New COVID-19 cases, percent positive rate, hospitalizations all improve from last week: NCDHHS

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

5:20 p.m.
NCDHHS released new data Tuesday about COVID-19 clusters in North Carolina childcare settings.

According to NCDHHS, there are 233 clusters in K-12 settings statewide, down from last week's 251.

There are five clusters in Wake County K-12 settings, including Cardinal Charter Academy at Wendell Falls with 52 cases.

There are seven clusters in Durham K-12 settings and eight in Cumberland County K-12 settings.

5:05 p.m.
William Lassiter, deputy secretary for Juvenile Justice, issued the following statement on improving discourse during meetings of local boards of education as it pertains to discussions concerning COVID-19 guidelines:

"Adults must demonstrate the behaviors we want our children to display, such as being positive, solution-focused, and avoiding name-calling and derogatory or defamatory language when there are disagreements. It is the mission of The Task Force for Safer Schools to help create and foster safer learning environments for students and staff. With this mission in mind, the members of the Task Force found it important to voice our support of the bipartisan statements by Gov. Roy Cooper, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt, and State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis calling for a return to civil discussions about school policy during meetings of our local boards of education.

While we shouldn't expect everyone to always agree on policy, we should expect everyone to understand we are all interested in the same outcome -- a quality education provided in a safe and caring environment that prepares our children for life's challenges and the skills they need to excel in the global economy. To achieve this mission, adults must prioritize working across differences to achieve our shared goal: a safe educational environment for our children."

5 p.m.
The Biden administration has purchased 65 million Pfizer pediatric vaccine doses in anticipation of authorization, according to an HHS official.

That is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 28 million 5-11 year olds.

At least 31,000 providers have enrolled to administer free COVID vaccines already, according to the HHS official, and that number is expected to increase as HHS and CDC continue to work with the existing federal program that funds many other routine childhood vaccinations all over the country.

CDC has surveyed all states, and 85% have said they are ready to go or on track for enrolling providers to give COVID-19 vaccines to kids while 5% said they needed assistance with preparations, the HHS official said.

3:15 p.m.
With many Americans who got Pfizer vaccinations already rolling up their sleeves for a booster shot, millions of others who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine wait anxiously to learn when it's their turn. Federal regulators begin tackling that question this week. On Thursday and Friday, the Food and Drug Administration convenes its independent advisers for the first stage in the process of deciding whether extra shots of the two vaccines should be dispensed and, if so, who should get them and when. The final go-ahead is not expected for at least another week.

3 p.m.
In a private phone call Tuesday, the White House urged the nation's governors to prepare their states to begin vaccinating elementary-age kids against COVID-19 starting in early November, saying it would work with their health officials in coming days to identify which sites should receive the first doses.

In audio obtained by ABC News, White House officials told the governors it had enough supply on hand for the 28 million children ages 5 through 11 expected to become eligible once federal regulators give the green light.

Once that happens, the pediatric Pfizer vaccine will be distributed in 100-dose packs. The doses, which are about a third of what is given to adults, will be sent to thousands of sites, including pediatricians, family doctors, hospitals, health clinics and pharmacies enrolled in a federal program that guarantees the shots are provided for free.

Some states are planning to provide the vaccine through schools as well.

"We've secured plenty of supply, and we'll be putting in place an allocation ordering and distribution system similar to what we've used for the other vaccines," said President Joe Biden's White House COVID coordinator, Jeff Zients.

2 p.m.
Over the past month, the U.S. has consistently reported more than 10,000 coronavirus related deaths each week. The forecast models used by the CDC is now predicting that although weekly death totals will likely continue to fall in the weeks to come, thousands of Americans are still expected to lose their lives.

The model expects approximately 19,000 deaths to occur in the next two weeks, with a total of just under 750,000 deaths recorded in the U.S. by Oct. 30.

1:40 p.m.
Across all age groups, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have the highest percent of partially vaccinated people in North Carolina at 79% of the 12 and up population.

