Saint Augustine's University moves all classes online for the next week citing health, safety

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

4:30 p.m.
Cumberland County Schools is offering signing bonuses to teachers who would be assigned to the district's state-designated low-performing schools.

Assoc. Superintendent of HR, Ruben Reyes, said the state designation, which the district refers to as PASE for Performance, Accountability, Support, and Empowerment, is based off testing from the 2018-2019 school year.

Nonetheless, Reyes said that if teachers are looking to make a difference in students' lives, they should consider Cumberland County.

"This is really just part of our continuing commitment as a district to ensure that every student has a highly qualified, competent, caring teacher in front of them," said Reyes. "It's really a way for us to leverage some additional funding that we have to help ensure that we have a stable workforce that can provide a high quality education to the students."

The signing bonuses, covered by the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, are aimed at teachers who would be assigned to work in one of the district's 23 PASE schools for two years:

$5,000 signing bonus for first and second year teachers who do not have EVAAS data
$7,000 signing bonus for teachers who've met expected growth in EVAAS for two years
$10,000 signing bonus for math teachers who've met expected growth in EVAAS for two years

You can learn more here and apply anytime before the end of the school year.

2:15 p.m.
"We are incredibly proud of the commitment our team members have made to embody our core value of caring for our patients, their loved ones, and each other," Duke Health officials said Wednesday of its vaccine mandate.

As of Wednesday, the system said nearly 100% of employees have complied.

Health officials said "fewer than 20 people" were fired for not participating in the vaccination requirements.

1:20 p.m.
3 Doors Down announced it will be cancelling its show in Raleigh on Oct. 7.

The band announced that "due to new regulations put in place since the announcement" the show would be canceled.

Refunds will be given.

12:45 p.m.
Saint Augustine's University is moving all its classes online for the next week.

The university said the move was being done for the health and safety of the Falcons community.

"Our change in course delivery was another precautionary strategy to mitigate viral transmission on our campus," Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Josiah J. Sampson, III said.

Students told ABC11 they went to morning classes in-person before receiving an email from the university announcing the virtual classes decision.

There was mixed reaction from students.

"I'm absolutely so glad that my university, my HBCU, is taking the precautions that we need to be safe the upcoming year," said St. Aug's sophomore Miles Beasles. "It's only online for just one week. Honestly, I feel if anyone has a problem, it's just one week. We'll be back in class before no time. It's fine."

Others want to be in a classroom and learning face-to-face.

"I'm really a hands on student so, therefore, it's kind of different than hop online," said freshman Zach Bates.

12:40 p.m.
Duke Health reports that nearly all of its employees have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.

Wednesday was the deadline for employees to be vaccinated and the hospital reported last week that around 200 employees were not yet in compliance.

The university said fewer than 20 people decided not to get vaccinated. They are no longer employed with the hospital.

12:30 p.m.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an urgent health advisory to people who might become pregnant.

The CDC urges pregnant people, those trying to become pregnant and those who are breastfeeding to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Through Sept. 27, more than 125,000 pregnant people tested positive for the virus. More than 22,000 of those cases resulted in hospitalization, and 161 of them ended in death. In August alone, 22 pregnant people have died from COVID-19, according to the CDC.

Pregnant people who have a symptomatic case of COVID-19 have a two-fold risk of admission into intensive care; plus, a 70 percent increased risk of death.

COVID-19 has also been linked to preterm birth, stillbirth and the newborn arriving with COVID-19 and having to be admitted to the ICU.

12:20 p.m.
New metrics from North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services shows COVID-19 cases trending down.

The state reported another 4,789 new cases Wednesday, but that is 1,500 fewer than last week and 2,500 fewer than the week before that.

The percentage of tests coming back positive also dropped out of the double digits--down to 9.7%

Sixty-three fewer people are currently in the hospital battling COVID-19, although the total remains above 3,000--wish 633 of those on ventilators.

WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Approximately 80 employees resigned and another 35 job candidates declined job offers at UNC Health over the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

UNC Health said 98% of its employees now have confirmed their vaccination status or been granted exemptions.

A few miles down the highway in Durham, Wednesday is the deadline for Duke University Medical Center's vaccine mandate.

The healthcare center is scheduled to give an update on how many of its staff is unvaccinated and what's next for their future.

As of last week, Duke had around 200 employees who had not complied with the vaccine mandate.

TUESDAY
5:37 p.m.
Wake County Public Health has confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 at The Laurels of Forest Glen, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center located at 1101 Hartwell St. in Garner.

This is the facility's third outbreak. The previous outbreaks occurred in November 2020 and June 2020.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services defines an outbreak as two or more people - residents or employees - testing positive for the virus.

12 p.m.
3,469 new daily COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Tuesday.

The percent of positive tests in the state is at 10.6%.

