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Coronavirus Live Updates: Week of May 24

Duke nurse Rita Oakes administers the first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination to Glenda Faye Tate Williams at Duke University Hospital in Durham on Monday, December 14, 2020.
Blyth Morrell
Duke University Hospital
Duke nurse Rita Oakes administers the first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination to Glenda Faye Tate Williams at Duke University Hospital in Durham on Monday, December 14, 2020.

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 May 17.

May 28, 2021

4:22 p.m. - The federally supported Community Vaccination Center at Four Seasons Town Centre has closed after providing 143,659 vaccinations to people across North Carolina.

“I’m proud of this collaborative team effort with our federal, state and local partners to provide vaccines,” said North Carolina Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks. “Protecting public health and public safety go hand-in-hand during a pandemic, and that was demonstrated in this mission.”

One of the center's missions was to target vaccinations in underserved communities. Of the 116,363 doses administered at the Four Seasons Town Centre, more than 23% have gone to Black or African American individuals, who make up 23% of North Carolina’s population, and more than 16% to people from Hispanic or Latino communities, who make up almost 10% of the state’s population.

The center was open for 12 weeks, giving its first shots on March 9 and its final shots on May 27. For the first six weeks, the site provided up to 3,000 vaccinations per day, with options for drive-thru service and service at an indoor clinic. First and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine and the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine were available. Guilford County high school students who wanted to be vaccinated were transported to the site on school buses and vaccinated on the bus. - Jason deBruyn, WUNC

2:19 p.m. - Certain Fayetteville firefighters can now administer the COVID-19 vaccine. The Fayetteville Fire Department trained 18 firefighters to give vaccine shots to increase the number of vaccinated residents in Cumberland County. Firefighters are giving free shots at multiple drive-through clinics throughout the county. They were trained by Fayetteville doctors and nurses. - Naomi Prioleau, WUNC

10:32 a.m. - A former deputy from the Durham County Sheriff's Office is suing the Durham County sheriff and manager for allegedly firing him after he refused to get a COVID-19 vaccine. In a recently filed federal lawsuit, Christopher Neve alleges that Sheriff Clarence Birkhead is illegally mandating his employees to get vaccinated. According to court documents, Neve was placed on administrative leave without pay after telling Birkhead he would not get the vaccine. Two weeks later he was fired. Neve wants the court to declare Birkhead's vaccination mandate illegal and to reinstate him to his previous position. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

8:29 a.m. - North Carolina has surpassed 1 million coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic. This comes as the pace of vaccinations is slowing in North Carolina. State health officials have returned hundreds of thousands of vaccines to the federal government and are asking for fewer and fewer new first doses. Nearly 2.3 million COVID-19 shots are on shelves waiting to be administered to residents. Almost half of all adults in the state are fully vaccinated. – Naomi Prioleau, WUNC

May 27, 2021

4:15 p.m. - As the state announces that more than 1 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 in North Carolina since the start of the pandemic, nearly 2.3 million COVID-19 shots are waiting on shelves to be administered to residents. - Associated Press

9:39 a.m. - A massive tax bill written by Republicans passed a Senate committee on Wednesday. The measure would cut the individual tax rate from 5.25% to 4.99% starting next year, and eliminate the corporate tax in seven years. The bill also includes a $1 billion COVID-19 relief grant program for businesses and non-profits. The measure could reach the Senate floor next week. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:35 a.m. - This week, North Carolina recorded its 13,000 death from COVID-19. This comes as the share of adults in the state who are fully vaccinated approaches 50%, and cases and hospitalizations continue to decline.

Over the past month, new COVID-19 cases have been steadily dropping. In the last week, only about 3.6% of tests have come back positive. The number of people hospitalized with COVID across the state is below 700, the lowest number of hospitalizations in months. The state health department says all these metrics are moving in the right direction.