Big gaps exist in the American Indian population. That group has the lowest partially vaccinated percent across all categories at 35% partially vaccinated for the 12 and up population. However, that data doesn't include Indian Health Services.

For the 12 and up age group, 56% of white North Carolinians are partially vaccinated and 53% of Black NC residents are partially vaccinated.

66% of the Hispanic population 12 and up is partially vaccinated.

12:20 p.m.
Tuesday's COVID-19 metrics ticked up slightly from Monday, but that can be attributed to normal day of the week fluctuations.

Historically, Tuesday's COVID-19 numbers have been higher than Monday's because testing over the weekend is limited.

When you compare this Tuesday's number of new cases (2,148) to last Tuesday's number (2,703) you can see that the numbers continue to improve. Plus, two weeks ago there were 3,469 new cases; three weeks ago there were 4,381 new cases.

Likewise, the daily percent positive rate fell to 7.7 percent. It was 9.4 percent last week and near 11 the two weeks prior.

Hospitalizations are also down nearly 500 from last week.

7:25 a.m.
The British government waited too long to impose a lockdown in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, missing a chance to contain the disease and leading to thousands of unnecessary deaths, a parliamentary report concluded Tuesday.

The deadly delay resulted from ministers' failure to question the recommendations of scientific advisers, resulting in a dangerous level of "groupthink" that caused them to dismiss the more aggressive strategies adopted in East and Southeast Asia, according to the joint report from the House of Commons' science and health committees. It was only when Britain's National Health Service risked being overwhelmed by rapidly rising infections that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative government finally ordered a lockdown.

"There was a desire to avoid a lockdown because of the immense harm it would entail to the economy, normal health services and society,'' the report said. "In the absence of other strategies such as rigorous case isolation, a meaningful test-and-trace operation, and robust border controls, a full lockdown was inevitable and should have come sooner.''

The U.K. parliamentary report comes amid frustration with the timetable for a formal public inquiry into the government's response to COVID-19, which Johnson says will start next spring.

Lawmakers said their inquiry was designed to uncover why Britain performed "significantly worse" than many other countries during the early days of the pandemic so that the U.K. could improve its response to the ongoing threat from COVID-19 and prepare for future threats.

TUESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Cumberland County School Board will meet Tuesday. Per state law, the school district will discuss its mask policy and determine if it should continue or be adjusted.

Monday's COVID-19 numbers were the lowest seen since the end of July. New metrics will be released around noon Tuesday, and experts hope to see the trends continue in the right direction.

According to the United Nations, the pandemic has forced more than 100 million people into poverty and left more than 4 billion people with little or no social support, health care or income protection.

The UN also warned that vaccine inequality between rich and poor countries could lead to millions more deaths.

Wake County is hosting its first walk in flu shot of the season. This one will be located at the public health center on Sunnybrook Road in Raleigh.

It will run from 1-5 p.m. Tuesday.

If you're unable to make that timeframe, know that your local pharmacy, doctor's office or health department should all have flu shots available.

MONDAY
5:30 p.m.

The Atlantic Coast Conference announced its updated 2021-22 COVID-19 Game Rescheduling Policy.

The COVID-19 Game Rescheduling Policy now applies to men's and women's basketball and wrestling in addition to previously announced sports of football, field hockey, men's and women's soccer and volleyball:

If a 2021-22 ACC game cannot be played on its originally scheduled date by a team unable to play due to an insufficient number of available players related to COVID-19, that team shall be deemed to have forfeited, with a loss assigned to the team unable to play and a win assigned to its scheduled opponent, with both the loss and win, respectively, applied to the conference standings.

If a 2021-22 ACC game cannot be played on its originally scheduled date due to any factor(s) directly associated with a Game Discontinuation Consideration as listed in the current ACC Medical Advisory Group (MAG) Report, the Conference's sport rescheduling policy shall apply.

