In the past week, North Carolina saw hospitalizations fall to their lowest point since before Thanksgiving, as signs of relief point to the end of a holiday surge in the state and across the Triangle.
Wake, Durham and Orange counties all saw new cases and average rates of positive tests drop for the second week in a row, while vaccine distribution efforts continue to administer the state’s supply — though icy weather has caused some delays for those seeking vaccine appointments.
The vaccine, which requires two doses to reach full effectiveness, will become available to teachers and childcare workers in the coming week — in an expansion beyond the current guidelines that allow health care workers, people aged 65 or older, and those who live and work in long-term care facilities to receive the vaccine. Rollout to teachers begins as schools around the state — including those in Wake, Durham and Orange — consider whether and how to return to the classroom.
After a week of steady improvement across the state, here’s how Wake, Durham and Orange are doing.
New cases, vaccinations in Wake
In Wake County, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,755 new cases of COVID-19 in the past week. That’s fewer than the 2,340 new cases added the week before. With the week’s added cases, Wake’s running total has risen to 72,988 cases since the pandemic began.
There have been 519 deaths from the virus in Wake, according to DHHS data. That figure rose by seven since the previous week, but added deaths don’t necessarily occur on the days they are reported.
As of Friday, an average of 6% of tests over a 14-day period were returning positive — slightly higher than the 5% figure state officials have highlighted as necessary to contain the spread of the virus. The county’s percent positive dropped from 6.7% the week before.
A total of 123,771 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in Wake County as of Friday, an increase of 16,616 doses from the Friday before. The vaccine requires two doses to reach full effectiveness, and as of the same day, 58,296 second doses had been administered in the county. That’s an increase of 20,872 doses in the past week.
Vaccine distribution hit a snag as a winter storm forced Wake to shut down a drive-through vaccination clinic scheduled Thursday at the PNC Arena in Raleigh. All appointments scheduled Thursday were moved to Monday, Feb. 22.
The decision came just one day after the state received troubling news — that ice storms could delay scheduled vaccine shipments from the federal government. Supply that did not ship due to the weather will begin arriving Monday, DHHS announced on Friday.
The state was waiting on more than 150,000 allocated Moderna doses, and over 80,000 Pfizer doses, DHHS said Friday.
And as students returned to the classroom in Wake, some social distancing measures have raised eyebrows among parents. In small classrooms, students have had to eat on the floor in order to maintain an adequate distance from one another during meals.
While some parents have organized to pressure the county against such practices, mealtimes represent one of the more dangerous aspects of in-person education — as they are one of the few times in the day when students remove their masks. A COVID-19 cluster at an elementary school in Raleigh was traced by the county school system back to a meal, The News & Observer has reported.
New cases, vaccinations in Durham
In Durham County, DHHS reported 470 new cases in the past week — a drop from the 598 cases added the week before. The county’s total rose to 21,168 cases and 200 deaths since the pandemic began.
As of Friday, an average of 5.6% of tests over a 14-day period were returning positive, a tick down from the 6.5% of tests that were coming back positive the week before.
First vaccine doses administered in the county rose to 44,465 in the past week, an increase of 4,152 doses. Second doses grew by 7,594 to reach 25,122 doses administered.
As the county plans to begin vaccinating teachers and other school personnel, families in Durham remain divided over whether students should return to the classroom. With slipping grades, social isolation, and concerns over the potential spread of COVID-19 in mind, parents in the county disagree over whether and how students should resume in-person learning.
New cases, vaccinations in Orange
In Orange County, DHHS reported 184 new cases in the past seven days. That’s fewer than the 254 new cases added in the week prior. The county’s running total grew to 7,565 cases and 93 deaths, according to DHHS data.
As of Friday, an average of 1.2% of tests over a 14-day period were returning positive. That’s slightly lower than the 1.4% of tests coming back positive the week before.
Across the county, 25,718 first doses of vaccine have been administered, including 3,111 added in the past week. The county saw an additional 4,007 second doses administered in the past week, reaching a total of 14,871.