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Health

Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of April 5

 Airman 1st Class Emily Riddles administers a COVID-19 vaccine shot.
Robert Jordan
/
U.S. Army National Guard, 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, Airman 1st Class Emily Riddles 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 29.


April 9, 2021

5:55 p.m. - Duke University has announced it will require all students to present proof of vaccination before enrolling for the fall semester. The requirement is for all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students who intend to be on campus for any length of time starting Fall 2021. The university said in a press release that documented medical and religious exemptions will be accommodated. Duke is one of only a few colleges and universities nationwide to announce such a requirement so far. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

3:50 p.m. - More North Carolinians are in favor of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Three different polls released this week show 60 to 70% of respondents say they plan to get a vaccine or have already received their shot. The polls came from Elon University, High Point University, and the state Department of Health and Human Services. All three found the same trend, that vaccine support is growing dramatically and quickly. The surveys found as much as a 30% increase in support compared to polls conducted last fall.

At the same time, there's a steady group of people who say they do not want a vaccine and have no plans to get one. Twenty to 30% of respondents have remained against vaccination since last year. That could impact our ability to reach herd immunity. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11 a.m. - Thousands of health care workers across North Carolina have declined to get COVID-19 vaccinations. The share of hospital employees that have received a vaccine ranges from as low as 40% to as high as 75%. The numbers feed concerns that vaccine hesitancy may keep the whole population from reaching herd immunity. - NC Watchdog Reporting Network

10:50 a.m. - An analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not find "any safety issues" after two North Carolina vaccine providers reported limited adverse reactions to the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday. Wake County and UNC Health paused administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine yesterday after reporting these reactions.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement Thursday night saying the agency had worked with the CDC and Wake County Public Health Department to investigate. NCDHHS says the CDC did not find "reason for concern" and that the federal agency "recommends continuing to administer the vaccine." - Celeste Gracia and Laura Pellicer, WUNC

April 8, 2021

6:40 p.m. - Both Wake County and UNC Health paused use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine today after several people suffered adverse reactions. The Wake clinic at PNC Arena in Raleigh had administered the J&J vaccine to more than 2,300 people today. Fourteen had minor reactions and were treated on-site according to a county news release, another four were taken to area hospitals for treatment but were expected to be released.

A UNC Health spokesman said "a handful" of patients at its Friday Center vaccination clinic in Chapel Hill reported feeling faint. All were treated on-site and released. The health system then suspended the use of the J&J vaccine there and at its other clinics around the state. Those who were vaccinated and didn’t immediately have a reaction within two hours aren’t believed to face any issues.

A clinic in Denver using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine also stopped operation after 11 people there had adverse reactions. - Jay Price, WUNC

6:30 p.m. - A new poll by the state health department found support for Covid-19 vaccinations has increased. Almost 70% of those responding had either been vaccinated, had an appointment, or said that either they "definitely" or "probably" would get one. That’s up from about 60% in November.

Most who weren’t vaccinated yet said they didn’t care which of the different types of the vaccine they received, and that their main priority was simply to get vaccinated. Also, the number who would recommend the vaccination to others nearly doubled, to 59%. - Jay Price, WUNC

6:20 p.m. - State health officials have been pushing to expand the number and types of places offering vaccinations for Covid-19. Now even the Durham Bulls are getting involved. The team announced that it’s hosting two vaccine clinics at its stadium next week. A Bulls spokesman said the team partnered with Health Park Pharmacy for the clinics, which it initially planned as a way to get its game-day staff vaccinated. It then found there were enough doses to make hundreds available to the rest of the community. - Jay Price, WUNC

6:10 p.m. - The state will expand COVID-19 surveillance testing in public schools even more broadly, following a successful pilot program and new federal funding. State health leaders say testing for COVID in schools will be an important facet of safe in-person learning going forward. They cite national studies that estimate that testing teachers weekly, and students when they have a close contact or symptoms, can cut the case number in schools in half. Dr. Aditi Mallick of the state health department says the state can apply for federal funding to expand surveillance testing.

"Specifically to facilitate end-to-end screening testing in K-through-12 schools," said Mallick.

This year, any district can get some free tests from the state, but going forward, this would allow any district, along with charter and privates schools, to conduct school-wide testing, often. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

6 p.m. - The state Department of Health and Human Services reports just over 1,000 people across North Carolina are hospitalized with COVID-19. It's the second day in a row hospitalizations have been over 1,000 since mid-March. The number of COVID-19 tests coming back positive remains near the state's target. Over the past week, about 6% of tests were positive. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:50 a.m. - Guilford County Schools is the latest school district to stop conducting daily student health screenings. The change goes into effect on April 19. Parents are expected to monitor their children's symptoms and keep them home if they're sick. But daily health screenings will continue for employees through the end of the school year. New guidance from the state health department no longer requires schools to conduct health screenings for students. Wake and Johnston County Schools are also stopping daily health screenings. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

April 7, 2021

6:30 p.m. - Despite the lingering uncertainty about the pandemic, a third of North Carolinians say they’re more likely to travel this summer. That's according to a new poll by High Point University. Another 31% percent said they were just as likely to travel as last year. A slightly smaller percentage said they were less likely.

