RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina, like many other states across the country, is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
For UNC Health's Dr. Dirk Dittmer and the Duke Human Vaccine Institute's Dr. Tom Denny, the objective is simple. Stop the spread of COVID-19.
"What do you want to do to try to minimize risks and reduce the chances of of significant illness or long-term complications," said Denny, who also serves as chief operating officer for DHVI. "Vaccination helps to reduce all that you may get infected but you have a much shorter course of, of a disease or process. So the key here is trying to get people to understand the importance of being vaccinated."
Dr. Denny's comments come at a time when just shy of 60% of North Carolina's adult population are vaccinated against COVID-19. And a slightly higher percentage of adults in the state have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
In a statement released to ABC11, a representative from NCDHHS wrote: "NCDHHS is very concerned by the recent increasing trends. We are particularly concerned for residents who are not yet vaccinated. During May and June, more than 99% of recent cases and more than 98% of recent hospitalizations and deaths were in people who were not fully vaccinated. Variants, including the new Delta variant, are a major concern for people who aren't vaccinated as many variants are more easily transmitted and some cause more severe disease."
Currently, more than 13,500 North Carolinians have died from the virus and the state boasts a percent-positive rate around 5%.
Denny told ABC11's DeJuan Hoggard the emphasis remains on getting more people vaccinated.
"Until we get to those high numbers, we're going to be chasing this game. The virus is here to stay, it's not going away. We'll be dealing with this for many, many years into the future," said Denny.
Across town at UNC Health, Dr. Dirk Dittmer is a professor in microbiology and immunology studying the Delta variant and other potential variants before they grip the state and the nation.
"We don't know when the Epsilon variant comes," said Dr. Dittmer. "We don't know what the next period will look like. And so part of why we invest so much in sequencing is to try and be ready for the next variant and the next virus."
Durham Public Schools welcomed year-round students back to school Monday.
"It was good to be back," said Eric Jackson, a sixth grader at Rogers-Herr Middle School. "I got to see my friends and stuff."
"It has been amazing being able to see the staff in person, being able to see the students' smiling faces," said Otis Maben, Rogers-Herr Middle School 8th Grade Assistant Principal. "They were so excited as they got off the bus and as I saw them get out of the cars this morning."
Maben said students went back to in-person instruction in March but there were only about 50 students per grade level at school each day.
Now, it's about 220 students per grade level at once, for a total of 670 students.
About 3,200 year-round students are attending schools in the district, with a more exact enrollment figure expected next month, according to a district spokesperson.
All students and staff are required to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.
The CDC recently recommended that fully vaccinated students, teachers and other staff don't have to wear masks in school next year.
The CDC is still calling for those who are unvaccinated to mask up.
The district Board of Education will revisit mask requirements next month.
"I'm not going to predict any action by our board but we know that masks work and masks make a lot of people more comfortable," said Chip Sudderth, Durham Public Schools Chief Communications Officer. "And so that's how we're going to start the school year."
Students have the option of attending the district's online academy, Ignite.
The traditional calendar starts August 24.
During the 2021-2022 school year, Durham Public Schools will have five days a week of in-person instruction for every student.
On Thursday, July 22, the Moore County Health Department will be offering COVID-19 vaccinations at Sandy Ramey Keith Park in Vass (3600 US Hwy 1). The event is open to any member of the general public who is eligible for the vaccine and is scheduled from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. with no appointment required. Staff will provide vaccinations adjacent to the playground, under the park's pavilion.
734 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Monday.
This comes after cases exceeded 1,000 over the weekend.
Hospitalizations also surpassed 600 -- with 612 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state.
86 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted to NC hospitals in the last 24 hours.
The percent of positive tests is at 5.8%.
59% of the adult population of North Carolina has at least one dose of the vaccine.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wants all students and staff over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask in school this fall.
The AAP said it's taking this stance because there's no real way to monitor COVID-19 vaccine status at this time.
This recommendation is at odds with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said students and staff who were fully vaccinated could go without masks.
AAP's full statement:
"AAP recommends universal masking because a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccines, and masking is proven to reduce transmission of the virus and to protect those who are not vaccinated. Many schools will not have a system to monitor vaccine status of students, teachers and staff, and some communities overall have low vaccination uptake where the virus may be circulating more prominently."
Wake County Public Health reminds citizens they can get a free at-home COVID-19 test.
Drive-thru testing continues across the county, but for people who don't or can't get to the drive-thru testing centers another option is available.
At-home testing will take just a few days. Click here for details on how it works and how you can request your test.
MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Students are returning to school for the 2021-2022 school year.
Year round schools in Durham resume classes in-person Monday. All students and staff are required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status. The school board is expected to revisit the mask requirement sometime next month.
Wake County's year round students went back to class earlier this month.
Thales Academy is also welcoming students back Monday.
Students and staff at the Triangle private school will not have to wear masks if they are fully vaccinated. That policy follows the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent guidance.
In addition, fully vaccinated students and staff exposed to the virus will not have to quarantine.
Thales Academy also said it was eliminating social distance precautions for seating in the classrooms as well as eliminating virtual learning options, even for sick students.
1,023 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Friday. That marks the highest one-day case count since May 22.
The percent of positive tests is at 4.2%.
536 people are currently hospitalized in the state with COVID-19.
56% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.
Duke researchers found that children and adolescents with milt or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 had robust antibody responses up to four months after infection.
The study included 69 children tested at Duke Health. It found that the antibody response in children was comparable or superior to those observed in adults.
"These findings are encouraging, especially because we cannot yet vaccinate children under the age of 12 against the virus," study co-lead author Jillian Hurst, Ph.D. said. "The study shows that children who've had mild infections or even those who did not have any symptoms, develop an immune response that will likely provide some protection against future infections."
Four NFL teams remain under 50% vaccinated less than two weeks from the start of training camp, a person familiar with the vaccination rates told The Associated Press.
Washington, Indianapolis, Arizona and the Los Angeles Chargers had the four lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the league as of Thursday, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, because the league hasn't released the numbers.
FRIDAY MORNING HEADLINES
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, informed staff that they would all be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 9.
The announcement came in the form of a hospital-wide memo.
"By September 10, employees who have refused vaccination or do not have an approved medical or religious exemption will be put on an unpaid administrative leave for two weeks," wrote Dr. James R. Downing, president and CEO of the Memphis hospital. "During this time, they have the opportunity to begin the vaccination process. Those who fail to start the vaccination process will be terminated at the end of the two-week period."
St. Jude said the decision to mandate the vaccines was reached after "much research, analysis and discussion."
In North Carolina, Tuesday's numbers showed more than 1,000 positive COVID-19 cases for the first time since May 22.
However, the positive rate actually dropped to 4.4%. That's the first rate decrease in four days.
A new CDC report highlights the success of vaccine equity in North Carolina.
Between December and April the vaccination rate among Black residents increase from 9% to 19% and the rate among Hispanic residents increased from 4% to 10%.