Health

Duke University Hospital received 2,925 does of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020.
Blyth Morrell / Duke University Hospital

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 300,000 doses of the vaccination against Covid-19 have been shipped to North Carolina. The CDC reports 94,865 people have received the first of two doses of the shot as of Jan. 2, though that data can lag by a few days.

Two glitched out photos paced together of an Afro-wearing person holding their hands around and on the mouth and nose.
Daniel Gaudard Varotto Couto

Back in November, WUNC chose to discontinue “The State of Things,” North Carolina’s only live public radio program heard in the mountains, on the coast and in the Piedmont. Those of us who make the daily talk show were surprised and saddened by the decision — however, we are thrilled to continue offering the Embodied series into 2021 as a live weekly program from noon to one on Fridays. Listeners can also look forward to season two of the podcast adaptation.

Governor Roy Cooper and members of North Carolina's Coronavirus Task Force are scheduled to hold a media briefing on Wednesday at 2 p.m.

Host Dave DeWitt wraps nine months of Tested podcasts with a look at COVID-19 in North Carolina then and now with the show's first guest: Rose Hoban of North Carolina Health News.


Duke University Hospital received 2,925 does of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020.
Blyth Morrell / Duke University Hospital

This post will be updated periodically with the latest information on how the coronavirus is affecting North Carolina. Scroll down for older updates. For a recap of last week's news, check out Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of Dec. 21.

11:18 a.m. - Guilford County Schools is delaying the return of middle school students for in-person learning by another two weeks. The district had planned for the first group of sixth graders to be back in classrooms on Jan. 7. Now they're scheduled to return Jan. 21. The district says the delay will give administrators more time to review COVID-19 data and guidance for the middle school age group. Guilford County elementary schools are still slated to reopen to students on Jan. 5 and high schools on Jan. 21. – Amy Jeffries, WUNC

Gov. Roy Cooper watches while Tracy Toner gives a COVID-19 vaccination to Duke nurse Arianna Motsinger at the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham on Monday, December 21, 2020.
Shawn Rocco / Duke Health

This post will be updated periodically with the latest information on how the coronavirus is affecting North Carolina. Scroll down for older updates. For a recap of last week's news, check out Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of Dec. 14.

The Long Haul

Dec 18, 2020

The rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine is offering hope for an end to the pandemic. But for some who have had COVID-19, ridding themselves of the virus’s aftereffects still feels a ways off.

Guest host Charlie Shelton-Ormond discusses the lingering physical and mental toll COVID-19 can take with two long-haulers and Dr. Max Taquet, a clinical fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford.

  

A new survey finds a growing number of North Carolina nurses are willing to take the coronavirus vaccine, but many still have lingering reservations.

The survey of 430 nurses was conducted by the North Carolina Nurses Association from Dec. 10 - 14. It found 57% of nurses said they would be comfortable taking a COVID-19 vaccine.

El Mensaje

Dec 15, 2020

Early public health messaging around COVID-19 widened a communication gap between officials and North Carolina's Spanish speakers. In this episode, we hear about efforts to bridge the divide from Dr. Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, director of health equity at Duke's Department of Family Medicine, and Eliazar Posada of El Centro Hispano.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP Photo

Just before noon Monday, Dr. Katie Passaretti stood still while a nurse stuck a needle in her arm and injected a dose of cold liquid.

Duke nurse Rita Oakes administers the first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination to Glenda Faye Tate Williams at Duke University Hospital in Durham on Monday, December 14, 2020.
Blyth Morrell / Duke University Hospital

This post will be updated periodically with the latest information on how the coronavirus is affecting North Carolina. Scroll down for older updates. For a recap of last week's news, check out Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of Dec. 7.

5:05 p.m. - UNC Charlotte's men's basketball coach is under quarantine after he was notified by COVID-19 contact tracers. Ron Sanchez will miss the team's next two games, including one tomorrow against North Carolina A&T. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

The pandemic has only added to the obstacles immigrants in the U.S. face. Volatile federal policies, growing fees, and information gaps are some of what is keeping more people from obtaining American citizenship.

Host Leoneda Inge talks about what the path to that status looks like now with Juliana Cabrales of the NALEO Education Fund and Katherine Reynolds from Elon’s Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic.

A sign directs customers to remain in their cars at Trophy Brewing on Morgan Street in Raleigh, N.C. on Sunday, March 22, 2020.
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

The new stay-at-home order from Governor Roy Cooper meant to limit gatherings and the spread of coronavirus goes into effect this evening.

