During a Wednesday news conference, Gov. Cooper and NCDHHS Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced an updated public schools toolkit with guidance for masking.
The guidance says that all schools should require that all children and staff in schools K-8th grade wear face coverings consistently when indoors. It says that schools K-8th grade should make mask use universally required regardless of vaccination status.
In high schools, face coverings should also be worn indoors by all individuals who are not fully vaccinated, including students grades 9th-12th, workers, teachers, guests, other adults and children age two (2) or older, unless an exception applies, the guidance says.
Cooper said that we "know from extensive research that the spread of COVID-19 in schools last year was low because students and staff wore masks."
Dr. Cohen said 24% of those ages 12 through 17 are vaccinated.
When asked about the Delta variant, Dr. Cohen said it accounts for more than 80% of cases in North Carolina.
North Carolina health officials are reporting 1,434 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday with a 7.9% positive test rate.
This is the fifth time more than 1,000 cases have been reported in the past week. Wednesday's case count is the highest daily increase since May 14.
The positivity rate of 7.9% is higher than the positivity rate on July 21, 2020. This is the second day the rate is above 7%
There are currently 694 COVID patients being hospitalized in North Carolina hospitals. That is up 22 from Tuesday. This is the 11th straight day of increased hospitalizations.
There have been 13,550 deaths from the virus throughout our state since the pandemic began. That is up nine from Tuesday.
As of Wednesday morning, NCDHHS data says 60% of the adult population in North Carolina has had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 56% are fully vaccinated.
We're in the 4th of July COVID-19 surge, according to the latest forecast from PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
According to the report, it typically takes about two to three weeks to see the impact on COVID-19 cases of points in time when people might gather.
Now that we are three weeks after the July 4th holiday, we are witnessing resurgent summer COVID-19 transmission around the country. No county has been spared in this current increase in transmission, the report says.
A major Texas hospital system has reported its first case of the lambda COVID-19 variant, as the state reels from the rampant delta variant.
Houston Methodist Hospital, which operates eight hospitals in its network, said the first lambda case was confirmed Monday.
U.S. life expectancy fell by a year and a half in 2020, the largest one-year decline since World War II. The decrease for both Black Americans and Hispanic Americans was even worse: three years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the calculations for 2020 early Wednesday. The drop is due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic, which health officials say is responsible for close to 74% of the overall life expectancy decline. Killers other than COVID-19 played a role. Drug overdoses pushed life expectancy down. And rising homicides were a small but significant reason for the decline for Black Americans.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell implored unvaccinated Americans Tuesday to take the COVID-19 shot, issuing a stark and grave warning of a repeat of last year's rising caseloads and shutdowns if people refuse to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Governor Roy Cooper is scheduled to give a COVID-19 update at 2 p.m. today.
It's the first official COVID-19 briefing from the governor in several weeks, and it comes as cases across the state are on the rise among unvaccinated people.
With 871 new cases reported Tuesday, the state has seen a 61% increase in cases over the last week. The percent of COVID-19 tests coming back positive hit 7.3%, the highest since April.
In the meantime, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is offering at-home vaccines for citizens with mobility issues. NCDHHS said people who can't leave the house can call 1-866-303-0026 to schedule an in-home vaccine appointment. And yes, the whole service is still free.
Finally, the third $1 million COVID-19 vaccine lottery drawing will happen at 10 a.m. today. The drawing will once again be done by a random number generator, and it will take a couple days for the department to verify and contact the winners of the $1 million cash winner and the $125,000 scholarship.
At Tuesday's WCPSS board meeting, parents argued for and against a mask mandate for the upcoming school year.
Anna Watkins, a mother of two students at Farmington Woods Elementary School, wants a mask requirement until children can get vaccinated.
"COVID rates are rapidly rising thanks to a more contagious variant and the vaccine might not be eligible to elementary school students until winter," said Watkins. "Masks will result in fewer quarantines and more time in school with teachers: more time my kids desperately need."
Misty Clark argued against a mask requirement.
"As you all know with the pandemic from the very beginning the children have carried the burden," Clark said. "You have the power to give our kids their childhoods back."
