Wake County offers free virtual town hall to talk mental health during pandemic

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

2:03 p.m.
Duke Health said it has available vaccine appointments with no wait list. People interesting can sign up by clicking here.

12:47 p.m.

Cumberland County Schools officials have released the graduation exercise plans for seniors

According to CCS Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr., this year's graduation ceremonies will take place in the Crown Coliseum and will adhere to all North Carolina COVID-19 guidelines and capacity limitations.

The graduation exercises will begin May 21 with the Early College High Schools and continue through May 28 with four traditional high school ceremonies per day, except on Sunday when there will be only two ceremonies taking place during the early evening hours.

Each school will conduct multiple graduation sessions by groups to comply with the capacity limitations and the six-foot distancing requirements,

Cumberland County Health Director Dr. Jennifer Green reviewed the plan and made several recommendations.

District officials will release Cumberland County Schools' 2021 graduation schedule in the coming days.

12:35 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 2,434 new cases of COVID-19 for a statewide total of 941,218 since the onset of the pandemic.

That number is of daily cases is the highest since last Friday.

The percent positive is at 5.1%.

There are 1,20 people hospitalized. That's 25 fewer people than Wednesday but the third consecutive day above 1,000.

A total of 34 more deaths were reported, for a total of 12,359 in all.

As for vaccinations, 35.7% of the overall population has received at least a partial dose and 25% of the state's population is fully vaccinated.

12:34 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 18 new cases for a total of 5,871 positive COVID 19 cases. Deaths remain at 107.

12:32 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is updating its vaccine data dashboard to align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and provide additional information on people who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The two metrics that will be updated include:

  • "People at Least Partially Vaccinated" will be updated to "People Vaccinated with at Least One Dose."


"People Vaccinated with at Least One Dose" includes any individual who has received at least the first of two doses administered as part of a two-dose series, as well as any individual who has received a single shot dose as part of a single-dose vaccine.

  • "Percent of Population at Least Partially Vaccinated" will be updated to "Percent of Population Vaccinated with at Least One Dose."


"Percent of Population Vaccinated with at Least One Dose" includes any individual who has received at least the first of two doses administered as part of a two-dose series, as well as any individual who has received a single shot dose as part of a single-dose vaccine series, out of the total population in North Carolina.

Users will be able to view information about who has been vaccinated with at least one dose by county, race, ethnicity, gender and age group, and by week.

Click here to view the NCDHHS vaccine data dashboard,

11:20 a.m.
UNC has identified a cluster of COVID-19 cases at Hinton JamesResidence Hall. A "cluster" is defined by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as five or more cases that are deemed close proximity in location.

The individuals in the cluster have been identified and are isolating, UNC officials said.

6:25 a.m.
Four new Wake County parks will offer free COVID-19 testing.

  • Sanderford Road Park in Raleigh
  • Thomas Crowder Woodland Center in Raleigh
  • Morrisville Community Park
  • Fleming Loop Park in Fuquay-Varina


Those locations will be open through Monday. You do not need an appointment to get tested.

THURSDAY MORNING HEADLINES
COVID-19 anxiety is making it difficult for many people to return to a more normal life.

To help, Wake County Public Health is hosting a completely free virtual town hall with mental health experts.

The experts will be answering questions about recognizing problems and addressing them.

The town hall will be available on YouTube, Facebook and the department's website.

It starts at 7 p.m. Thursday

In the race to vaccinate, a CDC committee decided it needed more time to figure out what to do with the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

The expert panel said it wants more data on the extremely rare blood clots.

WEDNESDAY
5:57 p.m.
Wake County Public Health will explore feelings of anxiousness regarding everyday activities caused by concerns about contracting COVID-19 in a virtual town hall.

Local mental health experts will discuss these themes Thursday during the health department's latest "Ask the Doc" virtual town hall meeting at 7 p.m..

They will share ways to cope with COVID-19 and provide resources to help improve the wellbeing of residents who are struggling with stress, grief, loss, mental health challenges, domestic abuse and substance use disorders.

You can find out how to stream the event by clicking here.

Participants can ask questions live during the meeting or submit them online before the discussion starts,

4:53 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports nine new cases for a total of 5,353 positive COVID 19 cases. There have been 107 deaths in the county.

3:26 p.m.
The Carolina Student Vaccination Clinic at UNC-Chapel Hill said it will resume vaccination appointments on Friday, April 16, using the Moderna vaccine after pausing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

3:15 p.m.
Johnston County will be administering a first dose clinic of the Pfizer vaccine starting Thursday.

The county health department says vaccinations will be given out on a walk-in basis from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Johnston County Public Health Department located at 517 N. Bright Leaf Blvd.

3 p.m.
Calvary Episcopal Church and Tarboro Brewing Company, along with Thorne Drug Center are offering a free COVID-19 vaccine clinic from 5-8 p.m. The event will be held at Tarboro Brewing Company. Anyone 16 and older can get a shot. Anyone 21 and older can get a free pint of beer.

2:30 p.m.
It seems the panic buying of paper products has slowed down.

