We’re tracking the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus and vaccines in North Carolina. Check back for updates.
Case count tops 865,000
At least 865,554 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 11,363 have died since last March, according to state health officials.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday reported 2,145 new COVID-19 cases, up from 1,239 reported the day before. Tuesday’s new case count was the lowest reported in a single day since Oct. 19.
Seventy-five coronavirus-related deaths were reported Wednesday. 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 1,303 people in North Carolina were reported hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Wednesday, the lowest reported number since Nov. 11.
As of Monday, the latest day for which data are available, 6.1% of COVID-19 tests came back positive. Health officials have said 5% is the target rate to control the spread of the virus.
More than 2.5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered in North Carolina.
Lawmakers vote for more fans at games, graduations
The North Carolina House approved a bill Wednesday that would allow high schools and colleges to fill up their stands to half capacity.
The state Senate has also passed its own bill expanding those capacity restrictions, The News & Observer reported.
House Bill 128 passed 77-42 and would allow up to 50% capacity at indoor and outdoor sporting events and graduations at UNC system schools, community colleges and the state’s K-12 public schools. It would also require schools to allow at least 30% capacity.
The vote comes after Gov. Roy Cooper eased restrictions to allow up to 15% capacity at indoor events and 30% capacity at outdoor events.
“This is an an issue of major concern for countless families and communities across North Carolina,” said Rep. Kyle Hall, a Stokes County Republican and a primary sponsor of the bill. “Unfortunately these arbitrary limits are not based in science and only punish our athletes and their families.”
Duke planning in-person graduation ceremony with no family allowed
Duke University said it is planning an in-person spring graduation ceremony for undergraduate students.
So far, family and friends won’t be allowed to attend the occasion, scheduled to be held outdoors for seniors who are part of the schools COVID-19 surveillance testing.
The plans aren’t concrete, and Duke could make changes based on health guidance, The News & Observer reported Wednesday.
“Should conditions improve, we may consider expanding the scope of the ceremony,” said Duke President Vincent Price. “On the other hand, should the situation worsen, we may be forced to make the entire event virtual.”
Last spring, many colleges and universities opted for virtual graduation ceremonies due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Views differ on drop in student test scores
State schools superintendent Catherine Truitt told the state Senate Education Committee on Wednesday that falling test scores indicate more needs to be done to prepare students for in-person instruction again.
But state Department of Public Instruction staff members cautioned against comparing this year’s test scores with other years.
Their comments come after test results showed the majority of high school students didn’t pass end-of-course exams in the fall, The News & Observer reported. School districts have also reported 23% of their students are at risk of academic failure.
“It’s been a lost year of learning,” Truitt, a Republican, told the committee.
Tammy Howard, director of accountability services at DPI, said the switch from in-person instruction to online learning or a mixture of both should be celebrated as an accomplishment.
“We have to look at these tests results within that context,” she said.
DHHS issues new guidelines for reopening schools
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services issued new recommendations Wednesday to reopen schools as the legislature gathered to reconsider a veto override vote that would require K-12 public schools to reopen.
Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 37 last week, and the legislature failed to override his veto during a vote this week.
Democratic senators sent the state Board of Education a letter Wednesday urging them to offer some type of in-person instruction and allow local and state health officials to change the reopening plans “if warranted” — something Cooper has also requested, The News & Observer reported.
“I believe that our children need to be back in the classroom,” Cooper said. “We just need to make sure that it is done safely.”
The State Board of Education will vote on the DHHS recommendations Thursday.
NC State basketball season to end early
The N.C. State men’s basketball team will play its last regular-season game Wednesday night at Notre Dame after Virginia Tech bowed out of Saturday’s scheduled match-up at PNC Arena.
The Hokies already canceled their game against Louisville on Tuesday because of COVID-19 protocols, The News & Observer reported. Because of contact tracing protocols, the ACC announced Wednesday they also won’t make the trip to Raleigh this weekend.
N.C. State will end its regular season having played 21 games, with eight canceled or postponed because of the coronavirus. Only one game was made up during the season.
Mecklenburg to get 11,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine
Thousands of doses of the new COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson are coming to the Charlotte area.
Mecklenburg County could receive 11,000 doses of that vaccine, Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said Tuesday. The county, Atrium Health and Novant Health are expected to get the doses.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine recently received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and requires one shot. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have a recommended two doses but have higher efficacy rates.
Raleigh to allow special events to resume
Raleigh is taking a step toward opening up during the coronavirus pandemic, The News & Observer reported.
After a year of halted events, the city is allowing some festivities to resume as early as April 1. The parades, festivals and other special events will be required to follow North Carolina’s coronavirus-related guidelines, said Derek Remer, emergency management director for the city.
“With cases starting to decline, we’re optimistic that we can start allowing events that are permitted under the governor’s executive order,” Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said.