Cooper mobilizes National Guard to help with NC COVID-19 vaccination rollout

RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday that he’s calling in the North Carolina National Guard to help accelerate COVID-19 vaccinations in a state that’s been near the bottom of states in doses administered so far.

Cooper said ensuring vaccines are given to individuals “is our top priority right now.”

“We will use all resources and personnel needed. I’ve mobilized the NC National Guard to provide support to local health providers as we continue to increase the pace of vaccinations,” Cooper said in a tweet. Dozens of states also are getting vaccine assistance from their guard units.

That message comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the state had one of the worst vaccination rates in the country.

Nearly 108,000 people in North Carolina had received their first dose as of Tuesday morning, according to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services, while almost 500 people had received a second dose.

The first-dose total is less than 1% of the state’s population. And data as of Monday accumulated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked North Carolina as sixth worse among the states in per capita first-dose vaccinations.

Hospital workers were the first in line to receive doses and some remain unvaccinated due to limited supply. Several counties will soon begin administering doses to elderly people 75 years or older.

Although North Carolina health officials have been slow to get doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines into residents’ arms, there are similar problems in other states.

Federal health officials had hoped that 20 million doses would be shipped and distributed by the end of December, but they fell short of that. The CDC said Tuesday that more than 17 million doses had been distributed, and 4.8 million people had received a first dose.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported on Tuesday that the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state continues to rise.

There are currently 3,781 people in North Carolina hospitals with the virus. That’s up 146 from Monday and a record thus far in the pandemic.

382 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted in the last 24 hours.

The daily percent of positive tests in the state is at 16.2%, well above the state’s goal of 5%.

A total of 5,285 new cases were reported on Tuesday, along with 55 more deaths -- bringing that total in the state to 6,996 since the start of the pandemic.

>> Have questions about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the Carolinas? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak -- CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

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Note: The numbers we show you every day mean everything in how our community recovers from coronavirus -- both in terms of healthcare and the economy -- but they don’t mean much without the proper context and as much transparency as possible.

New cases vary day by day based on a lot of factors. That can include how long it takes to get results back, so a new case reported today can really be several days old.

The other big metric we watch is the percent of positive cases. This is data we can only get from the state because it’s not as simple as factoring a percent of new cases each day from the number of tests. That’s because test results take days and come from a variety of places.

What about closer to home? Metrics continue to spike in Mecklenburg County

As of Tuesday morning, there were 66,225 cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) with 588 deaths due to COVID-19 reported among Mecklenburg County residents.

Highlights about the 65,497 COVID-19 cases reported in Mecklenburg County as of January 3, 2021 include:

  • About 3 in 4 reported cases were adults ages 20 to 59 years old.
  • About 1 in 20 reported cases were hospitalized due to their COVID-19 infection. While everyone is at risk for severe COVID-19 complications, reported cases who were older adults (≥ 60 years) were more likely to be hospitalized compared to younger individuals.
  • About 8 out of 10 have met CDC criteria to be released from isolation.
  • During the past week, an average of 762 laboratory-confirmed infections per day were reported compared to the 14-day average of 681 confirmed infections. This represents an increase over the last 14 days. These data are based on Mecklenburg resident cases reported to MCPH.
  • During the past week, an average of 473 individuals with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infections were hospitalized at acute care facilities in Mecklenburg County. This represents an increase over the last 14 days. These data are based on daily census counts from acute care facilities in Mecklenburg County reporting to MCPH.
  • During the past week, an average of 15.6 percent of individuals who were tested in Mecklenburg County were positive for COVID-19. This represents an increase over the last 14 days. These data only include ELRs for molecular (PCR) tests submitted to NC DHHS for laboratories electronically submitting negative and positive COVID-19 results.
  • Five hundred-eighty-three deaths due to COVID-19 occurred among reported cases.
  • Almost all deaths were among older adults (≥ 60 years), 7 deaths occurred in adults ages 20 to 39 and 72 deaths were adults ages 40 to 59.
  • All deaths, except thirteen, occurred among adults with underlying chronic illnesses.
  • Almost half were non-Hispanic Whites. The disparity in COVID-19 deaths among non-Hispanic Whites is related to differences in race/ethnicity of residents of long-term care (LTC) facilities actively experiencing an outbreak.
  • Nearly half of deaths were connected to active outbreaks at long-term care (LTC) facilities.
  • Among deaths not connected to outbreaks at long-term care facilities, nearly 3 in 4 were non-White, with 40 percent being non-Hispanic Black. As previously noted, these disparities are largely driven by higher rates of underlying chronic conditions that increase risk of severe complications due to COVID-19 infection among these communities

Based on publicly available mobility tracking data, social distancing represents a fairly stable trend in Mecklenburg County over the last 14 days.