To meet high demand, Wake County is doubling the number of testing appointments beginning Thursday

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

8:39 p.m.
To help meet rapidly increasing community needs, Wake County Public Health is doubling the number of daily COVID-19 testing appointments starting Thursday, bringing the total number of slots to roughly 13,000 daily across all five drive-thru testing sites.

This new capacity is in place for Thursday, meaning nearly 7,000 new appointments are now available for Thursday.

The public can immediately begin booking those appointments online at WakeGov.com/vaccine. All sites are open Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and will re-open Monday, after the Christmas holiday.

Test results from these Wake County Public Health sites continue to come back in fewer than 12 hours and require no cost, no ID and no insurance.

Joining in the effort to address the recent COVID-19 surge in Wake County, the NC Department of Health and Human Services is also opening a drive-through testing site Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Word of God Fellowship Church, 3000 Rock Quarry Road. right off I-40 in southeast Raleigh. There are no out-of-pocket costs for testing at this site. Registration is required, and insurance information, if available, should be completed in advance. Test results at this location should be returned within 12-36 hours.

You can also request a free at-home testing kit. It will be shipped to you overnight via FedEx.

2:50 p.m
Texas A&M will not participate in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl because of COVID-19 issues and season-ending injuries within the program, leaving Wake Forest without an opponent as officials try to find a replacement team, it was announcedWednesday.

The game is scheduled for Dec. 31 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Wake Forest still wants to play, but the No. 17 Demon Deacons (10-3) would need another team to be freed up from a bowl game if another team were to drop out.

The Gator Bowl said it was "aggressively" working with the NCAA to find a replacement team over the next few days. Wake Forest said it also is working in collaboration with the Gator Bowl and the ACC to help find an opponent.

Illinois (5-7), which was officially eliminated from bowl contention once all eligible teams were selected on Dec. 5, is open to the possibility of playing in a bowl game, sources told ESPN. Marshall, which lost to Louisiana last week in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, also is interested in being a replacement opponent, sources told ESPN.

"Waiting by the phone.... #ILL #famILLy," Illinois coach Bret Bielema posted on Twitter on Wednesday.

Tweeted Marshall coach Charles Huff: "Someone said one more game???...

2:50 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 66 new cases since Dec. 16 of COVID-19 for a total of 8,227 total positive COVID-19 cases since March 2020.

One additional death has been added for a countywide total of 146.

The daily percent positive is 6.5%, an increase from the previous week's 5%.

2:41 p.m.
The Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts in Greensboro has announced updates to its health and safety protocols effective Dec. 28, which is the opening night of the touring Broadway production of "Come From Away".

  • Face coverings are required inside the Tobee & Leonard Kaplan Theater.
  • Food and beverage items are not permitted in the seating area.


Both of these policies will be in effect for all events until further notice. As previously announced, select Tanger Center events also require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for admission.

2:40 p.m.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has announced new spring testing requirements.

The university described the extra steps it is taking for the spring semester.

1. Prior-to-arrival testing will be required for unvaccinated students.
2. Prior-to-arrival testing will be required for all students living in residence halls, regardless of their vaccination status.
3. Prior-to-arrival testing will also be strongly recommended for all undergraduate and graduate students living in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, regardless of their vaccination status.
This test will need to be completed in the window of 72 hours before arrival on campus. If you are in one of these groups, this means you will need to get a PCR test from a health care provider before returning to campus. It is important to know that some providers can take 2-3 days to get results so please plan ahead and limit your interactions after testing. For students who cannot locate a free community testing center and have to pay for a COVID-19 test, the University will reimburse testing costs for their prior-to-arrival testing up to $65 with a receipt. Please save the receipt, and we will provide more information on that process in the coming days.

Once a result is received, students will need to upload the results to the Student Requirements Dashboard on Connect Carolina. If you receive a positive result, do not return to campus and potentially put others at risk. Please isolate in your current location and notify your instructors if you will miss classes. Instructors should be as flexible as possible during these initial two weeks of the semester as we anticipate some students will be delayed in their return. The steps of the return process are outlined on the Carolina Together website as well.

