People who got the Moderna vaccine now have a shorter wait time to receive a booster

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

5:15 p.m.
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

Out-of-state stores:
  • 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

5:01 p.m.
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.

4:30 p.m.
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.

3:11 p.m.

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.

2:22 p.m.
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."

1:10 p.m.
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.

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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.

1:05 p.m.
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."

12:57 p.m.
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.

12:43 p.m.
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.

12:31 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."

6:30 a.m.
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.

7:30 p.m.
Wake County ABC stores will be adjusting their hours.

Wake County ABC said it has experienced "an uptick in COVID cases" among staffers.

They're trying to move staffers around to keep stores open. Because of that, stores hours have changed to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday. These hours will remain in effect until at least the end of January.

4:22 p.m.
Post-vaccination cases made up 28% of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina the week ending Dec. 25, NCDHHS data shows.

The percent of post-vaccination cases increased for the week ending on Christmas compared to the previous week.

The rate was at 24% the previous few weeks.

Vaccinated people now make up 20% of hospitalizations and 12% of ICU patients. This is also an increase from previous metrics when they made up 16% of hospitalizations.

The Omicron variant was first detected in North Carolina the week ending Dec. 11. For the week ending Dec. 25, which is the most recent data available, Omicron represented 40% of sequenced viruses.

4:06 p.m.
Halifax County Public Health System is partnering with area healthcare agencies to provide COVID-19 testing to residents. All COVID-19 testing is by appointment only after discussing your care with your primary care physician. Please contact your primary care physician's office should you become symptomatic or if you have been around someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Contact your provider to be tested at any of the following sites. Should you not have a provider contact one of these sites listed here to select a provider for primary care and for COVID 19 testing.

Existing Testing Sites in Halifax County:
Roanoke Rapids locations:
  • Halifax Works/Urgent Care (252)-535-8463
  • Medfirst (252)-308-0686
  • Vidant Family Medicine (252)-537-9176
  • Vidant North Hospital (no number provided)
  • CVS (252)-537-7011
  • Fast Med Urgent Care (252)-537-5600

All Rural Health Group locations have COVID-19 testing available for those who are symptomatic or who have been directly exposed to someone who has tested positive.
  • Rural Health Group at Enfield (Enfield) (252)-445-2332

  • Rural Health Group at Twin County (Hollister) (252)-586-5151

  • Rural Health Group at Lake Gaston (Littleton) (252)-586-5411

  • Rural Health Group at Roanoke Rapids (Hwy 125, Roanoke Rapids) (252)-536-5000

  • Rural Health Group at Halifax Medical Specialists (Roanoke Rapids) (252)-537-0134

  • Rural Health Group at HRMC (Vidant North) (Roanoke Rapids) (252)-308-9699

  • Rural Health Group at Scotland Neck (Scotland Neck) (252)-826-3143

3:39 p.m.
Cape Fear Valley Health System's facilities will further restrict visitation starting Friday.

Beginning that day, patients who have not tested positive for COVID-19 will be allowed one visitor per day, between the hours of noon and 8 p.m. COVID-19 patients will be allowed one visitor per day, for one hour between 4 to 8 p.m.

In the Emergency Department, visitors will not be allowed in the waiting room, but one visitor will be allowed once the patient has been given a room. Visitors to patients in the Emergency Department will not be allowed to leave and return.

"We are watching the trend of the inpatient COVID-19 cases at Cape Fear Valley as well as tracking the spread in the community on an ongoing basis and adjusting visitation policies accordingly," said Chief Operating Officer Daniel Weatherly. "The hospital will provide visitors with a mask that must be worn during their entire visit. We also encourage everyone in the community to get vaccinated, and get their booster shot when it's due, to help our healthcare heroes as we fight this pandemic into its third year."

Because of the high vulnerability of Long-Term Acute Care patients at Highsmith-Rainey Specialty Hospital, all visitors to those patients must be able to show proof of vaccination.

The following exceptions will be made to this visitation policy:
  • Labor & Delivery: Laboring mothers may have one support person/coach for the duration of their stay. If the support person/coach leaves the premises for any reason, he or she will not be allowed back into the building.
  • Family Centered Care Unit: May have one visitor/support person during their entire stay who must stay in the patient's room at all times. If the person leaves the premises for any reason, he or she will not be allowed back into the building.
  • Pediatric patients: A legal minor may have one parent or guardian with them who must stay in the patient's room at all times. One parent/guardian may change out with another parent/guardian between noon and 8 p.m.
  • Patients who need a healthcare decision-maker or require communication assistance may have one Care Companion with them. The Care Companion may be changed one time each day between noon and 8 p.m.
  • Cancer Center patients who are having a consultation visit may have two people with them.
  • End of Life patients may have one hour of visitation per day, during which time they may have one visitor bedside at a time, with a maximum of four visitors each day. In certain circumstances, the nursing supervisor may allow for compassionate exceptions to this rule for End of Life patients.

