RALEIGH, N.C. -- Here's the latest news and information on COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported nearly 2,000 new COVID-19 cases Friday as the trend of new cases continues to decline since early October. As of Thursday, 4% of tests are positive.
Currently, 1,144 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, a rate that continues to drop quickly. Over the last 24 hours, there have been 340 adult ICU COVID-19 patients statewide, less than half the number in the ICU a month ago.
A course of pills developed by Pfizer can slash the risk of being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19 by 89% if taken within three days of developing symptoms, according to results released Friday by the pharmaceutical company.
In a study of more than 1,200 COVID-19 patients with a higher risk of developing serious illness, people who took Pfizer's pills were far less likely to end up in the hospital compared to people who got placebo pills.
None of the people who got the real pills died, but 10 people who got placebo pills died, according to results summarized in a Pfizer press release.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in prepared remarks that the data suggest the pill-based treatment, if authorized, could "eliminate up to nine out of ten hospitalizations."
The U.S. is at an "inflection point" heading into the colder winter months, the PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said this week in its latest COVID-19 forecast.
Throughout the fall, increases in case incidence were mostly concentrated in areas with poor vaccination rates, such as in communities across Alaska, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. However, there is growing concern among experts that both colder weather and an increase in indoor gatherings, such as over Halloween weekend, will "further drive increases in COVID-19 transmission over the next couple of weeks."
The U.S. is likely at a critical moment for more highly vaccinated areas with colder weather and holiday gatherings approaching, according to the group.
"The coming weeks will reveal whether other highly vaccinated regions in the West, Midwest, and Northeast can maintain steady incidence rates -- and more importantly stable or declining hospitalizations -- amidst the increasing pressure of even colder weather and more gatherings," experts wrote.
-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos
Friday morning headlines
The CDC is reminding parents not to give kids a pain reliever before the vaccination to try to mitigate side effects. The CDC says pain relievers prior to a shot are not recommended because it's not known how it might affect the vaccine.
Instead, the agency urges parents to talk to their doctor about a non-aspirin pain reliever after the shot if needed.
In general, the CDC also recommends that people who have recovered from COVID-19 still get the shot. (Waiting 90 days is only necessary if the person received monoclonal antibodies.)
The Chapel Hill Carrboro School Board on Thursday voted to continue with a mask mandate. That means students and teachers need to wear a mask indoors and outdoors, regardless of vaccination status.
Republican state officials reacted with swift rebukes Thursday to President Joe Biden's newly detailed mandate for private employers to require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, threatening a wave of lawsuits and other actions to thwart a requirement they see as a stark example of government overreach.
At least two conservative groups moved quickly to file lawsuits against the workplace safety mandate, and a growing roster of GOP governors and attorneys general said more lawsuits were on the way as soon as Friday. Some Republican-led states had already passed laws or executive orders intended to protect employers that may not want to comply.
"This rule is garbage," South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, a Republican, said Thursday through a spokesperson. "It's unconstitutional and we will fight it." His state's governor, Republican Henry McMaster, said he is planning to issue an executive order keeping state agencies from enforcing the rule.
Puerto Rico's governor says officials will start vaccinating children ages 5 to 11 this week against COVID-19, and that getting the vaccine will be required to attend school in person with few exceptions. Health Secretary Carlos Mellado said Wednesday that he anticipates that some 227,000 children will be vaccinated, with a goal to inoculate 95% of that population. So far, officials say that nearly 87% of children 12 to 15 years old have been vaccinated so far. The U.S. territory of 3.3 million people has reported more than 151,800 confirmed cases and more than 3,200 deaths.
Gov. Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen got a tour of Chapel Hill Pediatrics & Adolescents to see how they're planning on administering COVID-19 vaccines to children between the ages of 5 and 11.
"This is the most important thing that we can do in coming out of this, in making sure our economy is strong, in making sure that our children are getting educated," Cooper said.
Cohen said this is the second day that children between the ages of 5 and 11 can get vaccinated in North Carolina. She said the vaccines are safe and effective.
"While our kids get sick less often from COVID, they are still vulnerable to COVID and we want to be sure we are protecting our kids," Cohen said. "As folks know, I'm a mom of a 7- and a 9-year-old. I have two daughters and we have appointments for Saturday morning to get our vaccine. I could not be more excited."
Chapel Hill sisters 9-year-old Mireya White and 6-year-old Leila White got their shots at the office Thursday.
"It felt like a pinch and then it was over," Mireya White said.
Mother Tina White works in healthcare and got emotional as her older daughter got her vaccine.
"Just a sigh of relief," White said. "I want my kids to be able to have normal childhoods. I'd like for them to be able to return to other activities. We want them to be able to go to sporting events like basketball games in the Dean Dome."
