Several North Carolina COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites altered schedules today due to expected severe weather

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Here are the latest updates about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in North Carolina.

5:24 p.m.
Governor Cooper on Friday will see vaccinations at the Vidant/Pitt Large-Scale Vaccine Clinic in Greenville, his office announced.

4 p.m.
With the U.S. closing in on President Joe Biden's goal of injecting 100 million coronavirus vaccinations weeks ahead of his target date, officials say the nation is now in position to help supply neighbors Canada and Mexico with shots.

The Biden administration announced the outlines of a plan to "loan" vaccines to Canada and Mexico as the president announced that the U.S. is on the cusp of injecting 100 million doses to Americans- well ahead of his goal of reaching the benchmark within his first 100 days in office.

Biden announced the U.S. will hit the 100 million on Friday-the 58th day of his administration.

3 p.m.
The U.S. is finalizing plans to send a combined 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico and Canada in its first export of shots.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki says the Biden administration is planning to send 2.5 million doses to Mexico and 1.5 million to Canada as a "loan."

The AstraZeneca vaccine has not been authorized for use in the U.S. but has been authorized by the World Health Organization. The premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, thanked Biden for his willingness to share the vaccines.

Canadian regulators have approved the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, but acquiring them has proven difficult. Canada ranks about 20th in the number of doses administered, with about 8% of the adult population getting at least one shot. That compares with about 38% in the U.K. and 22% in the U.S.

Mexico has fully vaccinated more than 600,000 people and more than 4 million have received a single dose in a country of 126 million.

12:08 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports seven new cases for a total of 5,084 positive COVID 19 cases. There have been 102 deaths -- 2.0% of total cases.

Halifax County is also giving COVID-19 vaccines through 4:30 p.m. at the Griffin Centre on the campus of Halifax Community College 200 College Drive in Weldon.

Vaccinations are available to anyone ages 18 and older, no appointment necessary. Please arrive at the top of the hour or half past the hour.

12 p.m.
Thursday's report from the NCDHHS included 2,004 newly-reported COVID-19 cases. 995 people were hospitalized; 7 less people than yesterday.

The daily percent positive rate was 3.9%.

Sadly, 11,783 people have died since the start of the pandemic.

11:30 a.m.
CVS Health will begin to administer vaccines to eligible people as early as Sunday, March 21 at eight additional CVS Pharmacy locations across North Carolina. Appointments for the latest allocation of doses will start to become available for booking on Friday, March 19, as stores receive shipments of vaccine.

Patients must register in advance at CVS.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app, and people without online access can contact CVS Customer Service: (800) 746-7287. Walk-in vaccinations without an appointment will not be provided.

10 a.m.
Walgreens says it is aware of a technical glitch with its scheduler where some patients received confirmation numbers for appointments that were not actually added to the pharmacy's vaccination schedule.

"This issue has since been resolved," a spokesperson said in a statement. "We are committed to honoring vaccination appointments that have been made in our system, and we are working with all patients affected to reschedule their appointments. We apologize for the inconvenience."

9 a.m.
Health experts say the surge in coronavirus cases in Europe should serve as a warning to the U.S. not to drop its safeguards too early.

Optimism is spreading in the U.S. as virus deaths are plummeting and states are easing restrictions.

But across Europe tighter restrictions are returning amid a surge of cases that are straining some hospitals.

The pandemic's diverging paths on the two continents can be linked to the more successful vaccine rollout in the U.S. and a wave of more transmissible variants in Europe. Health experts add that some areas of Europe also were too quick to relax distancing requirements.

THURSDAY MORNING STORYLINES
During a news conference on Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper and DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen both said they expected all adult North Carolinians to be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, in line with a promise made by President Joe Biden earlier this week.

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Gov. Roy Cooper and DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen both said they expected all adult North Carolinians to be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine by May 1.



Many vaccination and COVID-19 testing sites in North Carolina made changes to schedules on Thursday due to expected severe weather.

Thursday afternoon on ABC11, Gov. Cooper will appear on GMA3: What you need to know. He will discuss the state's HOPE Program -- which helps cover housing and prevent evictions.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to 770,000, a sign that layoffs remain high even as much of the U.S. economy is steadily recovering from the coronavirus recession.

