RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Here's the latest news and information on COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines.
Wake County ABC stores will be adjusting their hours.
Wake County ABC said it has experienced "an uptick in COVID cases" among staffers.
They're trying to move staffers around to keep stores open. Because of that, stores hours have changed to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday. These hours will remain in effect until at least the end of January.
Post-vaccination cases made up 28% of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina the week ending Dec. 25, NCDHHS data shows.
The percent of post-vaccination cases increased for the week ending on Christmas compared to the previous week.
The rate was at 24% the previous few weeks.
Vaccinated people now make up 20% of hospitalizations and 12% of ICU patients. This is also an increase from previous metrics when they made up 16% of hospitalizations.
The Omicron variant was first detected in North Carolina the week ending Dec. 11. For the week ending Dec. 25, which is the most recent data available, Omicron represented 40% of sequenced viruses.
Halifax County Public Health System is partnering with area healthcare agencies to provide COVID-19 testing to residents. All COVID-19 testing is by appointment only after discussing your care with your primary care physician. Please contact your primary care physician's office should you become symptomatic or if you have been around someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Contact your provider to be tested at any of the following sites. Should you not have a provider contact one of these sites listed here to select a provider for primary care and for COVID 19 testing.
Existing Testing Sites in Halifax County:
Roanoke Rapids locations:
- Halifax Works/Urgent Care (252)-535-8463
- Medfirst (252)-308-0686
- Vidant Family Medicine (252)-537-9176
- Vidant North Hospital (no number provided)
- CVS (252)-537-7011
- Fast Med Urgent Care (252)-537-5600
All Rural Health Group locations have COVID-19 testing available for those who are symptomatic or who have been directly exposed to someone who has tested positive.
- Rural Health Group at Enfield (Enfield) (252)-445-2332
- Rural Health Group at Twin County (Hollister) (252)-586-5151
- Rural Health Group at Lake Gaston (Littleton) (252)-586-5411
- Rural Health Group at Roanoke Rapids (Hwy 125, Roanoke Rapids) (252)-536-5000
- Rural Health Group at Halifax Medical Specialists (Roanoke Rapids) (252)-537-0134
- Rural Health Group at HRMC (Vidant North) (Roanoke Rapids) (252)-308-9699
- Rural Health Group at Scotland Neck (Scotland Neck) (252)-826-3143
Cape Fear Valley Health System's facilities will further restrict visitation starting Friday.
Beginning that day, patients who have not tested positive for COVID-19 will be allowed one visitor per day, between the hours of noon and 8 p.m. COVID-19 patients will be allowed one visitor per day, for one hour between 4 to 8 p.m.
In the Emergency Department, visitors will not be allowed in the waiting room, but one visitor will be allowed once the patient has been given a room. Visitors to patients in the Emergency Department will not be allowed to leave and return.
"We are watching the trend of the inpatient COVID-19 cases at Cape Fear Valley as well as tracking the spread in the community on an ongoing basis and adjusting visitation policies accordingly," said Chief Operating Officer Daniel Weatherly. "The hospital will provide visitors with a mask that must be worn during their entire visit. We also encourage everyone in the community to get vaccinated, and get their booster shot when it's due, to help our healthcare heroes as we fight this pandemic into its third year."
Because of the high vulnerability of Long-Term Acute Care patients at Highsmith-Rainey Specialty Hospital, all visitors to those patients must be able to show proof of vaccination.
The following exceptions will be made to this visitation policy:
- Labor & Delivery: Laboring mothers may have one support person/coach for the duration of their stay. If the support person/coach leaves the premises for any reason, he or she will not be allowed back into the building.
- Family Centered Care Unit: May have one visitor/support person during their entire stay who must stay in the patient's room at all times. If the person leaves the premises for any reason, he or she will not be allowed back into the building.
- Pediatric patients: A legal minor may have one parent or guardian with them who must stay in the patient's room at all times. One parent/guardian may change out with another parent/guardian between noon and 8 p.m.
- Patients who need a healthcare decision-maker or require communication assistance may have one Care Companion with them. The Care Companion may be changed one time each day between noon and 8 p.m.
- Cancer Center patients who are having a consultation visit may have two people with them.
- End of Life patients may have one hour of visitation per day, during which time they may have one visitor bedside at a time, with a maximum of four visitors each day. In certain circumstances, the nursing supervisor may allow for compassionate exceptions to this rule for End of Life patients.
Even in the above situations, visitors with symptoms of a fever or respiratory illness symptoms, including cough or shortness of breath, should remain home. Visitors and patients in all Cape Fear Valley Health facilities and clinics are required to properly wear a mask provided by the health system at all times.
