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COVID vaccine live updates: Here's what to know in North Carolina on June 21

The (Raleigh) News & Observer logo The (Raleigh) News & Observer 6/22/2021 Bailey Aldridge, Simone Jasper, and Hayley Fowler, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

Jun. 21—We're tracking the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus and vaccines in North Carolina. Check back for updates.

More than 200 new cases reported

At least 1,010,889 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 13,368 have died since March 2020, according to state health officials.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported 238 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, down from 241 on Sunday and 297 on Saturday. State health officials don't release updated case counts over the weekends.

Twenty-eight additional coronavirus-related deaths were reported on Monday. Deaths don't necessarily occur on the day the state reports them. The state health department revises its daily figures as information becomes available.

At least 458 people were hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Monday, down from 463 the day before.

As of Saturday — the latest day with available data — 2.4% of coronavirus tests were reported positive. Health officials say 5% or lower is the target rate to slow the spread of the virus.

Roughly 55% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine and about 52% have been fully vaccinated. State health officials round vaccination numbers to the nearest whole number.

School boards could make masks optional

A bill proposed in the state House Monday would allow local school boards to set their own mask policies next school year.

Under the current mask mandate, schools are considered at-risk settings where face coverings are still required. But Senate Bill 173 would let school boards make that decision for themselves, The News & Observer reported.

"Decisions about face coverings for our students should be left to local authorities," Rep. David Willis, a Union County Republican, said in a release. "Our school boards are in a much better position to implement policies that reflect their communities than Governor Cooper is in Raleigh. They should have the flexibility and authority to make those decisions."

The proposed legislation would be in effect only for the 2021-2022 school year and allow Cooper to still require masks or shutdown a school if case counts rise.

Biden to visit NC as part of vaccine push

President Joe Biden is set to travel to North Carolina this week as the state trails behind his COVID-19 vaccination goal.

Biden plans to visit Raleigh on Thursday as part of the "National Month of Action," an effort to push 70% of U.S. adults to get at least one vaccine dose by July 4, The News & Observer reported.

About two weeks ahead of the target date, state officials said 55% of adults are partially vaccinated against COVID-19. Earlier in June, North Carolina reportedly wasn't on pace to meet Biden's goal.

Realtors, advocates at odds over end of eviction ban

The North Carolina Association of Realtors is urging Gov. Roy Cooper to avoid extending the statewide moratorium on evictions, which is set to expire at the end of June.

In a letter to Cooper, the association cited the financial strain the moratorium has put on landlords.

"Businesses by and large are operating normally again," the letter said. "The same cannot be said for small business housing providers who continue to operate under severe restrictions."

The eviction moratorium — designed to allow people who can't afford rent due to COVID-19 stay in their homes — has had three extensions.

Advocates have said renters still need more time, The News & Observer reported. During the pandemic, the state has offered the Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Eviction (HOPE) program, which provides rent relief to those who apply.

"The moratorium should be extended to give the social services organizations and NC HOPE the opportunity to get through the applications," said Jesse McCoy of the Civil Justice Clinic at Duke University.

NC restaurants struggle with labor shortage

As customers return to North Carolina restaurants, some are struggling to add workers.

During the pandemic, the number of people working in hospitality jobs was cut almost in half as coronavirus-related restrictions dealt a blow to that industry.

"Now that there's great demand and people are eager to dine out, we're facing a different crisis," said Lynn Minges, president of the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association. "We're finding ourselves trying to rebuild a workforce."

Some reasons for workers not returning to the industry include continued unemployment benefits, child care needs and career changes, The News & Observer reported. As customers spend more money in restaurants, some of the businesses are offering signing bonuses to try to attract servers, cooks and other workers.

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