Sales of toilet paper dropped more than 32-percent in the 12 weeks ending April 3 compared to the same period a year ago.

That's according to market research firm Nielsen IQ, which tracks point of sale data from retailers.

In the same period, purchases of paper towels fell more than 18 percent. And multipurpose wet wipes sales are down almost 16 percent versus a year ago.

Nielsen IQ says overall sales of household and cleaning products remain higher than they were pre-pandemic. But they have come down from the early pandemic months as consumers are buying at a more normal pace instead of hoarding.

This has also allowed suppliers to replenish inventory to keep up with demand.

2 p.m.
U.S. health officials are weighing the next steps as they investigate a handful of unusual blood clots in women who received Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine.

The reports are exceedingly rare - so far, six cases out of more than 7 million inoculations. And it's not clear if they are linked to the J&J vaccine.

European regulators have declared such blood clots a rare but possible risk with the similarly made AstraZeneca vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. will debate in a public meeting Wednesday how to handle the J&J vaccine while authorities investigate.

"Right now, we believe these events to be extremely rare, but we are also not yet certain we have heard about all possible cases as this syndrome may not be easily recognized," said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky before the meeting.

1 p.m.
President Joe Biden's vaccination campaign hit a snag when federal regulators recommended a "pause" in administering Johnson & Johnson shots. But the White House is holding out the move as a validation of the president's measured approach throughout the rollout.

Biden administration officials pointed to the action by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as proof that they're putting safety first. There's concern about the effect on those Americans who are already leery of all virus vaccines, but Biden said there is enough that's 100% safe for "every single solitary American."

12:10 p.m.
North Carolina health officials are reporting 2,359 new COVID-19 cases throughout the state.

Throughout North Carolina, 20 more people have died from the virus. That brings the death total to 12,325.

In total, 1,045 COVID-19 patients are being hospitalized. That is up 13 from Tuesday.

The state is reporting a 7.6% positive test rate.

According to NCDHHS, 41.8% of the adult population in North Carolina is at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 and 31.7% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.

11:15 a.m.
Wale County health officials have confirmed a COVID-19 outbreak at Holly Hill Hospital - Main Campus located at Michael J. Smith Lane in Raleigh. Officials said this is the second outbreak at this location, the first happening in December 2020.

WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES

Anyone scheduled to get the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in North Carolina in the coming days will receive either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine instead.

This comes after the FDA and CDC issued a recommendation to suspend use of the vaccine while experts investigated blood clots in a small number of women who received the vaccine.

North Carolina Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said not a single person who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in our state has reported any serious complications or blood clotting.

Cohen herself received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. She said she supported the pause to investigate the issue but also reaffirmed that if given the opportunity, "I would get the J&J shot again."

Cohen also said the state has a good supply of the other FDA-authorized vaccines. By continuing to use those to vaccinate people, she said she expects the state to be able to continue rolling back COVID-19 restrictions.

"If we can continue to hold stable, yes I think we can continue with easing of restrictions. But we need to keep vaccinating in order to hold stable because this virus is changing and there are more variants here in North Carolina," Cohen said.

WATCH | UNC health professor says 'fantasy' of no risk is unrealistic
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"Most prevention things we do have a little bit of risk involved," said one UNC professor as some become hesitant in light of the J&J vaccine pause.



TUESDAY
8 p.m.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is investigating the death of a Virginia woman who took the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Virginia State Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said the CDC confirmed to the Virginia Department of Health that it is examining the March death of the woman as part of its investigation into possible adverse side effects from the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the VAERS report, the woman was 45 years old and was vaccinated on March 6. She became ill six days later and died March 18 after spending two days in the hospital.

The CDC data said the woman was diagnosed with cortical vein thrombosis and massive intracerebral hemorrhage after a gradually worsening headache a week after receiving the vaccine.

Earlier Tuesday, the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called for a pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six women in the United States developed a rare disorder involving blood clots within about two weeks of vaccination. This pause was recommended out of an "abundance of caution," as these adverse events appear to be extremely rare.

Avula said Virginia's vaccine rollout will continue with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

People who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine who develop a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider, or call 911 if it is a medical emergency.

5:15 p.m.
More than 122.2 million people, or 36.8% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 75.3 million people, or 22.7% of the population, have completed their vaccination.

5 p.m.
Stocks closed mixed on Wall Street Tuesday as gains from a handful of Big Tech companies were tempered by weakness elsewhere in the market. Treasury yields fell, which hurt banks but helped tech companies. The S&P 500 rose 0.3%, notching another record high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.2% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 1.1%. Among major tech stocks, Apple gained 2.4%. Johnson & Johnson fell 1.3% after U.S. regulators recommended a pause in using its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of possibly dangerous blood clots. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.62%.