Cloth masks and neck gaiters are not permitted. This mask policy will be strictly enforced.
All visitors will be screened with a brief verbal questionnaire and a temperature scan before being allowed entry. Those who refuse to answer the questions or who have a temperature above 100.3 Fahrenheit will be denied entry.
North Carolina reported 24,292 new cases -- the highest daily increase of the pandemic -- for a total of 1,787,906 since the start of the pandemic -- nearly two years ago.
Last year at this time, there were just 6,952 new cases. A week ago the number was 18,571 cases added.
Cases are up 30.8% since last Thursday.
The daily percent positive is 30.1% as the highly transmissible Omicron variant spreads quickly through communities.
The number is slightly lower than the previous day but still is the second day above 30%.
A total of 3,293 hospitalizations were reported, 194 more than the previous day.
There are 635 people in ICU (20% of total patients).
The state reported 44 new deaths for a total of 19,586 since the start of the pandemic.
Following approvals and guidance from state and federal agencies, Wake County Public Health will be expanding its COVID-19 vaccine offerings to administer single-shot boosters of Pfizer-BioNTech to everyone ages 12 and older.
Parents can begin scheduling this evening for appointments available as early as Friday and Saturday at all five Wake County Public Health vaccine clinics.
"These new recommendations encourage every teen 12- to 17-years-old get a boost of protection as COVID-19 cases surge within our community," said Wake County Associate Medical Director Dr. Nicole Mushonga. "As students are heading back to school after the holidays, we encourage all parents to keep them up to date with COVID-19 vaccine recommendations."
Wake County Public Health has confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 at the following facilities:
- Cardinal of North Hills, a senior living community, at 4030 Cardinal at North Hills St. in Raleigh. This is the facility's second outbreak. The previous outbreak occurred in November 2020.
- The Retreat at Cary, an assisted living facility, at 309 Tweed Circle in Cary. This is the facility's second outbreak. The previous outbreak occurred in January 2021.
- Zebulon Rehabilitation Center at 509 W. Gannon Ave. in Zebulon. This is the facility's first outbreak.
- Sunrise of Raleigh, an assisted living community, at 4801 Edwards Mill Road in Raleigh. This is the facility's second outbreak. The previous outbreak occurred in July 2020.
- Hillside Nursing and Rehab, an assisted living and skilled nursing facility, at 968 Wait Ave. in Wake Forest. This is the facility's fourth outbreak. The previous outbreaks occurred in August 2021, December 2020 and June 2020.
- Capital Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at 3000 Holston Lane in Raleigh. This is the facility's fourth outbreak. The previous outbreaks occurred in September 2021, April 2020 and June 2020.
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.
The American Medical Association, the nation's largest association of physicians, has criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new quarantine and isolation guidance for COVID-19, saying the recommendations "are risking further spread of the virus."
The CDC updated its guidelines on Dec. 27, saying asymptomatic people who test positive for COVID-19 should self-isolate for five days rather than 10.
"The American people should be able to count on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for timely, accurate, clear guidance to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities. Instead, the new recommendations on quarantine and isolation are not only confusing but are risking further spread of the virus," the American Medical Association's president, Dr. Gerald E. Harmon, said in a statement Wednesday night.
Harmon referenced data cited by the CDC in its rationale for shortening the isolation period, which estimates 31% of people remain infectious five days after a positive COVID-19 test, suggesting that data proves thousands of Americans could return to their lives while still infected.
"With hundreds of thousands of new cases daily and more than a million positive reported cases on January 3, tens of thousands -- potentially hundreds of thousands of people -- could return to work and school infectious if they follow the CDC's new guidance on ending isolation after five days without a negative test," Harmon said. "Physicians are concerned that these recommendations put our patients at risk and could further overwhelm our health care system."
Harmon said a negative COVID-19 test should be required for ending isolation after a positive test, as reentering society without knowing whether an individual is still positive ultimately risks further transmission of the virus.
Although test availability remains an issue nationwide, Harmon also called on the Biden administration to ramp up production and distribution of tests, adding that "a dearth of tests at the moment does not justify omitting a testing requirement to exit a now shortened isolation."
The Rev. William Barber said on social media that he has tested positive for COVID-19. Barber said his symptoms so far "are very mild."
The activist, who is vaccinated, said he will notify close contacts and isolate for five days.
Barber also encouraged people who have not done so to get vaccinated or receive a booster shot as soon as possible.
A steady stream of people continued to fill Wake County's COVID-19 testing sites.
One of those people, Jorge Olea, has had a frustrating few days.
"The first day, I remember I had gotten a cold," Olea told ABC11. "The next day, it was Christmas. And I wasn't feeling good. And I was like, man why am I feeling like this?"
