RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Here are the latest updates about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in North Carolina.
Ontario's premier has retracted restrictions that banned playgrounds and allowed police to require anyone not at home to explain why they're out and provide their address after a backlash from police forces, health officials and the public, The Associated Press reported. The pandemic restrictions imposed by Canada's most populous province immediately ran into opposition on Saturday as police departments insisted they wouldn't use new powers to randomly stop pedestrians or motorists and health experts complained the rules focus on outdoor activities rather than more dangerous indoor settings. Ontario Premier Doug Ford's government announced Friday it was giving police authority to require anyone not at home to explain why they're out and provide their address. .
As many states across the country lift COVID-19 restrictions, Oregon is poised to go the opposite direction - and many residents are fuming about it.
A top health official is considering indefinitely extending rules requiring masks and physical distancing in all businesses in the state.
The proposal would keep the rules in place until they are "no longer necessary to address the effects of the pandemic in the workplace."
Michael Wood, administrator of the state's department of Occupational Safety and Health, said the move is necessary to address a technicality in state law that requires a "permanent" rule to keep current restrictions from expiring.
"We are not out of the woods yet," he said.
The idea has prompted a flood of angry responses, with everyone from parents to teachers to business owners and employees crying government overreach.
Wood's agency received a record number of public comments, mostly critical, and nearly 60,000 residents signed a petition against the proposal.
Opponents also are upset government officials won't say how low Oregon's COVID-19 case numbers must go, or how many people would have to be vaccinated, to get the requirements lifted in a state that's already had some of the nation's strictest safety measures.
"When will masks be unnecessary? What scientific studies do these mandates rely on, particularly now that the vaccine is days away from being available to everyone?" said state Sen. Kim Thatcher, a Republican from Keizer, near the state's capital. "Businesses have had to play 'mask cop' for the better part of a year now. They deserve some certainty on when they will no longer be threatened with fines."
Wood said he is reviewing all the feedback to see if changes are needed before he makes a final decision by May 4, when the current rules lapse.
Four new deaths are linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine in France.
French officials said there have been 23 cases of serious adverse reactions to the vaccine, including blood clots and bleeding disorders.
In all eight deaths have been linked to the vaccine in France.
Throughout 192 countries and regions, there have been 3,001,584 COVID-19 deaths as of Saturday morning. Globally, there have been 140,041,096 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.
In the United States, there have been 31,573,954 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Duke Provost Sally Kornbluth said Friday the schools plans to return to "in-person instruction with normal classroom density" in the Fall.
They will provide an exemption process for faculty who have medical reasons that don't allow them to do so.
This comes after the university announced it would require all students to be vaccinated in order to enroll in the Fall.
Orange County reports 113 new cases in the past week for a total of 8,285 positive COVID-19 cases. The death toll from COVID-19 in Orange County is 101.
Wake County Public Health is partnering with area hospitals and health care providers this weekend to reach out to Hispanic communities with COVID-19 vaccination clinics at six Catholic churches.
On Saturday, April 17, Wake County vaccinators will join UNC REX Healthcare, WakeMed, Duke Health, Alignment Health, St. Joseph Primary Care, City Pharmacy, Open Doors Ministry, LATIN-19 and Knights of Columbus in a multi-site vaccination clinic to offer first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
As of Friday, there were more than 2,200 appointments registered at six different Catholic churches throughout the region, including St. Eugene Catholic Church in Wendell, Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh, St. Ann Catholic Church in Clayton, St. Michael's Church in Cary, St. Raphael's Church in Raleigh and St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Wake Forest.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 19 new cases for a total of 5,390 total positive COVID 19 cases. The number of deaths remains at 107.
Beginning Monday at 9 a.m., the Durham County Department of Public Health will reopen its phone lines for vaccination appointment scheduling and will retire its online scheduling list.
All community members ages 16 and older should call 919-560-HELP (4357) to schedule an appointment for COVID-19 vaccination with the Durham County Department of Public Health.
All people already on the online scheduling list before Monday will still be contacted for an appointment.
Friday's report from the NCDHHS included 2,475 newly-reported COVID-19 cases with 1,064 hospitalizations.
The daily percent positive rate was 5.5%.
45.8% of adults are at least partially vaccinated while 33.3% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.
Sadly, 12,387 people have died since the start of the pandemic.
The state of North Carolina will receive $6.6 million to use in the fight against COVID-19 variants.
According to a news release, the funding from the American Rescue Plan will help the CDC and governors monitor, track and defeat emerging variants that are currently threatening pockets of the country.
The original strain of COVID-19 comprises only about half of all cases in America today. New and potentially dangerous strains of the virus make up the other half.
In order to improve the detection, monitoring, and mitigation of these COVID-19 variants, the Biden Administration is rapidly investing $1.7 billion from the American Rescue Plan to help states and other jurisdictions more effectively fight these mutations. The first tranche of funding, outlined below, will be distributed in early May. A second tranche of funding will be invested over the next several years.
Michael Sprayberry, the executive director of the N.C. Division of Emergency Management, who has attended many state COVID-19 news conferences during the pandemic, will be retiring.
Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks announced the news Friday.
