Wake County Public School System extends COVID-19 mask mandate but relaxes outdoor requirement

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

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5 p.m.
Hisine McNeill owned the Alpha Dawgs restaurant in Raleigh. Now, he's operating out of a food truck. Though he has less than 100 employees, he's thought about mandating a COVID-19 vaccine. But hasn't. One reason: It could be another hurdle to hiring employees.

"Even after hiring, raising wages and adding benefits, still hard to attract people that want to work, so it's kind of like it's a catch 22," McNeill said. "You're trying to balance it out. And, you know, trying to be realistic at the same time."

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Biden has advanced a sweeping nationwide safety standard that demands large businesses require employees to either get the vaccine or test regularly.



He said he sees the purpose of President Joe Biden's planned vaccine mandate.

"I see the reason why they're doing it because at the end of the day, they're trying to protect the economy," he said. "Because if we're forced to have to have another shutdown, especially now, we are close to the end of the year. I mean, that can be catastrophic."

Buck Rogers is the founder of Raleigh-based CGAVERY, which does human resources and business consulting for companies in and outside the Triangle. He said every business is talking about the mandate.

"Everybody's concerned about it because it's turned to more of a political tilt to some of this on how employees receive it," Rogers said. "And like I said, everybody sort of has their decision made up already on whether they want the vaccine or not. So it gets a little sticky. We care about our employees. We want our employees to be part of the team and yet we don't want to be the enforcers or and mandate if it turns the company and the employees sour against each other."

He said there's a lot of logistics for businesses when it comes to the mandate.

"It's a big burden on companies," Rogers said. "Yet we have to create a policy. Every company should have a policy on their stance of the vaccine, wherever they land, on how many employees they have. So you have to create that. You have to make sure it's legal, and it's logical."

Lauren Horsch, spokesperson for Republican Senate leader Phil Berger sent this statement:

"Sen. Berger has been clear that he thinks the COVID-19 vaccine is effective and encourages others to talk to their doctor about getting it. He thinks that everyone should get the vaccine unless their doctor tells them not to, they have a religious reason for not getting it, or they already have the antibodies. While he supports vaccinations, it remains unclear whether one person - in this case the president - has the sole authority to mandate vaccinations as President Biden is attempting. This new mandate from President Biden is likely to cause resistance and hesitancy at a time when we need more trust in the vaccine."

A spokesperson for Publix Super Markets sent this statement:

"We continue to encourage our associates to get vaccinated through vaccine awareness campaigns and by providing a $125 gift card to associates once they are fully vaccinated.

We are aware of the announcement regarding vaccination and testing requirements and are awaiting further guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Biden Administration. We will communicate additional information to our associates once further information is available and we have had an opportunity to review the standard."


4:12 p.m.
Chatham County providers will soon begin giving the vaccine for children ages 5-11, with more options coming in the weeks ahead as supply increases.

Ways to get your child vaccinated, should you ish to do so:
  • Talk to your child's doctor's office. Many will be offering the vaccine soon and can answer questions you may have about the vaccine.
  • The Chatham County Public Health Department: Wednesday and Friday afternoons at the clinic in Siler City (1000 S. 10th Ave.), beginning this Friday. Appointments are required and slots are limited. To schedule an appointment, please call (919) 742-5641.
  • StarMed Healthcare: Wednesday afternoons from 2-7 p.m.at the Goldston Town Hall (40 Coral Ave.), beginning Nov. 10. To schedule an appointment, click here or call (980) 445-9818.


Additionally, Woods Charter School in Chapel Hill will be hosting a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for 5-11-year-olds this Saturday, Appointments are required and slots are very limited. To see if a slot is available and to register. click here.

"I know many are excited by this news and are eager to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19," said Chatham County Public Health Director Mike Zelek. "We will continue to work hard to make the vaccine accessible to everyone across Chatham."

4:10 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper is urging families across North Carolina to apply for child tax credit payments.

Families can visit GetCTC.org to find out if they are eligible for the payments and sign up to get them.

"It is important for eligible North Carolina families to apply for this credit before the rapidly approaching deadline," Cooper said. "These funds will help families recover from the pandemic and care for their children at a time when it is needed most."

4:02 p.m.
Cape Fear Valley Health will begin offering COVID-19 vaccinations to children ages 5 to 11 starting Thursday. The vaccine will be the Pfizer COVID-19 pediatric vaccine, which is the first to be authorized for children ages 5 to 11.

"We've been anticipating this authorization for some time now, and I know there are many parents who have been anxiously waiting for the opportunity to vaccinate their children," said Vice President of Pharmacy and Cancer Centers Christopher Tart. "Several of our vaccination clinics are now accepting appointments for children who are ages 5 to 11, and three of Cape Fear Valley's pediatric clinics will also be offering the vaccine to that age group."