Even in the above situations, visitors with symptoms of a fever or respiratory illness symptoms, including cough or shortness of breath, should remain home. Visitors and patients in all Cape Fear Valley Health facilities and clinics are required to properly wear a mask provided by the health system at all times.

Cloth masks and neck gaiters are not permitted. This mask policy will be strictly enforced.

All visitors will be screened with a brief verbal questionnaire and a temperature scan before being allowed entry. Those who refuse to answer the questions or who have a temperature above 100.3 Fahrenheit will be denied entry.

12:58 p.m.
North Carolina reported 24,292 new cases -- the highest daily increase of the pandemic -- for a total of 1,787,906 since the start of the pandemic -- nearly two years ago.

Last year at this time, there were just 6,952 new cases. A week ago the number was 18,571 cases added.

Cases are up 30.8% since last Thursday.

The daily percent positive is 30.1% as the highly transmissible Omicron variant spreads quickly through communities.

The number is slightly lower than the previous day but still is the second day above 30%.

A total of 3,293 hospitalizations were reported, 194 more than the previous day.

There are 635 people in ICU (20% of total patients).

The state reported 44 new deaths for a total of 19,586 since the start of the pandemic.

12:30 p.m.
Following approvals and guidance from state and federal agencies, Wake County Public Health will be expanding its COVID-19 vaccine offerings to administer single-shot boosters of Pfizer-BioNTech to everyone ages 12 and older.

Parents can begin scheduling this evening for appointments available as early as Friday and Saturday at all five Wake County Public Health vaccine clinics.

"These new recommendations encourage every teen 12- to 17-years-old get a boost of protection as COVID-19 cases surge within our community," said Wake County Associate Medical Director Dr. Nicole Mushonga. "As students are heading back to school after the holidays, we encourage all parents to keep them up to date with COVID-19 vaccine recommendations."

10:27 a.m.
Wake County Public Health has confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 at the following facilities:
  • Cardinal of North Hills, a senior living community, at 4030 Cardinal at North Hills St. in Raleigh. This is the facility's second outbreak. The previous outbreak occurred in November 2020.
  • The Retreat at Cary, an assisted living facility, at 309 Tweed Circle in Cary. This is the facility's second outbreak. The previous outbreak occurred in January 2021.
  • Zebulon Rehabilitation Center at 509 W. Gannon Ave. in Zebulon. This is the facility's first outbreak.
  • Sunrise of Raleigh, an assisted living community, at 4801 Edwards Mill Road in Raleigh. This is the facility's second outbreak. The previous outbreak occurred in July 2020.
  • Hillside Nursing and Rehab, an assisted living and skilled nursing facility, at 968 Wait Ave. in Wake Forest. This is the facility's fourth outbreak. The previous outbreaks occurred in August 2021, December 2020 and June 2020.
  • Capital Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at 3000 Holston Lane in Raleigh. This is the facility's fourth outbreak. The previous outbreaks occurred in September 2021, April 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.

8:25 a.m.
The American Medical Association, the nation's largest association of physicians, has criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new quarantine and isolation guidance for COVID-19, saying the recommendations "are risking further spread of the virus."

The CDC updated its guidelines on Dec. 27, saying asymptomatic people who test positive for COVID-19 should self-isolate for five days rather than 10.

"The American people should be able to count on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for timely, accurate, clear guidance to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities. Instead, the new recommendations on quarantine and isolation are not only confusing but are risking further spread of the virus," the American Medical Association's president, Dr. Gerald E. Harmon, said in a statement Wednesday night.
Harmon referenced data cited by the CDC in its rationale for shortening the isolation period, which estimates 31% of people remain infectious five days after a positive COVID-19 test, suggesting that data proves thousands of Americans could return to their lives while still infected.

"With hundreds of thousands of new cases daily and more than a million positive reported cases on January 3, tens of thousands -- potentially hundreds of thousands of people -- could return to work and school infectious if they follow the CDC's new guidance on ending isolation after five days without a negative test," Harmon said. "Physicians are concerned that these recommendations put our patients at risk and could further overwhelm our health care system."

Harmon said a negative COVID-19 test should be required for ending isolation after a positive test, as reentering society without knowing whether an individual is still positive ultimately risks further transmission of the virus.

Although test availability remains an issue nationwide, Harmon also called on the Biden administration to ramp up production and distribution of tests, adding that "a dearth of tests at the moment does not justify omitting a testing requirement to exit a now shortened isolation."
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