If a 2021-22 ACC game cannot be played on its originally scheduled date due to both teams being unable to play due to an insufficient number of available players related to COVID-19, both teams shall be deemed to have forfeited, with a loss assigned to both teams and applied to the conference standings.

1:20 p.m.
Robeson Community College in partnership with CORE will offer COVID-19 vaccinations during the Made in Robeson Day and Job Fair on October 15 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. No appointments are necessary.

12 p.m.
Fewer than 2,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Monday.

Monday's numbers show a continued optimistic decline in COVID-19 metrics. The state reported 1,786 new cases Monday, last week that number was 2,219, two weeks ago it was 2,665, and three weeks ago it was 3,257.

Hospitalizations also saw a significant decline, with 315 fewer people reportedly hospitalized from the virus. The total number currently sits at 2,152.

Unfortunately, another 103 people died from the virus, rising the virus total death toll in North Carolina to 17,207.

10:40 a.m.
Nearly all 10,000 employees at state-operated healthcare facilities in North Carolina are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the state announced.

16 people were fired for non-compliance with the policy's vaccination deadline of Sept. 30.

The department's Division of State Operated Healthcare Facilities (DSOHF), a state-operated health care system comprised of 14 facilities, moved to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in July.

About six percent of employees received exemptions from the policy with medical, religious, and other reasonable accommodations, NCDHHS said.

6:26 a.m.
Drugmaker Merck asked U.S. regulators Monday to authorize its pill against COVID-19 in what would add an entirely new and easy-to-use weapon to the world's arsenal against the pandemic.

If cleared by the Food and Drug Administration - a decision that could come in a matter of weeks - it would be the first pill shown to treat COVID-19. All other FDA-backed treatments against the disease require an IV or injection.

Read full story here.

6 a.m.

A number of pediatric hospitals across the country are warning about an increase in the number of cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, a rare condition in which different parts of the body, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs, become inflamed.

The uptick follows the country's most recent summer delta surge in pediatric infections.

MIS-C, which most often appears four to six weeks after a COVID-19 infection, can be serious and potentially deadly, but most children who are diagnosed with it recover with medical care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Federal data shows that there have been at least 46 confirmed MIS-C deaths and 5,217 confirmed MIS-C cases -- and about 61% of the reported cases have occurred in children who are Hispanic/Latino or Black. Children between the ages of 6 to 11, who may soon be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, have reported the highest number of MIS-C cases since the onset of the pandemic.

Nearly 5.9 million children have tested positive for COVID-19, and MIS-C infections represent only 0.0009% of COVID-19 pediatric cases. However, between July and August, the average number of daily MIS-C cases nearly doubled.

Dayton Children's Hospital told ABC News they too have seen an uptick in recent weeks. And it is not just in Ohio where officials are seeing increases. In Tennessee, the number of MIS-C cases has more than tripled since early February.

Earlier this week, officials from Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, said at a press conference that their physicians have seen an uptick in MIS-C in recent weeks as more children test positive.

On Wednesday, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, which houses Mississippi's only pediatric hospital, reported that the state is still seeing acute cases of COVID-19 and MIS-C in children.

At this time, severe illness due to COVID-19 remains "uncommon" among children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES
UNC is reducing COVID-19 testing requirements for students.

Students who have not gotten vaccinated will now only have to e tested once a week. The change comes as the university sees a decrease in positive test rates.
Statewide COVID-19 numbers also showed improvements at the end of last week. Hospitalizations, cases and positive test rates all continued to show declines.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will release new metrics around noon.

Help is scheduled to arrive Monday for Wake Count's strained EMS crews. Four FEMA ambulances will start running calls in the county today.

Wake County EMS said it has received more than 10,000 calls each of the last five months and needed help responding to all of them.

Meanwhile, child care centers can start applying Monday for grant money.

The American Rescue Plan is sending about $805 million to help day care centers in North Carolina. The money can be used to hire new employees or retain employees considering other job opportunities.

Each care center can get between $3,000 and 60,000 per quarter.
Copyright © 2021 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.