Thursday's report from the Labor Department showed that jobless claims climbed from 725,000 the week before.

The numbers have dropped sharply since the depths of the recession last spring but still show that employers in some industries continue to lay off workers. Before the pandemic struck, applications for unemployment aid had never topped 700,000 in any one week.

The four-week average of claims, which smooths out weekly variations, dropped to 746,000, the lowest since late November.

WEDNESDAY

9 p.m.
Duke Health COVID-19 vaccine appointments scheduled with the African-American COVID-19 taskforce Appointments scheduled for the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church -- located at 1007 South Roxboro Street in Durham -- on March 18 have been canceled.

All time slots will be moved to March 25.

4:35 p.m.
The Durham VA Health Care System will open COVID-19 vaccinations to all veterans enrolled in VA Health Care.

The Durham VA Health Care System is offering 1,400 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to any veterans enrolled in VA Health Care. Vaccination appointments are open to enrolled veterans regardless of age, medical condition, or profession

There are multiple appointment slots available at the Durham VA Medical Center and the Greenville Health Care Center including weekdays and a one-day clinic, which will take place at the Durham VA Medical Center, 508 Fulton St., from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday.

To schedule an appointment, veterans should call (919) 286-0411, then press "0" to schedule an appointment.

The Moderna vaccine is being offered at the Greenville Health Care Center. To schedule an appointment, veterans should call (252) 830-2149, then press "0" to schedule an appointment.

4:32 p.m.
Several WakeMed facilities will close at noon Thursday because of the threat of severe weather and the possibility of hazardous driving conditions. More information here.

4:11 p.m.
Because of the strong potential for severe weather Thursday, the federally-supported Greensboro Community Vaccination Center at Four Seasons will stop drive-through vaccination operations at 11 a.m. Thursday, and resume drive-through vaccinations on Friday morning at 8 a.m. Indoor vaccination operations will continue as scheduled.

People with a drive-through vaccine appointment for 11 a.m. or later on Thursday will have the option to get vaccinated at the indoor clinic at Four Seasons Town Centre at the same appointment time or to reschedule a drive-through appointment at a later date.

Appointments can be rescheduled by calling the state's COVID-19 Help Center at (888) 675-4567.

4 p.m.
Because of the possibility of severe weather Thursday, Wake County is making changes to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

All free COVID-19 testing has been canceled for Thursday, but normal testing hours will resume Friday.

All first and second dose COVID-19 vaccine appointments for Thursday have been moved to Friday - same time, same place. Anyone who already had Friday appointments can keep them.

Wake County is increasing capacity to accommodate all Thursday and Friday appointments on Friday.

3:59 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports six new cases for a total of 5,077 positive COVID 19 cases.

A total of 4,901 patients -- 96.53% of cases have recovered from COVID-19 as of Wednesday.

The county death toll remains at 102.

2 p.m.
During a Wednesday afternoon news conference, Gov. Roy Cooper and DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen both said they expected all adult North Carolinians to be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, in line with a promise made by President Joe Biden earlier this week.

"We are looking forward to having vaccines open to all adults by May 1," Cooper said. "It would be great if we could get there even faster than that."

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Gov. Roy Cooper and DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen both said they expected all adult North Carolinians to be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine by May 1.



Cooper and Cohen added that in addition to expanding eligibility to people with chronic conditions today, all essential workers not yet covered by group three and people living in congregate settings such as fraternities and sororities will be able to get the vaccine on April 7.

Still, Cooper recognized he and other health leaders are concerned about vaccine interest plateauing.

"We still know there's a lot of hesitancy across out there across the board," Cooper said. "We're going to be working extraordinarily hard to convince people that this is important to do."

Cooper also congratulated North Carolina's vaccine providers on the work they've done so far in vaccinating more than 1.2 million North Carolinians--over 16% of the population. He added that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put North Carolina in the top 10 states in the nation for equitable vaccine distribution.

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North Carolina's trajectory of cases is decreasing, however, with new, more contagious variants in the state, we need to keep our guard up, she said.



