Wake County school board approves Virtual Academy for 2021-22 school year

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

8:15 p.m.
The Wake County school board has approved the Virtual Academy for 2021-22.

The board approved the plan Tuesday. The academy will serve grades K-12 and there will be a separate virtual learning option for Pre-K students.

The registration window will open on Thursday, April 22 and close May 2.

More information can be found here.

2:28 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports 1,200 new cases for a total of 950,566 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

The case count is the lowest in two weeks. The percent positive of tests is at 7.4%, higher than the 5% range that NCDHHS would like to see ut lower than the same time a week ago.

A total of 74 more people are hospitalized, for 1,170 overall. It's the first time hospitalizations have topped 1,100 in a month (since March 9 with 1,147).

Nineteen additional deaths were reported Monday for a statewide total of 12,437.

In all about 37% of the state's population is partly vaccinated and about 27% of the population is fully vaccinated.

1:58 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports four new cases for a total of 5,412 positive COVID 19 cases. There have been 108 deaths countywide since the onset of the pandemic.

11:10 a.m.
Booster shots for the COVID-19 vaccine may not be necessary after all.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Monica Gandhi has been studying preliminary Pfizer data released this month. She said no breakthrough infections have been reported since the initial vaccine trial started nearly ten months ago.

"Anyone who received the vaccine during the trials actually received them in July 2020," she said. "We are not seeing breakthrough infections, even in the setting of surges."

Because of that, she said it's possible the vaccine will keep people protected from the virus for longer than a year. Only time will tell.

9:31 a.m.
Duke University's COVID-19 testing and contact tracing program administered 18,504 tests to 9,951 students and 2,190 tests to 1,125 faculty/staff for the period April 12-18, with a total of 26 positive results. The total positivity rate was 0.13 percent.

7:20 a.m.
Local doctors are backing off an experimental treatment for COVID-19.

Doctors at Cape Fear Valley Health joined in on a clinical trial, using convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients to treat people in early stages of coronavirus infection.

However, data compiled from that trial shows that the treatment is not making a significant difference for patients.

Therefore, the doctors at Cape Fear Valley Health said they will try some other treatments that have been showing more promise.

TUESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Starting at noon, Wheels Fun Park on North Hoover Road in Durham will be giving out COVID-19 vaccines to any adult who shows up.

No appointment is needed.

That comes as FEMA announced its mass vaccination site in Greensboro has vaccinated more than 100,000 people. The site opened March 10 at Four Season Towne Center.

Today, North Carolina House of Representatives will hold a final vote on a bill to give tax breaks to business received federal funds during the pandemic.

Right now businesses have to pay taxes on Paycheck Protection Program loans. The bill, if made law, would eliminate those taxes.

If you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said you should monitor yourself for new symptoms.

The symptoms to watch out for include headache, bachache, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, leg swelling and new or easy bruising.

If you notice any of those symptoms, please contact your medical provider immediately.

MONDAY
4:45 p.m.
More than 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered through the federally supported vaccination center that opened March 10, 2021 in Greensboro, N.C, NCDHHS announced.

"This vaccination center has been a model site showcasing the best of local, state and federal partnerships. And it has demonstrated how instrumental on-the-ground, trusted partners are to reaching historically underserved communities and facilitating access to vaccines," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.

Of the 103,132 doses administered to date at the Four Seasons Town Centre, NCDHHS said more than 22% have gone to Black or African American individuals, who make up a 23% of North Carolina's population, and more than 15% to people from Hispanic/LatinX communities, who make up almost 10% of the state's population.

1 p.m.
1,380 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Monday.

That's the lowest number of new cases since last Tuesday, but the number of completed tests was also low.

The percent of positive tests is at 6.8 percent.

1,096 people are currently hospitalized in the state with COVID-19. That's the highest number of hospitalizations in a month.

27.2 percent of the total population of North Carolina is fully vaccinated.

12 p.m.
The White House says "it has never been easier" to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot as all people 16 and older are eligible for vaccines nationwide as of Monday.

President Joe Biden is encouraging people to book appointments immediately and to encourage family and friends to do the same.

Says Biden: "You need to be protected, and you need in turn to protect your neighbors and your family."

On Sunday the country reached the milestone of having 50% of adults at least partially vaccinated.

Monday also marks the expansion of the White House's federal retail pharmacy program. Senior adviser Andy Slavitt says more than 90% of Americans live within 5 miles of a vaccination site.

MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES

Getting your COVID-19 vaccine in Wake County is now easier than ever before.

The county's health department confirmed it has eliminated its waitlist for appointments. That means any adult can now call or go online and schedule a time to get vaccinated.

When scheduling, you will also now be able to select which of the vaccines you prefer to get. Wake County said appointments are usually booked about a week in advance.

In Durham, a walk-in vaccine clinic will take place starting at noon at the Wheels Fun Park on North Hoover Road on Tuesday.

A decision about the future of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which has been paused in the United States while researchers look into reports of blood clotting in an extremely low number of people, is expected to come Friday, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci said

Fauci also said he expects federal regulators to declare the vaccines safe for high school students--currently nobody under the age of 16 is eligible for the vaccine. He said he expects even younger children will likely be eligible to get vaccinated by spring of 2022.

SATURDAY
9:30 p.m.
Ontario's premier has retracted restrictions that banned playgrounds and allowed police to require anyone not at home to explain why they're out and provide their address after a backlash from police forces, health officials and the public, The Associated Press reported. The pandemic restrictions imposed by Canada's most populous province immediately ran into opposition on Saturday as police departments insisted they wouldn't use new powers to randomly stop pedestrians or motorists and health experts complained the rules focus on outdoor activities rather than more dangerous indoor settings. Ontario Premier Doug Ford's government announced Friday it was giving police authority to require anyone not at home to explain why they're out and provide their address. .

7:31 p.m.
As many states across the country lift COVID-19 restrictions, Oregon is poised to go the opposite direction - and many residents are fuming about it.

A top health official is considering indefinitely extending rules requiring masks and physical distancing in all businesses in the state.

The proposal would keep the rules in place until they are "no longer necessary to address the effects of the pandemic in the workplace."

Michael Wood, administrator of the state's department of Occupational Safety and Health, said the move is necessary to address a technicality in state law that requires a "permanent" rule to keep current restrictions from expiring.

"We are not out of the woods yet," he said.

The idea has prompted a flood of angry responses, with everyone from parents to teachers to business owners and employees crying government overreach.

Wood's agency received a record number of public comments, mostly critical, and nearly 60,000 residents signed a petition against the proposal.

Opponents also are upset government officials won't say how low Oregon's COVID-19 case numbers must go, or how many people would have to be vaccinated, to get the requirements lifted in a state that's already had some of the nation's strictest safety measures.

"When will masks be unnecessary? What scientific studies do these mandates rely on, particularly now that the vaccine is days away from being available to everyone?" said state Sen. Kim Thatcher, a Republican from Keizer, near the state's capital. "Businesses have had to play 'mask cop' for the better part of a year now. They deserve some certainty on when they will no longer be threatened with fines."

Wood said he is reviewing all the feedback to see if changes are needed before he makes a final decision by May 4, when the current rules lapse.

6 p.m.
Four new deaths are linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine in France.

French officials said there have been 23 cases of serious adverse reactions to the vaccine, including blood clots and bleeding disorders.

In all eight deaths have been linked to the vaccine in France.

8:20 a.m.
Throughout 192 countries and regions, there have been 3,001,584 COVID-19 deaths as of Saturday morning. Globally, there have been 140,041,096 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

In the United States, there have been 31,573,954 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Worldwide COVID-19 death toll tops a staggering 3 million

FRIDAY

5 p.m.
Duke Provost Sally Kornbluth said Friday the schools plans to return to "in-person instruction with normal classroom density" in the Fall.

They will provide an exemption process for faculty who have medical reasons that don't allow them to do so.

This comes after the university announced it would require all students to be vaccinated in order to enroll in the Fall.

4:59 p.m.
Orange County reports 113 new cases in the past week for a total of 8,285 positive COVID-19 cases. The death toll from COVID-19 in Orange County is 101.

4:50 p.m.
Wake County Public Health is partnering with area hospitals and health care providers this weekend to reach out to Hispanic communities with COVID-19 vaccination clinics at six Catholic churches.

On Saturday, April 17, Wake County vaccinators will join UNC REX Healthcare, WakeMed, Duke Health, Alignment Health, St. Joseph Primary Care, City Pharmacy, Open Doors Ministry, LATIN-19 and Knights of Columbus in a multi-site vaccination clinic to offer first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

As of Friday, there were more than 2,200 appointments registered at six different Catholic churches throughout the region, including St. Eugene Catholic Church in Wendell, Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh, St. Ann Catholic Church in Clayton, St. Michael's Church in Cary, St. Raphael's Church in Raleigh and St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Wake Forest.