State health officials are launching a new public campaign to encourage people to "vax up or mask up.” They're recommending businesses post signage reminding people to wear a mask if they're not fully vaccinated. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:15 a.m. – Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis are calling on Gov. Roy Cooper to immediately end expanded federal unemployment benefits in North Carolina. The senators say these expanded benefits are preventing people from returning to the workforce. Last week, Cooper issued an executive order requiring everyone getting state unemployment benefits to show they're looking for work starting June 6. Burr and Tillis say that's not enough. They suggest the governor should focus on incentives to encourage more people to return to the workforce. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

7:05 a.m. - PNC Arena will host more than 15,000 fans for all remaining home games in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. The NHL approved the increased capacity yesterday. PNC Arena has installed a 500-ton chiller that will allow the facility to increase air flow and maintain the integrity of the playing surface. The increased capacity will be effective for Game 7 in the first round playoff series against the Nashville Predators on Saturday, if necessary. The Canes play the Predators tonight in Nashville for Game 6. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

May 26, 2021

1:31 p.m. - North Carolina state senators have advanced a proposal that would give $1,500 bonuses to unemployment benefit recipients who return to work this summer. A Senate committee voted Wednesday for the measure, which is designed to help employers struggling to fill positions as post-pandemic restrictions end. Bonuses of $1,500 or $800 would be allowed only if federal labor officials allow the state to use money coming from Washington that’s made unemployment benefits more generous during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill next goes to another Senate committee. – Naomi Prioleau, WUNC

11:24 a.m. - Over 13,000 people in North Carolina have died from COVID-19. This grim milestone comes as other COVID trends seem to be improving. In the last week, the state health department reported an average of less than 900 new confirmed cases. About 700 people across the state are hospitalized with COVID-19, the lowest amount in months. 38% of the total population in North Carolina is fully vaccinated. – Celeste Gracia, WUNC

May 25, 2021

5:30 p.m. - Republicans in the North Carolina Senate have amended their original tax cut proposal to use $1 billion in federal COVID-19 relief money to get more aid to businesses trying to emerge from the pandemic. The GOP plan already contained a reduction in the individual income tax rate and more generous standard deductions. The new version would also automatically send grants of up to $19,000 to businesses that received Paycheck Protection Program loans and other government assistance. And it envisions doing away with the corporate income tax by 2028. - Associated Press

7:16 a.m. - Gov. Roy Cooper has directed more than $50 million in federal pandemic relief funds to help students access community college.
Cooper will use more than half of the dollars in the Governor's Emergency Education Relief fund to launch the Longleaf Commitment program.
The program will guarantee graduating high schoolers from low- and middle-income families at least $2,800 toward tuition and fees at any of the state’s community colleges. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

May 24, 2021

7 p.m. - Data from state health officials show a consistent downward trend in the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in North Carolina over the past week and a half. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services counts 680 people currently hospitalized. That's down from more than 1,000 hospitalizations on May 1. Total COVID-19 cases have also dropped as vaccinations have risen. More than half of adults in the state have received at least one dose of the vaccines. - Liz Schlemmer, WUNC

11:37 a.m. - State health officials are offering $25 cash cards at select COVID-19 vaccine sites in Mecklenburg, Guilford, Rowan and Rockingham counties. Anyone 18 and older who gets their first dose of a vaccine or drives someone to their vaccine appointment will receive the cash card while supplies last. This is the latest effort from state officials to encourage people to get vaccinated. More than 50% of North Carolina adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. - Celeste Gracia, WUNC

10:56 a.m. - Interested in a little extra spending money for the upcoming holiday weekend? Health officials in four North Carolina counties will offer $25 incentives for those who’ve yet to get the COVID-19 vaccine. A pilot program begins Wednesday at certain vaccine sites in Mecklenburg, Guilford, Rowan and Rockingham counties. Adults who get their first vaccination dose at the sites or drive someone for that first-dose appointment will receive $25 cash cards through June 8 while supplies last. The State Employees Credit Union is providing cards for the pilot. The incentive is another effort by the state to boost vaccination rates. - The Associated Press

7:05 a.m. - An event celebrating the Fourth of July is returning to Greensboro this summer after being canceled last year because of the pandemic. Organizers are planning a smaller than usual Fun Fourth Festival. Vendors will not be allowed to participate in this year's event. Other Independence Day events are also returning this year as more pandemic restrictions lift. Last week the town of Wake Forest announced it will resume its fireworks celebration for the holiday. – 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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