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WEB EXCLUSIVE With more than 10,000 confirmed cases, Wake County is still very much in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic but are there are some reasons for optimism. Yesterday, President Trump visited an RTP plant that’s working on manufacturing a coronavirus vaccine that could be ready by the end of the year. Additionally, more than 92,000 people in North Carolina have recovered from the virus.
Here’s where the state and Wake County are with COVID-19 today.
Hospitalization Cases Peak, But More than 90,000 Have Recovered from COVID
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state tops 116,000 and the number of new patients in the state being hospitalized with the disease has tracked above 1,000 since July 4. Today, the number of hospital cases in North Carolina hit a new record high, according to data from the NC Department of Health and Human Services, with 1,244 cases, up from Thursday’s previous record of 1,228 cases. But on the bright side, 92,302 people in North Carolina are presumed to be recovered from symptoms from COVID-19. DHHS reports nearly 1.7 million coronavirus tests completed with a percent positive rate hovering around 7 percent. Wake County is currently reporting 10,289 cases of the virus, or about 94 cases per 10,000 residents. The county has reported 115 deaths so far.
A Potential (Locally Produced) Vaccine
President Donald Trump visited the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies plant in Morrisville yesterday to tout a potential vaccine that’s being manufactured for coronavirus. The Maryland-based biotechnology company Novavax received a $1.6 billion grant from the federal government to develop, manufacture and deliver 100 million doses of the candidate vaccine, NVX-CoV2373, as early as December 2020 in a joint effort with the U.S. government known as Operation Warp Speed. Production on the first batch of the vaccine candidate is already underway at the plant.
“The pandemic has caused an unprecedented public health crisis, making it more important than ever that industry, government and funding entities join forces to defeat the novel coronavirus together,” said Stanley C. Erck, president and CEO of Novavax, in a statement. “We are honored to partner with Operation Warp Speed to move our vaccine candidate forward with extraordinary urgency in the quest to provide vital protection to our nation’s population. We are grateful to the U.S. government for its confidence in our technology platform, and are working tirelessly to develop and produce a vaccine for this global health crisis.”
The vaccine candidate is in the the first phase of a clinical trials, and is expected to progress into the second phase next month and the final phase this fall. It works by replicating the “spike protein” of the coronavirus which triggers an immune response in people exposed to the protein. Diosynth will mass produce the spike protein for the vaccine.
“We will achieve victory over the virus by unleashing America’s scientific genius,” Trump said in remarks yesterday before touring the facility. “We’ve shaved years off the time to develop a vaccine. This is the fastest a vaccine for a novel pathogen has ever gone.”
Delays In Receiving Test Results
In the last month, the time it has taken to receive coronavirus test results in North Carolina has nearly doubled, from an average of two to three days in June to around seven or more days in July. According to a report in the Charlotte Observer, commercial labs like LabCorp are receiving more tests than they can process and it’s taking them time to work through mounting backlog. The backup began around the July 4th weekend and has only worsened as the number of cases has soared throughout the month. With demand far outpacing supply, labs are also experiencing shortages of reagents, or chemicals used to process results. While the shortages and delays are a problem nationwide, in North Carolina, hospitalized patients experiencing the most serious symptoms have largely been able to receive their results within a day or two. LabCorp and other labs are working to scale up their capacities to process tests, as results, experts say, are crucially important in convincing people to isolate themselves when they test positive and preventing spread of the virus. There have also been instances of false positives reported with some kinds of coronavirus tests.
Register for Virtual Academy
Registration for Wake County public schools Virtual Academy closes Wednesday (July 29) at 5 p.m. Roughly half of all students (79,000) in Wake County public schools have enrolled in the Virtual Academy, where they will learn 100 percent remotely for the entire fall and spring semesters of the school year. For students not enrolled in the Virtual Academy, schools on the traditional school year schedule begin the fall semester on Monday, August 17, with the first two weeks of schooling taking place online. WCPSS plans to transition to a hybrid model of remote and in-person learning by September 8. K-12 students and staff will be required to wear face coverings while on school premises.
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