Latest Updates Find COVID-19 information on this site or the N.C. information hub. Sign up for email updates about North Carolina's COVID-19 response. NCDHHS Livestream Fireside Chat and Tele-Town Hall Nov. 14 NCDHHS will host a live fireside chat and tele-town hall on Monday, Nov. 14, from 6-7 p.m., to discuss diabetes prevention and management, the impacts of COVID-19 for people with diabetes and the importance of protection from the virus. The event is part of North Carolina’s recognition of National Diabetes Awareness Month and American Indian Heritage Month. The NCDHHS social media platforms will host the livestream on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Visit the channel of your choice to watch the event, which will begin streaming at 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 14. The event includes a tele-town hall, which invites people by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone who is interested can participate. People can also dial into the event by calling (855) 756-7520 Ext. 89501#. Watch the recording. NCDHHS Refreshes COVID-19 Dashboards to Enhance User Experience Nov. 8 NCDHHS is refreshing the COVID-19 dashboards to enhance design and user experience. The first of three dashboard updates will be Cases and Deaths on Wednesday, Nov. 9. The Vaccinations and Hospitalizations dashboards will be updated later this year, and the Summary dashboard will be updated in early 2023. Dashboards will have a new look-and-feel, and some data will be moved from the main dashboard display to the Data Behind the Dashboards page. The data that will be moved will continue to be updated and includes: Total cases and deaths by PCR-positive vs. antigen-positive case classification County and zip code level maps Case and death data by demographic group by week View All Updates by Date NC Dept of Health and Human Services NCDHHS Website NCDHHS Facebook NCDHHS Twitter NCDHHS Instagram NCDHHS YouTube Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC Website CDC Facebook CDC Twitter NC Emergency Management NCDPS Website NC Emergency Management Facebook NC Emergency Twitter All NC Updates by Date October 2022 Oct. 31 NCDHHS will host a live Spanish-language Cafecito and tele-town hall on Tuesday, Nov. 1, from 6 to 7 p.m., to discuss updated COVID-19 boosters for everyone ages 5 and up, testing and treatments, flu vaccines and what North Carolinians need to know before they go to seasonal gatherings. The NCDHHS social media platforms will host the livestream on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Visit the channel of your choice to watch the event, which will begin streaming at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 1. The event includes a tele-town hall, which invites people by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone who is interested can participate. People can also dial into the event by calling (855) 756-7520 Ext. 87983#. Oct. 21 Several western North Carolina communities were selected for a United States Postal Service pilot program to increase access to COVID-19 tests. People living in zip codes that begin with 287, 288 and 289 can order free, self-swab PCR test kits by visiting ineedacovid19test.com between now and Jan. 15, 2023. Test kits are available at no cost, will arrive in one to two days via USPS. The pilot program is part of the CDC’s Increasing Community Access to Testing initiative. ICATT partners with states, communities and testing vendors to provide free COVID-19 testing for people without insurance and communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Oct. 18 NCDHHS will host a live fireside chat and tele-town hall on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 6-7 p.m., to discuss updated COVID-19 boosters for children 5 to 11, as well as testing and treatment options and annual flu shots. The NCDHHS social media platforms will host the livestream on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Visit the channel of your choice to watch the event, which will begin streaming at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 18. The event includes a tele-town hall, which invites people by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone who is interested can participate. People can also dial into the event by calling (855) 756-7520 Ext. 86995#. Watch the recording. Oct. 13 Children and teens 5 and older can now receive the updated COVID-19 booster. The updated booster targets both the original coronavirus strain and Omicron variants. As of mid-September, these variants made up approximately 80% of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina. Everyone 5 and older should get the updated COVID-19 booster two months after they finish their primary series or any booster dose. COVID-19 vaccines are free to everyone, regardless of insurance or immigration status. For more information about COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, or to find locations to get a COVID-19 and flu vaccine, visit MySpot.nc.gov. Oct. 6 NCDHHS public health officials see a decrease in flu vaccinations compared to previous years and urge North Carolinians 6 months and older to get their flu shot before the end of October, as flu season in the state typically peaks in the winter. During the 2019-2020 flu season, flu vaccines prevented an estimated 7.5 million flu illnesses, 3.69 million medical visits, 105,000 hospitalizations and 63,000 flu deaths across the United States. NCDHHS also launched a campaign to inform people of the health risks associated with the seasonal flu, the benefit of annual vaccination and to encourage annual flu vaccination across the state. MySpot.nc.gov/flu has the latest resources, guidance, answers to frequently asked questions, sharable materials and a new