Olea found out that he tested positive for COVID-19 and said he got it from a co-worker at a restaurant where he works.
"Right now, I'm feeling good," Olea said Wednesday.
On Wednesday afternoon, he was in line at a drive-up testing location at MLK and Rock Quarry Road, hoping for a better result.
"But at the same time, kind of nervous because what if I come out positive again?" he said. "I don't want to be in that situation again."
Meanwhile, in a White House COVID-19 media briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci cautioned Americans from referring to Omicron as "less severe," in an effort to get people to take it seriously.
Fauci cited hospital staffing shortages across the country.
Omicron symptoms have generally been much milder than COVID-19 caused by the Delta variant.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky spoke about at-home rapid tests.
"The FDA has authorized these rapid tests for early in the disease course, the first seven days," she said. "They've said that these tests are for qualitative purposes, not quantitative purposes, meaning we can't tell how transmissible you are based on a positive or a negative test and that negatives, you know, are often most helpful when we're using them serially multiple times in a row."
Walensky says all the pushback made it clear that people wanted to use the rapid tests for this exact purpose -- not to tell if you had COVID or not, but to tell if you were through with COVID or not.
Back in Raleigh, some people weighed on when the pandemic might transition to an endemic.
"I don't have a choice," Gerald Rich said with a laugh. "I don't have a choice at all."
Ceran DeCesaris of Raleigh also had thoughts on when the pandemic will run its course.
"I think it's 50% mindset, 50% just what it is," DeCesaris said. "Because the way we're seeing it, the way we're like visualizing it in our worlds. Or the way we're like scared of it or not scared of it, has a lot to do with it I believe."
Kristen Frandock, of Raleigh, said she decided to get tested even though she is "up-to-date" on her vaccines and booster.
"I feel like it's a requirement honestly," Frandock said. "If I've been around them, to keep everybody safe, the best thing to do is take precaution and get tested."
-- Reporting by ABC11's DeJuan Hoggard
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein encouraged North Carolinians to report price gouging related to the coronavirus pandemic to the North Carolina Department of Justice.
You can report potential price gouging by filing a complaint here or by calling (877) 5-NO-SCAM. The AG's office said it has anecdotally heard that there may be price gouging occurring on at-home COVID tests
"Even as people continue to get vaccinated, we are still very much in this pandemic," said Stein. "If you are shopping for COVID-19 tests or other pandemic-related goods and services in the coming weeks and see excessive prices, let my office know. I have already taken successful action against those who attempt to unlawfully take advantage of North Carolinians during this crisis, and I will not hesitate to in the future."
North Carolina's price gouging statute, which prohibits charging too much for goods and services during a crisis, is in effect today under Executive Order 245 and stays in effect until April 5.
Wake County Public Health has confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 at a dozen facilities:
- Springmoor Life Care Retirement Community, a continuing care retirement community at 1500 Sawmill Road, Raleigh. This is the facility's fourth outbreak. The past ones occurred in June 2020, August 2021 and September 2021.
- BellaRose Nursing and Rehab, 200 BellaRose Lake Way, Garner. This is the facility's fourth outbreak. The past ones occurred in June 2020, December 2020 and August 2021.
- Sunrise of Cary, an assisted living and memory care facility at 1206 W. Chatham St., Cary. This is the facility's second outbreak. The last one occurred in January 2021.
- Cadence Garner, an assisted living and memory care facility at 200 Minglewood Drive, Garner. This is the facility's second outbreak. The last one occurred in December 2020.
- The Covington, an assisted living and memory care facility at 510 Duraleigh Road, Raleigh. This is the facility's first outbreak.
- Tarabella Northridge, an assisted living and memory care facility at 421 Van Thomas Drive, Raleigh. This is the third outbreak for the facility, which was previously named Elmcroft of Northridge. The past outbreaks occurred in July 2020 and August 2021.
- Swiftcreek at the Templeton of Cary, an assisted living and memory care facility at 221 Brightmore Drive, Cary. This is the facility's first outbreak.
- The Oaks at Whitaker Glen-Mayview, a long-term care facility at 513 E. Whitaker Mill Road, Raleigh.
- Waltonwood Cary Parkway, an assisted living and memory care facility at 750 S.E. Cary Parkway, Cary. This is the facility's fourth outbreak. The past ones occurred in June 2020, November 2020 and October 2021.
- Sunnybrook Rehabilitation Center at 25 Sunnybrook Road, Raleigh. This is the facility's fourth outbreak. The past ones occurred in April 2020, January 2021 and April 2021.
- Brighton Gardens of Raleigh, an assisted living and memory care facility at 3101 Duraleigh Road, Raleigh. This is the facility's second outbreak. The last one occurred in October 2020.