1:11 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 19 new cases for a total of 5,390 total positive COVID 19 cases. The number of deaths remains at 107.

12:33 p.m.
Beginning Monday at 9 a.m., the Durham County Department of Public Health will reopen its phone lines for vaccination appointment scheduling and will retire its online scheduling list.

All community members ages 16 and older should call 919-560-HELP (4357) to schedule an appointment for COVID-19 vaccination with the Durham County Department of Public Health.

All people already on the online scheduling list before Monday will still be contacted for an appointment.

12:05 p.m.
Friday's report from the NCDHHS included 2,475 newly-reported COVID-19 cases with 1,064 hospitalizations.

The daily percent positive rate was 5.5%.

45.8% of adults are at least partially vaccinated while 33.3% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.

Sadly, 12,387 people have died since the start of the pandemic.

11 a.m.
The state of North Carolina will receive $6.6 million to use in the fight against COVID-19 variants.

According to a news release, the funding from the American Rescue Plan will help the CDC and governors monitor, track and defeat emerging variants that are currently threatening pockets of the country.

The original strain of COVID-19 comprises only about half of all cases in America today. New and potentially dangerous strains of the virus make up the other half.

In order to improve the detection, monitoring, and mitigation of these COVID-19 variants, the Biden Administration is rapidly investing $1.7 billion from the American Rescue Plan to help states and other jurisdictions more effectively fight these mutations. The first tranche of funding, outlined below, will be distributed in early May. A second tranche of funding will be invested over the next several years.

10:50 a.m.
Michael Sprayberry, the executive director of the N.C. Division of Emergency Management, who has attended many state COVID-19 news conferences during the pandemic, will be retiring.

Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks announced the news Friday.

"Mike Sprayberry has served our state with distinction, keeping North Carolinians safe through unprecedented natural disasters and a global pandemic," Governor Roy Cooper said. "Director Sprayberry has worked to make our state more resilient and prepared than ever to withstand future storms and emergencies and overcome challenges. He has set a high bar, leading North Carolina Emergency Management with his daily refrain of 'One team, one mission, one family,' and I deeply appreciate his service."

Sprayberry is the state's longest serving emergency management director.

He will retire Aug. 1 with more than 42 years of state service.

10:45 a.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services updated the COVID-19 County Alert System.

One county, Edgecombe, is in red - an increase from zero on the previous map.

There are 20 orange counties (previously 21 counties in the April 1 report), 48 yellow counties (previously 47), 30 light yellow counties (previously 31) and one green county (previously one).

18 counties have moved up a tier (toward red) since the last report. 19 counties having moved down a tier (toward green).

North Carolina's key metrics show a leveling of COVID-19 trends after several weeks of decline, according to NCDHHS.

Most of the state continues to experience significant or substantial community spread with what NCDHHS is calling concerning increases in younger adult age groups.

"We want to see our trends in new cases, hospitalizations and percent positive of tests decline again," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "The best way we can do that is by having as many people get vaccinated as quickly as possible and keep wearing our masks when out in public."

8:45 a.m.
Due to a significant drop in demand for COVID-19 vaccines, Lee County Health Department will begin transitioning away from mass drive-thru vaccination clinics.

The department said it will hold two more first-dose COVID-19 drive-thru clinics--April 20-21 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Dennis A Wicker Civic Center.

Anyone who has not yet received a first-dose COVID-19 vaccine is encouraged to attend one of those drive-thru clinics.

After the 21st, vaccine appointments will still be available through the health department or your health provider.

FRIDAY MORNING HEADLINES
At Raleigh-Durham International Airport, March was the busiest air travel month since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic more than a year ago.

TSA reports screening more than 77,000 passengers at RDU in March.

North Carolina is one of 24 states seeing an increase in its daily COVID-19 case average. The concerning trend comes along with a recent increase in hospitalizations and deaths.

Those numbers are still well below the peak seen around the new year, but health experts are concerned another surge could be on the horizon.

Gov. Roy Cooper and Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen will travel to the Outer Banks on Friday to tour a vaccination clinic in Dare County.

The pair hope to rally more enthusiasm among North Carolinians to sign up to get vaccinated.
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