Anita is all kinds of in love with her newborn niece, a relationship that has her thinking more about motherhood. Her thoughts on the matter are at least somewhat informed by listening to "The Double Shift" podcast, which challenges the status quo for moms. This episode explores the roles of gender and community in raising kids through the story of a transgender man named Ted. Plus, Anita extends an invitation for a virtual hangout.


North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen and Division of Public Health Pharmacist Dr. Amanda Fuller Moore will give a press briefing Thursday about COVID-19 vaccines and the distribution of those vaccines in North Carolina.

an eviction notice on a front door
Steve Rhodes / Creative Commons/http://bit.ly/2HmJ9nV

A new study has found that evictions directly led to higher COVID-19 cases and deaths.

In North Carolina, the researchers estimate there were 15,000 excess cases and 300 excess deaths due to evictions from March through early September.

A nurse sitting against a wall on the hospital floor. The nurse is covered in full gear: a white mask, blue shoe covers, a blue robe covering, blue gloves, and a blue nair net, and clear goggles. The nurse is looking straight ahead.
Alberto Guiliani/CC

COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing shortage of licensed nurses in the state of North Carolina. Too few nurses are available for staffing at local hospitals, leading to double and triple shifts for nurses who are healthy enough to work, as well as nurses’ increased exposure to COVID-19. This problem is expected to persist after vaccines become available, and retired nurses are being asked to return to work and assist with future distribution.

COVID-19 cases are spiking in rural areas, where hospitals have been dwindling over the past 15 years. Host Dave DeWitt learns more about the impact from Mark Holmes of the North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. Plus, reports from the mountains, and an update from Gov. Roy Cooper.

 

Gerry Broome / AP Photo

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper unveiled a modified stay-at-home order on Tuesday that requires the state's roughly 10.5 million residents to remain off the streets between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.


Markus Spiske / Unsplash/ Creative Commons

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has released a list of hospital systems that will get the initial shipment of a forthcoming coronavirus vaccine.

Chris Carlson / AP Photo

Six months ago, Apple and Google introduced a new smartphone tool designed to notify people who might have been exposed to the coronavirus, without disclosing any personal information. But for the most part, Americans haven't been all that interested.

Emma Wikstrom begins the first day of in-person teaching of second grade on Monday at Davis Drive Elementary in Cary, NC.
Kate Medley / For WUNC

This post will be updated periodically with the latest information on how the coronavirus is affecting North Carolina. Scroll down for older updates. For a recap of last week's news, check out Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of Nov. 30.

6:50 p.m. - The town of Youngsville says its Christmas parade generated $11,000 for needy children. The outpouring benefiting the "Shop With a Cop" program followed a national television appearance by the mayor. On Fox and Friends, Mayor Fonzie Flowers said parade-goers were being encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing and he put in a plug for the charity. Franklin County health officials concerned about the risk of coronavirus spread had scolded town leaders for deciding to go ahead with the annual event last weekend. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

'Herpes+ and fine with it' in white font on a black background
Ella Dawson

When Ella Dawson got diagnosed with genital herpes, she felt like her body betrayed her. Herpes was something dirty, something bad that happened to other people. For a 20-something coming into her sexuality and body confidence, a sexually transmitted infection was a huge setback.

AP Photo / Gerry Broome

As coronavirus trends continue to worsen, North Carolina’s top public health official reiterated Thursday the same messages of mask wearing, hand washing and physical distancing that have been promoted for months with mixed success.

photo of drive-thru coronavirus testing in Chatham County
Staff Sgt. Mary Junell / U.S. Army Photo

North Carolina's overall death rate is projected to rise by 5% this year, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. The state Department of Health and Human Services says the death rate has been rising for the last several years, but officials expected it to increase by 2-3%. At her latest press briefing, state Health Secretary Dr.

A map of North Carolina's counties, each county  is color coded for their community spread of COVID-19. Light yellow represents a significant community spread, orange represents a substantial community spread, and red represents the most critical spread
NC DHHS

While North Carolina’s urban centers were the sites of COVID-19 concern in March and April, the more sparsely populated parts of the state are now facing the highest rates of community spread of the coronavirus. Today, clusters of infection remain centered in the state’s urban centers, but broader community transmission is increasingly common outside the cities.

A tube filled with blue liquid with the words "COVID-19 Vaccine" on it. There is a syringe with a needle going into the tube.
Marco Verch, Flick/CC

With more than 2,000 hospitalizations in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper has announced a tentative plan to make Pfizer’s vaccine available to state residents, regardless of health insurance status. While this long-term plan may mitigate future spread, residents are still struggling with how to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19.

Departures

Dec 1, 2020

COVID-19 has taken the lives of more than 5,000 North Carolinians, and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services estimates the disease has increased the state's death rate by 5%. 

