RALEIGH, N.C. -- Here's the latest news and information on COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines.
The Houston Health Department says that more than half of people who died of COVID-19 in that city had diabetes.
Houston reported more than 3,600 COVID-19 deaths as of Nov. 1
Officials said nearly 52% had diabetes and 23% were obese.
Hypertension was the most common co-morbidity at 56%, followed by heart disease.
Houston health officials said the data clearly shows that people with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable to severe outcomes if they get COVID-19.
A federal judge on Tuesday blocked President Joe Biden's administration from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees of federal contractors, the latest in a string of victories for Republican-led states pushing back against Biden's pandemic policies.
U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker, in Augusta, Georgia, issued a stay to bar enforcement of the mandate nationwide.
The order came in response to a lawsuit from several contractors and seven states -- Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. It applies across the U.S. because one of those challenging the order is the trade group Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., whose members do business nationwide.
Baker found that the states are likely to succeed in their claim that Biden exceeded authorization from Congress when he issued the requirement in September.
"The Court acknowledges the tragic toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought throughout the nation and the globe," wrote the judge, an appointee of former President Donald Trump. "However, even in times of crisis this Court must preserve the rule of law and ensure that all branches of government act within the bounds of their constitutionally granted authorities."
A White House spokeswoman said the Justice Department would continue to defend the mandate.
"The reason that we proposed these requirements is that we know they work, and we are confident in our ability, legally, to make these happen across the country," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at Tuesday's briefing.
A federal judge in Kentucky also had issued a preliminary injunction against the mandate last week, but it applied only to contractors in three states that had sued together -- Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.
Biden issued an executive order Sept. 9 requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to comply with workplace safety guidelines developed by a federal task force. That task force subsequently issued guidelines that new, renewed or extended contracts include a clause requiring employees to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 18. That meant those receiving a two-dose vaccine must get their second shot by Jan. 4.
Limited exceptions were allowed for medical or religious reasons. The requirements would apply to millions of employees of federal contractors, which include defense companies and airlines.
"This is a big win in removing compliance hurdles for the construction industry, which is facing economic challenges, such as a workforce shortage of 430,000, rising materials prices and supply chain issues," Ben Brubeck, a vice president of the construction industry group said in a statement.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, said in a Twitter message that the ruling will provide relief to workers "who were in fear of being forced to choose between this vaccine and their livelihood."
Other Republican officials also praised the court ruling. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said the mandate was "just an outrageous overreach by the federal government."
With Tuesday's ruling, all three of Biden's broad vaccine mandates affecting the private sector have been put on hold by courts. Judges already issued a stay regarding one that applies to businesses with 100 or more employees and another for health care workers across the U.S.
Separately, Biden has imposed vaccine requirements for employees of the federal government and the military.
Robeson Community College will host a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Thursday. All vaccines will be available from the three manufacturers - Moderna, Pfizer, and J&J.
Individuals can receive their initial doses or get the booster shot. Get more information here.
North Carolina continues to see worsening signs from statewide COVID-19 metrics.
For the second time in two weeks, the percent positive rate has inched above 9%. The last time that happened was exactly one week ago when the rate was 9.4%.
The majority of cases continue to not require hospitalization, but the state did see its 11th straight day of increases in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations. A total of 1,376 people are fighting the virus under the watchful eyes of hospital staff.
The good news is the percentage of patients who need to be in the ICU or on a ventilator is decreasing. Now just 26% of COVID-19 patients are in the ICU and 15% are on a ventilator.
You can look at the state's metrics yourself at this link.
TUESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on COVID-19 testing and is advising people, even those who are vaccinated, to get a test before they head to an indoor gathering.
The agency said a rapid test ahead of a gathering is important if the gathering includes unvaccinated children and older people who are more vulnerable to COVID-19.
"Even if you don't have symptoms and have not been exposed to an individual with COVID-19, using a self-test before gathering indoors with others can give you information about the risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19," the CDC said in its guidance.
If you do test positive, you'll want to self isolate yourself at home for 10 days and wear a mask if you do have to come in contact with others.
Keep in mind, a negative test means the test did not detect the virus, but it doesn't completely rule out an infection. Repeating the test for the next couple of days, at least 24 hours apart, will increase your confidence that you're not infected.
Wake County Public Health has confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 at Universal Healthcare North Raleigh at 5201 Clarks Fork Drive.
This is the facility's fifth outbreak. The previous outbreaks occurred in July 2020, November 2020, March 2021 and August 2021. 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. Because of the possibility for the rapid spread of COVID-19 in long-term settings,
North Carolina reported an increase in cases compared to a week ago at this time.
The state reported 2,101 new cases. Last Monday, 1,725 cases were added. Though the numbers are trending upward the past couple of weeks, there were still three times more cases reported (6,438) this week in 2020.
The daily percent positive is 7.7%, an improvement from last week's 8.3%. This time last year it was at 9.8%
A total of 1,307 hospitalizations were reported, 105 more than Friday and up from a week ago (1,077). This time last year, however, 2,247 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 related issues.
A total of 35 new deaths were recorded, bringing the state's total to 18,860.
NCDHHS reports that 62% of the state's population is at least partially vaccinated and 73% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.
About 29% of people who are fully vaccinated have also received a booster shot.
As for the weekend, 8,568 new cases were identified. This is an increase from the previous weekend, which was Thursday-Sunday because of Thanksgiving when there were 8,172 new cases.
Citing the holiday season and rising COVID-19 cases, Wake County is increasing testing appointments by more than 50%.
The county is adding nearly 1,900 new slots per day, six days a week, to the testing calendar to prioritize symptomatic residents and people who've been exposed to a positive case, while still accommodating those who want to make sure they're virus-free before attending holiday gatherings.
"Since we started offering free COVID-19 testing in 2020, Wake County has diligently monitored the data and changed its testing structure and capacity based on need," said Chief Medical Officer Dr. José Cabañas. "This is no different. We see increased demand on the horizon, and we're taking the necessary steps to accommodate it."
The newly added appointments are available via the county's COVID-19 website. They bring the total number of slots offered per day to nearly 4,900. The county's testing sites are open Monday-Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with clients typically receiving their results in 12-24 hours or less.
You can also request a free at-home testing kit. It will be shipped to you overnight via FedEx. Your results will be available online usually within 1-2 days after your sample arrives at the lab.