NC cases soar, hospitalizations set another record

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

2:34 p.m.
The Durham County Department of Public Health and Optum Serve partners will open two new free COVID-19 testing locations in Durham County.

Beginning Saturday at 1 p.m., COVID-19 testing will be available at Durham County Memorial Stadium, 750 Stadium Drive. Beginning Tuesday at 1 p.m., testing will be available at Wheels Fun Park, at 715 N. Hoover Road.

Both sites will be available for drive-through testing every day for all people ages 1 and older. After opening at 1 p.m. on its first day of operation, testing at Durham County Memorial Stadium will be available from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.., and testing at Wheels Fun Park will be available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Registration is encouraged but not required. You can register here.

Testing at both sites will be free, and no insurance or ID will be required. These sites will offer PCR (non-rapid) testing only.

"We are thrilled to be able to work with our partners at Optum to help provide more testing here in Durham," said Durham County Public Health Director Rod Jenkins. "As testing demand has surged and become more important than ever, Optum has been an excellent partner in running Durham's testing sites at El Centro Hispano and 414 E. Main Street, and we know we will be able to continue providing a smooth and convenient testing experience for our community members. We encourage everyone not to hesitate to get tested if needed. Please utilize these new sites to get tested and help protect yourselves and others."

1:01 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 1,326 new cases since Jan. 6 for a total of 10,944 positive COVID-19 cases since March 2020.

Four additional deaths have been added for a total of 150. That's 1.42% of total cases.

12:36 p.m.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has updated the COVID-19 vaccination dashboard to better show how many people in North Carolina are up to date with current COVID-19 vaccination recommendations.

NCDHHS has added state-level and county metrics on people who are vaccinated with at least one booster/additional dose. The "Fully Vaccinated" metric is now "Vaccinated with Two Doses or One Dose J&J."

The dashboard shows the percent of people who have: received at least one or two doses of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccination series (Pfizer and Moderna); one dose of a one-dose series (Johnson & Johnson); and, now, vaccinated individuals who have received at least one booster/additional dose.

The booster/additional dose data will be shown by population (5+, 12+, 18+ and 65+) to reflect the percent of the vaccinated population who is eligible and has received at least one additional/booster dose. The county map on the "Summary Data" tab now allows users to view county-level data on total booster/additional doses administered.

These additional data will help NCDHHS provide better transparency for vaccinations and additional and booster doses administered across the state, the agency said.

North Carolinians can go to MySpot.nc.gov to find a vaccine location near them. The North Carolina Vaccine Help Center at (888) 675-4567 can also help residents make an appointment. It is open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on weekends.

12:18 p.m.
NCDHHS reports 44,833 new cases, a dramatic jump from the previous day's 25,445 cases. The state clarified that the number was unusually high because more than 10,000 cases had not been previously been counted.

The state has 4,275 patients hospitalized, breaking the record set the previous day of 4,098.

A total of 87 new deaths were added, for a total of 19, 850 statewide since the start of the pandemic.

The daily percent positive fell to 30.1%, a slight decline from 30.9% the previous day.

NCDHHS said 70% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.

9:34 a.m.
Wake County Public Health has confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 at Foundation Senior Living, a long-term care facility located at 1437 Aversboro Road in Garner.

This is the facility's first outbreak. 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.

THURSDAY MORNING HEADLINES

Several Triangle school bus routes are feeling the pinch of COVID-19 protocols and the ongoing bus driver shortage.

Chapel-Hill Carrboro City Schools is just one of several school districts in the area struggling to fill bus routes. Six buses are without a driver Thursday morning, straining several routes and jeopardizing school attendance for some students. A district spokesperson said about a dozen routes do not have a permanent driver or are impacted by COVID-19 protocols, and the district has exhausted its list of available substitute drivers and qualified staff.

Those families who don't have transportation can call 919-942-5045 for assistance. Anyone who calls that line will have a bus sent to pick them up as soon as possible, and they will not be marked late to school today.

To try and help lessen the shortage, Gov. Roy Cooper is announcing a new directive to try and fix staffing shortages in schools.

That directive will allow state employees to be able to use their 24-hours of paid volunteer time to work as substitutes. That would allow them to get paid double to fill in as bus drivers or help in other areas needed at school.

This comes as COVID-19 continues to surge across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts 22,000 more Americans could die from the virus in the next two weeks.

WEDNESDAY
7:45 p.m.
Because of COVID-19 protocols and an ongoing bus driver shortage, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools said three bus routes will not have a driver on Thursday morning.

  • Bus 88: Glenwood Elementary, Culbreth Middle, Carrboro High
  • Bus 103: Carrboro Elementary, McDougle Middle, Carrboro High
  • Bus 129: Glenwood Elementary, Chapel Hill High School


Families of students who ride those buses may need to make alternate arrangements for their students to get to school on Thursday morning.

