COVID-19 cases are on the rise in 20 states, but experts predict deaths from the virus will decline

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

7 a.m.
The U.S. daily case average has jumped by 15% since the end of October, according to federal data.

Twenty states have seen daily cases jump by at least 10% in the last two weeks: Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Cases are still falling in most of the South, which was the first region to get hit hard by the delta surge over the summer. In Florida, where high transmission was reported in every county over the summer, now only 1 out of the 67 counties is reporting high transmission, according to federal data.

COVID-19 forecast models used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are currently predicting that weekly death totals will likely continue to fall in the weeks to come, though thousands of Americans are still expected to lose their lives.

The ensemble model expects just under 15,000 more virus-related deaths to occur in the U.S. over the next two weeks, with a total of around 781,500 deaths by Dec. 4.

The model estimates that 13 states and territories of the U.S. have a greater than 50% chance of having more deaths in the next two weeks compared to the past two weeks.

THURSDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Time is running out to get your COVID-19 booster shot and have its level of safety in place for holiday gatherings.

Nearly 1 million booster doses have been given to people in North Carolina. If getting the booster is part of your holiday plans, you better do it soon.

"The decrease in risk starts up around 10 to 14 days after you're fully vaccinated. That's where we start to see it really kick in," Dr. David Wohl said. "So now's the time to get vaccinated, if you want to be protected around Thanksgiving."

Only older Americans and those at high risk of complications with COVID-19 are currently eligible for booster shots, but Pfizer has appealed to the FDA asking for authorization to be extended to all Americans over 18 years old.

WEDNESDAY
3:30 p.m.
Durham Public Schools and partners will offer a vaccination clinic to students and families.

They'll be giving Pfizer vaccine shots for children ages 5-11 and first and second shots and booster shots for students and family members 12 and older.

You can register online or walk in.

The event will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Hillside High School, 3727 Fayetteville St.

2 p.m.
More than 24,000 children in North Carolina have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, NCDHHS Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said during a news conference on Wednesday.

"The data shows that the lower dose of the Pfizer COVID vaccine protects children from serious illness and there were no serious side effects," she said.

Cohen said her daughters got their vaccine last weekend.

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As for dropping mask mandates -- even though there isn't a state mandate -- Cohen said "we're not quite there yet."



"As a parent, having a safe vaccine to protect my young daughters from COVID-19 is a huge relief," she said.

Even though the risk of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19 is rare for children, Cohen said it's important for them to get vaccinated because severe illness is still possible.

"Importantly, any preventable hospitalization or preventable death in a child is important," said Dr. Charlene Wong, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at NCDHHS.

As for the holidays, which are quickly approaching, Dr. Cohen gave advice for staying healthy.

If you're traveling, Cohen said that, if you got the J&J vaccine, you should get a booster, even if you're healthy.

If you got Pfizer or Moderna, she said you should assess depending on your level of risk of exposure.

As for how the state is doing with COVID-19 metrics, Cohen said the state remains in the red zone with the highest level of COVID transmission but trends have improved significantly.

As for dropping mask mandates -- even though there isn't a state mandate -- Cohen said "we're not quite there yet."

"Vaccines are what is going to put this pandemic in our rearview mirror officially," she said.

12:45 p.m.
North Carolina sees its highest daily COVID-19 case count in six days.

The daily case count Wednesday came in at 2,156; a week ago the daily cases were 1,777, and two weeks ago the cases were 2,160.

The daily percent positive rate was 5 percent. That's down from 5.9 percent yesterday, but up from 4.5 percent a week ago.

Hospitalizations remained largely steady, but another 35 people died from the virus.

10:15 a.m.
The Town of Pittsboro dropped its face covering mandate, effective Tuesday.

The mandate went into effect on September 24.

The town's mayor said it was ended because it is "no longer necessary and is therefore rescinded."

WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Nearly 15,000 children in North Carolina have received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, but many more are eligible.

NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen and Assistant Secretary for Children and Families Dr. Charlene Wong will speak at 1 p.m. to answer questions about the vaccine rollout.

