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Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of April 19

Governor Roy Cooper asks Casey Miller about her experience with the vaccination.
Philip Ruckle / The Coastland Times
via the Office of the Governor
Governor Roy Cooper asks Casey Miller, left, about her experience with the vaccination process following receiving a shot from Cindy Burton on Friday, April 16, 2021 at the Dare County COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Kill Devil Hills.

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 April 12.

April 23, 2021

8:20 a.m. - Next month, members of the North Carolina House will have to resume voting on bills in-person. The NC Insider reports, House speaker Tim Moore will end the COVID-19 House rules that allowed legislators to vote by proxy through their party caucus leader. – Cole Del Charco, WUNC

April 22, 2021

2:51 p.m. - North Carolina prisons are reopening visits and extending time limits for children to see their families or loved ones who are incarcerated. The new policy went into effect earlier this month. Visitors can now see family for longer than 30 minutes. Previously, children under 12 couldn't visit at all and there was a time restriction to a half hour due to COVID-19 restrictions. Visitation was not permitted if there was a COVID-19 outbreak in the prison or if a visitor was experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. - Naomi Prioleau, WUNC

2:43 p.m. - North Carolina has set aside money to reimburse farmers who had to quarantine their workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year. The News and Observer reports that the state has $2 million available for farmers who employ immigrant farm workers with H-2A work visas. The visas allow them to work temporarily in the U.S. Funding for the reimbursement program comes from the federal CARES Act. - Naomi Prioleau, WUNC

1:45 p.m. - This year's Carolina Blues Festival will be in-person in downtown Greensboro. The festival was virtual last year due to the pandemic. It will take place at LeBauer Park next month with live musical acts. The festival will follow COVID-19 safety protocols and will limit in-person attendees to 500 people. This year's theme is Carolina Soul. A virtual livestream of the festival will also be available. - Naomi Prioleau, WUNC

1:09 p.m. - The Wake County Health Department is adjusting its COVID-19 vaccination effort to focus more on regional health centers. The change comes as some appointments at mass vaccination sites go unfilled. Wake County's mass vaccinations sites like the one at PNC Arena will remain open, but the county is shifting some of its supply to smaller health centers in an attempt to improve access to the vaccine. Participation at mass vaccination sites has been declining, according to the department's Ryan Jury.

And we knew that we would need to transition and change our program to be able to vaccinate those who would be willing to get vaccinated, but would need a different setting or we would need to do different tactics to be able to address that," said Jury, adding that demand for the vaccines overall remains high. About 37% of Wake County's population has gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That's about the same as the state average. - Will Michaels, WUNC

12:55 p.m. - Administrators have announced that employees of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will return to campus to work in-person starting July 19. Since mid-January, positivity rates for COVID-19 testing in the campus community has remained below 1%. UNC officials anticipate inviting all students back to campus this fall. Modified COVID-19 standards will remain on place for the campus based on guidance from the CDC and local health experts. – Naomi Prioleau, WUNC

10:08 a.m. - Burlington-based Labcorp is offering COVID-19 testing kits for small businesses. The company says these kits will make it easier for small businesses to test their employees for COVID-19 so that people can safely return to work. The kits require people to swab their own nose and send their sample to Labcorp. Test results are usually available after one to two days. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:03 a.m. - The UNC System is recommending students get a COVID-19 vaccine, but has no plans to require it. About 50 universities nationwide have announced plans to require students to vaccinate before next fall. Most of those are private, including Duke and Wake Forest universities in North Carolina. The UNC System said in a statement that it's committed to following guidance from federal and state public health officials, and none have advised mandatory vaccinations for college students. Universities in the system are helping administer vaccines and making them available to students and employees. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

7:44 a.m. – Gov. Roy Cooper plans to lift all mandates on social distancing and gathering limits by June 1 if coronavirus metrics remain stable and residents continue to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Other restrictions, like the statewide mask mandate, could also be lifted once two-thirds of North Carolinians have received at least one dose of a vaccine. The state health department reports more than 47% of North Carolina adults have gotten at least one shot, and nearly 36% are fully vaccinated. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:05 a.m. - The Wake County health department is shifting the way it distributes COVID-19 vaccines. The department says it's opening smaller clinics in an attempt to make the vaccine more accessible across the county. Ryan Jury of the Wake County health department says sign-ups for mass vaccination sites has dropped in recent weeks.

