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LATEST NEWS AND UPDATES ON THE PANDEMIC

Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of March 29

NC Guard COVID-19 Team Vaccinates Staff in State Prison
U.S. Army National Guard photo by Robert Jordan
/
North Carolina National Guard Public Affairs
Several North Carolina National Guard Airmen deployed to Raleigh Central Prison to assist North Carolina Department of Public Safety Adult Corrections personnel with COVID-19 vaccine inoculations of prison staff in Raleigh, North Carolina, Feb. 16, 2021. Here, Capt. Travis Radcliff, a flight nurse, administers an inoculation, one of 111 completed that day.

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 March 22.


April 1, 2021

3:20 p.m. - Health experts are concerned about a possible rise in new COVID-19 cases as North Carolinians begin to travel more. The number of new daily cases has been fluctuating between 1,000 to 2,000 for nearly a month. That's down from upwards of 10,000 this winter, but Dr. Adia Ross, the chief medical officer at Duke Regional Hospital, says the decline in new cases appears to have hit a plateau.

"I think that all of us are concerned that when a holiday weekend occurs, there tends to be a spike in cases. We just need people to realize that still only 24% of all North Carolinians are vaccinated, and so that's nowhere close to herd immunity," said Ross.

Ross and other leaders at hospital systems in North Carolina are asking people to continue practicing physical distancing, wearing a mask and properly washing their hands. - Will Michaels, WUNC

3:10 p.m. - Fort Bragg will begin offering COVID-19 vaccinations to members of active duty and military families age 16 and up who fall under TRICARE, the Pentagon’s health insurance plan. Those interested must schedule an appointment for the vaccination clinic, which is at the Fort Bragg Fairgrounds. Military vaccination programs operate independently from the state-led efforts. But Bragg will open up vaccinations to all adult TRICARE beneficiaries on April 6, just a day before the state makes all North Carolinians 16 and older eligible for vaccines. - Jay Price, WUNC

11:32 a.m. - The United Way of the Greater Triangle is partnering with Lyft to provide free trips to COVID-19 vaccine appointments for low income residents. The partnership hopes to give 100,000 roundtrip rides across all 100 counties in North Carolina. The program wants to reach communities of color, seniors and the underinsured.

Kaia Clark is a director at United Way of the Greater Triangle. She hopes this initiative will help increase the number of people getting vaccinated by removing a lack of transportation as a barrier.

We know public transportation is limited in some areas,” Clark said. “So we know that we can pull our resources, pull our expertise, and really fill the gaps. And we really need help to continue this moving forward."

The partnership is accepting donations to help fund the trips. The program will start in mid-April. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:52 a.m. - The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh is now open at full capacity. This comes after an updated executive order from the governor allows museums to open at 100% capacity. Visitors still have to reserve a free timed ticket to enter the museum. Masks are also still required. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:46 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper says his administration is having discussions about creating “vaccine passports” – a standardized record for people to show they have been inoculated against COVID-19. Vaccine passports could allow businesses to determine whose admitted and who isn't for events like concerts, or perhaps even indoor dining. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:05 a.m. - North Carolina is administering more than 400,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines each week as more people become eligible to get their shots. College students and more essential workers can now officially get their vaccinations statewide as part of Group 4 of North Carolina's priority list. Sarah Tatko is the lead physician assistant at the mass vaccination site at UNC's Friday Center in Chapel Hill.

“The demand is definitely there and the supply is becoming more predictable,” Tatko said. “We're seeing high volumes come through this center both in terms of our allotment as well as patients and that's what we came here to do.”

The clinic at the university conference center is now administering more than 10,000 doses per week. Anyone 16 or older will be eligible starting next Wednesday. Some smaller providers across the state have already opened eligibility to that final group of recipients. – Will Michaels, WUNC

March 31, 2021

3:10 p.m. - Local health providers say demand for the COVID-19 vaccines remains high as more people become eligible to get them. Today is the first day that the state health department officially opened eligibility for college students and more essential workers. Researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill estimate there are more than three million people in Group 4 of the state's vaccine priority list. Sarah Tatko, the lead physician assistant at the mass vaccination site at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill, says appointments are still being filled quickly, but the clinic is working efficiently.

"Demand is high. Supply is also high. We have high throughput there. That's kind of like the trifecta. We're getting a lot of vaccine and we're giving a lot of vaccine and our hope is to just keep it rolling," said Tatko.