The poll also asked questions about other pandemic-related topics. More than a quarter of those responding said they had bought workout equipment. Fifteen percent had bought a bicycle and a similar percentage bought camping or hiking gear. - Jay Price, WUNC

6:20 p.m. - Employment in North Carolina still hasn’t bounced back to pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest report from the state Department of Commerce. The unemployment rate was higher in February than for the same month last year in 99 of the state’s 100 counties and all 15 metro areas. Since February 2020, the number of workers employed statewide had fell by 216,000. - Jay Price, WUNC

6:10 p.m. - Dare County thought it would be a good idea to promote businesses with most of their employees vaccinated for Covid-19. But the program quickly drew online attacks against the businesses and was shut down only days after starting.

Chamber of Commerce President Karen Brown said apparently some had assumed the program — which her group had partnered with the Dare County on — was promoting the idea that everyone needs to be vaccinated. But that wasn’t the point, she said.

"We were just trying to give the businesses you know, a chance to say, we've done everything right, you can feel free to come here and, you know, patronize us. But at the end of the day, it just kind of turned ugly," said Brown.

Vaccine opponents got the names of businesses from the county promotional site, then attacked them on other sites, like Facebook and Yelp, in some cases giving them bad ratings. - Jay Price, WUNC

6 p.m. - North Carolina recently got a federal waiver from some year-end testing requirements, but that doesn’t mean students can skip those exams.

The federal waiver means North Carolina does not have to issue school letter grades, school report cards, or low-performing school labels based on student test scores this year. But unlike last spring, when the exams themselves were canceled because of the pandemic, students will have to take state exams in May. And they’ll have to come to school to do that, even if they’ve been learning remotely all year.

Accountability Director Tammy Howard told the state Board of Education it’s not practical to ensure testing security from students’ homes. Board Chair Eric Davis of Charlotte says one question remains unresolved.

"I’ve received a number of emails with great interest from students and parents about the weight of the assessments toward student grades," said Davis.

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt told Davis she’ll bring a recommendation on that quickly. - Ann Doss Helms, WFAE

5:50 p.m. - Public schools in Wake County will no longer conduct on-site health screenings starting today. Students are expected to monitor their own symptoms and stay home if they suspect they may be infected or exposed to COVID-19. New guidance from the state department of health and human services no longer requires schools to conduct daily screenings. Johnston County Schools will also stop daily health screenings starting next week. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

5:40 p.m. - Cumberland County did not conduct an annual count on the number of people experiencing homelessness in their area this year. The Fayetteville Observer reports the Point in Time count was canceled to prevent spreading COVID-19. The count is done nationally during the last 10 days of January. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:25 a.m. - The state has administered over 5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. About 26% of adults in the state are fully vaccinated, while 39% are at least partially vaccinated. Only the Pfizer two-shot vaccine is authorized for emergency use for 16 and 17-year-olds. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:18 a.m. - The N.C. State men's tennis team is pausing all activities because of COVID-19 protocols and associated contact tracing within the program. The team is canceling two matches that were scheduled for this week. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:05 a.m. - Anyone age 16 or older in North Carolina is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting today. That has some people anticipating just what that could mean for the summer. At a news briefing Tuesday, Governor Roy Cooper said the state health department is planning to release a forecast soon.

“We know people want to plan people who have venues and who hold concerts and all that need to know about what kind of atmosphere they're going to have, and what kind of capacity limits, if any,” Cooper said.

Cooper says just how open the state will depend on how many people choose to get vaccinated. He says people still need to take other precautions like wearing masks indoors, or when coming in contact with people outside their household. – Cole del Charco, WUNC

April 6, 2021

6:30 p.m. - The state is getting almost $95 million to expand COVID-19 vaccine programs in minority communities. The funding comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as equity in distribution of the vaccines has been a nationwide challenge. The money can be used for efforts like community partnerships and hiring bilingual health workers. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

4:10 p.m. - North Carolina collected 2.1% more state income tax last year compared to 2019 despite the pandemic disproportionately impacting lower-paying jobs, according to a recent study. The study found COVID restrictions caused a huge increase in demand for higher-paying jobs that can work remotely. As a result, some of these workers benefited from the competition by getting raises or finding other jobs with even more pay. NC State professor and study co-author Nathan Goldman says at the same time, many low-wage jobs were lost.

"But on the flip side, the biotech industry, and the banking industry were booming during this period, which is part of the reason why you see this effect in a place like North Carolina, where we do have a lot of those jobs and industries that were benefited from this," said Goldman.

