RALEIGH, N.C. -- Here's the latest news and information on COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines.
One hundred three Marines have been discharged for refusing to take the COVID vaccine, the Marine Corps said Thursday, as the military services have begun to discharge a pool of possibly as many as 30,000 active duty service members who still refuse to be vaccinated -- even after multiple opportunities to do so past vaccination deadlines.
In late August, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered that the COVID vaccine become mandatory for all U.S. military personnel; until then it had been voluntary.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said booster shots "may not protect much against infection, but ... will go a long way to protect against severe disease."
Fauci predicted data on COVID-19 vaccines for children younger than 5 should be available early next year (first quarter 2022).
He also said the U.S. could be in for a difficult winter with the current Delta surge, and Omicron, but "You can enjoy the holiday season with your family if you're vaccinated, and your family members are vaccinated"
COVID-19 metrics continue to creep up in North Carolina as the weather gets colder and new variants emerge.
NCDHHS reported 4,165 new cases, about the same as last Thursday (4,153) and the highest since early October.
The daily percent positive stands at 7.5%, down from 9.1% the previous day.
The state reported 43 more people were hospitalized for a total of 1,604. That number is up from the previous two weeks and mirrors mid-October numbers.
NCDHHS also reported 29 new deaths for a total of 19,099 since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As for vaccinations, 62% of the full NC population is at least partially vaccinated as is 73% of the adult population.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 3,755 new COVID-19 cases, a 23.5% increase over the last two weeks. The percentage of positive tests also remained high at 9.1%, nearly double the average from a month ago.
Currently, 1,567 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide--an increase of 400 people in the last week.
37 more deaths have been reported in the last day.
Early anecdotal reports indicate people infected with omicron variant seem to be experiencing mild illness -- leading some scientists to wonder if this version of the virus could be less dangerous than prior variants.
But scientists have cautioned it's too soon to know for sure.
It "looks less severe in really early data," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton in an interview from CDC headquarters in Atlanta. "We're certainly following and very interested in disease severity."
Omicron was dubbed a "variant of concern" due to its many mutations. As a result, scientists are scrambling to determine if these changes lead to increased transmissibility or weakened response from vaccines. The World Health Organization said several studies are underway and that more information will emerge in the following days to weeks. Preliminary studies show that the Pfizer vaccine may be less effective against the Omicron variant, but, again, more research is needed.
MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES
The number of people who have died from COVID-19 in the United States surpassed 800,000 on Tuesday, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
The figure is greater than the approximately 700,000 Americans who have died from AIDS-related illnesses over the last four decades, and it's higher than the total number of U.S. troops who have fallen in battle since 1900.
Since last December, when the first COVID-19 vaccines were being administered, an additional 500,000 people in the U.S. have died from the virus.
Of those, some 230,000 have died since April 2021, when U.S. President Joe Biden announced COVID-19 vaccines were widely available to every American over the age of 18.
Hospitals across the United States are once again facing the pressures of caring for thousands of patients.
More than 67,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 nationwide, according to federal data.
Rebecca Long, lead nurse in a COVID-19 intensive care unit at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, told ABC News that she and her team "literally do not have any ICU beds" available.
"I don't want anyone else's family member or loved one to have to be in the position where we say, like, we can't help you because we don't have the resources," Long said. "As health care providers, all we want to do is help people and we can't because we physically can't."
Dr. Kyle McCarty, medical director of emergency services at both HSHS St. Mary's and HSHS St. Vincent hospitals in Green Bay, Wisconsin, told ABC News that health care workers are feeling burned out after "being asked to do more with less."