COVID vaccine live updates: Here’s what to know in North Carolina on July 31

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

More than 1,100 hospitalizations reported

At least 1,048,076 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, and at least 13,635 have died since March 2020, according to state health officials.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported 3,199 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, down from 3,268 on Thursday.

Seventeen additional coronavirus-related deaths were reported Friday. Deaths don’t all occur on the day the state reports them. The state health department revises its daily figures as more information becomes available.

At least 1,168 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Friday, up from 1,141 the day before.

As of Wednesday, the latest day available, 9.5% of coronavirus tests were reported positive. Health officials say 5% or lower is the target rate to slow the spread of the virus.

Roughly 61% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and about 57% have been fully vaccinated. State health officials round vaccination numbers to the nearest whole number.

CLT airport takes a hit during pandemic. How bad was it?

Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Friday revealed how COVID-19 crippled passenger counts and revenues, and how the airport survived the pandemic better than most.

Passenger numbers in 2020 plummeted nearly 46% to 27.2 million from 50.2 million in 2019, according to a report by the airport titled “A Year of Resiliency: 2020 Report of Achievement.”

The number of local flyers who began their trips at CLT fell about 58%, from 7.7 million in 2019 to 3.2 million in 2020, according to the airport. Passengers boarding international flights fell about 57%, from 141,277 in 2019 to 60,293 in 2020, the report shows.

Still, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines added flights from the airport in 2020. And Hayley Gentry, acting aviation director at CLT, said various moves by the airport during the pandemic left Charlotte Douglas better off than most U.S. airports.

“When revenue dried up, we had to be creative and look at things differently,” she said in the report. “We cut our budget, delayed some capital projects and concentrated our efforts on keeping our passengers and employees safe.”

Mecklenburg details COVID cases for vaccinated people

As Mecklenburg County residents are once again urged to wear masks indoors — regardless of their vaccination status — health officials on Friday disclosed for the first time how many people contracted the coronavirus after getting their COVID shots.

Between mid-March and mid-July, Mecklenburg officials reported more than 18,000 coronavirus cases.

Only a fraction of those cases were identified as breakthrough infections, meaning they occurred in people already immunized against COVID-19, Mecklenburg officials said.

In Mecklenburg, at least 367 residents tested positive for the virus between March 22 and July 27, despite being fully vaccinated. That equates to less than 1% of immunized residents, Mecklenburg officials said.

About 98% of local cases since late March likely occurred among unvaccinated people, an Observer analysis of county health data finds.

2 Charlotte-area fitness centers reported COVID-19 cases

Two Charlotte-area fitness centers reported COVID-19 cases recently.

A few team members at Huntersville-based Burn Boot Camp tested positive for the coronavirus and were immediately quarantined, founder and CEO Devan Kline told The Charlotte Observer on Friday. Kline did not say how many tested positive.

Meanwhile, Mecklenburg County health officials reported that seven students and one staffer at King Tiger Tae Kwon Do, across from Birkdale Village in Huntersville, tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday.

Earlier in July, state health officials said reports of coronavirus clusters remained low. But at summer camps and religious gatherings, clusters — defined as at least five cases — were on the rise, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Nineteen clusters were confirmed at summer camps across the state as of July 19, the most recent date that public health information is available.

More colleges clear student debt during COVID

Two North Carolina colleges said they are clearing student debt, becoming the latest to do so during the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte and North Carolina Central University in Durham are using money from the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help cover student balances, The Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer reported Friday.

The schools, both historically Black universities, join other North Carolina schools that have worked to relieve debt, including East Carolina University, Fayetteville State University, Livingstone College, Pfeiffer University and St. Augustine’s University. UNC-Chapel Hill said it plans to distribute money through financial aid grants.

Vaccine acceptance slow in county with highest case rate

Some residents are hesitant to get COVID-19 vaccines in the North Carolina county that has the highest coronavirus case rate.

Columbus County, in the southeastern part of the state, also has one of the lowest vaccination rates in North Carolina. Some residents are skeptical of getting the vaccine, The News & Observer reported.

“Most of all, I hear they don’t trust it,” said Vickie Pait, a Whiteville City Council member and director of the town’s domestic violence shelter. “People who come into our office and are not vaccinated are proud of it.”

To help administer doses, officials in the county are educating about the vaccines, and Guiton’s Drug Store started offering an on-site clinic.

Mecklenburg jail temporarily halts visits after COVID-19 cases

The Mecklenburg County Jail shut down visitation Friday for at least 48 hours after an inmate tested positive for COVID-19, the Sheriff’s Office said Friday.

The jail’s roughly 1,470 inmates have been placed in respiratory isolation while contact tracing takes place, according to a Sheriff’s Office email.

A recently admitted inmate at the Juvenile Detention Center in north Charlotte also tested positive for COVID-19 during the screening process, the email said.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to require face masks

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is requiring students and staff to wear face masks indoors this fall.

The board voted 8-1 to mandate face coverings, becoming one of the few local districts to do so, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Superintendent Earnest Winston sent a memo Thursday recommending the district continue requiring masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The three-page memo was sent ahead of the school board meeting Friday.

Winston said CMS should implement “universal face covering requirements for all students, staff, volunteers and visitors inside CMS facilities for the 2021-2022 school year.”

Masks to be required inside Wake County government buildings

Wake County is requiring everyone who goes inside its buildings wear a mask.

The mandate goes into effect Monday and doesn’t affect schools, The News & Observer reported.

Since June, cases in the county have gone up by 279%, said Matt Calabria, board of commissioners chair. As the vaccine rollout continues, officials said the delta coronavirus variant is making progress complicated.

“We know that the surge is a large percentage delta,” said Dr. Nicole Mushonga, assistant physician director and epidemiology program director for Wake. “We are seeing that a majority of cases, more recent cases, are of the delta variant. ... That is a variant that spreads more quickly, is more transmissible and gets into our community more quickly. Those who are unvaccinated are susceptible.”

Rise in hospitalizations expected to continue in NC

Coronavirus-related hospitalizations have jumped in North Carolina, and an infectious disease expert expects that trend to continue.

Even as some employers mandate COVID-19 vaccines and federal health officials revise face mask guidelines, it could take time for hospitalizations to come down, said Dr. Cameron Wolfe, associate professor at the Duke University School of Medicine. That’s because it can take up to two weeks before a person who contracts the virus is hospitalized, The News & Observer reported Thursday.

“It is baked into the system that that number is going to go up for at least a couple of weeks,” Wolfe said. “All of those people who have been exposed yesterday, for example, are not likely to get sick for quite a few days, and not likely to get sick enough to need the hospital for further time.”

More than 1,091 coronavirus-related hospitalizations were reported in the state as of Thursday, the highest total since May. State officials have said over 90% of those people are unvaccinated.

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