doses, DHHS is advising providers to assess current appointments and notify recipients accordingly based on on-hand supplies.

WEDNESDAY
5:35 p.m.
The Wake County Health Department announced Wednesday that it will cancel its large-scale COVID-19 vaccine event at the PNC Arena set for Thursday, Feb. 18 due to the threat of winter weather.

"Based on the current forecast, Wake County could see ice accumulating on the roads until mid-day tomorrow," said Ellis. "The safety of our residents and employees is our top priority, so I've made the decision to delay opening, as well as adjust our COVID-19 testing and vaccination operations."

The county will move Thursday's appointments to Monday, Feb. 22. Anyone with conflict of timing can contact the COVID-19 call center at (919) 250-1515.

3:20 p.m.
The North Carolina House passed Senate Bill 37 Wednesday. The bill called In-Person Learning Choice for Families requires state schools to offer some sort of in-person learning option amid the ongoing pandemic.

The bill is now headed to Gov. Cooper. Cooper has supported the return of students to classrooms but says the bill is flawed.

"Children should be back in the classroom safely and I can sign this legislation if it adheres to DHHS health safety guidance for schools and protects the ability of state and local leaders to respond to emergencies," Cooper said. "This bill currently falls short on both of these fronts."

1 p.m.
The University of North Carolina System announced campuses will soon operate COVID-19 vaccine clinics with an emphasis on reaching underserved and rural populations.

University of North Carolina Asheville, University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Western Carolina University will open their community clinics this week. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University launched its vaccine operation on Feb. 11 and will administer up to 700 doses each week in conjunction with Cone Health.

"The faster we can distribute these vaccines, the faster we can get North Carolinians back to work, back to family gatherings, back to normal life," said UNC System President Peter Hans. "Our public universities will do everything in their power to bring that day closer."

UNC Asheville's clinic could offer up to 1,950 shots per week, depending on staffing and vaccine supply.

"As a key community partner in Western North Carolina, UNC Asheville is honored to collaborate with MAHEC to provide lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines to our community," said UNCA Chancellor Nancy J. Cable.

Working with the Robeson County Health Department, UNC Pembroke will administer 500 shots in its first allotment, starting Friday.

"Barriers to access exist in our communities and the goal with our mobile clinics is to remove obstacles and making sure the vaccine is available to everyone," said UNCP Chancellor Robin Cummings.

NC A&T will offer clinics with Cone Health, with first shot clinics on Thursdays and, beginning in March, second shot clinics on Tuesdays. Due to impending icy conditions, the Thursday clinic this week will be postponed until Monday, Feb. 22.

12:55 p.m.
NCDHHS announced Wednesday it will be issuing additional benefits of Feb. 19 through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Program.

The benefits will be received over several days for those who already have an EBT card for Food and Nutrition Services or P-EBT benefits.

The program helps families purchase food for children whose access to free or reduced-price meals has been impacted by the pandemic.

"Having enough healthy food every day is an essential part of children's health and well-being," said NCDHHS Deputy Secretary for Human Services Tara Myers. "The P-EBT program provides families essential help buying groceries for children who would normally have access to free and reduced lunch at school."

Families do not need to apply for P-EBT. Eligibility criteria are based on requirements from theU.S. Department of Agriculture. A school-aged child is eligible if their school participates in the National School Lunch Program and the student is eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals during the 2020-21 school year.

12:25 p.m.

North Carolina is reporting 3,167 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 829,507.

Throughout the state, 108 more people have died from the virus.

According to 96 percent of North Carolina hospitals, 1,954 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. That is four less than Tuesday.

The state's daily percent positive test rate is currently 7.7%, which is up slightly from Tuesday's 7.4%.

12:09 p.m.
Due to inclement weather, the Wake County COVID-19 vaccine clinic scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 18, at WakeMed Raleigh Campus (Andrews Center) will open at 11 a.m. The event is by appointment only.

Anyone with appointments scheduled between 6:30 and 10:50 a.m. will receive a call to reschedule.

11:43 a.m.
The Cumberland County Department of Public Health is pausing accepting first dose COVID-19 vaccination appointment requests until Feb. 22 while it prepares for Group 3 vaccinations. This pause will allow vaccination clinics to administer time-sensitive second dose vaccinations to those in the most vulnerable Groups 1 and 2. Cumberland County has around 2,700 individuals in Groups 1 and 2 who are waiting for their second dose.

