Wake County reduces COVID-19 testing hours at 5 locations

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Here's the latest news and information on COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines.
6:50 p.m.
ABC11 speaks with health expert Dr. Betsy Tilson about rising COVID-19 case numbers and if we are seeing the peak of the Omicron Surge.

"Looking at trends from other states, other countries, and some early indication in our key trends, we may be nearing the peak of that (Omicron)", Tilson said.

A new record was set today in cases of COVID-19. The number of people in the hospital across NC has gone up by 35 people bringing the total to 5,090. The state reported a total of 20,286 new cases Wednesday.

9:05 a.m.
Even as the omicron COVID-19 variant continues to sweep the globe, scientists are now monitoring a new mutation of omicron, dubbed BA.2.

The World Health Organization maintains that BA.2 is not a "variant of concern," meaning there is no current evidence to suggest this new subvariant will worsen COVID-19 transmission, illness severity, or efficacy of vaccines and public health efforts like masking and social distancing.

BA.2 numbers around the world are rising, with at least 40 countries reporting cases to a global variant tracking database, but the subvariant has spread rapidly in Denmark and the UK, with almost half of recent cases in Denmark attributed to BA.2.

Read more

8:50 a.m.
Wake County is reducing the hours of its five testing locations from 12 hours to 8 hours per day starting today.

The new hours will be from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

The hours reduction only affects the five testing locations operated by Wake County Public Health, and the county said it can make that reduction due to the increasing testing capacity of state operated drive-thru testing locations, local community driven testing capabilities and the expansion of at-home testing.

Wake County Public Health will still be able to schedule more than 8,000 daily appointments, which totals around 50,000 tests per week.

WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES

Another COVID-19 testing options is opening in Wake county.

The newest testing center will be located at Apex Community Park on Laura Duncan Road. It'll be open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. - 4 p.m.

That will be the 11th site offering drive-through testing in Wake County, and it's the second new site to open this week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports just 40 percent of Americans have received their COVID-19 booster dose--which is now considered necessary for proper protection against the omicron variant.

The CDC also said the number of booster doses given out every day has started to decline. Under 500,000 people are getting their boosters every day now, down from more than 1 million in early December.

TUESDAY
5 p.m.

Hospitals across the Triangle are filling up with COVID-19 patients, but the latest statewide data shows there is a glimmer of hope.

The analysis shows that cases have dropped to the lowest point in three weeks. There's been a 59% decrease since last Tuesday.

"It's a really positive sign to see case counts dropping," said WakeMed Chief Medical Officer Dr. Chris DeRienzo.

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Hospitals across the Triangle are filling up with COVID patients, but the latest statewide data shows there is a glimmer of hope.



Statewide, however, more people are being admitted into hospitals. More than 5,000 North Carolinians are at facilities right now receiving care -- a record high.

"We have continued to set new records through Omicron. We set records of folks we're seeing in our emergency rooms earlier this month. We set records for number of COVID hospitalizations," said DeRienzo. "The community's patience with healthcare workers -- it's been a very long two years, and we are as ready to get through this wave and get to whatever, what the next step looks like, as everybody else is."

WakeMed is caring for hundreds of COVID-19 patients across three hospitals.

"We are hopeful that over the course of this week we're going to reaching our plateau," said DeRienzo.

The record is being hit as a sub-variant of Omicron is starting to circulate.

DeRienzo says that sub-variant is gaining traction in Denmark and some cases are popping up in the United States.

"I think the core answer right now is Omicron is by no means the last variant that we're going to see and much like every other variant, variants come and variants go," he said. "Omicron spread remarkably fast and so it became the dominant variant here in the U.S. really rapidly and clearly is the dominant variant here in North Carolina. It won't be the last one that we see."

-- Reporting by ABC11's Elaina Athans

12:30 p.m.
For the first time ever, North Carolina has more than 5,000 people in the hospital with COVID-19.

NC Department of Health and Human Services reported new metrics Tuesday. They showed 5,055 people in hospitals across the state with COVID-19.

That comes as new cases reached a three-week low, with 13,017 reported. That's a 59% decrease since last Tuesday.

In addition, the percent of tests coming back positive dropped slightly to 36.4%. That's still higher than the last few weeks and significantly higher than the state's goal of 5%.

Click here to look at the numbers yourself.

7:25 a.m.
Pfizer has begun a study comparing its original COVID-19 vaccine with doses specially tweaked to match the hugely contagious omicron variant.

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech announced the study on Tuesday.

COVID-19 vaccine makers have been updating their shots to better match omicron in case global health authorities decide the change is needed.

While omicron is more likely than previous variants to cause infection even in people who've been vaccinated, it's not yet clear that a change to the vaccine recipe is needed.

6:40 a.m.
A new study adds to the growing evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for both pregnant women and women hoping to become pregnant.

The study, which looked at more than 2,000 couples in the United States and Canada, found "no adverse association" between getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and fertility, for both men and women.
On the other hand, men who contract COVID-19 may experience a temporary reduction in their fertility. Couples who had a male partner test positive for COVID-19 within 60 days of their partner's menstrual cycle were 18% less likely to conceive in that cycle, according to the study, published on Jan. 20 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

TUESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Wake County Public Health Department added two new locations where you can pick up free N95 masks.

The two new locations are the Human Services Center in Raleigh and the Western Health Center in Cary.

The free masks are also being distributed at testing sites and vaccination clinics for people with appointments there.

When picking up a mask, you will be limited to one mask per household member.

Wake County also distributed more than 40,000 N95 masks to community organizations such as churches.

N95 masks are certified to offer more protection against COVID-19 and other illnesses than other face coverings.

The COVID-19 testing site at PNC Arena will close at noon today due to the Carolina Hurricanes hockey game scheduled for tonight.

Cape Fear Valley Health closed its drive-through testing site at Pavilion North this week due to a shortage of testing supplies. The site has been testing 200-300 people per day for the past several weeks.
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