NC COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations continue to increase; hospitals prepare for winter storm

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Here's the latest news and information on COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines.

6:30 p.m.
The Chatham County Public Health Department published a new resource: the COVID-19 Facts FAQ. This online tool covers questions that CCPHD staff have heard many times throughout the pandemic, such as:

  • Why should I wear a mask if I have been vaccinated?
  • Why does guidance from the CDC and other public health organizations change so much?
  • How many deaths have been caused by the vaccine?
  • Can't we trust our natural immunity to protect us, especially if we've already had COVID-19?


"More than one in five COVID-19 tests in Chatham County is coming back positive," said Chatham County Public Health Director Mike Zelek. "Testing options are available in Chatham, but with the rise in cases results may take longer than usual to get back. Consider asking for a rapid test to get more timely results."

If residents have recently been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms, there are many testing sites across Chatham County where they can be tested. A full Chatham-specific list can be found at .

These rising numbers, driven by the very contagious spread of the Omicron variant, heighten the importance of all Chatham County residents doing what they can to limit the spread and protect themselves and others: get vaccinated and boosted, wear a mask in crowded indoor public spaces, practice social distancing, and get tested if you do not feel well or are exposed to COVID-19, the health department said.

"We've received a lot of questions over the last two years, and we do our best to address these as honestly as possible while acknowledging the concerns many have," said Zelek. "With this tool, we hope to respond to these questions with a straightforward answer while also providing background and further resources for those interested.

5:33 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department has partnered with Radeas Labs to provide a drive-thru COVID-19 testing event at The Roanoke Rapids Theater, 500 Carolina Crossroads Parkway in Roanoke Rapids. This event will begin Wednesday and will continue through Jan. 21. It will then run weekly, Monday-Friday through Feb. 18. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. No registration or appointment is required. There are no out-of-pocket costs and insurance is accepted but not required.

2:33 p.m.
The Wayne County Health Department will resume free rapid COVID-19 testing on Tuesday from 8:15-11:45 a.m. and 1-4:30 p.m. at 1320 W. Grantham Street in Goldsboro (former Food Lion building in the Little River Square shopping center.) Testing will be first come, first served in a drive-through setting. Please enter the parking lot and will follow the signage for rapid testing. Results will be provided on-site after the testing is completed. Testing was paused in December because of a nationwide shortage of test kits.

1:22 p.m.
In response to the current surge of COVID-19 cases, Wake County and its testing partners want to ensure residents are aware of all opportunities for COVID-19 testing throughout the community.

"Being fully vaccinated and boosted, as well as having access to testing, are important tools in decreasing the spread of this virus, reducing hospitalizations and severe illness," said Dr. José Cabañas, Wake County's Chief Medical Officer. "If you test positive for COVID-19, we strongly encourage you to isolate at home for five days to avoid sharing this highly contagious variant with your family, friends and loved ones."

New sites continue to be added in Wake County.

Starting Tuesday, Baptist on Mission will be moving its testing site from Southbridge Fellowship Church in Raleigh, to Summit Church - Capital Hills Campus in Raleigh. It will operate Monday through Friday from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. The address is 3901 Capital Hills Drive. No appointments are necessary. There are no out-of-pocket costs and insurance will be accepted but not required.

1:15 p.m.
NCDHHS reported 35,759 new cases for a total of 2,011,302 since the pandemic began. This is the highest daily increase of the pandemic.

A week ago, there were 28,474 cases added. A year ago at this time, the case count was 9,853

The daily percent positive is 31.6%, slightly up from 30.1% the previous day.

Hospitalizations set another record with 4,381 and there are 106 more patients since the previous day. A week ago, the number was 3,474.

The percentage of COVID-19 patients in the ICU is the lowest in more than a year (18%), however,, and the same is true for patients on ventilators (11%).

There are 53 new deaths reported for a total of 19,903 statewide.

1:04 p.m.
To encourage mask usage and to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Moore County, the Moore County Health Department will host a free N95 mask distribution event. This event will be held Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1p.m. at the Moore County Agricultural Center, 707 Pinehurst Ave. in Carthage.

FRIDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Hospitals are not immune to the weather. Local hospitals are keeping a close eye on the forecast as they continue to deal with a surge in COVID-19 cases.

UNC Health said it is prepared to treat anyone in need. The hospital group said it does not normally see an uptick in patients during storms, but it does tend to see more patients in the immediate aftermath.

"(After the storm), that's when we see the traumatic-related events of slips and falls, people trying to dig out. And so, making sure that you're being very careful in that scenario in terms of prevention beforehand as you mentioned. Having enough supplies on hand, to ensure you have medications, food (and) any other heat source that is potentially safe" said Dr. Abhi Mehrotra, the Vice Chair of Operations for the UNC Department of Emergency Medicine.

UNC Health said people should prepare now by making sure they have enough medicine and being sure to stay cautious even after the storm passes.

SEE ALSO: Triangle hospitals report highest number of pregnant patients with COVID-19 during pandemic

A new study found unvaccinated pregnant women with COVID-19 and their newborn babies have a higher risk of complications from the disease compared with those who are vaccinated.