3,073 were hospitalized in the state with COVID-19 as of Tuesday.

The are currently 865 adult ICU COVID-19 patients and 644 adult COVID patients are on ventilators.

50 more COVID-19 deaths were reported in North Carolina on Tuesday.

8 a.m.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $23,164,925 in American Rescue Plan funding to 34 health centers in North Carolina to expand their primary health care infrastructure in medically underserved communities.

Health center recipients in North Carolina can also use the funding to secure freezers to store COVID-19 vaccines, purchase mobile vans to better reach and vaccinate marginalized communities, or construct, renovate or expand their facilities so they are better equipped for future pandemics or public health challenges.

In total, this funding will support 47 health center projects in North Carolina.

7:50 a.m.
A North Carolina-based hospital system announced Monday that more than 175 of its workers have been fired for failing to comply with its COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

Last week, Novant Health announced 375 employees had been suspended and given five days to comply with the mandate. The deadline was Friday.

7:15 a.m.
Pfizer and BioNTech said Tuesday they have submitted Covid-19 vaccine data on children ages 5 to 11 to the US Food and Drug Administration for initial review, but are not yet seeking emergency use authorization.

A formal submission to request EUA for the vaccine is expected to follow in the coming weeks, the companies said in a statement.

Tuesday's headlines

Earlier in the vaccination effort, Black and Hispanic adults' vaccination rates were lower than white adults' vaccination rate, but that no longer appears to be true, according to KFF's latest poll, which found 73% of Hispanic, 70% of Black and 71% of white adults have gotten at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

The least vaccinated subgroups in KFF's poll are: Uninsured adults under 65 (54% with at least one dose), Republicans (58%), rural residents (62%) and White Evangelical Christians (62%).

It also appears that the number of COVID vaccine holdouts is shrinking.

In the September KFF poll, only 7% of US adults say they want to wait and see before getting the vaccine. This is down from 10% in both June and July, 12% in May, 15% in April, 17% in March, 22% in February and 31% in January.

12% of US adults in this poll still say they will definitely not get the vaccine.

First lady Jill Biden received her COVID-19 booster shot Monday, according to Michael LaRosa, her spokesman.

The shot was administered at the White House in the afternoon, LaRosa told ABC News.

Wake County Public Health will open up an appointment system today for booster doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine.

The appointments will only be open to certain populations who already received the first two doses Pfizer at least six months ago.

Where can you get a COVID booster shot in NC? State health director answers booster shot questions

Monday



6:45 p.m.
Don Waddell, president and general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, announced the team's health protocols going into the new season.

Fans ages 2 and up will have to wear a face mask inside PNC Arena, except when actively eating or drinking. Before entering PNC Arena, fans must complete a health survey that will be verified by staff.

Only diaper bags, medical bags and small clutches will be allowed inside the arena.

5:05 p.m.
In response to a resource request to FEMA, North Carolina has received 25 ambulances each with a two-person crew of EMS providers.

The ambulances and crews have been assigned to assist nine county Emergency Medical Systems that are experiencing greatly increased calls for service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"These ambulances and crews will provide necessary relief to our extremely busy EMS systems," said North Carolina Emergency Management Director Will Ray. "While it's not the full complement we requested, we know medical resources are extremely limited across the nation right now, and we are grateful for this assistance from our federal partners."

The ambulances arrived in North Carolina late Sunday and crews were provided with personal protective equipment and communications gear Monday, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety said. Most will begin work for their assigned counties Tuesday.

Ambulance crews assigned to the following counties: Brunswick, Franklin, Graham, Guilford, Macon, Mecklenburg, New Hanover, Pender and Robeson.

5 p.m.
The Wayne County Health Department will begin administering COVID booster shots on Wednesday, Sept. 29.

"These vaccines are still very effective," said Dr. James Stackhouse, medical director at the Wayne County Health Department. "Over time, vaccine protection against COVID-19 starts to drop. Boosters are very common with other vaccines and we are still learning how long protection will last with the COVID-19 vaccines currently available."

The shots will be given by-appointment only.

3:55 p.m.
Wake County Public Health will open up an appointment system Monday for booster doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine.

The appointments will only be open to certain populations who already received the first two doses Pfizer at least six months ago.

Who's eligible for Pfizer booster shots? What if I got Moderna? Everything to know about 3rd dose

"Our priority remains on getting everyone in Wake County fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with their first and second shots," said Wake County Board of Commissioners Chair Matt Calabria. "It's also vital, however, that we strengthen and extend protections to those in our community already vaccinated but still at highest risk of severe illness and exposure to the virus, by offering these recommended booster doses."

3 p.m.
The Johnston County Public Health Department will be holding a drive-thru vaccine clinic on Thursday, Sept. 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at BrightLeaf Flea Market.

