RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Here are the latest updates about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in North Carolina.
Gov. Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen visited a vaccine clinic at Mission Health / Asheville-Buncombe Technical Conference Center to see people receive their vaccines.
"The quicker more people get vaccinated, the sooner we can turn the corner on this pandemic," Cooper said. "Getting vaccinated is easy and everywhere, and it's safe and effective, so do it now for your family, your friends and yourself."
Next week, Cooper will issue an Executive Order outlining safety restrictions for the month of May.
"Thanks to collaborative community partnerships, we are making steady progress in our vaccination efforts here in Buncombe County," Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders said. "Partnerships with the Community College, Mexican Consulate, YMCA, faith community, aging services and other providers have helped to ensure that the vaccine reaches every corner and community in Buncombe County with equity and efficiency."
The NC House voted 112-1 to pass House Bill 334 - Temporarily Align PPP Treatment to Federal Treatment, which will provide tax relief for small businesses and individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the bill's second reading on the House floor, House Finance Chairman Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort, offered an amendment that would extend tax relief to thousands of North Carolinians who were unemployed during the COVID pandemic.
The amendment brings North Carolina in line with the federal CARES Act of 2020 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 by excluding unemployment compensation from taxpayers' gross income up to the amount specified under federal guidelines. The provision will apply for taxable years of 2020 and 2021.
"We should not be taxing COVID Relief money," said Rep. Kidwell. "The federal government got it right, forty-seven other states got it right, and it is time for North Carolina to correct its position on the issue."
House Bill 334 was filed by Rep. Ray Pickett, R-Ashe, and Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, to reduce the tax burden on small businesses who utilized PPP loans to keep employees on the payroll and keep their businesses open.
"This is a commonsense bill to help North Carolinians who have been dealing with the significant economic impact of COVID-19," Pickett said. "For this situation, we felt it was best to simplify the process, align with the Federal tax guidelines specified in the American Rescue Plan, and save folks a little more money towards the bottom line."
Specifically, the bill would allow PPP loan recipients to deduct expenses paid for by the loans. Currently, North Carolina is one of only three states that do not allow business owners to deduct expenses paid for by PPP loan funds.
The 4th Fighter Wing is hosting a COVID-19 mass vaccination line for authorized TRICARE beneficiaries at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Fitness Center on Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine are available for anyone 16 years of age and older. Persons must have a valid DoD ID card and be TRICARE authorized for healthcare in Military Medical Treatment Facilities.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 14 new cases for a total of 5,436 positive COVID 19 cases. Deaths remain at 108, or 2% of cases.
NCDHHS is reporting 2,236 new cases for a total of 954,765. It's the first time above 2,000 cases since Saturday but still fewer cases than a week ago at the same time.
The percent positive is 4.9%, the lowest in nine days and certainly welcome news to NCDHHS, which has 5% set as the target high. A day earlier,it was 7%.
Hospitalizations fell by 19 from Wednesday, with a total of 1,149 people in the hospital. The number has decreased for the second day but it is still 13% above last Thursday's level
Twenty-five more deaths were added, bringing the statewide total to 12,505 since the start of the pandemic.
In all, 37.5% of the overall population has been partially vaccinated and 28.9% of the overall population has been fully vaccinated.
CityWell United Methodist Church in Durham is holding a free COVID-19 vaccination clinic from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
No registration is required, Spanish translation is available.
The church is at 2317 Chapel Hill Road.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced the Bringing Summer Back get-out-the-vaccine campaign that hopes to engage community organizations across the state to fully vaccinate as many people as possible by summer.
To date, more than 3.6 million adults in North Carolina have been vaccinated with at least one dose. While the state has made great progress in helping people schedule and get to their vaccine appointments, more than half of the adult population is still completely unvaccinated, putting them at higher risk of contracting and spreading the virus, NCDHHS said.
The Bringing Summer Back campaign will run during two weeks in May (May 9-15 and May 16-21) and two weeks in June (June 6-12 and June 20-26), during which organizations across the state will rally together to promote vaccination.
Free drive-thru COVID-19 testing is available at three new Wake County park locations through the weekend, with one permanent testing site transforming into a vaccination drive-thru for the next three days.
Wendell Community Center, at 601 W. 3rd St. in Wendell, has been open to free testing seven days a week, but from April 22 through 24 the park site will transform into a free drive-thru vaccination clinic. Appointments for free COVID-19 shots are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Saturday. Just click here to schedule an appointment. This site will return to testing on Monday, April 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In Wake County, COVID-19 positive cases have been nearly stable - with only a 1% increase in cases comparing March over April. However, in the last two weeks, Wake County has seen a 9.4% increase in positivity and a 16.4% increase in hospitalizations. The highest positivity rates are in the 25-49 age group. Anyone with any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 is urged to get a free test, regardless of vaccination status or prior infection.
Three local parks will offer free testing weekly from Thursday through Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in rotating locations. These convenient sites make it easy for people who live in these communities to get tested. All sites are free, and residents do not need an appointment, insurance or ID. Sites will offer walk-up testing for anyone who does not have a car.
Park locations for Thursday through Saturday, April 22-25 are:
- Sanderford Road Park, 2623 Sanderford Road, Raleigh, NC 27610
- Carolina Pines, 2305 Lake Wheeler Rd, Raleigh, NC 27603
- White Deer Park, 2400 Aversboro Rd, Garner, NC 27529
THURSDAY MORNING HEADLINES
North Carolina could be fully reopened as early as June 1.
Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday he planned to lift all social distancing, capacity and mass gathering restrictions by the start of June as long as key COVID-19 numbers remained steady.