Any changes to spring 2022 operations will be announced no later than Jan. 3.

COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters are available on a walk-in basis at Campus Health Pharmacy and Student Stores Pharmacy for students, faculty and staff. No appointment is necessary. Bring your insurance card, and if receiving a COVID-19 booster, your COVID-19 vaccination card. While the clinics will be closed for the holidays Dec. 24-Jan. 2, they are open through Dec. 23 and open again for regular hours on Jan. 3. The regular hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. at both pharmacies.

2:21 p.m.
Wake County Public Health has confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 at the following facilities:
  • Waltonwood Lake Boone Assisted Living and Memory Care Facility at 3550 Horton St. in Raleigh. This is the facility's third outbreak. The previous outbreaks occurred in February 2021 and November 2020.
  • Wake County Detention Center at 3301 Hammond Rd. in Raleigh. This is the facility's fourth outbreak. The previous outbreaks occurred in August 2021, July 2021 and August 2020.
  • Wake County Public Safety Center at 330 S Salisbury St. in Raleigh. This is the facility's second outbreak. The previous outbreak occurred in December 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.

12:40 p.m.
Duke University announced it would be moving all classes off campus to start the spring semester.

A message sent Wednesday to all students, faculty and staff cited "rapid spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19" as the reason why classes would be held virtually in January.

For now, all classes from Jan. 5-8 will be virtual. In-person instruction for most classes is expected to resume Jan. 10, but it's possible that some classes will remain remote.

12:34 p.m.
The Atlantic Coast Conference announced Wednesday that it has modified its 2021-22 COVID-19 rescheduling policy.

If possible, games that cannot be played as scheduled will be rescheduled. If a game cannot be played and cannot be rescheduled, it will be considered a no contest.

For men's and women's basketball, a team must have a roster minimum of seven game-available student-athletes and one countable coach to play a game. If a team does not have the requisite number of participants and elects not to play, the game shall be a no contest. If a team has the requisite number of participants and does not participate, the game will be declared a forfeit. This policy shall be retroactive to any results beginning with the 2021 ACC winter sports schedule.

11:19 a.m.
The Wake County Health Department said it has more than 1,000 appointments available before Christmas Eve, some as soon as today at some locations.

"We added an additional 2,000 appointments per day this week to accommodate holiday and travel testing, bringing the total available per day to 7,000," a spokesperson said.

People can make appointments online at wakegov.com/testing.

Testing sites are closed Friday and Saturday for Christmas and also closed on Sundays.

8:40 a.m.
President Joe Biden plans to announce on Tuesday that his administration will distribute 500 million free at-home rapid tests to Americans beginning in January to combat the surging omicron variant.

Americans will be able to request the tests through a website that will launch next month and they will be delivered by mail.

Rapid at-home tests are also known as antigen tests. They look for antigens, or proteins from the coronavirus.

This is different from polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which are considered the "gold standard" when it comes to COVID-19 testing. They look for genetic material from the virus.

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WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES

The holiday travel rush is underway at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Wednesday is expected to be one of the busiest travel days of the week at RDU. Over the two-week end of the year holiday time, RDU expects to see around 500,000 people travel through the airport--with the busiest single day being Thursday.

Passengers are encouraged to use the online parking reservation system at least 24-hours before their arrival.

Meanwhile, Wake County's website is back up and running today after being down for several hours Tuesday.

Officials said a system update caused the outage. Still, thousands of people were able to use a workaround to schedule COVID-19 testing and vaccine appointments.

To book appointments, you can access the booking sites for testing here and vaccinations and boosters here.

Experts suggest everyone gathering with large groups this holiday season to get tested for COVID-19 before and after the get-together.

Anyone outside of Wake County can check this website to find a free COVID-19 testing center near you.

At-home testing kits are also for sale at pharmacies across the country. However, those testing kits have been flying off the shelves. Many pharmacies have even put limits on the number of testing kits that can be purchased.

TUESDAY
5:25 p.m.
Wake County said that as of 5:15 p.m., the WakeGov.com website is back up and running.

