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COVID vaccine live updates: Here’s what to know in North Carolina on Sept. 28

The Charlotte Observer logo The Charlotte Observer 9/29/2021 Simone Jasper, Hayley Fowler, The Charlotte Observer

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

More than 50 deaths added

At least 1,385,700 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, and at least 16,285 have died since March 2020, according to state health officials.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday reported 3,469 new COVID-19 cases, up from 2,665 on Monday.

Fifty additional coronavirus-related deaths were reported on Tuesday. State health officials don’t specify the dates on which newly reported deaths occurred.

So far, more than 1,200 people in North Carolina have died due to COVID-19 in September. That makes it the state’s third-deadliest month during the pandemic, behind January and December, The News & Observer reported.

At least 3,073 people were reported hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, including 865 adult patients who are being treated in intensive care units, health officials said.

On Sunday, the latest date with available information, 10.6% of coronavirus tests were reported positive. Health officials say 5% or lower is the target rate to slow the spread of the virus.

Roughly 69% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and about 64% have been fully vaccinated. State officials round vaccination numbers to the nearest whole number.

COVID clusters reported at Triangle schools

At least 26 schools in the Triangle have reported active COVID-19 clusters, according to new health department report.

The schools include 12 in Wake County, five in Durham and two each in Franklin, Granville and Orange counties, The News & Observer reported. There was one cluster each in Chatham, Harnett and Johnson counties.

Sanderson High had the highest number of cases (21) in the Wake County School District. Neuse River Middle had 16 cases, according to The N&O.

Rift widens between Union County school board, health officials

Union County Public Health Director Dennis Joyner sent a letter to the school district’s superintendent on Friday about contact tracing protocols, marking the latest in a series of disputes involving COVID-19 precautions in schools.

The letter invokes the health department’s authority under state law to require the district to take further precautions during the pandemic — despite the school district’s assertions that it has followed the law and supported county health officials, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Joyner’s letter said the Union County School Board’s recent decision to curtail quarantine requirements for students exposed to COVID-19 has made it difficult for the county to conduct close contact quarantining.

“The scant information we have been receiving from UCPS is insufficient to permit the local health department to carry out its statutory duty to protect the students and the public from transmission of a dangerous communicable disease,” Joyner said.

UNCW student dies from COVID

A 20-year-old student from Cary who attended the University of North Carolina Wilmington died of complications from the coronavirus.

Tyler Gilreath tested positive for COVID-19 a few days after moving to Wilmington. His mother, Tamra Demello, told The News & Observer her son was not vaccinated against COVID-19 and had resisted getting a vaccine because he said he was young and healthy.

She urged parents of other unvaccinated kids to make them get a shot.

“We’re just hoping if we can just convince these young people who think they’re invincible, you know, that this active, healthy, not ever really sick kid — if this can happen to him from those complications, that it can happen to them too,” Demello said.

Charlotte may add more virtual school options

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is considering adding a virtual learning option for some kindergarten through second-grade students.

The school district currently has three virtual schools for students in grades 3-12. District leaders have said kids in K-2 learn better in-person, The Charlotte Observer reported.

But an uptick in COVID-19 cases and feedback from parents has convinced the board to weigh expanding the online program at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. The proposal would allow those K-2 students with a documented medical condition to apply for a spot in the virtual program and requires the student’s physician to complete a medical packet confirming their health needs.

New ambulances to help with COVID calls in Charlotte area

New ambulances are coming to the Charlotte area amid growing calls for service during COVID-19, officials said.

After submitting a federal request for 50 ambulances, the N.C. Department of Public Safety received 25 “advanced life support ambulances, each with a two-person crew of EMS providers,” The Charlotte Observer reported.

“These ambulances and crews will provide necessary relief to our extremely busy EMS systems,” said Will Ray, director of emergency management in North Carolina. “While it’s not the full complement we requested, we know medical resources are extremely limited across the nation right now, and we are grateful for this assistance from our federal partners.”

Mecklenburg County is expected to receive five additional crews. Others will go to Brunswick, Franklin, Graham, Guilford, Macon, New Hanover, Pender and Robeson counties, officials said.

Duke expected to mandate vaccines for basketball fans

Duke University could mandate COVID-19 vaccines for people who watch basketball this season at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The school is expected to make the move as it aims to be a leader in fighting COVID-19.

“I think there’s a really great opportunity here for letting people in who are vaccinated,” Dr. Cameron Wolfe, an infectious disease specialist and chair of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Medical Advisory Group, recently told Duke’s Academic Council. “We should lead in that regard.”

While the planning process continues, fans could be required to show proof that they have been fully vaccinated or tested negative for COVID-19, The News & Observer reported Monday. Last season, spectators weren’t allowed in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Charlotte-area schools report slight decline in cases

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are reporting a slight drop in COVID-19 cases after an increase at the start of the school year.

In the week leading up to Sept. 24, the district had 481 new coronavirus cases, data show. That’s down from 447 and 494 the two weeks before, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Also, almost 63% of the district’s teachers, principals and staff members reported being vaccinated. Those figures could change since workers can still share proof that they have been vaccinated, according to a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools spokesperson.

Music festivals return after COVID canceled in-person events

Two North Carolina live music events are returning after the coronavirus pandemic didn’t allow fans to meet last year.

The International Bluegrass Music Association is holding its street music festival and other programming this week in downtown Raleigh, The News & Observer reported. Anyone attending a ticketed event will be required to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine, and face masks are required indoors.

Last year, the World of Bluegrass went virtual due to COVID-19.

“After a tough couple years, everybody is looking forward to hearing live music again,” said Pat Morris, executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Association. “Live music is unique, it’s the interaction with the audience, the creativity, the spontaneity. You can try to duplicate it, but it’s not the same as being there.”

Also in Raleigh, the Dreamville Festival is scheduled to return in April after last year’s event was canceled, rapper J. Cole said Monday.

Proof of a vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test will be required for festival-goers, the N&O reported.

NC providers begin offering booster shots

Some North Carolina providers are offering booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine after they were recommended for some groups.

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended people receive third doses of the Pfizer vaccine if they are 65 or older, have a condition that puts them at high risk of getting seriously sick or work in an environment where they could be exposed to the virus.

In the Charlotte area, Novant Health and Mecklenburg County Public Health will offer booster shots starting Monday. Atrium Health could start scheduling appointments for a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine next week, The Charlotte Observer reported.

In the Triangle, Wake County said it would offer the shots after they received approval. The News & Observer has asked Wake County when the boosters could be available.

The shots are also available at CVS, Sam’s Club, Walgreens, Walmart and Wegmans pharmacies. Additional information about vaccination sites is at MySpot.nc.gov.

Hospital system fires workers over vaccine rules

A North Carolina-based hospital system said it fired almost 200 workers who didn’t comply with a vaccine requirement.

Novant Health, which has a presence in the Charlotte area, had previously announced 375 employees were suspended and given a five-day deadline be compliant. Dozens of those workers later complied, The Charlotte Observer reported Monday.

Novant employees who have received their first Pfizer or Moderna vaccine dose must get their second one by Oct. 15. Workers who have been approved for a vaccine exemption must wear protective equipment and be tested for COVID-19 each week, officials said.

“We stand by our decision to make the vaccine mandatory as we have a responsibility to protect our patients, visitors and team members, regardless of where they are in our health system,” Novant Health said in a statement. “We couldn’t be prouder of our team members who made the choice to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and remain part of our team.”

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