Mireya has this message for children afraid of getting the vaccine:
"It's going to protect them against COVID and that then after that you'll be able to do a lot of things that you weren't able to do."
The practice is having a clinic Monday evening at its Chapel Hill location, with more than 100 children between the ages of 5-11 already scheduled to get their vaccine, according to staff.
"Many (parents) are very excited," said pediatrician Dr. Mary Braithwaite. "Some are hesitant, and some want to wait a while longer to get more information. But there's an overwhelming response from parents who want to get the vaccine right away. And so we actually are trying to get as much as we can so that we can vaccinate those eager parents, children as soon as we can."
They're planning more clinics this weekend at their Chapel Hill and Durham locations, with the goal of vaccinating 1,000 children.
Chapel Hill Pediatrics staffers said their phones have been overwhelmed with parents wanting to schedule the vaccine and that they've been scheduling since October.
"We've seen sore arms and we've seen some fever," Braithwaite said. "But generally, kids do very well. I vaccinated my children last night, and they woke up feeling great, and they're in school right now."
Reporting by ABC11's Gloria Rodriguez
Effective immediately, face coverings are now optional outdoors for athletics, band (including instrument bell covers) and extracurricular activities within the Wake County Public School System.
Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen toured Chapel Hill Pediatrics and Adolescents, P.A. in Orange County to see their operations to vaccinate children ages 5-11.
"This safe and effective vaccine will provide children with an extra layer of protection, so they can continue to safely attend school in-person, spend time with their friends and play sports," Cooper said. "We are grateful for the hard work of state health officials who have been preparing for this moment and the providers across the state who are beginning to administer this vaccine. Children are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus and it's important to make sure they are protected."
"As a parent, having a safe vaccine to protect my young daughters from COVID-19 is a huge relief," Cohen said. "I am getting them vaccinated because I want to do everything possible to keep them healthy and to get them safely back to the things they love."
To help kids understand how vaccines work, the American Academy of Pediatrics created animated videos to explain.
Dr. Betsy Tilson, State Health Director, told ABC11 normalizing these vaccines is the key since the kids have heard so much about them and the virus for so long.
"From a parents standpoint, I would just normalize this as much as possible like any other vaccines the way they talk about any other vaccines," she said. "Normalize that but with a little more excitement i would say yay one step closer to getting back to normal getting back to school getting back with friends getting back to sports that is no different than other vaccines than yay and added benefit of getting our old life back."
After a brief blip increasing the COVID-19 positivity rate earlier in the week, North Carolina metrics once again showed declines Thursday.
The number of cases dropped to 2,201 (down from 2,493 last week). The positivity rate stayed down at 4.4, after dropping to 4.5% yesterday from 6.4% Tuesday.
Hospitalizations from COVID-19 were listed at 1,173--marking the 3rd day in the 1,100s. Sadly, 20 more people died from the virus, increasing the state's death toll to 18,211.
President Joe Biden's administration announced two new sweeping nationwide safety standards Thursday -- one that demands large businesses require their employees to either get the vaccine or test for COVID-19 regularly and another that mandates vaccines for most health care workers.
These federal rules identify COVID-19 as an occupational hazard. Businesses that don't comply could be fined $14,000 per infraction, and hospitals could lose access to Medicare and Medicaid dollars.
The temporary emergency rule for the private sector requires every U.S. private business that employs 100 workers or more -- from grocery stores to meatpacking plants -- to get their workers fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022, and have unvaccinated workers produce negative COVID-19 test results on a weekly basis.
This affects about 80 million Americans or two-thirds of all U.S. workers.
The Biden administration's move is sure to face legal challenges.
THURSDAY MORNING HEADLINES
UNC Health is ready to start vaccinating kids 5 and older.
The health group said its supply for children was limited to begin with, so anyone interested should make an appointment first.
Meanwhile, Cape Fear Valley Health said no appointment is necessary for the vaccine, and they will start being distributed Thursday morning.
State health officials said there will be 469,000 pediatric doses available. Those doses are all arriving in waves over the next two weeks.
Appointments in Johnston County and Wake County are available through the county health departments.
The federal government is also putting together a way for parents to find vaccines for their children.
Vaccines.gov is not yet live with appointments for children, but White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients says the site will be up and running Friday.
CVS said it will offer the pediatric vaccine at "nearly 1,700" pharmacy locations across 46 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., beginning Nov. 7.
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Hisine McNeill owned the Alpha Dawgs restaurant in Raleigh. Now, he's operating out of a food truck. Though he has less than 100 employees, he's thought about mandating a COVID-19 vaccine. But hasn't. One reason: It could be another hurdle to hiring employees.