In the study, published Thursday in Nature Medicine, researchers from Public Health Scotland looked at vaccination rates and COVID-19 outcomes in 131,875 pregnant women in Scotland between Dec. 8, 2020, and Oct. 31, 2021, when the delta variant was dominant.

They found that 90.9% of COVID-19 hospital admissions, 98% of intensive care admissions and all 450 newborn deaths were in unvaccinated pregnant women.

The study reiterates the importance of pregnant women getting vaccinated against the virus due to a greater risk of dangerous health complications from COVID-19. A growing body of research has shown the vaccines to be safe and effective for pregnant women.

THURSDAY
2:34 p.m.
The Durham County Department of Public Health and Optum Serve partners will open two new free COVID-19 testing locations in Durham County.

Beginning Saturday at 1 p.m., COVID-19 testing will be available at Durham County Memorial Stadium, 750 Stadium Drive. Beginning Tuesday at 1 p.m., testing will be available at Wheels Fun Park, at 715 N. Hoover Road.

Both sites will be available for drive-through testing every day for all people ages 1 and older. After opening at 1 p.m. on its first day of operation, testing at Durham County Memorial Stadium will be available from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.., and testing at Wheels Fun Park will be available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Registration is encouraged but not required. You can register here.

Testing at both sites will be free, and no insurance or ID will be required. These sites will offer PCR (non-rapid) testing only.

"We are thrilled to be able to work with our partners at Optum to help provide more testing here in Durham," said Durham County Public Health Director Rod Jenkins. "As testing demand has surged and become more important than ever, Optum has been an excellent partner in running Durham's testing sites at El Centro Hispano and 414 E. Main Street, and we know we will be able to continue providing a smooth and convenient testing experience for our community members. We encourage everyone not to hesitate to get tested if needed. Please utilize these new sites to get tested and help protect yourselves and others."

1:01 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 1,326 new cases since Jan. 6 for a total of 10,944 positive COVID-19 cases since March 2020.

Four additional deaths have been added for a total of 150. That's 1.42% of total cases.

12:36 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has updated the COVID-19 vaccination dashboard to better show how many people in North Carolina are up to date with current COVID-19 vaccination recommendations.

NCDHHS has added state-level and county metrics on people who are vaccinated with at least one booster/additional dose. The "Fully Vaccinated" metric is now "Vaccinated with Two Doses or One Dose J&J."

The dashboard shows the percent of people who have: received at least one or two doses of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccination series (Pfizer and Moderna); one dose of a one-dose series (Johnson & Johnson); and, now, vaccinated individuals who have received at least one booster/additional dose.

The booster/additional dose data will be shown by population (5+, 12+, 18+ and 65+) to reflect the percent of the vaccinated population who is eligible and has received at least one additional/booster dose. The county map on the "Summary Data" tab now allows users to view county-level data on total booster/additional doses administered.

These additional data will help NCDHHS provide better transparency for vaccinations and additional and booster doses administered across the state, the agency said.

North Carolinians can go to MySpot.nc.gov to find a vaccine location near them. The North Carolina Vaccine Help Center at (888) 675-4567 can also help residents make an appointment. It is open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on weekends.

12:18 p.m.
NCDHHS reports 44,833 new cases, a dramatic jump from the previous day's 25,445 cases. The state clarified that the number was unusually high because more than 10,000 cases had not been previously been counted.

The state has 4,275 patients hospitalized, breaking the record set the previous day of 4,098.

A total of 87 new deaths were added, for a total of 19, 850 statewide since the start of the pandemic.

The daily percent positive fell to 30.1%, a slight decline from 30.9% the previous day.

NCDHHS said 70% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.

9:34 a.m.
Wake County Public Health has confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 at Foundation Senior Living, a long-term care facility located at 1437 Aversboro Road in Garner.

This is the facility's first outbreak. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services defines an outbreak as two or more people - residents or employees - testing positive for the virus.

THURSDAY MORNING HEADLINES

Several Triangle school bus routes are feeling the pinch of COVID-19 protocols and the ongoing bus driver shortage.
Chapel-Hill Carrboro City Schools is just one of several school districts in the area struggling to fill bus routes. Six buses are without a driver Thursday morning, straining several routes and jeopardizing school attendance for some students. A district spokesperson said about a dozen routes do not have a permanent driver or are impacted by COVID-19 protocols, and the district has exhausted its list of available substitute drivers and qualified staff.

Those families who don't have transportation can call 919-942-5045 for assistance. Anyone who calls that line will have a bus sent to pick them up as soon as possible, and they will not be marked late to school today.

To try and help lessen the shortage, Gov. Roy Cooper is announcing a new directive to try and fix staffing shortages in schools.

That directive will allow state employees to be able to use their 24-hours of paid volunteer time to work as substitutes. That would allow them to get paid double to fill in as bus drivers or help in other areas needed at school.

This comes as COVID-19 continues to surge across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts 22,000 more Americans could die from the virus in the next two weeks.
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