Still, Cooper said it is not the time to let guards down when it comes to prevention measures, as COVID-19 variants are still circulating in the state.

"While our trends look good, we're still keeping a watchful and concerned eye on the more contagious COVID-19 variants we're seeing spread in our state," Cooper said.

And while the majority of the state's trends look good, Cohen said her teams are still watching the trend of cases to make sure cases are not plateauing.

12:40 p.m.
North Carolina health officials are reporting 1,999 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 889,310.

Throughout the state, 19 fewer patients are being hospitalized for the virus. Currently, there are 1,002 North Carolinians hospitalized with COVID-19.

There have been 35 more deaths due to the virus, bringing the total to 11,757.

The state is reporting a 5.6% test rate.

Throughout North Carolina, 1,353,372 are fully vaccinated. That is 13% of the state's population.

5:55 a.m.
Duke University tested more than 19,000 students, faculty and staffers last week.

Of those tests, 231 came back positive for COVID-19. All but 20 of those were undergraduate students.

Duke said that is the highest number of cases the university has seen in a single week at any point during the pandemic.

It's also the same number of positive cases the university found during its entire first semester.

That alarming increase has been blamed on fraternity parties that took place off campus.

In response, Duke ordered all undergraduate students to stay-in-place until Sunday.

WEDNESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
More North Carolinians become eligible to get vaccinated today.

Gov. Roy Cooper moved up the eligibility for the first part of Group 4 from March 24 to March 17.

The first part of Group 4 includes people with high-risk medical conditions like asthma, cancer or diabetes as well as people living in congregate settings.

People included in that group can begin signing up to get vaccinated Wednesday. Of course, it will still take some time before you get an appointment.

Cooper is scheduled to give a COVID-19 update Wednesday at 2 p.m. You can watch that update live in the ABC11 North Carolina app on your connected television.

As for the rest of Group 4--including essential workers who have not yet been vaccinated--they are expected to become eligible to be vaccinated on April 7.

Group 5--which includes everybody else--still does not have a starting date. However, state health leaders have suggested that group remains on target to be eligible by or before May 1, which is the date President Joe Biden has said the vaccine should be available for everybody.

TUESDAY
9:40 p.m.
"In one sense, it's a great step, but I think we shouldn't have waited this long to get the vaccine," said Rita McDaniel, who has several high-risk conditions that make her eligible to receive a vaccine as part of Group 4.

While the state recently bumped up the timeline by a week for the first part of Group 4, they had earlier moved people with chronic conditions down from Group 2 to Group 4.

"(Having) to wait this long, it's given us a wide span of time to catch the virus. So some of my friends will not come out of the house, will not venture out, have food delivered to them, and their groceries. Some of the people I know will carry on like (usual), but they wear a mask," said McDaniel.

McDaniel, who works with a community organizer with the NC AIDS Action Network, acknowledged despite her health issues, she shared safety concerns about the vaccine.

"In the Black community, a lot of us have fears and doubts. I've had family members, friends say they're not going to take it because they're not sure what they're getting injected with," said McDaniel.

The future is also where Rhonda Carroll and her son Joseph, who has Down syndrome, are looking toward.

Joseph turns 18 later this month, and while eligibility for Group 4 includes those 16 and older, only the Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for people younger than 18.

People living in congregate settings such as shelters will also be eligible beginning Wednesday, March 17, with the rest of Group 4 able to get their shots beginning on April 7.

While vaccine production has recently ramped up, state officials share that demand outpaces supply, and adding millions of more eligible people will add another layer to scheduling. Despite this, State Health Director Dr. Betsy Tilson is confident in providers' ability to handle the influx of sign-ups.

"(People who were) eligible still remain eligible. A lot of our outreach to employers and trying to bringing vaccines to worksites, they'll be able to vaccinate people who have or don't have chronic health conditions at that work site as well. So I think we'll be okay as we move forward and be able to accommodate people," said Dr. Tilson.

Doctors are urging people not to delay getting the shot, and to sign up when their Priority Group is eligible.

8 p.m.
Cumberland County Schools announced Tuesday night it will transition to Plan A on April 12. Under Plan A, Pre-K through grade 12 can attend class in person on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of each week. Virtual learning remains an option open to students.