The Health Department will reopen the appointment request form for first doses on Monday, Feb. 22, for Groups 1 and 2 and K-12 teachers and daycare who are in-person or anticipate an imminent return to an in-person work setting. Appointment requests will be prioritized for second dose appointments and those already in Groups 1 and 2 on the waitlist for dose one. Eligible individuals who are unable to get an appointment should consider using the stand-by lane on Fridays.

WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Some Wake County students on the traditional calendar return to the classroom today.

This will be the first time many of the students are in a physical classroom in over a year.

All students in kindergarten through 3rd grade can return to class, while students in 4th-12th grades return in hybrid learning rotations to allow for more social distancing.

Meanwhile, the race to vaccinate continues outside PNC Arena in Raleigh.

Wake County Health Department is on track to give more than 1,400 shots today in the parking lot of the entertainment venue.

The severe weather across the country is throwing another wrench into the vaccine efforts. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention alerted North Carolina health officials to tell them there would be some disruptions to vaccine deliveries this week.

That is because of the winter weather stretching across the country.

The state is working to minimize the potential shipment delays.

TUESDAY
11 p.m.
Despite the threat of delayed shipments of Pfizer across the state, Wake County health officials say they are set to administer more than 1,400 shots at PNC Arena on Wednesday.

10 p.m.
Some Wake County high school students are returning to the classroom for the first time in nearly a year. ABC11's Josh Chapin spoke to one family who's ecstatic as Wednesday morning approaches. The Wake County school board acknowledges that there will be hiccups but with more students back inside the classroom, they will be able to be able to assess the environment.
3:45 p.m.
Due to severe weather, the CDC has notified NCDHHS that there may be delays in some shipments and deliveries of COVID-19 vaccine this week, according to a statement from an NCDHHS spokesperson. NCDHHS said it will continue working with the CDC and vaccine providers to help minimize the potential effects of these delays.

2:30 p.m.

Tuesday's report from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services included 1,988 newly-reported COVID-19 cases. It's the first time we fell below 2,000 since mid-November.

There were a total of 1,958 hospitalizations on Monday.

The daily percent positive rate was 7.4%, a slight decrease from yesterday's 7.7%.

There were 61 deaths added, bringing the state total to 10,562 since the start of the pandemic.

12:05 p.m.
A Nash Correctional Institution offender with existing medical conditions who tested positive for COVID-19 has died at a hospital.

The offender tested positive for COVID-19 on Feb. 8 and was hospitalized the next day. His condition worsened, and he died Feb. 15.

The offender was in his early 70s and had underlying health conditions.

"We continue to work hard to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in our prisons. The health and safety of the staff and the offender population is our top priority," said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons.

12:04 p.m.
Sampson County reports 30 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 6,604 since the start of the pandemic.

The death toll remains at 86.

12 p.m.
According to the latest report from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, cases, COVID-19 hospital admissions, and test positivity continue to decline nationally.

The U.S. continues to see a five-week, downward trend in new cases resulting in a 64% decline in the 7-day average since the peak on January 11, 2021 (from 249,048 to 89,747).

The number of confirmed new COVID-19 patient admissions has decreased 22% since the previous week (7-day daily average from 9,900 to 7,740).

The number of deaths is up slightly (+0.3%), in part due to Ohio in recent days reporting 4,275 previously unreported deaths dating back to Oct 2020.

Overall, 54,260,570 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the United States.

In total, 12% of the population (39.1 million people) has received 1 or more doses and 4% of the population (14.6 million people) has received 2 doses.

11:20 a.m.
The WCPSS Board of Education is meeting today to discuss updates on the current and future work to support students who are not attending regularly, and for students who are experiencing academic difficulties as the district prepares for a return to in-person instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

9:26 a.m.
The city of Rocky Mount's Tar River Transit service is offering free rides to those with scheduled appointments to "drive-up" vaccination sites.

Transportation is available from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday to vaccination sites in Nash and Edgecombe counties. Residents who are interested in transportation to and from vaccination sites may call Tar River Transit at (252) 972-1174, (252) 972-1514, (252) 972-1515, (252) 972-1516 or (252) 972-1517.

All appointments may be scheduled the day before the trip. Healthcare facilities may also call and schedule transportation on behalf of their patients. Free rides will be available until at least June 30.

TODAY'S HEADLINES
There is a push to ramp up vaccinations in the Latinx community. Latinos have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 but account for about 2% of those getting vaccinated in North Carolina. The Wake County Health Department is partnering with El Centro Hispano to turn that around by holding clinics focusing on the Latinx community.

Today, state house leaders are scheduled to present a plan to provide weeks of additional in-classroom learning recovery for North Carolina students who may have fallen behind during virtual learning. This would take place over the summer.
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