PSA. Oct. 5 NCDHHS will host a live Spanish-language Cafecito and tele-town hall on Thursday, Oct. 6, 7-8 p.m., to discuss updated COVID-19 boosters, testing and treatments, as well as the flu and monkeypox vaccines. The NCDHHS social media platforms will host the livestream on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Visit the channel of your choice to watch the event, which will begin streaming at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 6. The event includes a tele-town hall, which invites people by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone who is interested can participate. People can also dial into the event by calling (855) 756-7520 Ext. 85903#. Watch the recording. September 2022 Sept. 19 NCDHHS will host a live fireside chat and tele-town hall on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 6-7 p.m., to discuss updated COVID-19 boosters, testing and treatments, as well as the flu and monkeypox vaccines. The NCDHHS social media platforms will host the livestream on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Visit the channel of your choice to watch the event, which will begin streaming at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 20. The event includes a tele-town hall, which invites people by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone who is interested can participate. People can also dial into the event by calling (855) 756-7520 Ext. 81966#. Watch the recording. Sept. 2 Updated boosters are becoming available in North Carolina, following the FDA and the CDC’s announcement this week that people 12 and older can receive an updated booster to protect against the latest COVID-19 variants. Vaccines are beginning to arrive in the state and vaccine appointments will be more widely available starting next week. The updated booster is referred to as a bivalent vaccine as it targets both the original coronavirus strain and the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. As of mid-August, these subvariants made up nearly 90% of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina. People aged 5-11 years can still receive the original booster, but it is expected that the updated booster will be available for younger people in the coming weeks. For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, boosters, testing and treatments, or to find locations to get a COVID-19 and flu vaccine, visit MySpot.nc.gov or contact the North Carolina COVID-19 Vaccine Help Center by phone at 888-675-4567. Sept. 1 Wednesday, the FDA authorized both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent COVID-19 booster dose, which protects against the original as well as the Omicron strain. The FDA stated that the new boosters “are expected to provide increased protection against the currently circulating omicron variant.” As a result of the FDA’s action, the original booster dose, which contains one strain of the virus, is no longer authorized for people 12 and older. The original booster is still authorized for children ages 5-11 years old. The CDC must recommend both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent COVID-19 booster dose for people 12 and over before vaccinations can begin. That means that booster doses for people 12 and older are not currently available, but they will be available next week pending the CDC’s recommendation. North Carolina has nearly 500,000 doses arriving in state over the next two weeks, with 229,000 of those doses going to federal pharmacies (CVS, Walgreens, etc.). We expect that the new booster shots for people 12 and over will be available by Tuesday, depending on the CDC recommendation. August 2022 Aug. 23 NCDHHS will host a live fireside chat and tele-town hall on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 6-7 p.m., to discuss COVID-19 vaccines for everyone ages 6 months and older, boosters, testing and treatment. The NCDHHS social media platforms will host the livestream on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Visit the channel of your choice to watch the event, which will begin streaming at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 23. The event includes a tele-town hall, which invites people by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone who is interested can participate. People can also dial into the event by calling (855) 756-7520 Ext. 81966#. Watch the recording. Aug. 22 Providers can continue treating uninsured patients with the monoclonal antibody bebtelovimab after the product went on the commercial market last week because of a plan implemented by NCDHHS. When a product goes to the commercial market, insurance and the patient must pay for the product. At a commercial cost of about $2,100 per course, uninsured patients would not be able to afford bebtelovimab. Treatments are available for people who are high risk for severe illness from COVID-19. About two thirds of adult North Carolinians are considered high risk. Through the NCDHHS plan, people who are uninsured, and who are not a good fit for other authorized COVID-19 treatments such as PAXLOVID, can still access bebtelovimab through a state inventory. Providers who treat uninsured patients at no cost will be able to request the monoclonal antibody from the state inventory. Aug. 15 NCDHHS will host a live Spanish-language Cafecito and tele-town hall on Tuesday, Aug. 16, from 7-8 p.m. to discuss COVID-19 vaccines for everyone ages 6 months and older, boosters, testing and treatment. The event comes as part of Know Before You Go, a statewide initiative that reminds North Carolinians to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters in time for the start of the 2022-23 school year, fall festivities, large gatherings and end-of-year celebrations and holidays. The NCDHHS social