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Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of Dec. 28

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.

Jan. 1, 2021

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

9:07 a.m. - The Atlantic Coast Conference has announced more changes to the women's basketball schedule because of COVID-19. A Friday game between North Carolina and Louisville will now be played on Tuesday. The A-C-C said the move was due to travel logistics issues for the Tar Heels. A Sunday game between Louisville and Virginia has been postponed following positive tests within Virginia's program. The Duke women's basketball team last week decided to end its season due to safety concerns. – Jason deBruyne, WUNC

Dec. 31, 2020

7:55 a.m. - The state is detailing plans for phase 1-B of the program to vaccinate North Carolinians against COVID-19. In January, vaccinations will open up to anyone over 75. Then to people considered "frontline essential workers" like firefighters and daycare staff who are 50 or older. Some 60,000 health care workers in North Carolina have already received the first of two doses. But 80 percent of those are white. Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said she wants to make sure the full rollout is equitable. Cohen and Gov. Roy Cooper are asking healthcare licensing boards for advice for how to ensure people don't jump the line or try to profit from the vaccine. – Jason deBruyne, WUNC

7:41 a.m. - Across the state, nearly half a million people say they are behind on rent. And the national Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports some 3 million say they have difficulty in covering usual household expenses. Citing those figures on Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper extended a statewide eviction moratorium until the end of January.

That extra time could be enough to get renters help. The federal relief bill signed by President Trump over the weekend includes an estimated $700 million in rental assistance for North Carolina. Cooper's office pointed to a study showing states where eviction moratoriums lapsed saw higher COVID-19 incidence rates. The new federal relief measure dedicates substantially more help for renters than the previous CARES Act, which passed early in the pandemic. – Jason deBruyne, WUNC

7:28 a.m. - Although face masks are a critical part of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, there is not a certification process for making cloth face coverings. Researchers at N.C. State University are working to change that by creating those standards. They're looking at three main factors that go into an effective mask- breathability, filtration efficiency and fit.

Bryan Ormond is an assistant professor of textile engineering. He says having set standards for cloth face masks will help people better understand how their mask works for them.

"Hopefully we can work with the industry to come up with a standard specification for how all of these face coverings should be tested, so that people can make informed decisions about what type of face covering they think they need for the situation they're going to be in."

Other researchers are currently reviewing a draft of suggested specifications. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

Dec. 30, 2020

2:59 p.m. - The Harnett County School system has announced it will stick with all remote instruction through at least January 8th due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. The district had planned for a hybrid of online and in-person learning after the holiday break. Students are scheduled to return to classes on Jan. 6. Reported cases of COVID-19 have risen sharply in Harnett County, like much of the state, since Thanksgiving. – Amy Jeffries, WUNC

9:23 a.m. - A Durham-based pharmaceutical company says its abandoning its efforts to develop a potential COVID-19 treatment. BioCryst Pharmaceuticals received federal contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to study the antiviral treatment galidesivir. The Triangle Business Journal reports the company told its investors it will no longer be pursuing the drug as a treatment for COVID-19, but it may be able to maintain funding for the research as a possible broad-spectrum antiviral treatment. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

9:04 a.m. - The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports more than 63,000 North Carolinians have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. It's been just three weeks since the state received its first shipments of the vaccine and began inoculating frontline healthcare workers and long-term care residents. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

8:23 a.m. - Most Republican members of the North Carolina Congressional delegation defied President Donald Trump this week by voting against a bill he supported to give Americans $2,000 stimulus checks. All eight of the Republican representatives from North Carolina who voted on the bill opposed it, while all three Democratic representatives voted for it. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

8:05 a.m. – COVID-19 cases and hospitalization numbers keep setting records in North Carolina and across the country. The State Department of Health and Human Services reported Wednesday that 3,377 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 across North Carolina. That's up by almost 200 people from the previous day's count. 3,500 new cases were also reported. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

Dec. 29, 2020

5:05 p.m. - A recent presentation by the North Carolina Community Colleges system shows that preliminary enrollment is down in nearly every age group, race and ethnicity compared to last year. The state's decline is smaller than the national average. 

In a statement, interim Community College System President Bill Carver said low income students have struggled during the pandemic the most and that they're working to provide financial aid and access to technology for them. Official enrollment numbers will be released in January. - Naomi Prioleau, WUNC


3:05 p.m. - The state health department is partnering with North Carolina Central University’s Advanced Center for COVID-19 Related Disparities (ACCORD) to improve communication about COVID-19 vaccines. The joint effort will seek to reach more Black, American Indian and Latino communities to encourage vaccination. ACCORD has been conducting research on underserved communities to improve messaging around coronavirus testing and vaccines. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC


2 p.m. - Thus far, 63,571 people in North Carolina have received the COVID-19 vaccine, according to NCDHHS's vaccine dashboard. There can be a 72-hour lag in data reported to the state. North Carolina is currently providing vaccinnations to individuals in Phase 1A which includes health care workers fighting COVID-19 and long-term care staff and residents. - Natalie Dudas-Thomas, WUNC


9:30 a.m. - COVID-19 hospitalizations have hit yet another record high in North Carolina. The state health department reported today there are currently 3,377 people hospitalized with COVID-19.  - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC


7:30 a.m. - A physical education teacher and coach at Lincoln Charter School in Denver, North Carolina has died after being hospitalized with COVID-19. Jamie Seitz became ill several weeks after Thanksgiving, as the school was experiencing a spike in cases. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC


Dec. 28, 2020

3 p.m. - A new survey finds 1 in 5 North Carolinians with children say they have struggled to provide enough food for their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation used data from the Census Bureau's weekly household poll survey.  It also found about the same share of families have little to no confidence that they can pay rent on time.  Victoria Crouse is a project manager with NC Child, a local non-profit affiliated with the Casey Foundation.  She says the data also show racial disparities in the way families have been affected by the pandemic. - WUNC

2 p.m. - The Duke University men's basketball home game scheduled for tomorrow against Pittsburgh has been postponed. It follows a positive test, subsequent quarantining, and contact tracing within the Pittsburgh men’s basketball team. No re-schedule date was announced. - Dave DeWitt, WUNC 

12 p.m. - North Carolina has surpassed 6,500 total COVID-19 deaths, according to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. On Monday, the state reported 520,716 total cases with 3,192 people currently hospitalized for coronavirus, and 6,561 total deaths. North Carolina added 3,888 new reported cases on Monday. The average percent positive for coronavirus testing stands at 14.7%. - Natalie Dudas-Thomas, WUNC

10 a.m. - Members of the Duke women's basketball team are defending their decision to end the season due to Covid. The team paused all play in mid-December after two members of its traveling party tested positive for COVID-19.

The team then announced Friday it would not play any more games this season. Several players then took to social media over the weekend to answer criticism. 


Duke is the first so-called "power five" school to start the season and then not finish. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

9 a.m. - The latest report from a White House COVID-19 task force has designated 87 North Carolina counties as sustained hotspots for the virus. The December 26th Community Profile Report labels North Carolina as a "red" state for its high percent positivity rate of coronavirus tests. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC


This post is compiled and edited by Elizabeth Baier, Mitchell Northam and Laura Pellicer.

Previous weekly updates:

Stories, features and more by WUNC News Staff. Also, features and commentary not by any one reporter.
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