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WEB EXCLUSIVE In an effort to slow North Carolina’s recent alarming increase in positive coronavirus cases, Governor Roy Cooper announced a modified stay at home order and government-mandated 10 p.m. curfew—with alcohol sales prohibited after 9 p.m.—on Friday, December 11. Despite the order, on Wednesday, December 16 we saw 5,273 new COVID-19 cases, up from 5,236 the day before, and 2,811 coronavirus-related hospitalizations—the highest single-day count reported in North Carolina since the pandemic hit in March.
Upcoming holiday gatherings pose a threat for even more positive cases; Both Cooper and NCDHHS secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen urge North Carolinians to stay home for the holidays and keep gatherings small—if gathering at all.
Although the numbers are alarming, vaccines—one of which has already made its way to North Carolina—provide a glimmer of hope. Read on for more COVID-19 updates as of Thursday, December 17, and remember to always wear your mask and stay socially distanced from others in order to help stop the spread.
Vaccines arrive in the Triangle
This week, North Carolina received 85,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and it’s reported that another 175,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine could be distributed as early as next week if it’s authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Retired nurse Faye Williams, who volunteered at Duke University Hospital at the start of the pandemic, was the first person in the Triangle to receive the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday, December 15. The vaccine has already made it to several other hospitals and nursing homes through the state. North Carolina’s four-phase plan states that heath care workers will recieve the vaccine first, then high risk adults with two or more pre-existing conditions, followed by essential workers and, finally, the general public.
The New York Times developed a tool with the Surgo Foundation and Ariadne Labs that allows you to input your information (including age, employment and any COVID-related health risks) to see when you might be able to receive the vaccine. Many health officials are predicting that “everyday citizens” will be able to get vaccinated freely by spring or summer 2021.
Wake County schools return to remote learning
On Tuesday, the Wake County school board voted to move all students back to online classes from January 4 through 15, with students returning to classrooms on January 20. The pause in in-person teaching is due to a staffing shortage in schools because of teachers getting exposed to coronavirus and/or quarantining, and will give schools a chance to prepare for students returning to classes after an expected increase in positive case numbers after the holidays.
Local law enforcement
During a press conference on Tuesday, December 15, Gov Cooper called on local law enforcement to help enforce his recent modified stay at home order. The North Carolina Department of Justice insists that local governments may “unquestionably enforce local ordinances that establish civil penalties for violations” of Cooper’s executive orders, which Cooper believes will be more effective than criminal charges.
“Our aim is not to get people in trouble, it is to get people to do the right things to slow the spread of this virus and keep it from overwhelming our hospital systems,” Cooper tweeted on Tuesday. “I’m grateful to the many local governments already taking action to keep their communities safe.”
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