Families can contact the Transportation office at (919) 942-5045 beginning at 6:30 a.m. and the school system will arrange to have a bus pick up their student as soon as one can be made available. The student will not be considered "tardy" as a result of this.

5 p.m.
Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, made the reporting of rapid antigen test results mandatory Wednesday as it experienced its deadliest day of the pandemic with 21 deaths.

State Premier Dominic Perrottet said residents who failed to register a positive rapid antigen test would face a fine of up to 1,000 Australian dollars (US$721) starting next week.

Perrottet said the registration process was simple and would help health officials provide more support to people with underlying health conditions.

The 21 deaths reported in New South Wales on Wednesday topped the previous record of 18 set on Monday. The state saw 34,759 new COVID-19 cases and 2,242 hospitalizations, including 175 patients in intensive care.

However, New South Wales also reported that for the first time, patients who are fully vaccinated make up by far the majority of hospitalizations.

The data shows that as of Jan. 9, people who are double vaccinated make up 68.9% of hospitalizations while unvaccinated patients make up just 28.8%.

Vaccinated people also made up the majority of ICU patients (50.3%).

However, the vast majority of the population is vaccinated. Among those 12 and older, 92.5% are double vaccinated and officials say unvaccinated people still have a much higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

4:45 p.m.
Wake County Public Health has confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 at two facilities.

The first is at Brookdale of Wake Forest, at 611 Brooks St., Wake Forest. This is the facility's fourth outbreak. Previous outbreaks occurred in October 2021, January 2021 and May 2020.

The second is at Tower Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 3609 Bond St., Raleigh. This is the facility's fourth outbreak. Previous outbreaks occurred in August 2021, March 2021 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.

1:32 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced plans to help combat staff shortages in K-12 school districts across the state during the current surge of COVID-19 cases. The policy will allow state employees to use volunteer days with supervisor approval to work in North Carolina public schools as substitute teachers, bus drivers and cafeteria staff.

"It is critical that we keep children learning in the classroom safely," said Cooper. "This policy will encourage state employees to lend a helping hand to our students at a time of severe staffing challenges for our public schools."

For much of the 2021-22 school year, many school districts have experienced a greater need for substitute teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria staff and other support personnel who can fill in for employees who need to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19, the governor's office said.

"State employees always step up to help our state in challenging times and this policy gives our talented employees yet another way to serve their communities," said Barbara Gibson, State Human Resources Director.

Under the updated policy, state employees are eligible to use community service leave for time spent training to be a substitute teacher, substitute teacher's assistant, or other substitute staff at a school or school district. State employees are also eligible to use community service leave for other volunteer activities, regardless of compensation.

"We appreciate Governor Cooper's willingness to move quickly to address the current staffing crisis caused by the omicron variant," Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras said. "This is one more tool we can use to keep our classrooms and schools open for our students."

The policy will be effective starting today and end Feb. 15.

1:23 p.m.
North Carolina reported 25,445 new cases for a total of 1,930,710 since the start of the pandemic.

A week ago, there were 20,770 cases added, and two weeks ago, the number was 9,377 cases.

The daily percent positive is 30.9%. A week ago it was 31.8%. It was just 10.2% this time last year.

There are 107 new hospitalizations, bringing the total to a record-high 4,098. A week ago, the number was 3,099.

Fifty-seven new deaths were reported for a total of 19, 763 statewide since the start of the pandemic.

11:34 a.m.
Scientists are seeing signals that COVID-19s alarming omicron wave may have peaked in Britain and is about to do the same in the U.S., at which point cases may start dropping off dramatically.

The reason: The variant has proved so wildly contagious that it may already be running out of people to infect, just a month and a half after it was first detected in South Africa.

Read more here.

11:20 a.m.
The CDC says it plans to update its mask guidance to "best reflect the multiple options available to people and the different levels of protection they provide."

The CDC did not say when its guidance will be updated. In the meantime, the CDC said in a statement, "any mask is better than no mask, and we encourage Americans to wear a well-fitting mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19." Click here for more.

WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Ten new mass COVID-19 testing sites open in North Carolina today, including one at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.

Demand continues to rise for testing as cases surge throughout North Carolina and across the country.

The new location at WakeMed Soccer Park will provide drive-through testing from Monday-Friday 7 a.m. - 4 p.m. The location will remain open at least through the end of January.

The location provides PCR testing and will get results back to you within 24-48 hours.

Appointments are not required, but organizers say you do need to pre-register in order to get tested.

This is all part of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' plan to combat the surge of cases. The department has also ordered 700,000 professional and at-home rapid tests.

Meanwhile, the federal government is sending 10 million additional COVID-19 tests to schools every month. The government is also working to figure out how to best use testing sites to help schools across the country remain open.

Locally, Wake County Public School System said individual schools can switch to remote learning if 20 percent or more of a school's staff is absent. However, the district wants principals to first consult with WCPSS administrators to try and figure out another option.
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