"Mike Sprayberry has served our state with distinction, keeping North Carolinians safe through unprecedented natural disasters and a global pandemic," Governor Roy Cooper said. "Director Sprayberry has worked to make our state more resilient and prepared than ever to withstand future storms and emergencies and overcome challenges. He has set a high bar, leading North Carolina Emergency Management with his daily refrain of 'One team, one mission, one family,' and I deeply appreciate his service."
Sprayberry is the state's longest serving emergency management director.
He will retire Aug. 1 with more than 42 years of state service.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services updated the COVID-19 County Alert System.
One county, Edgecombe, is in red - an increase from zero on the previous map.
There are 20 orange counties (previously 21 counties in the April 1 report), 48 yellow counties (previously 47), 30 light yellow counties (previously 31) and one green county (previously one).
18 counties have moved up a tier (toward red) since the last report. 19 counties having moved down a tier (toward green).
North Carolina's key metrics show a leveling of COVID-19 trends after several weeks of decline, according to NCDHHS.
Most of the state continues to experience significant or substantial community spread with what NCDHHS is calling concerning increases in younger adult age groups.
"We want to see our trends in new cases, hospitalizations and percent positive of tests decline again," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "The best way we can do that is by having as many people get vaccinated as quickly as possible and keep wearing our masks when out in public."
Due to a significant drop in demand for COVID-19 vaccines, Lee County Health Department will begin transitioning away from mass drive-thru vaccination clinics.
The department said it will hold two more first-dose COVID-19 drive-thru clinics--April 20-21 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Dennis A Wicker Civic Center.
Anyone who has not yet received a first-dose COVID-19 vaccine is encouraged to attend one of those drive-thru clinics.
After the 21st, vaccine appointments will still be available through the health department or your health provider.
FRIDAY MORNING HEADLINES
At Raleigh-Durham International Airport, March was the busiest air travel month since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic more than a year ago.
TSA reports screening more than 77,000 passengers at RDU in March.
North Carolina is one of 24 states seeing an increase in its daily COVID-19 case average. The concerning trend comes along with a recent increase in hospitalizations and deaths.
Those numbers are still well below the peak seen around the new year, but health experts are concerned another surge could be on the horizon.
Gov. Roy Cooper and Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen will travel to the Outer Banks on Friday to tour a vaccination clinic in Dare County.
The pair hope to rally more enthusiasm among North Carolinians to sign up to get vaccinated.
Duke Health said it has available vaccine appointments with no wait list. People interesting can sign up by clicking here.
Cumberland County Schools officials have released the graduation exercise plans for seniors
According to CCS Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr., this year's graduation ceremonies will take place in the Crown Coliseum and will adhere to all North Carolina COVID-19 guidelines and capacity limitations.
The graduation exercises will begin May 21 with the Early College High Schools and continue through May 28 with four traditional high school ceremonies per day, except on Sunday when there will be only two ceremonies taking place during the early evening hours.
Each school will conduct multiple graduation sessions by groups to comply with the capacity limitations and the six-foot distancing requirements,
Cumberland County Health Director Dr. Jennifer Green reviewed the plan and made several recommendations.
District officials will release Cumberland County Schools' 2021 graduation schedule in the coming days.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 2,434 new cases of COVID-19 for a statewide total of 941,218 since the onset of the pandemic.
That number is of daily cases is the highest since last Friday.
The percent positive is at 5.1%.
There are 1,20 people hospitalized. That's 25 fewer people than Wednesday but the third consecutive day above 1,000.
A total of 34 more deaths were reported, for a total of 12,359 in all.
As for vaccinations, 35.7% of the overall population has received at least a partial dose and 25% of the state's population is fully vaccinated.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 18 new cases for a total of 5,871 positive COVID 19 cases. Deaths remain at 107.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is updating its vaccine data dashboard to align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and provide additional information on people who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The two metrics that will be updated include:
"People Vaccinated with at Least One Dose" includes any individual who has received at least the first of two doses administered as part of a two-dose series, as well as any individual who has received a single shot dose as part of a single-dose vaccine.
"Percent of Population Vaccinated with at Least One Dose" includes any individual who has received at least the first of two doses administered as part of a two-dose series, as well as any individual who has received a single shot dose as part of a single-dose vaccine series, out of the total population in North Carolina.
Users will be able to view information about who has been vaccinated with at least one dose by county, race, ethnicity, gender and age group, and by week.
Click here to view the NCDHHS vaccine data dashboard,
UNC has identified a cluster of COVID-19 cases at Hinton JamesResidence Hall. A "cluster" is defined by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as five or more cases that are deemed close proximity in location.
The individuals in the cluster have been identified and are isolating, UNC officials said.
Four new Wake County parks will offer free COVID-19 testing.
Those locations will be open through Monday. You do not need an appointment to get tested.
THURSDAY MORNING HEADLINES
COVID-19 anxiety is making it difficult for many people to return to a more normal life.
To help, Wake County Public Health is hosting a completely free virtual town hall with mental health experts.
The experts will be answering questions about recognizing problems and addressing them.
The town hall will be available on YouTube, Facebook and the department's website.
It starts at 7 p.m. Thursday
In the race to vaccinate, a CDC committee decided it needed more time to figure out what to do with the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
The expert panel said it wants more data on the extremely rare blood clots.