Cooper: NC COVID-19 metrics stable day before all adults become eligible for vaccine

RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper and his coronavirus task force held a COVID-19 update Tuesday, a day before vaccinations open to Group 5 in North Carolina.

As of Tuesday, North Carolina has had 923,430 total cases with 870 new cases reported since Monday. 982 people are hospitalized -- 75 more than the previous day -- and 12,189 people have died in North Carolina, including 16 newly reported deaths.

According to Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s key COVID metrics are making positive progress.

The number of people showing up at the emergency room with COVID-19 symptoms is close to baseline and COVID cases since February have leveled. The percent of positive tests is level and near the state’s goal of 5%. The number of hospitalizations is also level.

“We did not get here by accident, our progress is the result of North Carolinians doing what it takes to protect one another day in and day out,” Cohen said.

NCDHHS also released its latest county alert system map on Tuesday. It was the first map with a county in the green (low impact) and no counties in the red (critical impact). 31 counties are in light yellow, meaning moderate impact and 21 counties are in the orange (substantial impact) -- an increase of 4 from the previous map. More than half of the state’s counties are in yellow, meaning significant impact.

Cohen said the state’s fast and fair approach to getting vaccinations to people is showing results and as of Tuesday, 39% of all North Carolinians 18 and older are partially vaccinated and a quarter are fully vaccinated. She said this past week 19% of first doses went to people who identified as Black or African American and 10% went to people who identify as Hispanic or Latinx. 73% of North Carolinians 65 and older have received at least a first dose and close to two thirds are fully vaccinated.

According to Cooper, opening up vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 and older on Wednesday will help North Carolina get vaccines into the arms of anyone who wants the shot to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“We are so close, and every day counts,” the governor said. “Every time we wear a mask makes a difference. Every person who gets a shot makes our whole state safer and healthier and helps move our economy forward. If we all do our part, we can put this pandemic in the rearview mirror once and for all.”

For now, only the two shot Pfizer vaccine is authorized for 16 and 17 year olds. Young people can go here to find out where they can get their Pfizer vaccine shot.

Cooper said as summer approaches, the state will continue to focus on getting people vaccinated as quickly and as equitably as possible. He said he is consulting with health experts to figure out what type of summer activities North Carolinians will be able to participate in safely. He did not say when the mask mandate and other restrictions will be repealed.

According to Cooper, vaccines are the key to moving forward.

“The most common side effect is pure joy,” Cooper said. “I’ve seen that relief and sparkle in people’s eyes at every vaccination clinic I have visited.”

State officials told Channel 9 that Mecklenburg County will get more than 62,400 doses this week. That’s a 31% increase over last week’s distribution.

The county plans to open new vaccination appointments at Bojangles’ Coliseum on a weekly basis. Appointment slots will be made available every Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. for groups 1-5. You can go online here or call 980-314-9400 for appointment.

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Mecklenburg County health officials have said demand for the vaccine is still expected to outpace supply, so many will have to wait weeks for an appointment.

Cooper accelerated the timelines for Groups 4 and 5 in order to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of all Americans eligible for the vaccine by May 1.

Thousands of COVID-19 vaccines available in rural counties

At the Peoples Drug Store in Taylorsville they have helped give out thousands of vaccine shots to people across Alexander county.

COVID-19 survivor Marcella Barlowe didn’t hesitate to sign up after becoming so sick from the virus last fall that she spent more than a week in the hospital.

“I just could not breath,” she said. “I was really sick for three weeks stomach wise and couldn’t hardly get out of the bed.”

Despite the drug store’s efforts to get as many people vaccinated in the county as possible, the business told Channel 9 Tuesday that it still has appointments available for about half of its Moderna supply for this week.

Phil Icard, who owns Peoples Drug Store, is now going out in the community in an effort to get the doses into arms.

“We’re trying to find other places we can go now to reach different parts of the community,” he said. We just did eight home deliveries.”

The Burke County Health Department has also done in-home visits in an effort to reach more people. Both counties have already given at least one shot to nearly 25% of the population. Barlowe hopes more people will sign up.

“I still have COVID in my lungs,” she said. “I’m still on oxygen. Getting the vaccine is real important to me. I think it should be for everybody.”

Meck County prepares as vaccine eligibility opens to those 16 and older

As the state opens up eligibility to everyone 16 and older, local counties are preparing for the influx of people.

According to Mecklenburg County Public Health, roughly 20% of residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and around 14% are fully vaccinated.

>> In the video below, Channel 9′s Joe Bruno learned if Mecklenburg County is ready to enter the next phase.