Cohen is making the case that while children get COVID-19 at a lower rate than adults, they're still susceptible to long-haul COVID cases, "ongoing" symptoms, and even death. Because of that, vaccines are the best way to keep them safe.

WATCH | 'It's that important': Cohen encourages COVID shots for younger children in latest fireside chat
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State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen's mission Tuesday night was to reassure parents that the shots are safe



The U.S. Surgeon General released a step-by-step toolkit to help people combat COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. It provides a road map for vaccinated people to talk to unvaccinated people who have bought into conspiracy theories.

Meanwhile, Pfizer has asked the Food and Drug Administration to amend its authorization of a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine.

The company said all adults should get a third dose, because it raises the effectiveness of the vaccine to 96 percent.

The FDA currently allows a third dose for anyone 65 and old or with high risk factors for COVID-19.

TUESDAY
4 p.m.
A study funded by the CDC and NIH has found that adults under 30 had the lowest antibody levels after a COVID-19 infection compared to adults over 45.

Antibodies are only one part of your overall immune response, but this study suggests that younger adults could be more likely to experience reinfection. The study reinforces the idea that young people also need to be vaccinated-even if they've previously been infected.

The study focused on 173 adults with mild or moderate illness who didn't require an ER or hospital visit. The study has not been peer reviewed.

3:30 p.m.
Pfizer is asking U.S. regulators to allow boosters of its COVID-19 vaccine for anyone 18 or older.

Older Americans and other groups particularly vulnerable to the virus have had access to a third dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine since September.

But the Food and Drug Administration has said it would move quickly to expand boosters to younger ages if warranted.

The filing was announced Tuesday. Pfizer is submitting early results of a booster study in 10,000 people to make its case that it's time to further expand the booster campaign.

1:50 p.m.
Governor Roy Cooper visited the Irene Wortham Early Learning Center in Asheville to encourage providers to apply for the NC Child Care Stabilization Grants, which will support families with access to high-quality, affordable child care and help early care and learning programs with recruitment and retention.

"Child care is essential to healthy child development and helping parents succeed in the workforce," Cooper said. "These funds will support child care centers, help parents get good-paying jobs and boost the economy so we can emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever."

1:45 p.m.
1,243 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Tuesday.

The daily percent of positive tests in the state is at 5.9%.

1,097 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

88 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted into North Carolina hospitals in the last 24 hours.

There are 323 adult ICU COVID-19 patients.

14,950 children ages 5 to 11 have been vaccinated with one dose in the state.

9 a.m.

If you're a renter in need of help and your landlord refused to participate in the NC HOPE program, you could still qualify for relief.
Up until recently if you applied for rental assistance, and your landlord refused to accept it because of the program rules, you were out of luck. However, that is now changing.

Administrators with the NC HOPE confirm the US Treasury guidelines for the federal emergency rental assistance program is different for the second round of funding than the first round of funding.

Read more about that here.

7:30 a.m.
Singapore announced Monday that, beginning next month, it will no longer pay for COVID-19 treatment for people who are "unvaccinated by choice," as the island nation faces a surge in cases.

"The Government is currently footing the full COVID-19 medical bills of all Singaporeans, Permanent Residents and Long-Term Pass Holders ... other than for those who tested positive soon after returning from overseas travel," Singapore's Ministry of Health said in a statement. "For the majority who are vaccinated, this special approach for COVID-19 bills will continue until the COVID-19 situation is more stable."

"Currently, unvaccinated persons make up a sizeable majority of those who require intensive inpatient care, and disproportionately contribute to the strain on our healthcare resources," the ministry noted.

The new policy will apply to all unvaccinated COVID-19 patients who are admitted to Singaporean hospitals or COVID-19 treatment facilities on or after Dec. 8, according to the ministry.

7 a.m.
Pfizer is likely to seek authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for a coronavirus vaccine booster shot for all people 18 and older as soon as this week, a government official with knowledge of the situation told ABC News.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously recommended the Pfizer booster shot for certain groups of patients six months after their second dose.

Those eligible patients included seniors, adults with certain medical conditions and adults who work in environments that put them at greater risk for exposure to COVID-19.
Copyright © 2021 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.