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COVID vaccine live updates: Here’s what to know in North Carolina on Sept. 15

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

More than 4,700 new cases reported

At least 1,308,150 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, and at least 15,305 have died since March 2020, according to state health officials.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday reported 4,760 new COVID-19 cases and added 58 coronavirus-related deaths. State health officials don’t specify the dates on which newly reported deaths occurred.

At least 3,690 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Monday, including 955 patients who are being treated in intensive care units, health officials said.

As of Sunday, the latest date for which data is available, 13% of coronavirus tests were reported positive. Health officials say 5% or lower is the target rate to slow the spread of the virus.

Roughly 67% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and about 62% have been fully vaccinated. State officials round vaccination numbers to the nearest whole number.

Charlotte charter school requires teachers to get vaccinated

Socrates Academy in Matthews became one of the first schools in the Charlotte area to require teachers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The charter school will require all staff and teachers to be fully vaccinated by Thanksgiving unless they submit a medical or religious exemption, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Socrates Academy serves students in kindergarten through ninth grade. The board, which voted unanimously in favor of the mandate, said most teachers were already vaccinated.

“From the beginning, we have taken a position that we need to follow science,” board President Larry Peroulas said in a statement sent to the Observer. “There is clear evidence showing that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and, combined with other safety measures such as masking, are the most powerful measures we have against the pandemic.

Cawthorn calls for end to mask mandate

U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn was joined by hundreds of people at a protest in Johnson County against the school district’s indoor face mask mandate.

“I’m here to save my generation from socialism,” Cawthorn told the crowd.

The protest came ahead of the Johnson County school board’s meeting, during which board members were scheduled to vote on renewing the mandate.

But the vote has been rescheduled because vice chairwoman Terri Sessoms, whose husband recently died, can’t attend.

RAL_JOCOMASKDEMO-NE-091121-RTW.JPG
U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn is greeted by demonstrators as he arrives to lead them to the Johnston County Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 in Smithfield, N.C. Cawthorn came to urge the school district to end the face covering mandate for students. Robert Willett [email protected]

School board member tests positive for COVID

A school board member in Cleveland County who previously voted against requiring face masks in schools is asking for prayers after he was hospitalized with the coronavirus.

“Please say a little prayer for me tonight,” school board member Rodney Fitch posted on Facebook on Thursday. “I am in the hospital dealing with low oxygen levels thanks to Covid.”

Fitch previously posted that wearing face masks should be a “freedom of choice,” The Charlotte Observer reported.

He voted Aug. 9 to oppose a motion that would require students, staff and faculty in Cleveland County to wear face masks. When the board voted again on Aug. 18, Fitch, a Republican, joined six other members voting in favor of the mandate.

Over 20 Triangle schools report COVID clusters

At least 21 schools in the Triangle area have active COVID-19 clusters, according to the health department’s latest report.

Twelve of those clusters are in Wake County, two are in Orange County and one is in Durham County. Granville and Harnett counties reported at least two clusters while Franklin and Johnson counties have one each, The News & Observer reported.

There could be more or less COVID cases than schools currently have because of a time lag in health department data.

Charlotte schools require unvaccinated staff to get tested

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will require teachers to show proof of vaccination or submit to regular COVID-19 testing starting the week of Sept. 20.

“This testing aligns with recommendations from Mecklenburg County Public Health, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction,” CMS school board member Carol Sawyer wrote on her Facebook page Tuesday night.

The tests will be mandatory for unvaccinated staff, but families or students can also opt in if they choose, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Duke loosens COVID restrictions

A decline in coronavirus cases has prompted Duke University to loosen some campus COVID-19 restrictions, including allowing students and employees to remove face masks outdoors.

Masks will still be required at major outdoor events, such as football games, The News & Observer reported.

Duke reported 28 cases among students and nine among faculty over the last week, marking the first time since the fall semester began that the university reported less than 100 cases in one week.

“Since the beginning, we’ve talked about Duke United and about being in this together, and I could not be prouder of the way our students, faculty and staff have responded to help curtail the spread of COVID on campus,” Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh said in a statement.

School board meetings become mask battlegrounds

Crowds have been attending local school board meetings across North Carolina in recent weeks — turning them into “heated battlegrounds” over face mask requirements, The News & Observer reports.

The meetings are likely to become more contentious because of a law that took effect Aug. 30. It requires schools boards to hold monthly votes on their face mask policies.

“Most boards meet once a month,” Rep. John Torbett, an education leader in the North Carolina House, said in August. “It gives them an opportunity to go look back and see what they want to state for the next coming month.”

The required monthly votes have also given opponents of mask requirements the opportunity to organize others to show up at the meetings to protest, the N&O reports. In some cases, police have had to remove protesters from school board meetings.

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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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