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COVID vaccine live updates: Here’s what to know in North Carolina on Oct. 27

The Charlotte Observer logo The Charlotte Observer 10/27/2021 Hayley Fowler, Simone Jasper, The Charlotte Observer

We’re tracking the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus and vaccines in North Carolina. Check back for updates.

Death toll nears 18,000

At least 1,472,655 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, and at least 17,935 have died since March 2020, according to state health officials.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday reported 2,160 new COVID-19 cases, up from 1,340 on Tuesday.

There were 47 additional coronavirus-related deaths reported Wednesday. Health officials don’t specify the specific dates for the newly reported deaths.

At least 1,406 people were reported hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, including 415 adults who are patients in intensive care units, health officials said.

On Monday, the latest date with available information, 5.3% of coronavirus tests were reported positive. Health officials say 5% or lower is the target rate to slow the spread of the virus.

Roughly 71% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and about 67% have been fully vaccinated. State officials round vaccination numbers to the nearest whole number.

NC school district cancels Thanksgiving week classes

The Johnston County school board voted to cancel classes on Nov. 12, Nov. 22 and Nov. 23 to give families and teachers time to “decompress.”

The move comes amid intense pressure and staffing shortages amid an already tumultuous school year.

“Tensions are high,” said school board member Kay Carroll. “Nerves are frayed. We’ve seen a lot has been going on with short tempers and I think it would be good idea for us to give everybody some down time.”

Cooper declares ‘good news’ as cases taper off

Gov. Roy Cooper called COVID-19 trends in the state “good news” during a news conference on Wednesday.

He said new coronavirus case numbers and hospitalizations have gone down while the number of vaccinations has improved, all while more children have returned for in-person learning, The News & Observer reported.

“It’s good news,” the governor said. “Although every death is painful and now often avoidable, we’ve felt a renewed sense of hope as our COVID numbers have continued their steady improvement. People are eating at restaurants and going to concerts and ballgames again. People are traveling again. And most people are back at work, although many are doing it in a different way, or at a different job.”

Cooper also said the state is preparing to be able to vaccinate children ages 5 to 11 against the coronavirus as soon as next week.

NC officials no longer recommending mandate masks in all school districts

North Carolina health officials have stopped recommending all school districts in the state have mask requirements for workers and students in schools.

Instead, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services in updated guidance recommends face masks only be required in counties that have high or substantial coronavirus spread. As of Tuesday, 98 of the state’s 100 counties were in those categories, The News & Observer reported.

“Given that our student population is largely not yet vaccinated, face (coverings) remain a critical tool for protecting children and keeping them safely in the classroom,” the state health department said. “NCDHHS recommends that schools base their mask requirements on levels of community transmission, as defined by the CDC.”

The decision comes as one Triangle-area district this week removed an outdoor mask requirement for high schoolers and eased its limit on spectators at sporting events.

The school board on Monday voted unanimouslyto lift the 50% capacity at athletic events and allow for concessions. Face coverings and social distancing will still be required when watching sports teams.

The Triangle-area district has started easing restrictions after mandating that students wear masks, except for 15 minutes at lunchtime. Almost 80% of high schoolers are vaccinated, and Pfizer vaccines are expected to be approved soon for kids ages 5-11.

COVID clusters reported at 22 Triangle schools

Schools in the Triangle reported a slight uptick in COVID-19 clusters this week, according to the latest health department data.

The data shows 22 schools have clusters, up from 21 last week. They include seven clusters at schools in Durham, six in Wake County, five in Orange County and two each in Franklin and Harnett counties, The News & Observer reported.

A cluster is defined as five or more linked coronavirus cases over 14 days. But because of a reporting time lag, schools may have more or fewer cases than what’s shown on the health department’s report.

Holiday Express canceled due to lack of staff

The city of Raleigh’s Holiday Express has been canceled again — this time because of inadequate staffing, the city announced Tuesday in a news release.

Last year, the Holiday Express was canceled over concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The event requires about 80 staff members a night, including 20 volunteers, The News & Observer reported.

“Unfortunately, we are not at a staffing level this year to provide our guests with an exceptional experience,” the city said in the news release. “We are very disappointed and know that our community will be, too. This is an event we look forward to every year.”

Some Wake students may not return in-person next semester

The Wake County school system may not allow some students taking virtual classes to return to in-person learning next semester.

The district had previously said it would consider letting families enrolled in the Virtual Academy go into classrooms if COVID-19 vaccines became widely available for young kids. But as an advisory panel met this week to review Pfizer vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds, Wake officials said the transition could impact children already taking in-person classes.

“A significant change in the structure of the Virtual Academy in the spring semester does inherently have the potential to disrupt the learning experience for the 94% or so of Wake County Public School System students attending in-person instruction in the second semester,” Drew Cook, the assistant superintendent of academics, said Monday.

NC coworking companies see growth during pandemic

Coworking companies in North Carolina are growing after they saw a decline in users earlier in the pandemic.

Jes Porta of the Raleigh Founded coworking community said some people have gone back to shared offices after vaccines became available and people better understood COVID-19.

The Loading Dock, which offers flexible spaces for people who want to gather while doing remote work, is continuing its plan to open two more locations in the Raleigh area, The News & Observer reported.

“Companies want to recognize the life balance of working-from-home work,” said Brian Fuhs, the company’s business development director. “But then they also want to have a place to gather, like a Loading Dock. We’ve seen a big uptake in meeting space rental and conference room utilization over the last month and a half.”


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