The competition for high-paying remote jobs made up for the tax losses of low-income jobs. Other studies show income inequality has grown throughout the pandemic in part because of this trend. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

4 p.m. - Nearly three-quarters of North Carolinians age 65 and older have gotten their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. At a briefing this afternoon, Gov. Cooper said it's important progress in the effort to protect the most vulnerable, and return to normal.

"As of today, more than 5.2 million vaccinations have been administered in North Carolina. Almost 40% of adults are at least partially vaccinated, and more than a fourth of adults are fully vaccinated," said Cooper.

Starting tomorrow, anyone age 16 and older will be eligible to get the vaccine that protects against COVID-19. So far, though, only the Pfizer two-shot vaccine is authorized for emergency use for 16 and 17-year-olds. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

3:50 p.m. - The state is opening up eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to everyone 16 years old and older tomorrow. State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen says getting the shot opens a door of possibilities.

"Things like safely hugging a Grandma, or traveling to see vaccinated family or friends, or having dinner with your vaccinated neighbors," said Cohen. "New guidance from the CDC says that if you're fully vaccinated, you can travel within the United States."

The health department has been making more people eligible quickly to make sure no doses go unused. But the state says there is a possibility that supply of the vaccine could outpace demand soon. To solve that problem, the state health department is encouraging people to get vaccinated and to tell their friends to get vaccinated too. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

3:40 p.m. - Wake County has identified a third COVID-19 outbreak at a rehabilitation center in Raleigh. The outbreak at Litchford Falls Nursing and Rehabilitation Center is the first there since October. Under COVID-19 protocol, the State Department of Health requires the facility to not allow visitors for 28 days. - Cole del Charco, WUNC

11:48 a.m. - 175 incarcerated individuals at the Durham County Detention Center have received a COVID-19 vaccine. That's around 60 more people who've been vaccinated since about three weeks ago. As of Tuesday, there's almost 350 individuals in the detention center. Meanwhile, 75% of all employees at the Durham County Sheriff's Office are either fully vaccinated or in the process of getting a shot. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

11:23 a.m. - A UNC medical center in Eden is easing COVID-19 visitors restrictions because of falling COVID-19 cases. UNC Rockingham Health Care will now allow one designated visitor per patient in most inpatient and outpatient areas. All visitors must pass a health screening before entering, wear masks at all times and practice social distancing. People under 18 years old are not allowed to visit. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:41 a.m. - North Carolina is receiving nearly $95 million from the CDC to expand COVID-19 vaccine programs in minority communities. 75% of the funding must go to specific programs that will increase vaccine access, acceptance and uptake in underserved populations. For example, the money can be used to partner with community based organizations or to hire bilingual health workers. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:32 a.m. - Fayetteville State University will be a COVID-19 vaccination site starting Wednesday when vaccine eligibility expands to all North Carolinians 16 and older. People can register for an appointment online. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:05 a.m. - North Carolina collected 2.1% more state income tax last year compared to 2019 while pandemic restrictions put many in lower-paying jobs out of work. There was a significant increase in demand for workers in higher paying industries in which employees can work remotely. N.C. State researcher Nathan Goldman, who produced the analysis with colleagues at the University of Texas at Dallas, says a pay raise for a high income job can make up for the losses of low income jobs.

“Let's just say a CEO is making a billion dollars a year, if that CEO got a 2% pay raise last year... a 2% increase in their pay would actually offset the income of other $20,000 worker,” Goldman said.

The study looked at the correlation between income tax rate structures, pandemic restrictions, and state income tax revenues during 2020. North Carolina has a flat tax rate and more stringent COVID restrictions compared to other states. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

April 5, 2021

2:43 p.m. - Outdoor sports venues can open to 50% capacity, but six-foot social distancing guidelines mean not all stadiums will be able to fill that mark. The North Carolina Courage pro women's soccer will have a max capacity of 2,300 fans for the season opener this Saturday. That's about one-quarter of full capacity for the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. – Jason deBruyn, WUNC

2:25 p.m. - All North Carolinians 16 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Wednesday. Some counties have already made this move to Group five. More than 3 million people in the state have received at least one shot. More than one-quarter of the state's adult population is fully vaccinated. – Jason deBruyn, WUNC

7:20 a.m. - Dallas Stars coach Rick Bowness was pulled from behind the bench after two periods of the team's game Sunday night in Raleigh against the Carolina Hurricanes because of the NHL’s COVID protocol. Dallas general manager Jim Nill said the 66-year-old Bowness is fully vaccinated and the team believes it was a false positive test result for the virus. The Hurricanes won, 1-0. – The Associated Press

7:05 a.m. - In latest update of the state's COVID-19 county alert system, no counties are red, or showing critical spread of COVID-19. This is the first time there's no red counties since the alert system was created. But there has been a slight increase in the number of orange counties with substantial spread. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

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


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