3:38 p.m.
Sampson County said it has 48 new cases since April 8 for a total of 7,706. The death toll remains at 103.
Sampson County has paused Johnson &Johnson vaccines but continues to hold events for other vaccinations:

  • Wednesday - Drive-Thru Event (8 a.m. - noon) first and second doses at Union High School, 1189 Kader Merritt Road, Rose Hill.
  • Saturday - Drive-Thru Event (8 a.m. - noon) Royal Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, 7660 Ivanhoe Road, Ivanhoe
  • April 21 - Drive-Thru Event (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.) first and second doses at Sampson County Expo Center, 414 Warsaw Road, Clinton


Vaccinations may also be available by appointment at the Sampson County Health Department. To make an appointment, please call (910) 490-1056 or (910) 592-1131 ext. 4001. Appointment times are limited and are subject to vaccine availability.

2 p.m
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services held a news conference to answer rising questions about the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccination process in the state.

NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen was joined by NCDHHS Division of Public Health Pharmacist Amanda Fuller Moore.

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NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Cohen discusses vaccine safety after use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was paused.



In all, 242,000 doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in North Carolina, Cohen said, and there have not been any of the severe, serious reactions or blood clots in North Carolina.

The media briefing came after federal recommendations to pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Cohen herself received the J&J one-shot vaccine and said she had the expected side effects of headache, body aches and a sore arm.

She said the six serious cases were all in women between 18-48 years old.

Cohen said J&J vaccine use in North Carolina will be paused "out of an abundance of caution."

Fuller Moore said they are asking providers who were scheduled for a J&J vaccine to either reschedule or see about getting scheduled for another vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna.

Cohen also said that if people have had the J&J vaccine and they feel well, they do not need to do anything. She said that if you have had the J&J vaccine in the past three weeks and you start experiencing severe headaches, leg pain or other severe discomforts, then contact your doctor and tell them you have had the J&J vaccine.

1 p.m.
1,364 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Tuesday.

The number of completed tests was much lower than average, with only 10,902.

That contributed to an increase in the percent of positive tests which is now at 8.3 percent.

The number of people hospitalized rose to its highest number in a month, with 1,032 being treated for COVID-19.

32.7 percent of the total population of North Carolina is partially vaccinated. 24.2 percent are fully vaccinated.

12:48 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports nine new cases for a total of 5,344 positive COVID 19 cases. The death toll countywide remains at 107 -- or 2.0% of cases.

11:15 p.m.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. to answer rising questions about the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccination process in the state.

NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen and NCDHHS Division of Public Health Pharmacist Amanda Fuller Moore will speak at the press conference.

In the meantime, the health department released the following statement about the federal recommendations to pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine:

"Our primary concern is the health and safety of all North Carolinians. Out of an abundance of caution, we are following the recommendations of the FDA and CDC and have paused the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine until we learn more. The safety system in place is working as it should. If you have an appointment for Pfizer or Moderna, please go to your appointment as planned. If you have an appointment for Johnson & Johnson, your appointment will be re-scheduled."

10:20 a.m.
Some North Carolina providers are pausing Johnson & Johnson vaccinations after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said they were investigating reports of potentially dangerous blood clots.

The agencies said they were investigating clots in six women that occurred in the days after vaccination. The clots were observed along with reduced platelet counts - making the usual treatment for blood clots, the blood thinner heparin, potentially "dangerous."

Read more about the local impact here.

7:35 a.m.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are now calling for a halt to the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

The regulatory agencies recommended a pause to the use of the vaccine so more research can be done into blood clotting that has been seen in a small number of people who also received the vaccine.

Just days ago, the CDC reassured North Carolina that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was safe after a handful of people were rushed to the hospital after having reactions to it.

7:20 a.m.
Regal Theatres are beginning to reopen in North Carolina.
The company announced that the following central North Carolina locations would reopen May 7:

  • Cary - Regal Crossroads & IMAX
  • Garner - Regal White Oak
  • Raleigh-Durham - Regal North Hills
  • Raleigh-Durham - Regal Brier Creek


The Regal Beaver Creek location is scheduled to reopen May 14.

TUESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
It's getting easier to get a COVID-19 vaccine in North Carolina, but that may not be all good news.

Multiple hospitals in the region are reporting thousands of open vaccine appointments. They fear demand for the vaccine is dwindling.

When the vaccines first became available, people were competing to get appointments. Waitlists at times were reportedly tens of thousands of people long.

Now, there are very few waitlists remaining.

This would be great news if the waitlists had been eradicated due to a massive increase in vaccine supply. However, while vaccine supply has undoubtedly increased significantly, 70 percent of North Carolinians still have not been fully vaccinated.

"The weather is warmer, people are out and about more. A lot of people are thinking the pandemic is kind of behind us, but it's still very much in front of us. We still need folks to get in line, roll their sleeves up and get the vaccine," Chris Tart of Cape Fear Valley Health said.

Health officials fear another spike in cases could occur if communities do not reach herd immunity levels of vaccination. The specific vaccination percentage needed for herd immunity varies from virus to virus. For example, 95% is needed for measles while just 80% is needed for polio. The percentage needed for COVID-19 is not yet known.

The coronavirus variant first reported in the UK is more transmissible but not more severe, according to two new studies.

North Carolina saw its highest number of new positive COVID-19 cases for a Monday since the beginning of March. The percentage of positive tests also climbed to 6.9%.

AP and CNN contributed to this report.
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