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COVID vaccine live updates: Here’s what to know in North Carolina on Dec. 11

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

More than 3,600 cases added

At least 1,566,269 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, and at least 18,976 have died since March 2020, according to state health officials.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday, Dec. 10, reported 3,606 new COVID-19 cases, down from 4,153 on Thursday.

Twenty-one coronavirus-related deaths were added on Dec. 10. Health officials don’t specify the dates on which newly reported deaths occurred.

At least 1,493 people were reported hospitalized with COVID-19 on Dec. 10, including 372 adults being treated in intensive care units, health officials said.

On Dec. 8, the latest date with available information, 7.4% of coronavirus tests were reported positive. Health officials say 5% or lower is the target rate to slow the spread of the virus.

Roughly 73% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and about 69% have been fully vaccinated. Out of the state’s total population, about 58% are fully vaccinated and 62% have received at least one dose. State officials round vaccination numbers to the nearest whole number.

NC reports first case of omicron variant

The first case of the coronavirus omicron variant has been detected in North Carolina, Mecklenburg County public health officials said on Friday, Dec. 10.

A student at UNC Charlotte who was vaccinated tested positive for the variant, The Charlotte Observer reported. The student had minor symptoms, was isolated and has since recovered. Officials said exposure was limited to one known contact.

UNC Charlotte told students in an email that the on-campus sequencing lab identified the positive test from a student who traveled out of state over Thanksgiving.

“All close contacts were notified through the university’s contact tracing protocols, and no additional positive cases have been identified,” the university said.

Public health officials urged everyone to get vaccinated, wear masks in public and avoid big crowds during a news conference.

“This virus is not going away,” county Health Director Dr. Gibbie Harris said. “That is probably the one thing we can say for certain.”

Raleigh mayor debates relaxing mask mandate

Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin has asked staff to look at ways they can relax the citywide mask ordinance after hearing complaints from residents — but she wants to make sure it can be done while ensuring everyone’s safety from COVID-19.

“I’m struggling with this because I’m trying to find balance,” she said at a recent Raleigh City Council meeting. “And I’m hoping after staff researches this, we can make some adjustments based on what we’re seeing other communities do.”

One of the complaints has been that people don’t feel like they can work out while wearing a mask at the gym, she said, according to The News & Observer. There are also business owners worried if they can make it to next year.

Baldwin said the city is waiting to see if coronavirus trends increased two weeks after Thanksgiving.

Lab worked long hours to spot omicron in Mecklenburg County

Long before detecting omicron in a student on campus, a UNC Charlotte lab devoted long hours to spot the presence of the new COVID-19 variant in the area, WCCB reported.

About 20 states have reported at least one case of COVID-19 illness from the omicron variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No cases had been confirmed in the Carolinas until Friday’s positive case in a UNC Charlotte student.

“It’s only a matter of time before it gets here,” Cynthia Gibas, professor of bioinformatics and genomics told WCCB earlier this week. “What we’re waiting for when we are surveillance sequencing is signs of something different happening. So signs of a variant that we haven’t seen before.”

The CDC uses genomic surveillance to track variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the CDC website.

Scientists at the school have more than doubled the number of COVID case samples they’re examining. “We’ve ramped up our sequencing capacity,”.Jessica Schlueter, associate professor of bioinformatics told the station.

Why are some Charlotte residents getting their first doses now?

Some in Charlotte are getting their (*11*) months after they became widely available.

While most people at a recent Novant Health clinic signed up for booster shots, some factors have pushed others to get their first shots. The factors include worries about new coronavirus variants, upcoming holiday gatherings and job-related vaccine requirements, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Dr. Charles Bregier, an emergency medicine specialist for Novant Health, said people may also be eager to return to normal and that he’s recently seen a small increase in people getting their first shots.

”I’m just trying to be proactive about my health now. Self care, along with mental care,” said Timothy Garcia, who got his first shot on Dec. 7. “Same thing with my family — we’ve had a lot of close calls. That kind of brought it to my attention that I need to be proactive.”

Tourist-popular NC mountain county extends mask mandate

Buncombe County commissioners on Tuesday extended the county’s mask mandate until Jan. 5, The (Asheville) Citizen Times reported.

“It’s either the best decision or the stupidest decision, depending on the wide range of opinions that exist in this community,” commissioners’ Chair Brownie Newman said, according to the newspaper.

The county’s COVID-19 case positivity rate stood at 6.6% this week, “nearly a percent above the previous week’s rate,” the newspaper reported, citing Buncombe Public Health Director Stacie Saunders’ briefing to commissioners on Tuesday.

The COVID-19 case rate in the county increased 54% in the past week, with 208 cases per 100,000 people, WLOS reported.

Buncombe County is popular with tourists. Asheville is the county seat, and the county also includes the communities of Black Mountain, Biltmore Forest, Weaverville, Swannanoa and Montreat. .

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Hayley Fowler is a reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking and real-time news across North and South Carolina. She has a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously worked as a legal reporter in New York City before joining the Observer in 2019.



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