The Friday Center can vaccinate 1,800 people a day. Starting a week from today, anyone 16 or older will be eligible to get a shot. Some local health departments have already started that final phase. - Will Michaels, WUNC

3 p.m. - Guilford County and Cone Health are opening up COVID-19 vaccines for anyone 16 and older. The providers announced this expanded eligibility earlier today. Several other counties, including Lee, Alamance and Rockingham, have also opened up eligibility. This comes as more people across the state are now eligible for vaccines. People living in congregate settings, like college students in dorms, and other essential workers can now get vaccinated. Next Wednesday vaccines will officially be available to all adults in North Carolina. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:52 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order Tuesday that extends the statewide eviction moratorium that was set to expire Wednesday. The eviction ban will be in place for another three months. Cooper also signed two other executive orders that extends to go alcohol sales until 5 p.m. through April 30 and expedites unemployment insurance claim processing. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:38 a.m. - More people in North Carolina are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine starting today. This includes people living in other congregate settings, like student dorms, and additional essential workers, such as bank tellers, engineers and journalists. One week from today, all North Carolina adults will be eligible to be vaccinated. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:05 a.m. - Hair salons and barber shops in North Carolina are now allowed to operate at as much as 100 percent capacity with pandemic restrictions easing. But not every personal care business is ready to fully reopen yet.

In interviews with hair salons and barber shop managers and owners across the Triangle, some say they want more customers and staff to get vaccinated before they gradually expand capacity. Others say they feel do comfortable opening up more, but they don't have the space to return to full capacity and follow the social distancing required under the governor's latest order.

That's the situation at the “Fantastic Sams Cut and Color” hair salon in Wilson. Manager Morgan Abbott says her salon can only allow a few more people than before to come in.

"I guess you could say we're kind of staying the same,” Abbott said. “Since our building is smaller we don't have that much space."

Masks are still required everywhere. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

March 30, 2021

3:50 p.m. - 25 students at Duke University tested positive for COVID-19 last week. This represents a significant decline in positive cases among students compared to earlier this month. At the peak of Duke's outbreak, over 200 students had tested positive. Last week almost 20 faculty and staff also tested positive. With over 20,000 tests administered, the positivity rate was 0.2%. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

3:40 p.m. - Johnston County Schools will no longer screen students who are learning in person for COVID-19 symptoms. The school district says they're following the latest guidelines from the state health department. The new guidance no longer requires schools to conduct daily screening. This change becomes effective April 12, when students return from spring break. The school district says families should conduct their own screenings at home before going to school. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

3:40 p.m. - Hair salons and barbershops are among those that can now operate at 100% capacity under the latest order from the governor. The order still requires that there's room for customers to stay 6 feet apart, so not all personal care businesses can reopen fully just yet. Morgan Abbott, the manager of the Fantastic Sams Cut and Color hair salon in Wilson, says this update to pandemic rules is only allowing her salon to bring in a few more people than before.

"They say we're back to 100% but really we're not because like I said we can't use all the booths, all the dryers, all the shampoo bowls. For us with the small space that we have, it still isn't too much of a difference," said Abbott.

Other businesses are choosing to ease into it. They want more staff and customers to get vaccinated before they gradually expand capacity. The statewide mask mandate remains in place and Abbott's salon and many others are still sanitizing in between customers and requiring temperature checks. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:52 a.m. - The State Department of Transportation is fully resuming passenger train services for the first time in a year. Last March, most of the trains stopped their daily schedule. DOT says there's now increased demand for safe travel options with pandemic restrictions slowly easing. COVID-19 precautions are still in place on board trains and in stations, including regular deep cleaning and limited train capacity. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:05 a.m. - Statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations fell below 900 on Monday, according to the state department of health and human services. That's the first time hospitalizations have been so low since September. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:45 a.m. - Inmates at the Wake County Sheriff’s Office’s detention facilities will receive the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine today. Almost 150 inmates have expressed interest in receiving the vaccine. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:20 a.m. - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will participate in a study that tracks Sars-Co-V-2 viral load in people who have received a vaccination. The school is hoping to enroll 600 students. Results will further understanding about returning to pre-pandemic life and offer guidance for how long to wear masks and take other precautions. Researchers will swab the noses of study participants every day over the course of the four-month trial. – Jason deBruyn, WUNC

7:05 a.m. - Universities in North Carolina are opening student COVID-19 vaccination clinics. College students will be officially eligible to get their shots starting Wednesday. The UNC System is getting 20,000 doses for students this week.

