We’re tracking the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus and vaccines in North Carolina. Check back for updates.
Cases top 987,000
At least 987,837 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 12,853 have died since March 2020, according to state health officials.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,394 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, down from 1,493 the day before.
Twenty-three additional coronavirus-related deaths were reported Thursday. Deaths don’t all occur on the day the state reports them. The state health department revises its daily figures as information becomes available.
At least 925 people were hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Thursday, a drop from 933 the day before.
As of Tuesday, the latest day for which data is available, 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 51% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine and 45.5% are fully vaccinated.
NC not ready to lift mask mandate in schools
State health officials said it’s too soon to say when they will stop requiring public and private schools to wear masks indoors.
State Health Director Dr. Betsey Tilson said Thursday it could be some time before the requirement is lifted, particularly in elementary schools, The News & Observer reported. She cited the recent approval for kids 12 to 15 to get the Pfizer vaccine.
“Although it’s great news that our 12 and up are eligible for a vaccine, there’s obviously a lot of people under age 12 that are in our school setting, so we’re still going to be for a while predominantly unvaccinated students,” she said. “And we see that strength of that mask mandate.”
Children start getting COVID vaccine
Thursday marked the first day in North Carolina that the Pfizer vaccine became available for kids ages 12 to 15 in Wake County.
Gov. Roy Cooper visited the Wake County Human Services Center in Raleigh where some children were getting the vaccine, saying he is “pleased to see that vaccinations have been expanded.” The site is one of two walk-in clinics in the county offering the vaccine to kids 12 to 15, The News & Observer reported.
In Charlotte, Novant Health started vaccinating kids Wednesday night. Atrium Health and CVS Health were aiming to start vaccinating kids in that age group on Thursday, The Charlotte Observer reported.
Novant chief nursing officer Nikki Nissen said opening vaccines up to more age groups might help boost vaccination rates in the Charlotte area.
“This is our chance to try to get back to our new normal,” Nissen said. “We just really want to continue to encourage people to get their shot.”
CDC updates mask guidelines for fully vaccinated people
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday people who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus don’t need to wear masks.
They “can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.
That includes visiting hair salons, going to the mall or museum when it’s not crowded, eating in restaurants and participating in exercise classes, according to the CDC. Fully vaccinated individuals also don’t need their masks outside, regardless of the crowd size.
But masks are still required on planes, buses and trains, regardless of vaccination status, and for those in health care settings, correctional facilities and homeless shelters.
After the CDC’s announcement, Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris called the updated recommendations “great news” but said residents still need to wear masks in public, citing Gov. Roy Cooper’s statewide mask mandate that remains in effect.
Audit says NC didn’t properly monitor $3 billion in COVID relief
North Carolina officials divided more than $3 billion in federal COVID-19 relief without proper oversight, an audit said Thursday.
The financial review said the state’s budget and pandemic recovery offices “‘did not design and implement procedures to ensure that Coronavirus Relief Funds were being spent in accordance with the rules for the money,” The News & Observer reported.
“As a result, there was an increased risk that recipients could have misused the funds without the misuse being detected and corrected timely,” N.C. State Auditor Beth Wood wrote.
State Budget Director Charles Perusse said the two offices mentioned in the audit were low on staff after not getting the amount of workers they requested from the legislature.
“We take the findings presented in this report very seriously, and we have already begun making the changes to address them,” Perusse wrote.
NASCAR not requiring masks in outdoor competition areas
NASCAR, which has a large presence in the Charlotte area, said Thursday it will no longer require team members and officials to wear face masks outside.
The change applies to racetrack competition areas, including near the infield and garages, The Charlotte Observer reported. Since last year, people had been required to wear masks in those sections due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Masks are still required indoors and in other spaces that are subject to state or local rules, according to NASCAR protocol.
“Going forward, our focus is on encouraging everyone to get vaccinated and preventing the indoor spread of COVID-19,” officials said in a statement.