"Even after hiring, raising wages and adding benefits, still hard to attract people that want to work, so it's kind of like it's a catch 22," McNeill said. "You're trying to balance it out. And, you know, trying to be realistic at the same time."
He said he sees the purpose of President Joe Biden's planned vaccine mandate.
"I see the reason why they're doing it because at the end of the day, they're trying to protect the economy," he said. "Because if we're forced to have another shutdown, especially now, we are close to the end of the year. I mean, that can be catastrophic."
Buck Rogers is the founder of Raleigh-based CGAVERY, which does human resources and business consulting for companies in and outside the Triangle. He said every business is talking about the mandate.
"Everybody's concerned about it because it's turned to more of a political tilt to some of this on how employees receive it," Rogers said. "And like I said, everybody sort of has their decision made up already on whether they want the vaccine or not. So it gets a little sticky. We care about our employees. We want our employees to be part of the team and yet we don't want to be the enforcers or and mandate if it turns the company and the employees sour against each other."
He said there's a lot of logistics for businesses when it comes to the mandate.
"It's a big burden on companies," Rogers said. "Yet we have to create a policy. Every company should have a policy on their stance of the vaccine, wherever they land, on how many employees they have. So you have to create that. You have to make sure it's legal, and it's logical."
Lauren Horsch, spokesperson for Republican Senate leader Phil Berger sent this statement:
"Sen. Berger has been clear that he thinks the COVID-19 vaccine is effective and encourages others to talk to their doctor about getting it. He thinks that everyone should get the vaccine unless their doctor tells them not to, they have a religious reason for not getting it, or they already have the antibodies. While he supports vaccinations, it remains unclear whether one person - in this case, the president - has the sole authority to mandate vaccinations as President Biden is attempting. This new mandate from President Biden is likely to cause resistance and hesitancy at a time when we need more trust in the vaccine."
A spokesperson for Publix Super Markets sent this statement:
"We continue to encourage our associates to get vaccinated through vaccine awareness campaigns and by providing a $125 gift card to associates once they are fully vaccinated.
We are aware of the announcement regarding vaccination and testing requirements and are awaiting further guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Biden Administration. We will communicate additional information to our associates once further information is available and we have had an opportunity to review the standard."
Chatham County providers will soon begin giving the vaccine for children ages 5-11, with more options coming in the weeks ahead as supply increases.
Ways to get your child vaccinated, should you ish to do so:
- Talk to your child's doctor's office. Many will be offering the vaccine soon and can answer questions you may have about the vaccine.
- The Chatham County Public Health Department: Wednesday and Friday afternoons at the clinic in Siler City (1000 S. 10th Ave.), beginning this Friday. Appointments are required and slots are limited. To schedule an appointment, please call (919) 742-5641.
- StarMed Healthcare: Wednesday afternoons from 2-7 p.m.at the Goldston Town Hall (40 Coral Ave.), beginning Nov. 10. To schedule an appointment, click here or call (980) 445-9818.
Additionally, Woods Charter School in Chapel Hill will be hosting a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for 5-11-year-olds this Saturday, Appointments are required and slots are very limited. To see if a slot is available and to register. click here.
"I know many are excited by this news and are eager to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19," said Chatham County Public Health Director Mike Zelek. "We will continue to work hard to make the vaccine accessible to everyone across Chatham."
Gov. Roy Cooper is urging families across North Carolina to apply for child tax credit payments.
Families can visit GetCTC.org to find out if they are eligible for the payments and sign up to get them.
"It is important for eligible North Carolina families to apply for this credit before the rapidly approaching deadline," Cooper said. "These funds will help families recover from the pandemic and care for their children at a time when it is needed most."
Cape Fear Valley Health will begin offering COVID-19 vaccinations to children ages 5 to 11 starting Thursday. The vaccine will be the Pfizer COVID-19 pediatric vaccine, which is the first to be authorized for children ages 5 to 11.
"We've been anticipating this authorization for some time now, and I know there are many parents who have been anxiously waiting for the opportunity to vaccinate their children," said Vice President of Pharmacy and Cancer Centers Christopher Tart. "Several of our vaccination clinics are now accepting appointments for children who are ages 5 to 11, and three of Cape Fear Valley's pediatric clinics will also be offering the vaccine to that age group."