First, second and booster doses will be available at the clinic. Only the Pfizer vaccine will be available. Those going to the clinic are encouraged to bring their vaccination card.

People who are 65 and older, ages 50-64 with underlying medical conditions or 18-49 at high risk and received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on or before March 30, 2021 are eligible for the booster.

2:25 p.m.
Wegmans Pharmacy locations are now offering Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster doses to eligible individuals by appointment only.

At this time, only individuals who received the Pfizer two-dose vaccine are eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot.

Customers can schedule an appointment by visiting Wegmans.com/pharmacy or calling 1-800-207-6099 between 2 and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

2:20 p.m.
Although pediatric COVID-19 infection rates remain at "exponentially high" levels, the U.S. continues to see slight declined in new reported cases and hospitalization figures among children, as the delta surge abates in large Southern states.

Last week, the U.S. reported nearly 207,000 child COVID-19 cases, marking the fifth consecutive week with over 200,000 new pediatric cases reported, according to a newly released weekly report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children's Hospital Association (CHA).

Since the onset of the pandemic, more than 5.7 million children have tested positive for the virus. In the last five weeks, the U.S. has reported more than 1.1 million pediatric cases. Even with the slight decline, the weekly figure is still about 25 times higher than it was in June, when just 8,400 pediatric cases were reported over the span of a week.

1:30 p.m.
The number of new daily COVID-19 cases in North Carolina is trending down.

5,469 new cases were reported Saturday, 5,354 on Sunday and 2,665 on Monday.

The percent of positive tests in the state remains high at 9%.

3,012 people are currently hospitalized in the state with COVID-19.

That number has also been trending down.

There are currently 870 adult ICU COVID-19 patients. 258 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted into hospitals in the last 24 hours.

12:15 p.m.
The entire fifth grade level of the Duke School was moved to remote classes for the week after two students tested positive for COVID-19 last Friday,

School leaders said it was out of an "abundance of caution."

Since then, 6 additional students within that grade have tested positive, school leaders said Monday.

9:15 a.m.
Pfizer/BioNTech plans to ask for authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine for some children under 12 soon, bringing the US one step closer to offering protection to a population that has grown particularly vulnerable as the fall season gets underway.

"It is a question of days, not weeks," Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla told ABC News Sunday about when the company will submit data on children ages 5 to 11 to the FDA for consideration.
Delayed due to COVID-19: Duke finally holds graduation for Class of 2020

Currently, COVID-19 vaccines are only approved for children 12 and older, which has stirred concern among health experts as cases in children increase, school years begin and the more transmissible Delta variant spreads.

6:30 a.m.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said kids could safely do door-to-door trick-or-treating this year.

Walensky said parents should still consider the risks involved and be sure to not let their child participate if they have any symptoms of illness.

In addition, Walensky cautioned parents against celebrating Halloween with crowded indoor activities.

MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Millions of Americans are now eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot, and another healthcare system is now offering the shots.

Cape Fear Valley Health announced it is ready to start administering the booster shots, joining CVS and Walgreens as locations in Central North Carolina accepting booster shot appointments.

Click here to find a vaccination location near you.

To be eligible for a booster shot, you need to have been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer version of the shot more than six months ago. In addition you should be 65 or older, 18 or older with a high risk health problem or a worker whose job places them at high risk of exposure.

Those who were vaccinated with the Moderna version of the vaccine may also be eligible for a booster shot, if they are immuno-compromised.

FRIDAY
6:20 p.m.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order extending, but not waiving, proof-of-immunization and health assessment documentation deadlines for school and child-care facilities.

Cooper's office said the EO was put in place to ensure children are not excluded from school because of increased demands on health care providers amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The order will give students and families more time to complete their required vaccines and health assessments.

3:05 p.m.
People who are 65 years or older, 18 years or older with underlying medical conditions or work in a high-risk setting like healthcare workers, teachers and childcare providers or food workers are now eligible to get a COVID-19 booster shot in North Carolina.

"Pfizer boosters are now authorized for certain groups of individuals to extend the protection of vaccines against severe illness," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "If you are eligible, get your booster. If you aren't vaccinated yet, don't wait. The COVID-19 virus is more contagious than ever and we are seeing it attack the unvaccinated and make them very sick at an alarming rate."

3 p.m.
North Carolina residents that need transportation assistance to vaccine sites for their COVID-19 booster shots can contact their local transit agency to help shuttle them to and from the location.

The state-administered program has already helped transit services statewide pay for more than 10,000 people needing transportation to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

If you need transportation assistance to access a vaccine site, you can contact your local transit agency. All North Carolina transit agencies can be found on the NCDOT website.

1:20 p.m.
5,805 new daily COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Friday.

The percent of positive tests in the state is at 8.6%.

3,359 people are currently hospitalized in the state with COVID-19.

16,108 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in North Carolina.