LaKeisha Butts, an end-of-life doula, talks with Tested producer Rebecca Martinez about the challenges of comforting and offering spiritual guidance for a person over the phone instead of at their bedside. Butts shares how, as an African American woman who has lost some of her own loved ones to COVID, it's much harder to grieve them without community celebrations of life.

And host Dave DeWitt speaks with Heather Hill, a funeral director at Renaissance Funeral Home and Crematory in Raleigh, about how funerals have changed since this spring.


Daniel Schludi / Unsplash / Creative Commons

Updated at 6:10 p.m.

Governor Roy Cooper announced Tuesday that North Carolina could receive a limited supply of a COVID-19 vaccine in as soon as two weeks. Hospital workers will be first in line to get it.

Major the Bull wears a protective facemark in the downtown plaza in Durham, N.C. Friday, March 27, 2020.
Chuck Liddy / For WUNC

This post will be updated periodically with the latest information on how the coronavirus is affecting North Carolina. Scroll down for older updates. For a recap of last week's news, check out Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of Nov. 23.

5:40 p.m. - A superior court judge has appointed a special master to review a state program aimed at protecting North Carolina prison inmates at higher risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of an ongoing lawsuit filed by the ACLU and other civil rights groups, a Wake County judge appointed Thomas Maher to monitor state compliance with its Extended Limits of Confinement program, which allows some incarcerated people to serve their sentences on home confinement. Maher is the executive director of Duke University's Center for Science and Justice and the former head of the state's Office of Indigent Defense Services. - Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

4:50 p.m. - Newly reported cases of COVID-19 topped 5,000 for the second consecutive day in North Carolina. According to the state Health Department's website, 5,303 new cases have been reported, just under yesterday's record mark of more than 5,600. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are at 2,157.


Gov. Cooper spoke to CNN yesterday and said the numbers are alarming. The governor says that's why he issued a mask mandate and lowered the capacity of indoor gatherings. His latest executive order is scheduled to expire next week.

"All of our options are on the table to tighten things down, we know we may need to do that. Our hospitals have capacity right now, we've been staying in close contact with them," said Cooper.

State officials are expecting a limited supply of vaccine for health care workers soon, once inoculations are greenlit by federal authorities. - Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

4:40 p.m. - Franklin County health officials are taking town leaders in Youngsville to task over plans for a Christmas Parade tomorrow. In a statement, county health director Scott LaVigne says even with mask wearing and social distancing, the event poses a grave health risk. In the past two weeks, Franklin County's positivity rate for COVID testing has been 8.5%, more than 3% higher than the state's target threshold for controlling community spread. Youngsville's Town Administrator told WUNC the board believes the parade can be held safely and that canceling the church-organized event would be an infringement of people's constitutional rights. - Rusty Jacobs, WUNC


11:45 a.m. - A Franklin County town will hold its annual Christmas Parade on Saturday in defiance of state officials concerned about the spread of COVID-19. Town Administrator Phillip Cordeiro says the parade in Youngsville could draw up to 300 spectators along the two-mile route that passes through downtown.

Cordeiro says town officials spoke on Monday with county and state public health representatives, who wanted the event canceled, especially as newly reported cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations for the illness are surging. But he suggests there are constitutional issues at stake with an event organized by area churches.

“So we don't feel that it's right for us as a town to silence them and to tell them that they can't, you know, freely assemble in public to celebrate, again, the reason for the holiday season,” Cordeiro said.
Cordeiro says spectators are being urged to wear masks and observe safe physical distancing protocols. – Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

11:25 a.m. - North Carolina is anticipating initial doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in an as little as two weeks. Governor Roy Cooper announced earlier this week it would be Pfizer's vaccine, which must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius. He said it will be challenging to get it to rural communities. Duke University experts agree rural areas could have difficulty getting that kind of refrigeration. Thomas Denny is a professor of medicine at Duke.

“We're gonna have to be prepared to supplement those areas, provide portable types of cooling devices to get vaccines distributed,” said Thomas Denny, a professor of medicine at Duke. “I think we have to work with what we have and begin to plan to have distribution that includes adequate cold chain provisions.”

Rural areas in North Carolina are experiencing a dramatic spike of COVID-19 cases. Healthcare workers are expected to be offered the vaccine first. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:35 a.m. - Wake County Public Schools is reporting 68 new cases of COVID-19 in students and staff over the past week. The school system has reported almost 220 cases overall since classes began in late October. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:20 a.m. - A Lee County Commissioner has died from COVID-19. News outlets report Kevin Dodson had been hospitalized with COVID-19 before his death. Dodson was elected commissioner in November 2016 and served as vice chairman of the board from December 2018 to November 2019. He was set to finish his term on the board this month. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:05 a.m. - The very first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine expected to arrive in North Carolina later this month will go to long term care facilities and hospitals. Included in the next major phase of the rollout after that would be frontline workers who have multiple chronic conditions and are at the highest risk for exposure. That group includes police and firefighters and people who work in food processing, transportation, grocery stores and teachers.