2:37 p.m.
The 4th Fighter Wing Medical Group is hosting a COVID-19 mass vaccine line for specific groups of authorized TRICARE beneficiaries at the base Fitness Center at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

On Thursday, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. first doses for persons aged 65 and older and persons 16 and older who are at increased risk of severe illness in accordance with CDC guidelines, and beneficiaries who received their first dose from the 4th Medical group who still require their second dose are welcome to receive the vaccine.

On Friday, March 19th, from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. or while supplies last, first doses for persons aged 65 and older, persons 16 and older who are at increased risk of severe illness, beneficiaries who received their first dose from the 4th Medical group who still require their second dose, and all other TRICARE beneficiaries are welcome to receive the vaccine. Persons 65 and older or 16 and older at increased risk of severe illness in accordance with CDC guidelines will have waiting line priority throughout the day on Friday.

2:29 p.m.
The Halifax County Health Department reports two new cases for a total of 5,071 positive COVID-19 cases.

The death toll remains at 102 -- 2% of total cases.

2:12 p.m.
North Carolina native and NASCAR legend Richard Petty recently received a COVID-19 vaccine.

The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and all-time leader in premier series race wins with 200, Petty was vaccinated at a drive-through vaccination center located near his hometown of Level Cross.

In a public service announcement released by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Petty, 83, shares his reasons for getting vaccinated and urges others to find their spot and take their shot.



"I talked to my doctor, and he highly recommended that I go ahead and get a shot," Petty said. "It doesn't only help me; it helps my family and all of the people I associate with. You are not only helping yourself; you are helping your neighbors."

Petty recorded the PSA in partnership with NCDHHS as part of the state's Your Spot Your Shot COVID-19 public education campaign. To date, more than 1.2 million North Carolinians are fully vaccinated.

12:50 p.m.
Two new studies add to evidence that a virus variant first detected in Britain is more deadly than the previous dominant form.

Other research had already demonstrated the strain is more transmissible, but a new paper published Monday in the journal Nature suggests the U.K. variant may also be associated with an increased risk of death.

Comparing cases in more than 1 million people infected in England, researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimated the risk of death was about 55% higher for those with the new variant versus the previous one.

For men in their 50s or 60s, that meant the risk of death went from 0.06% to 0.09% with the new strain.

In a University of Exeter study published in the British journal BMJ last week, researchers followed about 100,000 positive COVID-19 cases, matching pairs of participants on age, sex and other factors. They also found those with the U.K. variant were at higher risk of death during the study.

The variant has been found in all but a few states in the U.S. and is expected to become the dominant strain later this spring.

12:40 p.m.
Moderna announced Tuesday it is beginning a study of its COVID-19 vaccine in children younger than 12 - one that will include babies as young as 6 months.

The announcement comes exactly a year after the first adult received a test dose of the shot, created at the National Institutes of Health. It's now being used across the U.S. and in multiple other countries.

Moderna also has tested the vaccine in 12- to 17-year-olds but hasn't yet released the findings. The study in younger children will be more complex because researchers need to determine whether to use smaller doses than in adults and adolescents.

The study aims to eventually enroll about 6,750 children in the U.S. and Canada. That's after a phase-in portion to determine the best dose to test in children age 2 and older and the right dose in those younger than 2.

12:33 p.m.
Sampson County reports 27 new cases for a total of 7,260 cases.

The county death toll remains at 95. In all 11,948 people have tested negative for COVID-19 countywide.

The health department will hold a vaccination event from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday at Sampson Agri Expo Center, 414 Warsaw Road in Clinton.

Second doses will be provided from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to those who have received their first dose Feb. 10 and 17. First doses will be provided from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

12:30 p.m.
NCDHHS on Tuesday reported 1,093 new COVID-19 cases in the state.

1,021 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. 91 confirmed patients were admitted in the last 24 hours.

The percent of positive tests in North Carolina is at 6.7 percent.

12.6 percent of the state is fully vaccinated. 16.2 percent of adults are fully vaccinated.