There are currently 895 adult ICU COVID-19 patients.

354 confirmed COVID-19 patients have been admitted into hospitals in the last 24 hours.

11:30 a.m.
More than one-third of the 56,000 North Carolina government employees included in Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order compelling them to get a COVID-19 shot or face weekly testing have not been fully vaccinated, according to new state data.

Law enforcement officials are getting vaccinated at the lowest rates, though the state said it is still processing a large set of data from the Department of Public Safety. Less than 53% of the 21,804 employees within that department who are subject to Cooper's directive have been fully vaccinated.

This is substantially lower than the 63% of North Carolina adults who have gotten one Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two Pfizer or Moderna shots, as of Thursday.

Cooper said in a news conference Tuesday that he is particularly concerned by the number of prison officials who have thus far refused to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

"It's probably the most concerning because we know there's close quarters and congregated populations there, so we really want to work on those percentages," Cooper said. "Right now, we're setting up discipline procedures for people who do not do the vaccination or the testing, and there are some employees who are beginning to fall in that category."

The Department of Public Safety is the largest agency covered under Cooper's order, followed by the state Department of Health and Human Services, which has three-fourths of its more than 15,000 employees subject to Cooper's directive fully vaccinated.

The North Carolina Office of State Human Resources, which provided the employee vaccination numbers of Cooper's Cabinet agencies to The Associated Press on Wednesday evening, has largest share of workers within a given agency fully vaccinated at 93%.

Nearly 61% of the more than 9,000 Department of Transportation workers included in Cooper's order are fully vaccinated, which represents the second-lowest share of the covered agencies.

Most Cabinet-level agencies reported employee vaccination rates of 75% to 85%, including the Department of Commerce, State Bureau of Investigation, Department of Revenue and Department of Environmental Quality.

"Data continues to fluctuate as agencies finetune their processes, including connecting individually with employees who do not typically use email as part of their daily work duties," said a statement from Jill Warren Lucas, a state human resources spokesperson.

Cooper reiterated the need to get more North Carolinians vaccinated, particularly when they hold jobs where they have to interact with members of the public. "Vaccine requirements can get more people vaccinated. That's what gets us to the end of this pandemic so we can stop having these press conferences and stop talking about this and move forward."

11 a.m.
Walgreens announced that eligible individuals can now receive Pfizer COVID-19 booster vaccinations in stores nationwide.

Beginning tomorrow, appointments for a COVID-19 booster shot and additional immunizations can be scheduled through Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine, by calling 1-800-Walgreens or by calling a local Walgreens store.

10 a.m.
President Joe Biden is urging those now eligible for COVID-19 booster shots to get the added protection. His plea comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the doses for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on a series of recommendations from a panel of advisers late Thursday. Biden praised the decision and aimed to set aside any unease about the vaccination by saying that he would get his own booster soon.

9:05 a.m.
In light of the CDC's new recommendation for some people to get a third COVID-19 shot, are you considered fully vaccinated if you have just two doses?

Yes.

The CDC said even people who qualify for a booster but turn it down would be considered fully vaccinated--at least for now.

As with anything related to COVID-19, as scientists receive more data they may update their guidance. But for now, two doses of the Pfizer vaccine means you are fully vaccinated.

FRIDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Pfizer just released its first safety data about COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11, reassuring parents that a safe and effective vaccine soon could be available for those younger than 12, according to ABC News.

A trial of 2,268 children showed that a smaller dose of Pfizer vaccine -- one-third the amount given to adults and adolescents -- provided robust and adequate immune responses among those ages 5 to 11.

If the FDA agrees with Pfizer's assessment, finally those younger than 12 can get vaccinated -- in this case, if authorized, with the smaller dosage.

But that smaller dosage has led some parents to question the vaccine's effectiveness compared with a larger dose. Experts have stressed that size isn't everything. Because the lower dose still mounts a strong and sufficient antibody response to COVID-19, even an 11-year-old who's taller or weighs more than a kid over 12 should be protected.

Meanwhile, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention partially overruled her own advisory panel's suggestions about COVID-19 booster shots.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and the advisory panel agreed that a third shot should be available to high risk individuals six months after the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Walensky and the advisory panel diverged on exactly which high risk individuals should be included. Walensky, who has the final say in this matter, authorized a larger group than the advisory panel suggested--including immunocompromised individuals over the age of 18 as well as people with high risk jobs (such as health care workers and teachers).

"In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we must take actions that we anticipate will do the greatest good," Walensky said. "While today's action was an initial step related to booster shots, it will not distract from our most important focus of primary vaccination in the United States and around the world."

With Walensky's final sign-off, booster shots will now quickly become available for millions more Americans at pharmacies, doctors' offices and other sites that offer the Pfizer vaccine as soon as Friday.
Copyright © 2021 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.