RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Here's the latest news and information on COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines.
The Wayne County Board of Education voted 5-2 to masks optional for students, staff, and visitors at school beginning Wednesday, Nov. 3.
The vote only impacts mask wearing during the school day. Athletic rules specific to masks will be handled in accordance with NCHSAA and any local conference guidelines.
The federal CDC order still requires that masks be worn on school buses by students and the driver.
As deadlines loom for military and defense civilians to get mandated COVID-19 vaccines, senior leaders are wrestling with the fate of tens of thousands who flatly refuse the shots or are seeking exemptions, and how to make sure they are treated fairly and equally. It could be a career-ending decision, or could trigger transfers, travel restrictions and requirements to repay bonuses.
Exemption decisions will be made by unit commanders around the world, on what the Pentagon says will be a "case-by-case" basis. That raises a vexing issue for military leaders who are pushing a vaccine mandate seen as critical to maintaining a healthy force, but want to avoid a haphazard approach with those who refuse.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported just 1,096 new COVID-19 cases Monday. The percentage of positive tests rose slightly to 5% after dropping as low as 4.1% last week.
COVID-19 hopsitalizations continue to drop, with 1,211 people currently in the hospital across the state.
Since Friday, 54 more people have died from COVID-19, for a total of 18,104 people since March 2020.
The Federal Register will publish within days the Labor Department's rule requiring private businesses with 100 or more employees to vaccinate them or test them weekly, fulfilling an announcement President Joe Biden made in September.
The Office of Management and Budget completed its required review of the emergency rule on Monday.
"On November 1, the Office of Management and Budget completed its regulatory review of the emergency temporary standard. The Federal Register will publish the emergency temporary standard in the coming days," a Labor Department spokesman said. "The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been working expeditiously to develop an emergency temporary standard that covers employers with 100 or more employees, firm- or company-wide, and provides options for compliance."
The spokesman added, "Covered employers must develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, unless they adopt a policy requiring employees to choose either to get vaccinated or to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work. The ETS also requires employers to provide paid time to workers to get vaccinated and paid sick leave to recover from any side effects."
In September, Biden announced the Labor Department would draft an emergency rule compelling private companies with 100 or more employees to require vaccinations or weekly testing.
"While America is in much better shape than it was seven months ago when I took office, I need to tell you a second fact: We're in a tough stretch and it could last for awhile," the President said in a White House speech at the time.
The new emergency temporary standard will require large employers to give their workers paid time off to get vaccinated. If businesses don't comply, the government will "take enforcement actions," which could include "substantial fines" of up to nearly $14,000 per violation, according to officials.
Officials have said the standard was a "minimum" and that some companies may choose to go further, including by mandating the vaccine instead of offering a testing alternative.
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The worldwide number of people who have died from COVID-19 surpassed 5 million on Monday, less than two years after the pandemic began.
The global death toll from the disease now stands at 5,000,425, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. The staggering figure is believed to be an undercount due to limitations in testing and record-keeping, especially in poor countries like India. Nevertheless, COVID-19 is now the third leading cause of death globally, after ischemic heart disease and stroke.
The United States alone has recorded 745,836 fatalities, the highest of any country. Brazil and India are not far behind with tallies at 607,824 and 458,437, respectively, according to Johns Hopkins data.
MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Unvaccinated Durham City employees face new COVID-19 requirements starting today.
The city's mandatory testing program for unvaccinated workers went into effect Nov. 1. It requires employees to be tested for COVID-19 once a week and to report the results of the test to human resources.
"This policy is adopted to safeguard the health of our employees and their families, our customers and visitors, and the community at large," the city's policy reads.
Employees who remain unvaccinated at the end of the year must pay an extra $70 per month on their health insurance premiums beginning July 1, 2022.
Across the country, children between 5-11 years old could begin getting vaccinated against COVID-19 this week.
The CDC's vaccine advisors are set to vote Tuesday. After that, the CDC director is expected to officially recommend the vaccine.
Face coverings continue to be required in indoors across Cumberland County, including all municipalities -- Fayetteville, Hope Mills, Spring Lake, Wade, Eastover, Falcon, Godwin, Linden and Stedman.
"While trends are improving, Cumberland County remains in high transmission," said Dr. Jennifer Green, Cumberland County Public Health Director. "Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. Face coverings remain an important tool to protect children and keeping them safe inside of schools and childcare centers and as they gather with friends and family. We anticipate that children ages 5-11 will become eligible to get vaccinated in early November, helping to continue to improve our metrics."
However, Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin issued an order Friday rescinding the mask mandate within the city limits as of midnight Monday.
"I am grateful today to announce the rescinding of the city's mask mandates," Mayor Colvin said. "This is the result of the reductions we have experienced in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. We are very thankful and appreciative to all of you for your cooperation, patience and most of all for getting vaccinated. Let's continue this positive trend and keep each other safe as we work through this challenging time."
2:42 p.m .
The Town of Garner said it will join Wake County in the extension of an existing mask mandate for public places,
Knightdale, Morrisville, Rolesville and Zebulon decided to continue the current mask mandate, which requires residents to wear a face-covering while inside businesses or other public spaces.
Other Wake County municipalities, including Apex, Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs, and Wake Forest, have decided mask mandates are no longer needed.
The Wake County health department said it's still too soon to lift mask mandates. However, Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin decided the city's mask mandate would end at the end of October.
Wake County's mask mandate was set to expire Nov. 1, but Wake County Public Health explained its decision to extend the mandate by pointing to the county's level of transmission, which is tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC says Wake County's level of community transmission remains high, and thus the mask mandate should remain until transmission drops to moderate.
The community transmission rate is defined as the percent positivity and total number of new cases per 100,000 residents per day over a 7-day period. Wake County currently has 104 cases per 100,000 people. CDC defines "moderate" transmission as being fewer than 50 per 100,000.
Wake County's Chief Medical Officer shared that same data with all 12 municipalities earlier in the week. Garner, Knightdale, Morrisville, Rolesville and Zebulon are the only ones who agreed to keep requiring masks inside buildings, as suggested by the CDC.
Further south in Fayetteville, Mayor Colvin announced the city's mask mandate would expire at 12 a.m. November 1.
"I am grateful today to announce the rescinding of the city's mask mandates," Colvin said. "This is the result of the reductions we have experienced in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. We are very thankful and appreciative to all of you for your cooperation, patience and most of all for getting vaccinated. Let's continue this positive trend and keep each other safe as we work through this challenging time."
This week, North Carolina averaged 2,089 new COVID-19 cases per day. That's down from 2,464 a day last week.
Two hundred eighty five more people died from the virus this week--down from 309 last week.
COVID-19 hospitalizations also continue to drop, reaching 1,335 patients in the hospital Friday.
FRIDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Face coverings are no longer mandated inside all buildings in Cary. Town leaders repealed the mask mandate effective at midnight Friday morning.
Now all eyes are on Wake County. The county's mask mandate is set to expire Nov. 1, but it's unclear if county leaders will allow that to happen or extend the mandate.
That decision is expected to be announced sometime Friday.
Meanwhile, Garner and Knightdale plan to follow along with what Wake County decides, Durham has issued no update to its mask mandate, Orange County said its mandate will remain in place for the foreseeable future, and Apex and Fuquay-Varina have not required masks inside since July.