Parents can go to www.capefearvalley.com/covid19 to schedule a pediatric vaccine appointment at Cape Fear Valley Health Pavilion North ExpressCare, Center Pharmacy, or Hoke Pharmacy. Walk-ins are also accepted at those sites until clinic capacity is reached. These clinics' hours are as follows:
  • Health Pavilion North ExpressCare: Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Center Pharmacy: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Hoke Pharmacy: Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Pediatricians at Bladen Kids' Care, Hoke Primary Care, and Cape Fear Valley Pediatric Care are also taking appointments for this vaccine, but only by calling the clinics directly. The pediatricians' offices are not accepting walk-ins for the COVID-19 vaccine. Parents can schedule an appointment at the pediatric clinic locations by calling the clinics directly at the following phone numbers:

  • Bladen Kids' Care: (910) 862-5500
  • Hoke Primary Care: (910) 904-8025
  • Cape Fear Valley Pediatric Care: (910) 615-4801


There will also be special Pfizer-only clinics from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 13 and Dec. 4 for anyone 5 years old or older at the Cape Fear Valley Health Rehabilitation Auditorium. The Dec. 4 clinic will be for second doses. These clinics will be walk-in only, with no appointments available.

1:45 p.m.
NCDHHS said it is anticipating approximately 468,000 doses of pediatric vaccine product to be delivered to providers across the state, both through NC providers and through the federal retail pharmacy program.

The initial waves of pediatric vaccine are anticipated to be delivered to North Carolina providers within nine business days following EUA issuance, with Wave 1 anticipated between 1-5 business days, Wave 2 between 3-7 business days, and Wave 3 between 5-9 business days following EUA issuance, state officials said.

Nearly all allocations for Wave 1 have been delivered already or will be delivered by the end of the day Wednesday, and as shipments for the next waves are en route, the state anticipates that vaccine will begin to be delivered over the coming days.

By the end of Wednesday, 218 North Carolina state vaccine providers will have a supply from state allocations. The program will ramp up over the coming days, officials said.

1:40 p.m.
Wake County Public Health has opened up its appointment system for COVID-19 vaccinations of children ages 5 to 11 years old. Families can begin booking slots at all five clinics throughout Wake County with the first doses going into arms on Monday, Nov. 8.

Wake County set up a website, WakeGov.com/kids, with information for families and a link for signing up for their children's COVID-19 protection. The new clinics have been set up to accommodate any children ages 5-17, so that parents are able to group appointments for their children of multiple ages at one site.

1:30 p.m.
1,777 new daily COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Wednesday.

The percent of positive tests in the state is 4.5 percent.

Four counties now have moderate transmission as defined by the CDC, rather than high transmission: Northhampton, Nash, Pender and Cherokee.

1,194 people are hospitalized in the state with COVID-19.

61 more COVID-19 deaths were reported.

11:40 a.m.
It's likely to become President Joe Biden's most hotly contested COVID policy yet: a sweeping nationwide safety standard for the American workplace that demands large businesses require their employees to either get the vaccine or test regularly.

The temporary emergency rule would apply to every U.S. private business that employs 100 workers or more -- from grocery clerks to meatpacking plant employees -- impacting some 80 million Americans.

It would be the first time Washington has set a federal standard that regards a respiratory virus as an occupational hazard outside of the health care sector, essentially putting COVID in the same category as other workplace safety concerns as asbestos and dangerous machinery.

10:45 a.m.
Case rates are falling in the South, according to federal data.

In Florida, which was reporting high transmission in every county during the summer, is now only reporting high transmission in two of its 67 counties. Cases in Louisiana, Georgia, Texas and Mississippi are also improving.

Although new fatalities are down by approximately 36.4% since mid-September, when about 1,800 deaths were reported daily, the death toll still remains high, with nearly 1,200 deaths reported each day.

9:35 a.m.
Walgreens said will begin administering Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11 beginning Saturday, Nov. 6.

Ahead of the first vaccine shipments scheduled to arrive, parents or legal guardians can schedule appointments starting today. Appointments will be available beginning Saturday and can be made at Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine, through the Walgreens app or by calling 1-800-Walgreens.

9:30 a.m.
NCDHHS announced that children ages 5 to 11 can now receive a COVID-19 vaccine in North Carolina.

"Children are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus just like everyone else," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "The authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine provides a safe, tested way to protect them from serious illness and provide healthier, happier experiences in and outside of the classroom."

WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES

Masks will still be required inside all Wake County Public School System buildings. The school board extended the district's mask mandate Tuesday night.

However, the school board did make one change to the mandate: masks are now optional for athletics, band and other outdoor activities.

SEE ALSO: What to know about COVID-19 vaccines for kids aged 5-11

Duke University is relaxing its mask requirements outdoors. People on campus no longer need to wear masks outside in group settings, including at athletic events.

Duke still encourages all attendees to bring a mask, in case social distancing is impossible and in case you have to go inside at any point. Because masks are still required inside at all times.

