The raw number of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina dropped to its lowest point since Wednesday, but the number remains 40 percent higher than one week ago.
For the 5th time in the last week, the daily percent of COVID-19 tests coming back positive is above 30%. That's twice the share that was coming back positive this time last year.
Hospitalizations jumped 376 since Friday. More than 1,000 patients have been added in the last week. That brings the COVID-19 hospitalization number back in line to where it was this time last year.
The good news: the weekly share of patients on a ventilator and in the ICU with COVID-19 is continuing to trend down.
But pediatric COVID-19 hospitalization are trending up--with 2.3% of the hospitalized COVID-19 patients listed as children. That's one of the highest pediatric percentages the state has ever reported.
Some immune-compromised Americans will be eligible for a fourth dose this week.
A third dose for people with compromised immune systems was recommended by the CDC on Aug. 13. The CDC recently shortened the window of Pfizer and Moderna booster shots from six months to five months. This means immune-compromised people who got a third shot in mid-August will be eligible for a fourth dose in mid-January.
People with immune compromised conditions make up about 3% of the U.S. population.
MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES
Wake County Public School System is still dealing with school bus delays.
Friday, COVID-19 combined with the district already having a school bus driver shortage forced 15 percent of the 636 bus routes to not have a driver. That meant that buses arrived late or failed to pick up thousands of students.
Monday is shaping up to be similar.
School leaders are working to contact parents at schools where the routes are in jeopardy. They said if parents don't receive a message, then their child's route should be running as scheduled.
However, school leaders still encourage parents to check online or use the district's smartphone app to get updates. If it says "no driver available/route uncovered," that means you'll need to make different arrangements to get your child to school.
This all comes as the omicron variant of COVID-19 cancels classes all across the country. More than 80 Philadelphia schools are going virtual this morning, blaming COVID-19 staffing shortages, and it's a similar story in the Minneapolis Public School District and Pittsburg Public Schools.
Harris Teeter will be shortening its hours of operation for most of its stores to clean them and restock shelves.
Beginning Monday, most stores will close at 9 p.m., until further notice
"We believe that closing early will allow associates to process ExpressLane orders ahead of time, restock and organize shelves, ensure excellent closing to better prepare for the following day and make certain our stores are a clean, safe place to work and shop," the supermarket said in a message for customers.
Online shopping will still be available.
The following stores are NOT closing earlier as part of this process:
North Carolina stores:
- Cameron Village, 500 Oberlin Road, Raleigh, NC 27605
- Old Raleigh Village, 3201-123 Edwards Mill Rd., Raleigh, NC 27612
- University Mall, 2110 S Estes Dr., Chapel Hill, NC 27514
- Erwin Square, 2107 Hillsborough Road, Durham, NC 27705
- Shops at Shadowline, 240 Shadowline Dr., Boone, NC 28607
- University Commons, 3040 Evans St., Greenville, NC 27834
- Pine Ridge Plaza, 2835 Reynolda Rd., Winston Salem, NC 27106
- College Rd, 820 S College Rd., Wilmington, NC 28403
- Village at Chestnut Street, 136 Merrimon Ave., Asheville, NC 28801
- Barracks Road, 975 Emmet St., Charlottesville, VA 22905
- Citadel, 1631 Kalorama Rd NW, Suite 100, Washington, DC 20009
- McHenry Row, 1801 Whetstone Way, Baltimore , MD 21230
- Canton Crossing, 3779 Boston Street, Baltimore, MD 21224
People who got the Moderna vaccine now have a shorter wait time to receive a booster.
The FDA now authorizes and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people who received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine get a booster dose after five months. This announcement from federal agencies comes just three days after the announcement of a shortened wait time for a booster from six months to five months for those who received the Pfizer vaccine.
So to clarify, current recommendation for COVID-19 boosters is:
- Those who received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine should get a booster five months after their last dose.
- Those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get a booster two months after their initial dose.
- Anyone ages 12 and older should receive a booster. The CDC also recommends a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 who have compromised immune systems.