media platforms will host the livestream: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Visit the channel of your choice to watch. The event includes a tele-town hall, which invites people by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone who is interested can participate. People can also dial into the event by calling (855) 756-7520, Ext. 84603#. Watch the recording. Today, Gov. Roy Cooper ended the state’s COVID-19 State of Emergency. With vaccines, treatments, and other tools to combat COVID-19 widely available, and with new legislation now providing the requested flexibility to NCDHHS and health care providers to continue to respond, the state is poised to continue comprehensive pandemic response without the need for the State of Emergency. Many of the state’s public health measures combatting the pandemic had previously been lifted, but the State of Emergency continued to allow the distribution of vaccines and tests and regulatory flexibility to ensure staff capacity in the state’s healthcare system. Following legislative changes made in the budget signed by Gov. Cooper in July that allow NCDHHS to continue to respond to the pandemic, the State of Emergency can be lifted. Read the Executive Order. Aug. 11 NCDHHS kicks off the Know Before You Go campaign today, a statewide initiative reminding North Carolinians to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters in time for the start of the 2022-2023 school year, fall festivities, large gatherings and end-of-year celebrations and holidays. The campaign furthers the state’s continued public outreach and engagement to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death related to COVID-19 by encouraging people to get a safe, effective and free vaccine or booster. To date, more than 185 public and independent K-12 schools across 50 counties throughout the state have signed up for the campaign. More than 30 local health departments, community-based organizations and local radio and television stations have also registered to participate. Aug. 9 Some North Carolinians can now have five free COVID-19 home tests shipped directly to them, thanks to the expansion of a partnership between NCDHHS and the Rockefeller Foundation through Project ACT. Find out if you are eligible and order the free tests by searching your zip code on the Project ACT website: accesscovidtests.org (Spanish). This partnership is another way NCDHHS is investing in making at-home tests available to the people who need them most. In July, the department launched Community Access Points for at-home tests. Through this program, NCDHHS partners with community organizations to provide free and easy access to COVID-19 tests for at-home use. Community-based organizations interested in participating can register online. Aug. 2 As children across North Carolina head back to school this month, NCDHHS reminds families that vaccinations are an important part of back-to-school success and overall health and well-being. Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as chicken pox, meningitis, measles, pertussis (whooping cough) and others are still seen across North Carolina. The Vaccines for Children program which offers free vaccines to children through 19 years of age. NCDHHS encourages all parents to talk with their child’s healthcare provider about recommended vaccinations. During that same visit, parents can talk with their physician about the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine for their children ages 6 months and older. Many pediatricians and family practitioners will provide the COVID-19 vaccine for all eligible family members, as well as teens, during that same visit. Visit MySpot.nc.gov for more information about COVID-19 vaccines. July 2022 July 25 NCDHHS has begun issuing Pandemic-EBT benefits for summer 2022. Between July 20 and 30, the families of approximately 948,000 children in the state will each receive a one-time payment of $391 to purchase healthy meals during summer break. Families can check their eligibility for Summer P-EBT using the new P-EBT eligibility quiz (also available in Spanish). With these benefits, NCDHHS has now issued more than $2.16 billion in total P-EBT benefits to North Carolina families since the COVID-19 response began in 2020, helping families buy food for the 1.48 million North Carolina children. July 21 The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine can be used as an additional vaccine option for adults ages 18 years and older. The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine provides a more familiar type of protein-based vaccine technology that has been used for more than 30 years in shots that help prevent diseases like shingles, hepatitis B, the flu and other illnesses. Access to multiple types of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the FDA and recommended by the CDC gives people more options and flexibility to choose their vaccine. The Novavax vaccine will be made available in the coming weeks to North Carolinians over the age of 18 who are not yet vaccinated. For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, testing and treatments, visit MySpot.nc.gov or contact the North Carolina COVID-19 Vaccine Help Center by phone at 1-888-675-4567. NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley and State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, M.D., MPH, today spoke with North Carolina’s county and local health directors. They spoke on the current states of both COVID-19 and monkeypox. Secretary Kinsley and Dr. Tilson both talked about testing availability, expanding vaccination and treatment as health departments and NCDHHS continue to work to manage both diseases. Read their full remarks. July 19 As key COVID-19 metrics increase in North