Hours after the typical release time, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services updated the day's COVID-19 metrics late due to a "technical difficulty," the agency said in an email to ABC11.
The day's numbers revealed a high percentage of positive tests at 7.3%--the highest in nearly three months and the third straight day above 5%.
For the 10th day in a row, hospitalizations increased, rising to 672 people in the North Carolina hospitals with COVID-19.
The state reported 871 new cases, a more than 60% hike above last Tuesday's case increase.
The state reported 6 more deaths due to COVID-19.
Ahead of a Wake County Public School System board meeting, some parents rallied against masks in schools.
They held signs that said "free the smile."
The American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday recommended universal masking in schools for everyone older than the age of 2. That contradicted the CDC's recommendation that anyone fully vaccinated could go without a mask.
Wake County Schools said they will continue to follow state law, which requires masks in schools.
"Kids are wearing them for eight plus hours, school bus drivers are having to wear them. My oldest daughter is a teacher. She has to wear them," mother Julie Savage, who was at the rally, said.
NCDHHS told ABC11 via email that a technical glitch is preventing it from putting out updated COVID-19 numbers.
NCDHHS announced that it is partnering with Piedmont Triad Regional Council Area Agency on Aging (PTRC AAA) to provide free COVID-19 vaccinations to people with limited mobility who cannot leave their home. This new initiative expands PTRC AAA's local at-home vaccination program to communities across the state.
Caregivers, providers and individuals can schedule an at-home vaccination through the At-Home Vaccination Hotline at 1-866-303-0026. An online registration form is also available at www.ptrc.org/covid. A PTRC Vaccination Specialist will follow up to schedule an at-home vaccination.
Health officials say the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to surge and accounts for an estimated 83% of U.S. COVID-19 cases.
That's a dramatic increase from the week of July 3, when the variant accounted for about 50% of genetically sequenced coronavirus cases.
"The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 variants is to prevent the spread of disease, and vaccination is the most powerful tool we have," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a U.S. Senate hearing Tuesday.
The delta variant is a mutated coronavirus that spreads more easily than other versions. It was first detected in India but now has been identified around the world.
The nation's top infectious disease expert is suggesting parents follow new COVID-19 guidance for mask-wearing issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The academy is recommending schools require face masks for children older than 2 and all adults - regardless of vaccination status. Dr. Anthony Fauci told "CBS This Morning" the academy wants to "go the extra mile" to make sure kids are protected at school because of the rise in cases blamed on the delta variant of the coronavirus.
That guidance is slightly different from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has advised mask-wearing in schools just for unvaccinated children and adults.
Fauci says the CDC is "carefully looking" at its COVID-19 school guidance.
NCDHHS announced that it will conduct the next random number generator drawings for the Summer Cash Drawing and Summer Cash 4 College Drawing on Wednesday, July 21 at 10 a.m.
Wake County tourism saw a 29 percent drop in visitors in 2020.
Visit Raleigh released new tourism numbers Tuesday showing that 12.9 million people visited Wake County in 2020.
Those visitors spent $1.7 billion in the area, which is a 43% drop from how much was spent in 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, was the main reason for the tourism decrease.
Last year's tourism dip was actually the first decline in visitors and spending in more than 10 years.
But so far in 2021, things are looking better.
"We've really seen an uptick as soon as the vaccine hit the market. In January we ran around 44 percent occupancy and we've seen a month to month increase," Visit Raleigh's Dennis Edwards said.
Click here for the full Visit Raleigh tourism report.
TUESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Parents are planning to protest ahead of a Wake County school board meeting.
The parents at the protest are upset with the district deciding that vaccinated students and teachers still need to wear masks.
It's a debate that is splitting the country--the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says vaccinated students don't have to wear masks, but a prominent pediatrician group says masks should still be required.
Q&A: Who's right when it comes to the school mask mandate conflict
The parents protesting Tuesday said masks are unnecessary and should not be required by district leaders.
This debate comes as COVID-19 cases are increasing in North Carolina and across the country.
Monday's metrics showed more than 700 new cases--a 37% increase from last Monday. The 5.8% positive rate is the state's highest in more than two months.
NCDHHS said unvaccinated people account for 99 percent of the state's COVID-19 cases since May.