Adults may receive any brand of the COVID-19 vaccine for their booster, while children 12 to 17 can only receive Pfizer. NCDHHS encouraged people who are unsure what booster is right for them to talk to their doctor, a nurse or a pharmacist.
Wake County Public Health has confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 at the following facilities:
- The Addison of Knightdale located at 2408 Hodge Road in Knightdale. This is the facility's fourth outbreak. Previous outbreaks occurred in October 2021, January 2021 and July 2020.
- Holly Hill Hospital - Main Campus, located at 3019 Falstaff Road in Raleigh. This is the facility's third outbreak. Previous outbreaks occurred in April 2021 and December 2020.
- Litchford Falls, located at 8200 Litchford Road in Raleigh. This is the facility's fifth outbreak. Previous outbreaks occurred in September 2021, April 2021, June 2020 and October 2020.
- Spring Arbor of Apex located at 901 Spring Arbor Ct. in Apex. This is the facility's second outbreak. The previous outbreak occurred in October 2021.
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.
With cases of COVID-19 reaching record highs and hospitalizations increasing, Gov. Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Kinsley called on all North Carolinians to get vaccinated and get a booster as soon as they are eligible.
Early studies show that boosters greatly increase someone's immune response and provide greater protection against the Omicron variant than no vaccine. The booster is especially important for those older than 65 or in other populations at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
The Governor and Secretary also urged the use of well-fitting, multi-layer masks as another layer of protection against the spread of the virus. If possible, wear a surgical or procedure mask, a KN95, or an N95.
NCDHHS is making some higher-grade masks available for adults at no cost in more places that need them, such as long-term care facilities and federally qualified health centers, and for schools staff and populations like migrant farm workers which at higher risk of exposure or severe illness. These organizations and those that provide essential services can request these masks here.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services urges K-12 schools to promote vaccination and boosters for students and staff and require students and staff to wear masks indoors to keep students in the classroom and limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
"Research and lived experience in this pandemic have shown it is essential we do everything we can to safely keep our students in the classroom," said NCDHHS Chief Deputy Secretary Susan Gale Perry. "In-person learning is more than academics, it's also children interacting with their peers, getting healthy meals and accessing critical support services."
Requiring masks in schools reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission, NCDHHS said, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published an updated review of scientific data that continues to show the benefits of mask-wearing in reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The updated review included a study of the effectiveness of masking in 70 K-12 schools during the 2020-21 school year, which showed secondary transmission rates were significantly lower for interactions between individuals wearing masks.
A K-12 student or staff member who has been in close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19 - and has not themselves developed symptoms or tested positive - can still attend school if:
- The person exposed has had their COVID-19 vaccinations. For adults, this includes boosters.
- The person exposed has had a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 90 days.
- The person exposed and the person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 were both properly wearing masks when the exposure occurred.
NCDHHS is adding another tool to help keep students in the classroom. Recent data released by the ABC Science Collaborative showed that Test-to-Stay can be an effective strategy for further reducing absences and lowering the risk of further transmission of COVID-19 in schools where masks are required. NCDHHS has incorporated these findings into the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit.
With the addition of a Test-to-Stay option, the list of scenarios for remaining in the classroom is expanded to include unmasked exposures (e.g., when students are eating lunch). This Test-to-Stay option only applies to K-12 school settings that require masks, which data has shown limits the risk of transmission. As part of Test-to-Stay, the person who was exposed to COVID-19 should:
- Get tested the day they are notified of an exposure.
- Get tested again five days after the exposure (or as close to five days as possible).
- Wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.
- Except for attending school, stay home and avoid others.
"Protecting our students and staff requires layers of protection to stop the spread of COVID-19," said State Health Director and NCDHHS Chief Medical Officer Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, M.D. "In addition to vaccines and masks, Test-to-Stay is another proven tool that can help minimize the spread of COVID-19 while also maximizing time in the classroom."
Wake County leaders say COVID-19 is to blame after school buses across the county arrived late or failed to pick up thousands of students.
Fifteen percent of 636 bus routes in Wake County did not have a driver Friday morning.
Leaders are blaming COVID-19 in addition to the preexisting bus driver shortage they have seen all year long for the issue.