However, you will still be required to wear a mask while out in public.
Cooper said he thought the mask mandate would remain in place until at least 66 percent of North Carolinians get fully vaccinated.
Currently, just 36 percent of adults in the state are fully vaccinated--although 47 percent are partially vaccinated.
A Raleigh church is hosting a vaccine clinic for the LGBTQ community.
Raleigh Pride and the LGBT Center of Raleigh partnered with St. John's Metropolitan Community Church on Maywood Avenue to create the clinic.
The clinic has around 200 doses of Moderna. Anyone interested in getting vaccinated at this location should click here to register.
Lastly, an advisory panel with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet tomorrow to discuss the future of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
Experts have been investigating the vaccine after a small number of people who received the vaccine developed blood clots.
A regulatory group working for the European Union said it had identified a possible link between the vaccine and the blood clots, but that group still determined that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks.
The CDC advisory panel is expected to come to a similar conclusion as the European Union regulatory group.
St. John's Metropolitan Community Church along with the LGBT Center of Raleigh and Raleigh PRIDE is hosting a COVID-19 vaccine clinic from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday.
There are 200 doses of Moderna vaccine available
The church is at 622 Maywood Ave. in Raleigh.
You can register for the event here.
Cumberland County Government will hold a COVID-19 Remembrance Vigil on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. on the front steps of the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Cumberland County Courthouse.
Attendees are asked to wear a mask and practice physical distancing.
There have been 296 coronavirus-related deaths of Cumberland County residents.
The Halifax County Health Department reported 10 new cases for a total of 5,422 total COVID 19 cases. There have been 108 deaths or 1.99% of cases.
Gov. Roy Cooper indicated the state is on track to have almost all capacity and social distancing restrictions lifted by June 1.
With the nation about to mark its 200 millionth vaccination, the Tar Heel State itself opened up vaccinations to all residents 16 and older earlier this month, and the campaign appears to be working.
"North Carolina's strong safety protocols and actions to slow the spread are why we've been able to avoid a surge in cases overwhelming our hospitals," Cooper said. "Our careful, reasoned approach has worked, striking the right balance."
Face coverings, however, will still be required.
Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen did note a slight increase in the state's COVID-19 metrics, urging North Carolinians to continue to practice the prevention methods they have been using for more than a year now and get in line quickly to get their shot.
"Until enough of us are protected by the vaccine, we need to keep protecting each other," Cohen said. "For now, keep wearing your mask in public so we keep our trends where we want them."
Cooper encouraged people who have gotten vaccinated to push their friends, coworkers, family members and neighbors to get the shot. Once two-thirds of the adult population has at least one shot, he said, the state will be able to begin lifting mask mandates.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said there are 1,963 new cases and the daily percent positive stands at 7%.
Hospitalizations were at 1,168, a slight decline from the previous day.
There were 43 more deaths reported, bringing the total to 12,480 recorded deaths attributed to COVID-19 in North Carolina.
In all, 37% of North Carolina's population is fully vaccinated and about 28% is partially vaccinated.
The Wake County Public School System is discussing plans for graduations.
Students will be given four tickets to graduation ceremonies and students will be spaced six feet apart, Rolesville High School Principal Dhedra Lassiter said in a media briefing.
Lassiter said Rolesville's graduation will take place in the football stadium on campus, Friday, June 11.
There will be 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. graduation ceremonies.
WATCH: Rolesville principal details graduation plans
Brian Pittman, Senior Director of High School Programs for WCPSS said there will be no screening or rapid testing before graduations as of now. Most schools will have the same plan as Rolesville, with the vast majority of graduations in stadiums, though some will be in gyms.
The Johnston County Health Department is holding a first and second dose Pfizer drive-thru clinic on Friday from 8 a.m. until supplies last at Johnston Community College, 245 College Road in Smithfield.
The Health Department will be administering the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine (16 years of age and up) as well as second doses.
Individuals seeking a second dose should have received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on or before April 2.
Duke Health is relaxing visitor restrictions for patients at its three hospitals.
The health group explained that it came to that decision due to the current rate of COVID-19 in the community combined with the increase in vaccination rates.
All adult patients at Duke University Hospital, Duke Regional Hospital and Duke Raleigh Hospital will be allowed to designate two support people aged 18 or older. Those two people can visit anytime between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Both of them may be in the patient's room at the same time.
With anyone 16 and older now eligible to get vaccinated, there's a growing push to get older teens to take the shot.
Chapel Hill Pediatrics is working with high schools in the area to encourage juniors and seniors to get vaccinated.
"They are getting the virus at an increasing rate and many of them are being hospitalized or getting severe COVID. So we're trying to spread the word that yes they are at risk, yes they are susceptible to severe disease. So want to change that mindset that they're invincible and won't contract the virus," Dr. Mary Braithwaite said.
The Pfizer vaccine is currently the only one authorized for 16- and 17-year-olds.
WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Governor Roy Cooper will give a COVID-19 pandemic update at 2 p.m. today.
Cooper's announcement comes as the state's hospitalizations reach their highest point in a month.
Meanwhile, Wake County Public Schools is expected to make an announcement today about graduation plans for this year. That announcement is expected at 1 p.m.
Yesterday the school district confirmed that Virtual Academy would be an option for parents and students for the next school year.
Vaccinations continue to push ahead across the country. More than half of all adults have been at least partially vaccinated.
A first dose drive-thru vaccination clinic is happening today in Johnston County. Appointments are not required. The clinic begins at 8 a.m. at West Johnston High School in Benson.