Meanwhile, Durham Public Schools partnered with the state health department to host a virtual town hall Tuesday night.

At the town hall, local pediatricians answered questions about the COVID-19 vaccine for children.

"It's critical we educate and encourage our community to get students vaccinated from this awful virus," DPS Superintendent Dr. Pascal Mubenga said.

TUESDAY
5:18 p.m.
Employees with the UNC Healthcare System are under the gun to get their COVID-19 vaccine or face termination.

Tuesday is the deadline to show proof of vaccination.

More than 99 percent of workers were in compliance the morning of the deadline and the fate of about 150 staff members was hanging in the balance.

"There's no great celebration to reach 99 percent because we still have a small group that aren't compliant," said UNC Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Matt Ewend. "We're one great team, so if we have even one teammate who isn't going to make it, then that's upsetting for us."

UNC Health says a vaccine mandate is nothing new and there are other shots employees must get. They include:

  • Influenza
  • Tuberculosis
  • MMR to protect against measles, mumps, and rubella
  • TDAP to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough)


There have been protests outside of Triangle hospitals against the COVID-19 vaccine policy.

Duke Hospital said nearly 100 percent of employees have complied with the requirement and less than 20 employees have walked off the job.

WakeMed is giving staffers until Nov. 12 to get the shot. More than 80 percent have already taken the step or received an exemption so far.

"The goal is not to terminate our most valuable assets, our employees. We want every opportunity to educate employees on the importance of complying with this policy," said WakeMed Health & Hospitals Spokesperson Kristen Kelly.

UNC Health said about 120 people have left the job citing the mandate.

The work now begins on recruiting new employees with some people resigning.
"It's a really difficult time to work in healthcare," said Ewend.

There is a labor shortage in this field and in numerous other industries.

UNC Health plans to mobilize staff to fill vacant spots so there's no disruption in service, especially in the critical care units.

"We're confident that we'll get through this important milestone date today without needing to close beds, or reduce procedures or turn folks away in clinics based on some gentile reshuffling of the workforce," said Ewend.

Reporting by ABC11's Elaina Athans

5:15 p.m.
An influential U.S. advisory panel is recommending that all children ages 5 to 11 should get Pfizer's pediatric COVID-19 vaccine.

If the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees with Tuesday's vote, the U.S. will embark on a major expansion of vaccinations. Pediatricians are getting ready to put kid-size doses into little arms as soon as they get the final OK. Pfizer already has begun shipping millions of doses to states, doctors' offices and pharmacies.

Read more here.

2 p.m.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster wants to spend the last $17 million of his COVID-19 education relief money to fully pay for anyone to go to a technical college for two years to train to enter high-demand jobs. The governor's s senior education advisor and the president of the state's 16 technical colleges spoke to The Associated Press about the plan Tuesday, a day before the announcement. They say if the Legislature pays $124 million of the pandemic relief money it controls, then the program can help up to 15,000 people get training and jobs in areas like health care, manufacturing, IT and construction.

1:30 p.m.
North Carolina's daily COVID-19 positivity rate jumped above 6 percent for the first time since Oct. 20.

Still the raw number of COVID-19 cases continues to trend down, with 1,214 new cases reported today--which is 126 fewer than Tuesday of last week.

Hospitalizations also continue to improve with just 1,150 people in the hospital with COVID-19 today. That's 61 fewer than yesterday and nearly 300 fewer than a week ago.

Twenty-six more people died from the virus, increasing the state's total death toll to 18,130.

TUESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is meeting today to discuss approving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for the 28 million kids ages 5-11 in the United States.

An independent CDC panel is expected to vote around 4:15 p.m. on authorizing the shots for those children, but that vote is nonbinding. If the panel moves forward with the vote, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky must then sign off on the panel's recommendations.

Walensky could sign off on the recommendations as soon as Tuesday evening, meaning shots could start going into the arms of those children as early as Wednesday.

The White House has purchased 65 million Pfizer pediatric vaccine doses -- more than enough to fully vaccine all American children in this age group.

Jeff Zients, the White House coordinator on COVID-19, said he didn't expect programs for vaccinating children to be "fully up and running" until the week of Nov. 8.

"We are planning on some vaccinations towards the end of this week, but the program for kids ages 5 through 11 (will) really (be) hitting full strength the week of Nov. 8," he said.

Several major pharmacy chains told ABC News they are gearing up to offer the Pfizer vaccine to 5- to 11-year-olds within days of its approval by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The U.S. reported about 101,000 child COVID-19 cases last week, marking the eighth consecutive week of declines in pediatric infections since the pandemic peak of nearly 252,000 cases in early September, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

The rate of pediatric hospital admissions is also declining.

Approximately 45.3% of adolescents ages 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to federal data.

Severe illness due to COVID-19 remains "uncommon" among children, AAP and CHA said. However, AAP and CHA continue to warn that there is an urgent need to collect more data on the long-term consequences of the pandemic on children, "including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects."
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