School leaders are working to contact parents at schools where the routes are affected. They said if parents did not receive a message Friday morning their child's route is running as usual. However, if parents did receive the message, they can expect delays Friday afternoon.
School leaders are encouraging parents to continuously check online and the "Here Comes the Bus" app for updates.
Orange County said COVID-19 cases have risen 587% in the county since the end of November, with 1,010 new cases reported last week.
Most new cases are because of the highly contagious Omicron variant.
"Omicron is highly contagious; therefore, well-fitting and high-quality face masks are immensely important. Wearing masks is nothing new. Masks have been among the most effective ways to limit the spread of COVID-19," said Renee Price, Chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners. "With Omicron surging, we have to be more conscientious and diligent. Please take the necessary precautions by wearing masks and wearing them properly."
The County is urging residents to get vaccinated and boosted, get tested if they have symptoms, and wear face coverings indoors.
"If people wear face coverings and avoid indoor gatherings, it could help to flatten the curve," said Orange County Health Director Quintana Stewart. "Currently our percentage of positive tests is 11.2% which is way above our goal of 5% or below. It is important for us to flatten the curve to make sure we all continue to have access to hospital care when we need it, whether it's for COVID-19 or all of the other life-threatening conditions that demand care in a hospital."
North Carolina is reporting the highest daily increase of the pandemic -- another record -- for the third consecutive day.
There were 28,474 new cases added for a total of 1,816,380 since the start of the pandemic.
The trend has been remarkable in its ascent. One week ago, 19,174 cases were added and two weeks ago, 5,606 cases were reported.
It's a 407% increase in daily cases since two Fridays ago.
The daily percent positive is 31.2%, up slightly from the previous day and more than double the rate this day last year.
It's also the third day in a row above 30%.
Hospitalizations are at 3,474. That's 181 more people than the previous day.
Patients have nearly doubled in the last two weeks.
However, this time last year, there were 3.984 hospitalizations. While patients are going up the percent of patients in the ICU and on a ventilator are decreasing (20% in ICU and 12% on ventilators).
The state reported 33 new deaths for a total of 19,619 since the start of the pandemic.
The Durham County Department of Public Health (DCoDPH) will expand COVID-19 vaccination eligibility beginning Monday at its vaccination clinic to begin offering booster doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for all people ages 12-15, and third doses of Pfizer vaccines for children ages 5-11 who are moderately to severely immunocompromised. Additionally, booster vaccinations will now be available for all people 12 and older five months after they complete a primary Pfizer vaccination series, reducing the waiting period from its previous length of six months.
People who completed a Moderna vaccination series must still wait six months before receiving a booster dose; those who first received a Johnson & Johnson vaccination must wait two months before receiving a booster dose. People ages 18 or older may receive any brand of COVID-19 vaccine as their booster dose; people ages 12-17 are eligible for Pfizer brand booster doses only.
Third doses of COVID-19 vaccinations for people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised may be administered 28 days after the primary vaccination series for people who received Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. People ages 5-17 are eligible for these third doses of Pfizer vaccines only.
All vaccinations for people ages 5 and older are available at DCoDPH by walk-in or appointment. To schedule an appointment, call 919-560-9217, or visit the DCoDPH COVID-19 vaccination clinic at 414 E. Main St., Durham during our walk-in hours Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays 9:a.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to 5:40 p.m.
Chatham County said NCDHHS data released Thursday shows 114 new cases among its residents.
"While the Omicron variant likely causes less severe illness on average than Delta, many will still get sick given the number of cases we are experiencing," said Mike Zelek, Chatham County Public Health Director. "This is why our core strategies, including vaccinations, masking, and testing, are still so important. Specifically, the booster shot is providing strong, increased protection against disease from Omicron. This is very good news. The bad news: Hospitalizations from COVID-19 are on the rise, and most who end up in the hospital remain those who are not vaccinated."
Wake County Public Schools warns parents to check their child's bus status.
The school district said COVID-19 has caused a severe driver shortage. Thus, some bus routes will not be covered Friday morning.
It's unclear at this time how many bus drivers are out and how long the shortage may last.
Click here to check your child's bus route.