Mari Ross-Alexander is the assistant vice chancellor for student health and wellness at NC Central University. She says her school is conducting outreach campaigns to encourage students who might not immediately want a shot. NC Central is also offering more privileges to students who have been fully vaccinated, like allowing them to forgo regular COVID testing and to have small gatherings on campus.

The university has the capacity to vaccinate 400 people per day. Private institutions, including Duke, say they will also open appointments for students this week. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

March 29, 2021

5:10 p.m. - Durham Public Schools is launching a permanent virtual academy for students in kindergarten through 12th grades. Ignite Online Academy will start with summer programming and enroll about 500 students this fall, according to the News & Observer. The new Ignite Online Academy is a byproduct of the pandemic, though it will operate differently from the remote instruction many students have experienced over the past year. It will offer personalized schedules and teachers will be selected and specially trained for the academy. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

5 p.m. - Universities across North Carolina are preparing to administer COVID-19 vaccines to their students as they officially become eligible. College students will be able to get their shots under the state's vaccine priority system starting Wednesday. Mari Ross-Alexander is the assistant vice chancellor for student health and wellness at NC Central University, which opened a COVID-19 vaccination clinic earlier this month. She says the university is offering certain privileges to students who've been vaccinated for at least two weeks.

"Students who have any kind of on-campus function have to get tested every two weeks, so they don't have to do that anymore. They don't have to be quarantined if they're in close contact with somebody who's positive. We're talking with SGA about allowing them to have small gatherings in spaces on campus," said Ross-Alexander.

NC Central's clinic is currently vaccinating 800 people per week. Ross-Alexander says that capacity will double starting next week. - Will Michaels, WUNC

4:50 p.m. - State officials have announced everyone in North Carolina over age 16 will be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine starting next Wednesday. Some counties are opening up even sooner. Lee County is the latest to start registering all adults for its local clinic beginning today, joining Moore, Craven, Greene, and Rockingham. State figures show that more than a third of the 18+ population is at least partially vaccinated. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

4:40 p.m. - As of today, Wake County Public Health has administered 100,000 COVID-19 vaccination doses. County-wide, more than a quarter of the population has now received at least one vaccine dose or almost 280,000 people. That percentage slightly lags the statewide average. - Jason deBruyn, WUNC

4:30 p.m. - State-issued identification cards can now be renewed online through the Division of Motor Vehicles. Other services, including driver's license renewals, have already been offered online. Obtaining the initial I-D card still requires an in-person visit. - Jason deBruyn, WUNC

4:20 p.m. - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will participate in a study that tracks Sars-Co-V2 viral load in people who have received a vaccination. The school is hoping to enroll 600 students. Results will further understanding about returning to pre-pandemic life and offer guidance for how long to wear masks and take other precautions. Researchers will swab the noses of study participants every day over the course of the four-month trial. - Jason deBruyn, WUNC

7:37 a.m. - Duke University has closed its East Campus Union and some dining facilities after staff members tested positive for COVID-19. The union, the Marketplace and the Trinity Cafe will be closed until further notice. The university says transmission likely occurred between the employees who've been in close contact with each another. Duke is in the process of contact tracing. Other dining options are being made available for students. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:19 a.m. - The UNC System is receiving 20,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses this week to give to students. People who live in congregate settings, including students in dorms, will be eligible for a vaccine starting Wednesday. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:10 a.m. - Officials running the COVID-19 vaccination site at the Friday Center at UNC-Chapel Hill are using Twitter to help distribute extra doses. They usually will tweet around noon if they have extra available. People who are able to arrive at the Friday Center by 4:30 p.m. that same day can call a hotline to reserve their spot while supplies last.

Elizabeth Ramsey is the director of the Friday Center vaccine clinic. She says the goal of the account is to make sure no doses are wasted. Ramsey says her clinic is working with the UNC communications department and community partners to spread the word about the Twitter account and hotline to increase equitable vaccine distribution. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:05 a.m. - The North Carolina department of health is making at-home COVID-19 tests available to certain at-risk populations. Low-income or disabled residents can get a test mailed to them with instructions for using the nasal swab and pre-paid shipping back to Labcorp for analysis.

Natalie Ivanov, the Health Department's COVID-19 testing program co-lead, says that even with vaccines becoming more widely available, testing will still be an important tool to quash the coronavirus. And the at-home kits should eliminate some barriers to testing, even if it's not the fastest way to get results.

Ivanov encouraged anyone whose need to know if they're positive is time-sensitive to seek out a local testing site. The health department has 35,000 free kits in this pilot program. – Jason deBruyn, WUNC

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


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