- Cary Health and Rehabilitation Center, a skilled nursing facility at 6590 Tryon Rd. in Cary. This is the facility's 5th outbreak. Previous outbreaks were June, November and December 2021 and August 2021.
The county's Public Health team is reaching out to all long-term care facilities in Wake County to emphasize the proactive measures that need to be taken during this surge in Omicron cases to avoid outbreaks.
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.
Fayetteville State University is pushing back the start of the spring semester a week because of the surge of COVID-19 cases.
Chancellor Darrell Allison said in a letter sent to the Bronco community, "As we continue to monitor the cases in our county and throughout the state, we are planning to move towards a more aggressive plan that will help us properly execute re-entry testing and increase vaccinations among our population."
The start date is being moved from Jan. 12 to Jan. 19.
Sophomore Jaaylen Lewis was expecting a setback.
"It's like 2020 again," he said.
Lewis said the situation wasn't great going into the winter break.
"Everybody was getting sick. Last semester, everybody had to go in this little building back here -- the ones that were on quarantine. So I'm not surprised," said Lewis.
Other protocols are being implemented on campus.
There's temporary suspension on visiting residential halls, having fans at athletic games, using rental facilities or hosting large events, and indoor dining.
All facilities are offering food to go and ABC11 did see people walking out of the student center with containers.
One faculty member says all these steps are necessary as cases are surging with the Omicron variant.
"COVID has done a number for family, friends, everyone," said Fayetteville State faculty member Brian Thomas. "We just want to everybody to be safe, that's all it is."
University leaders said vaccinations are a big step in keeping everyone safe.
Shots and boosters are being offered on campus.
-- Reporting by ABC11's Elaina Athans
House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, announced the formation of the Joint Legislative Committee on Access to Healthcare and Medicaid Expansion.
The purpose of the Committee as identified in the 2021 State Budget is to consider various ways in which access to health care and health insurance can be improved for North Carolinians.
There are six Republicans and three Democrats on the committee.
"Members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Access to Healthcare and Medicaid Expansion will thoroughly investigate the healthcare needs in our state and explore all options to improve upon the state of healthcare in North Carolina," Moore said. "I have every confidence that the result of this committee's work will benefit all North Carolinians."
Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, is the co-chairman of the committee.
"Our committee will explore and seek solutions to critical healthcare issues with the goals of broadening access to quality health care for working people, lowering health insurance premiums for everyone, addressing the cost of uncompensated care especially for rural hospitals, and providing more affordable healthcare options to help small businesses retain employees," Lambeth said.
COVID-19 metrics continue to balloon in North Carolina.
In the last two weeks, 1,400 more patients have been hospitalized with the virus--an increase of more than 80%.
That comes as the state sets new record highs for the number of positive cases and daily percent positive rate. Wednesday's numbers show 20,770 newly reported cases with a 31.8% positivity rate.
Tuesday saw Gov. Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley warn that cases were surging and everybody needed to get vaccinated.
That's because vaccinated people who do catch COVID-19 have less severe symptoms and rarely need to be hospitalized for treatment.
Pediatric hospitalizations have also increased from 1% of all cases to 1.8% of all cases. These are children too young to be eligible to get vaccinated.
NC Central University announced its next three men's basketball home games will be postponed.
The games were set to be played against Mid-Atlantic Christian, Morgan State and Coppin State, but all will be played at a later date because of COVID-19 protocols for people within the Eagles program.
Rescheduled dates have not been announced at this time.
Raleigh-Durham International Airport reports 16 flights had to be canceled this morning and 16 had to be delayed.
Those cancellations and delays are part of the ongoing staffing issues the airlines are dealing with during the pandemic.
WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
With the COVID-19 pandemic surging once again, every day thousands of people are trying to get tested for the virus.
That high demand is causing long lines at testing sites across North Carolina. In Wake County, lines Tuesday at multiple testing sites snaked around buildings and down the road.
To help alleviate the backup, a new testing site is opening Wednesday at South Bridge Fellowship Church off Strickland Road.
This site, unlike many other Wake County locations, does not require an appointment. Testing hours are from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Meanwhile, the CDC is updating its isolation guidance for people infected with COVID-19. The agency now says people should get tested at the end of a 5-day isolation period. If that test is positive, they should isolate for another 5 days.
If the test is negative, they can leave isolation but be sure to wear a mask until at least day 10.
Speaking of masks, children in Wake County Public School System will need to continue masking up. The school board voted Tuesday night to continue its mask policy.
In addition, WCPSS leaders said there were no plans for the district to move to more virtual learning as COVID-19 cases surge.