Parents can go to www.capefearvalley.com/covid19 to schedule a pediatric vaccine appointment at Cape Fear Valley Health Pavilion North ExpressCare, Center Pharmacy, or Hoke Pharmacy. Walk-ins are also accepted at those sites until clinic capacity is reached. These clinics' hours are as follows:
- Health Pavilion North ExpressCare: Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Center Pharmacy: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Hoke Pharmacy: Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Pediatricians at Bladen Kids' Care, Hoke Primary Care, and Cape Fear Valley Pediatric Care are also taking appointments for this vaccine, but only by calling the clinics directly. The pediatricians' offices are not accepting walk-ins for the COVID-19 vaccine. Parents can schedule an appointment at the pediatric clinic locations by calling the clinics directly at the following phone numbers:
- Bladen Kids' Care: (910) 862-5500
- Hoke Primary Care: (910) 904-8025
- Cape Fear Valley Pediatric Care: (910) 615-4801
There will also be special Pfizer-only clinics from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 13 and Dec. 4 for anyone 5 years old or older at the Cape Fear Valley Health Rehabilitation Auditorium. The Dec. 4 clinic will be for second doses. These clinics will be walk-in only, with no appointments available.
NCDHHS said it is anticipating approximately 468,000 doses of pediatric vaccine product to be delivered to providers across the state, both through NC providers and through the federal retail pharmacy program.
The initial waves of pediatric vaccine are anticipated to be delivered to North Carolina providers within nine business days following EUA issuance, with Wave 1 anticipated between 1-5 business days, Wave 2 between 3-7 business days, and Wave 3 between 5-9 business days following EUA issuance, state officials said.
Nearly all allocations for Wave 1 have been delivered already or will be delivered by the end of the day Wednesday, and as shipments for the next waves are en route, the state anticipates that vaccine will begin to be delivered over the coming days.
By the end of Wednesday, 218 North Carolina state vaccine providers will have a supply from state allocations. The program will ramp up over the coming days, officials said.
Wake County Public Health has opened up its appointment system for COVID-19 vaccinations of children ages 5 to 11 years old. Families can begin booking slots at all five clinics throughout Wake County with the first doses going into arms on Monday, Nov. 8.
Wake County set up a website, WakeGov.com/kids, with information for families and a link for signing up for their children's COVID-19 protection. The new clinics have been set up to accommodate any children ages 5-17 so that parents are able to group appointments for their children of multiple ages at one site.
1,777 new daily COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Wednesday.
The percent of positive tests in the state is 4.5 percent.
Four counties now have moderate transmission as defined by the CDC, rather than high transmission: Northhampton, Nash, Pender and Cherokee.
1,194 people are hospitalized in the state with COVID-19.
61 more COVID-19 deaths were reported.
It's likely to become President Joe Biden's most hotly contested COVID policy yet: a sweeping nationwide safety standard for the American workplace that demands large businesses require their employees to either get the vaccine or test regularly.
The temporary emergency rule would apply to every U.S. private business that employs 100 workers or more -- from grocery clerks to meatpacking plant employees -- impacting some 80 million Americans.
It would be the first time Washington has set a federal standard that regards a respiratory virus as an occupational hazard outside of the health care sector, essentially putting COVID in the same category as other workplace safety concerns as asbestos and dangerous machinery.
Case rates are falling in the South, according to federal data.
In Florida, which was reporting high transmission in every county during the summer, is now only reporting high transmission in two of its 67 counties. Cases in Louisiana, Georgia, Texas and Mississippi are also improving.
Although new fatalities are down by approximately 36.4% since mid-September, when about 1,800 deaths were reported daily, the death toll still remains high, with nearly 1,200 deaths reported each day.
Walgreens said will begin administering Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11 beginning Saturday, Nov. 6.
Ahead of the first vaccine shipments scheduled to arrive, parents or legal guardians can schedule appointments starting today. Appointments will be available beginning Saturday and can be made at Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine, through the Walgreens app or by calling 1-800-Walgreens.
NCDHHS announced that children ages 5 to 11 can now receive a COVID-19 vaccine in North Carolina.
"Children are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus just like everyone else," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "The authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine provides a safe, tested way to protect them from serious illness and provide healthier, happier experiences in and outside of the classroom."
WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Masks will still be required inside all Wake County Public School System buildings. The school board extended the district's mask mandate Tuesday night.
However, the school board did make one change to the mandate: masks are now optional for athletics, band and other outdoor activities.
Duke University is relaxing its mask requirements outdoors. People on campus no longer need to wear masks outside in group settings, including at athletic events.
Duke still encourages all attendees to bring a mask, in case social distancing is impossible and in case you have to go inside at any point. Because masks are still required inside at all times.
Meanwhile, Durham Public Schools partnered with the state health department to host a virtual town hall Tuesday night.
At the town hall, local pediatricians answered questions about the COVID-19 vaccine for children.
"It's critical we educate and encourage our community to get students vaccinated from this awful virus," DPS Superintendent Dr. Pascal Mubenga said.
The Associated Press contributed.