“But I don't think it's fair to say that there isn't demand for the vaccine,” Jury said. “I think there is demand for the vaccine. It just isn't in a mass vaccination effort.”

Jury says the county has been making small adjustments to its distribution throughout the state's vaccine allocation process. The latest information from the state health department says nearly 37% of Wake County's total population has gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That's in line with the state average. – Will Michaels, WUNC

April 21, 2021

4:00 p.m. - The UNC system is encouraging students to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but has no plans to require it. About 50 universities nationwide have announced plans to require students to vaccinate before next fall. Most of those are private, including Duke and Wake Forest Universities in North Carolina. The UNC system said in a statement that it's committed to following guidance from federal and state public health officials, and none have advised mandatory vaccinations for college students. Universities in the system are helping administer vaccines and making them available to students and employees. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

3:42 p.m. - Governor Roy Cooper wants to lift most capacity and gathering restrictions on June 1. In a press conference this afternoon, Cooper said COVID-19 trends in North Carolina are stable enough to plan for another step in the state's reopening as long as more people get vaccinated. - Will Michaels, WUNC

10:13 a.m. - Duke Health is easing some visitor restrictions for its hospital patients. Starting Wednesday, adult inpatients at Duke University Hospital, Duke Regional Hospital and Duke Raleigh Hospital can designate two visitors for their hospital stay. Other visitor exceptions remain the same, including those for end-of-life care and patients giving birth. All visitors must undergo daily health screenings and wear a mask. Visitation is still not allowed for COVID-19 patients. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

9:16 a.m. - Wake Forest University will require that all students enrolled in this upcoming fall semester be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Students are required to provide documentation of vaccination by July 1. The university says it will help students find vaccines. Wake Forest will also review requests for medical and religious exemptions. Duke University is also requiring students to be vaccinated for this fall semester. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

April 20, 2021

3:10 p.m. - Faculty at Appalachian State University are calling for students to be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to campus this fall.

The university's Faculty Senate passed a resolution last week calling on the legislature, the governor, state health officials, the UNC System or the university to enact such a vaccine mandate.

Appalachian State administrators say that as a state agency they cannot unilaterally mandate vaccines for employees or students. They also say they've received no indication that public health officials or the UNC System intend to issue a vaccine requirement. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

7:05 a.m. - Durham County is retiring its online scheduling tool for COVID-19 vaccines. Instead, adults can now call a designated phone line to get a vaccine appointment in the county. Durham County Public Health Director Rodney Jenkins says this change is meant to make getting a vaccine faster and easier. It comes as the reliable supply of vaccines has increased.

“We're just in a very good place right now to where staffing, the amount of vaccine that we have, and also the opportunities for our residents to get vaccinated are in abundance right now,” Jenkins said.

Meanwhile, Wake County has stopped using a vaccine waiting list. Adults can now directly schedule appointments online. Both counties expect supply will soon outpace demand. They anticipate opening up walk in vaccine clinics in the coming weeks. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

April 19, 2021

5:05 p.m. - The Duke Human Vaccine Institute is developing a new kind of flu vaccine that might last up to five years. Multiple news outlets report the new vaccine would use messenger RNA technology, the same method used in both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against Covid-19. Duke received a contract with the National Institutes of Health. - Jason deBruyn, WUNC

4:50 p.m. - A Walgreens pharmacy in Monroe gave a small number of people an injection of saline instead of a COVID-19 vaccine last month. A company spokeswoman says 22 people were affected by the mix-up. She says pharmacists sometimes use saline during training and that there is no reason to believe anyone injected was harmed. All impacted patients were contacted and then given the vaccine once they returned to the pharmacy. - Associated Press

12:16 p.m. - Local providers are making it easier to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment in light of a growing supply. Wake County has done away with its waiting list. Now, adults can schedule appointments online directly. Spokeswoman Stacy Beard says the county's supply of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has been steadily increasing over the past few weeks.

“So, we've removed sort of one of the barriers, or one of the steps, to vaccination, which is what we want to do, right? We want to continue to remove barriers or, you know, inconveniences that maybe are keeping some people from getting a vaccine,” Beard said.

Beard says Wake County is still seeing high demand for the vaccines, but she expects supply will soon outpace it. The county is considering opening up walk-in vaccination clinics like some other providers have done. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:05 a.m. - Winston Salem State University is canceling the rest of its spring sports season because of COVID-19 protocols and contact tracing. This decision impacts softball and track field. Last week the university also canceled the remainder of its spring football practice season. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

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

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