The county said a software update caused a temporary outage about 9:30 a.m.

"Shortly after the site went down, we were able to share direct links to the popular COVID-19 pages so the public could immediately continue to schedule COVID-19 testing and vaccine appointments. Despite the website issues, 6,475 testing appointments were made or modified as of 2:30 p.m. today," a spokesperson said.

She added that 763 people were able to make or modify vaccine appointments as of 2:30 p.m. despite the temporary outage

The appointments scheduler can be accessed 24 hours a day at WakeGov.com/testing - the site also lists other no-costing testing sites in Wake County as well as a link to order free at-home testing kits that can be overnighted to your home. Please make your testing plans ahead of time if you are traveling or gathering over the holidays. Testing appointments can be made seven days in advance.

"Testing and vaccinations were able to continue today without major interruption and results of testing will continue to be turned around in less than 12 hours," the spokesperson said. "There is still availability to schedule both vaccine and testing appointments tomorrow prior to the holiday break.

3:18 p.m.
Wake County Public Health has confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 at the following facilities:

Wake Assisted Living Memory Care at 2800 Kidd Road in Raleigh. This is the facility's third outbreak. The previous outbreaks occurred in July 2020 and August 2021.

UNC Rex Rehabilitation Center at 4210 Lake Boone Trail in Raleigh. This is the facility's fifth outbreak. The previous outbreaks occurred in June 2020, November 2020, May 2021 and September 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.

2:02 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting 2,894 new cases of COVID-19.

This brings the total cases to 1,602,489

One week ago, there were 1,932 cases added. However, this time last year, 4,,470 were reported.

The daily percent positive has climbed to 10.3%. It's the first time hitting above 10% in three months, since Sept. 26.

There are 1,682 residents hospitalized and 16 new deaths were reported for a total of 19,183.

In all, 73% of the adult population is at least partially vaccinated and 69% of adults are fully vaccinated.

11:15 a.m.
People trying to make an appointment for drive-thru COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in Wake County hit a roadblock when the county's main website crashed.

To book appointments, you can still access the booking sites for testing here and vaccinations and boosters here.

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People trying to make an appointment for drive-thru COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in Wake County hit a roadblock when the county's main website crashed.



The outage happened during routine updates to the site, county staff said.

The snag happened during a critical window of time as health officials urge people to get tested and vaccinated or boosted before traveling and gathering for the Christmas holiday.

Across all five of Wake County's testing locations, more than 8,000 appointments were still available through the rest of the week leading up to Christmas.
It seems people are heeding the warning to add that extra layer of protection with a booster dose as well.

On Tuesday, Wake County had 1,180 vaccine appointments scheduled, 860 -- or 73% of which -- were for booster shots.

Compare that to one week ago when there were 655 vaccine appointments booked with 285 -- or nearly 44% of which -- were booster appointments.

-- Reporting by ABC11's Andrea Blanford

10:20 a.m.
An ABC News analysis of federal and state data found that since July, there has been an acceleration of the number of breakthrough coronavirus cases, thus, of individuals who test positive after being fully vaccinated.

CDC data, sourced from more than two dozen states, shows that between April and November, a total of 1.8 million breakthrough cases and more than 16,700 breakthrough deaths were recorded. Comparatively, in those select states, at least 5.8 million unvaccinated Americans had tested positive, and just under 64,000 unvaccinated Americans had died, during the same time period.

State-level data obtained by ABC News from 41 states -- which extends to December -- echoes findings from federal data that even though the acceleration trend in breakthrough infections has continued over the last two months, the percent of fully vaccinated Americans who have experienced a breakthrough case remains low.

Data shows that between January and December, about 1.37% of those fully vaccinated have experienced a breakthrough infection, 0.05% of those fully vaccinated have had to be hospitalized, 0.01% of those fully vaccinated have died of COVID-19.

Breakthrough infections, captured by the available data, have been predominantly still associated with the Delta variant. However, as concerns grow over the potential impact of the Omicron variant, preliminary data suggests the new variant may be more likely to cause infections among vaccinated people.
Copyright © 2022 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.