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Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of April 26

 A Durham County Department of Public Health employee administers the COVID-19 vaccine to a resident on April 17, 2021.
Durham County Department of Public Health
via Flickr
A Durham County Department of Public Health employee administers the COVID-19 vaccine to a resident on April 17, 2021.

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 19.

April 30, 2021

3:50 p.m. - Federal health officials have concluded that it was anxiety — and not a problem with the COVID-19 vaccine — that caused fainting, dizziness and other short-term reactions in dozens of people in North Carolina and several other states earlier this month. Basically, some people get so freaked out by injections that their anxiety spurs physical symptoms after getting a vaccine. None of the people affected in the instances reported this month got seriously ill, but it prompted some clinics in North Carolina and elsewhere to halt use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That was just before a broader pause due to extremely rare blood clots. - Amy Jeffries, WUNC

9:29 a.m. - The Forsyth County Public Health Department will soon close its mass vaccination site at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds. Next Tuesday will be the last day the clinic gives out first doses of COVID-19 vaccines. The department plans to instead offer vaccines at smaller clinics because of a drop in demand. Second doses will be administered at the fairgrounds until May 24th for people who received their first dose there. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:42 a.m. - North Carolina legislators are starting to fill in more details on distributing the next round of coronavirus federal relief funds. On Thursday, the Senate's budget-writing committee recommended legislation that would formally appropriate almost $6.4 billion for North Carolina. More than half of the money would be used for emergency rental assistance and child care programs, and to help K-12 schools and public universities. The legislation now heads to another committee. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

April 29, 2021

5:00 p.m. - A North Carolina state audit says the details and timing of a coronavirus relief grant program created last year by the General Assembly made it more difficult for low-income families to obtain payments. State Auditor Beth Wood released on Thursday a performance audit of the “Extra Credit Grant” program, which was carried out by the Department of Revenue. Families received $335 to assist with virtual schooling and child-care costs during the pandemic. The performance audit found low-income families didn’t receive payments because of the additional administrative steps during a short window of time. The grant application already has been extended to May 31. - Associated Press

7:10 a.m. - In person audiences are returning to the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh after more than a year. Starting Friday and throughout May, the North Carolina Symphony will perform for small, socially distanced audiences. The center says guests can expect enhanced cleaning and hand sanitizer stations available throughout the venue. Over 30 in person events are already booked at the center for the next few months. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:05 a.m. - State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen says North Carolina has ample COVID-19 vaccine supply for those who need to get a shot. In the past few weeks, state health officials have shifted their vaccine distribution strategy away from mass vaccination sites to more small local clinics like those at pharmacies. Cohen said at a briefing Wednesday that most people in North Carolina, and around the country, can access a vaccine within about five miles of their home.

“And that's really good news,” Cohen said. “So, we want folks to know there aren't long lines, there isn't a scramble to get appointments. There's supply here in North Carolina, it's easy for everyone to access. And they're completely free.”

Governor Roy Cooper says that when two-thirds of adults in the state are vaccinated, he will lift the statewide mask mandate altogether. Wednesday, he announced wearing a mask will no longer be required outdoors as of Friday. – Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

April 28, 2021

6:30 p.m. - Starting Friday, masks will no longer be required in outdoor public spaces in North Carolina. Governor Roy Cooper is also further easing limits on the size events. His latest executive order okays gatherings of up to 100 people inside and 200 people outside. The governor is planning to lift remaining capacity restrictions on June 1st. A final end to the mask mandate is being held out as a carrot. Cooper and Health Secretary Mandy Cohen say that requirement will go away once two-thirds of adults in the state have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine. Already nearly 49% of North Carolinians over 18 are at least partially vaccinated.

The number of new COVID-19 cases statewide has declined dramatically since winter, but hospitalizations are still elevated. Cooper warned the pandemic is not yet over. - Amy Jeffries and Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

7:30 a.m. - Restaurants in the Triangle and across the state are experiencing higher demand as more people get vaccinated and pandemic restrictions lift. But the industry is having a hard time hiring enough workers to meet that demand.

There's lots of reasons why some workers who were laid off aren't returning to the hospitality industry, including extended unemployment benefits. Sean Fowler is the owner of Mandolin in Raleigh. He says right now his restaurant is open at about 50% capacity to accommodate social distancing, and has enough workers.

“But each week our business is increasing,” Fowler said. “Like we're getting busier and busier. And I'm nervous about what it's going to look like here in a month when we have a 100% of our seats in the dining room. It's going to be a challenge."

Fowler says every other restaurant owner he knows is facing the same challenge. To attract workers, Fowler says he's offering competitive wages. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

April 27, 2021

11:31 a.m. - The hospitality industry in the Triangle and across North Carolina is struggling to find workers as pandemic restrictions ease and consumers go out more. Leon Cox is the General Manager of the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel. He says it's especially difficult right now to hire back housekeeping staff because of increased demand for cleaning services in other industries.

“You've got companies hiring people just to walk around and sanitize lobbies. So those resources that were deployed towards housekeeping,” Cox says. “Have kind of been spread out amongst those industries.”

Almost 70% of hospitality workers in the greater Raleigh area were laid off during the pandemic, according to the city's tourism agency. Many workers who were let go found other jobs. Others may not want to return to the industry because of COVID-19 safety concerns. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:30 a.m. - North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper recalled the pain and courage stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and pitched for cooperation with legislative Republicans during his State of the State address. Cooper gave the televised speech Monday night to a joint session of the General Assembly in the House chamber. He mourned the deaths of more than 12,500 people from the coronavirus in North Carolina while praising the work of medical workers, teachers and the National Guard. He asked GOP lawmakers to work with him to expand Medicaid, boost teacher pay and build infrastructure. – The Associated Press

7:05 a.m. - Wake County Public Health will resume using the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines later this week following state and federal guidance. Wake County has almost 8,000 J&J doses in storage at this time. The first clinics for this single-dose vaccine are planned for this Thursday and Friday. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

April 26, 2021

7:45 a.m. - North Carolina health officials are recommending that healthcare providers in the state resume using the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine following a safety review by federal agencies. The pause was made after reports of six cases of a rare type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. State health officials are expected to order new shipments of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine this week. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:05 a.m. - Governor Roy Cooper will give his 2021 State of the State Address on Monday night to a joint session of the General Assembly. This will mark Cooper's third State of the State address and first since he was reelected in November. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

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

Previous weekly updates:

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