12 p.m.
After opening his presidency by playing down expectations for combating the pandemic, President Joe Biden and his top messengers are touring the country to raise hopes over his $1.9 trillion relief package. The president - as well as his vice president and his wife - is promising that the spending will bring transformational change. It's a sharp turn from the start of the Biden administration when vaccination goals were relatively modest and Americans were warned the country might not return to normal until Christmas. Biden is heading to Pennsylvania on Tuesday to highlight the benefits of the plan, specifically focusing on aid for small businesses.

11:45 a.m.
Stocks were mixed in afternoon trading Tuesday as Wall Street looked to match its longest winning streak of the year. Investors continue to closely watch the bond market, with even minute changes in bond yields causing stocks to fluctuate. Investors are also working through economic data that showed Americans cut back spending last month. European shares were mostly higher despite news that AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine, which was being used heavily in Europe and Asia, had reports of blood clots after usage. The vaccine's usage is suspended in Europe.

11:30 a.m.

Durham Public Schools said its precautions reduced the risk of anyone getting COVID-19 from the two students who tested positive after the first day back in school in a year.

"We know that these students did not get COVID-19 at school. We know that we are people who are living in a community that is fighting COVID-19 all along. We're taking every step possible to limit its impact on our teachers and students," DPS Public Information Officer Chip Sudderth said.

Two Southwest Elementary School students tested positive after Monday's return to in-person learning. At least one of those students rode a bus home.

"Our buses are regularly cleaned anyway. But students who rode that bus with the student who later was found to have tested positive, they are going to be staying home and doing remote learning as well," Sudderth explained. "We're being very, very intentional about limiting the opportunities for COVID to spread."

Durham Public Schools had previously announced it would not do in-person classes this school year. But that changed when Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican legislators hashed out a deal to require schools to offer in-person classes.

"The legislature and the governor have made moves to require all of our schools to offer in-person learning. We know that we're going to be living with COVID for quite some time, even with vaccinations and with all the safety precautions that we've been taking. We are learning from other districts that have been dealing with this all along, who have been taking the steps to minimize the disease," Sudderth said.

8:00 a.m.
Moderna will start testing its COVID-19 vaccine on babies and children.

The company said it's looking to enroll 7,000 children between six months and 12-years-old for the trial.

7:30 a.m.
A day after Durham Public Schools welcomed students back into the classroom, two students have tested positive for COVID-19.

DPS said the students attended Southwest Elementary School and rode bus 185 on Monday afternoon.

Three classrooms will close to in-person learning for 10 days. The students who may have come in contact with either of the COVID-19 positive students will participate in remote learning for at least 10 days.

The school and local health department are working to contact any students or faculty members who had contact with the students.

6:15 a.m.
Federal and state officials are working to discuss what your office will look like as we move past the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many workers have not been in their office in a year. Working from home has become the new normal, but what will working look like when the pandemic is over?

That's the question North Carolina-based Catapult wants to dive into Tuesday.

The company is hosting a discussion with NC Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen and Andy Slavitt, a senior advisor for President Joe Biden's COVID-19 Task Force.

Employees are encouraged to join in as Cohen and Slavitt talk about how the pandemic has changed our workplaces and how those changes will look in the coming months and years.

The discussion is scheduled for 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. You just need to register at least 5 minutes before the event begins.

You can learn more about the event and register here.

TUESDAY MORNING HEADLINES
The push to get more students back to class continues with education leaders in Wake and Cumberland counties holding discussions Tuesday.

Wake County Public School System welcomed 4th- and 5th-grade students back to class Monday. The district's school board is scheduled Tuesday to discuss plans to bring the remaining 6-12th grade students back to class.

A petition is already circling, calling on the board to bring back all students by April 7. The board's meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30.

Leaders with Cumberland County Schools are having similar discussions. Their meeting starts at 6 p.m.

Roanoke Rapids Graded School District is welcoming students back to class Tuesday.

Pre-K through 5th-grade students are starting back to in-person classes full time.

The rest of the students will be divided into two groups: Grades 6-8 will alternate weeks in-person & grades 9-12 will attend in person two days a week.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may tweak recommendations for physical distancing in schools.

The CDC is looking into a Harvard study published last week that found no difference in transmission when masked children were three feet apart, as opposed to the currently recommended six feet apart.
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