State health Director Betsy Tilson presented the updated vaccination priority plans to the State Board of Education on Thursday.

“We do not anticipate that we will have enough supplies for the majority of people, really until the spring,” Tilson said.

All other education staff could be vaccinated in phase two along with frontline workers without chronic conditions. And K-12 students would be vaccinated in the third phase just before the general population – if data from clinical trials shows good results in children. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

6:50 p.m. - Thousands of North Carolina students may have to take in-person end-of-grade or end-of-class tests this year, despite the pandemic. Federal and state laws require schools in North Carolina to test most students in person at the end of a class or grade. The tests are a substantial part of a student's score, and can make the difference in moving to the next grade. Those requirements are still in place, even with widespread remote learning.

This week, the State Board of Education decided to move forward with requesting a waiver, and will take a final vote in January. The Trump Administration has told states that no waiver will be granted for in-person instruction. It's not yet known if the Biden Administration will change that policy. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

6:40 p.m. - COVID-19 precautions have brought court proceedings in North Carolina to a crawl. County prosecutors are dropping charges for some low-level offenses such as traffic violations. 

Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather says his office is also refering people charged with simple drug posession to recovery agencies and other service providers. He says otherwise it could take two years to fully prosecute such cases because of how long trials are being delayed during the pandemic.

"Are we willing to spend that amount of time if we know that means that someone who has lost a kid is going to have to wait that much longer to get their cases resolved? To me that choice is clear," said Merriweather. 

Statewide, the number of pending felony cases has increased 15% compared with last year. - Jason deBruyn, WUNC and North Carolina Watchdog Reporting Network 

6:30 p.m. - State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen says the 11.4% percent positivity rate for newly returned COVID-19 tests is "alarming." Addressing reporters today, Cohen said she is worried.

"I know this is a particularly hard time of year to stay home and away from family and friends, yet it is the best way we can take personal responsibility and show our care for them as we fight this global pandemicm" said Cohen. 

Cohen says wearing masks and keeping a safe distance from people you don't live with continue to be among the most important public health measures. Cohen says she expects North Carolina to get a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine for health-care workers soon, once it's authorized by the FDA. - Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

12:35 p.m. - North Carolina has recorded its highest number of COVID-19 cases Thursday. The State Department of Health and Human Services web site shows more than 5,600 positive cases reported. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continue to rise too, with the latest data on the state DHHS web site showing more than 2,100 COVID-related hospitalizations across North Carolina. – Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

11:45 a.m. - A recent poll shows notable uncertainty among North Carolinians when asked if they intend to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 42% of those surveyed last month by High Point University said they would get a vaccine to prevent contracting the novel-coronavirus-related illness. 31% said they would not and 27% said they weren't sure. State health officials say they're hopeful the first shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in North Carolina later this month, with the first doses going to front-line health care workers. – Rusty Jacobs, WUNC

9:55 a.m. – Police say a North Carolina store owner was given a citation for encouraging customers NOT to wear a mask while inside her store, violating orders to preserve public health during the coronavirus pandemic. Wendell General Store owner Regina Harmon was cited Wednesday with one count of aiding and abetting the violation of an executive order. Harmon's store posted signs stating: “Masks not required, exceptions to every rule” and “We request that you not wear a face covering.”

Gov. Roy Cooper’s mask requirement has been in place since June. Wendell police say officers cited Harmon after consulting with the Wake County District Attorney’s Office. – The Associated Press

9:20 a.m. - A town in North Carolina is planning to hold a Christmas parade despite concerns from county health officials that the event could facilitate the spread of the coronavirus. The Raleigh News & Observer reported Wednesday that Youngsville plans a mile-long parade with up to 300 people watching. The town has faced repeated warnings from the Franklin County Health Department that COVID cases are rising.

The county also said that the parade would violate Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order limiting crowds. Town Manager Phil Cordeiro told county officials that Youngsville’s parade falls under the same First Amendment exemption. He also said the parade is a permitted religious service because it starts in the parking lot of a church. – The Associated Press

7:25 a.m. - The Greensboro City Council has passed an ordinance that strengthens the mayor's recent COVID-19 enforcement order. Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaugn recently announced penalties for businesses that violate reduced occupancy orders. The Greensboro News and Record reports the city council's ordinance says places where people can't maintain enough social distance will be deemed illegal public nuisances. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

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