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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper gave an upbeat report on the state’s COVID-19 cases Wednesday, declaring the declining trends “good news” and gearing up to vaccinate a new flood of children.
In a news conference streamed statewide, the governor cited lower case numbers and hospitalizations coupled with higher vaccinations and children back in the classroom.
“It’s good news,” Cooper said. “People are eating at restaurants and going to concerts and ballgames again. People are traveling again.”
A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee has voted to authorize Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5-11, the first step before the FDA gives it full approval and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention weighs its own recommendation. That could come as early as next week.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, said 750 locations will be ready to vaccinate children statewide, including doctors’ offices, pharmacies and health departments, whenever that approval happens.
Meanwhile, Cooper’s announcement comes as DHHS is relaxing its guidelines on face coverings in schools.
Until this week, DHHS recommended all students and employees wear masks, no matter the vaccination status. The state’s instructions loomed large as only 12 of 103 districts voted to make masks optional.
The revised guidelines say counties can consider making masks optional when COVID-19 transmission reaches a moderate to low rate, but only among the vaccinated.
Once the transmission rate remains low, counties can consider optional masks for everyone.
The state’s map of transmission rates shows only two counties out of 100 in the moderate range — Cherokee and Hyde. With 64% of eligible people vaccinated statewide, Cooper and Cohen stressed the need for more COVID-19 shots.
“Every unvaccinated person is another foothold allowing this virus to regain strength,” Cooper said.
The governor said he will keep the state’s emergency order, which has been in place since the beginnings of the pandemic in early 2020.