Carolina and the U.S. due to the BA.5 variant, Gov. Roy Cooper is reminding North Carolinians to stay prepared by being up to date on vaccines and boosters, having a supply of tests and seeking treatment if they test positive. Consistent with trends seen in data from NCDHHS, BA.5 is now the most common variant, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled 41 of North Carolina’s counties as high COVID-19 Community levels. This variant is causing repeat infections, even in those who have recent past infections from other variants, and infections in people who are vaccinated. Getting vaccinated and boosted — including a second booster if you are eligible — is still the most effective tool to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19, as well as long COVID. July 15 The N.C. Department of Revenue has completed initial review of the more than 23,000 applications received for Phase 2 of the Business Recovery Grant (BRG) program that closed June 1. The agency is currently validating the applications, and some applicants may receive an email request for more documentation. July 12 NCDHHS today launched Raise North Carolina, a public education campaign about the value of the state’s early care and learning network to support children’s healthy development as well as families’ participation in the workforce. Led by the Division of Child Development and Early Education, the campaign shows how greater support and investments deliver positive outcomes for children, families and North Carolina’s economy. The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the critical role of early care and education programs in supporting the economy. North Carolina used funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to make a historic $805 million investment in early care and education programs, providing temporary financial assistance to help sustain their operations. Even so, the network remains under strain and requires additional support to retain, train and recruit quality early childhood teachers and serve the families who rely on them. The Raise North Carolina campaign website, RaiseNC.nc.gov, serves as a hub for the public to learn more and support quality early care and learning with an online toolkit that includes easy-to-use materials like flyers, sample social media posts, graphics, talking points and more. June 2022 June 30 NCDHHS is doubling down on at-home testing — establishing Community Access Points in all counties to provide free and easy COVID-19 tests for home use. Starting July 1, people will be able to find home tests at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/PickUpTests. For information about how and where to find all testing locations in North Carolina: covid19.ncdhhs.gov/FindTests. Home tests are now widely available, unlike the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their ease has made them the test of choice. Community organizations interested in becoming a Community Access Point can register online. As at-home testing community distribution sites open, NCDHHS will maintain some fixed site testing locations supported by the state. Many counties and providers have and will continue to operate fixed testing sites and testing will still be available at many pharmacies through the federal community-based testing program. June 28 NCDHHS will host a live fireside chat and tele-town hall from 6-7 p.m. Tuesday, June 28 to discuss COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5 years of age, including vaccine safety, vaccine locations for children ages 6 months to under 5 years old and the importance of families staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. The NCDHHS social media platforms will host the livestream: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Visit the channel of your choice to watch. The event includes a tele-town hall, which invites people by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone who is interested can participate. People can also dial into the event by calling (855) 756-7520, Ext. 81966#. Watch the recording. June 23 Eligible North Carolina children will receive additional benefits over the summer to ensure they have access to nutritious food. NCDHHS recently received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to continue the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer food assistance program through Summer 2022. Get information on eligibility and benefits. The extension of Summer P-EBT will provide approximately $303 million in food assistance benefits to approximately 975,000 North Carolina children. June 22 NCDHHS will host a live fireside chat and tele-town hall from 6-7 p.m. Thursday, June 23 to discuss COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5 years of age, including vaccine safety, vaccine locations for children ages 6 months to under 5 years old and the importance of families staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. The NCDHHS social media platforms will host the livestream: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Visit the channel of your choice to watch. The event includes a tele-town hall, which invites people by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone who is interested can participate. People can also dial into the event by calling (855) 756-7520, Ext. 81965#. Watch the recording. June 18 Children ages 6 months and older can now get a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC recommends all children who are eligible get a COVID-19 vaccine. The first wave of shipments is expected to arrive in North Carolina on June 20. NCDHHS recommends that parents and guardians contact their child’s pediatrician, medical provider, or local health department for more details on when the vaccine may become available. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines for children and find a vaccine location for children under 5. June 17 The N.C. Department of Revenue received more than 23,000 applications for Phase 2 of the Business Recovery Grant (BRG) program that closed June 1, about four times the applications received for Phase 1. Departmental staff is working diligently to review and validate the applications. June 14 NCDHHS is preparing for COVID-19 vaccine distribution for children under 5 years old and to ensure families across the state have the information they need to access vaccines for their young children. Children are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus just like everyone else. A vaccine for children ages 6 months to 5 years could be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as soon as this weekend, and vaccinations in North Carolina could begin the week of June 20. June 1 NCDHHS will host a live fireside chat and tele-town hall from 6-7 p.m. today (Wednesday, June 1) to discuss COVID-19 recovery, ways to prevent and overcome long-term complications, and available treatments. Hear firsthand accounts from North Carolinians who experienced varying severity of COVID-19 symptoms. The NCDHHS social media platforms will host the livestream: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Visit the channel of your choice to watch. The event includes a tele-town hall, which invites people by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone who is interested can participate. People can also dial into the event by calling (855) 756-7520, Ext. 81963#. Watch the recording. May 2022 May 27 The deadline for businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to apply for Phase 2 of the Business Recovery Grant Program (BRG) is Wednesday, June 1. BRG will issue a one-time payment to eligible North Carolina businesses that suffered an economic loss of at least 20% during the pandemic. BRG is funded by the federal American Rescue Plan. The N.C. Department of Revenue is administering the program. As of Friday, May 27, the NCDOR has received more than 13,000 applications. Applicants must submit online applications before midnight on June 1. Paper applications must be received by the NCDOR at the location designated on the application on or before June 1. Get answers to frequently asked questions. May 20 The Food and Drug Administration’s authorization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that children ages 5 to 11 get boosted comes as COVID-19 cases are on the rise again across North Carolina. Booster shots are available anywhere COVID-19 vaccines are available and are free regardless of insurance or immigration status. The Pfizer booster is the only brand currently available to children ages 5 to 11. Call ahead to make sure the location you choose has the age-appropriate Pfizer vaccine available. For more information about how vaccines for children work and where you can find a vaccine or booster appointment nearby, visit MySpot.nc.gov. The N.C. COVID-19 Vaccine Help Center can also help you make an appointment by calling 888-675-4567. May 12 Next week, North Carolina’s youngest children who are eligible for food assistance benefits will begin to receive extra monthly benefits tied to the COVID-19 pandemic for the 2021-2022 school year. North Carolina is among the first states in the nation to receive approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a 2021-2022 Child Care Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer food assistance program. NCDHHS will issue the first round of Child Care P-EBT benefits next week for nearly 220,000 children who were eligible during September and October 2021. These benefits will continue to be issued monthly through August 2022, covering food needs for children who were eligible from September 2021 to May 2022. Children are eligible if they were 5 years old or younger as of Sept. 1, 2021 and participated in Food and Nutrition Services (FNS). May 10 NCDHHS will host a live fireside chat and tele-town hall from 6-7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11 to discuss COVID-19 vaccines, testing and boosters. Key topics include: free COVID-19 tests and testing locations, symptoms and side effects of long COVID, COVID-19 treatment options and locations, staying up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, and vaccines and boosters for pregnant women. The NCDHHS social media platforms will host the livestream: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Visit the channel of your choice to watch. The event includes a tele-town hall, which invites people by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone who is interested can participate. People can also dial into the event by calling (855) 756-7520, Ext. 80957#. Watch the recording. May 4 Today, Gov. Roy Cooper signed an Executive Order that encourages eligible state employees to get their COVID-19 booster shot and rewards them with a day of vacation leave. The Order provides up to eight hours of fully paid leave to eligible state employees who, on or before Aug. 31, 2022, provide their agency with documentation of receiving a first booster for COVID-19. The Order applies to Cabinet agencies and any other state agencies that voluntarily adopt the Executive Order’s measures. May 3 More timely access to death certificate data through a new electronic reporting system is giving North Carolinians a more comprehensive picture of COVID-19-related deaths, NCDHHS today announced. With the ability to access death certificate data electronically, NCDHHS identified 1,146 additional deaths that occurred between Jan. 1, 2022 and March 31, 2022, with COVID-19 noted as the cause on the death certificate and with a positive COVID-19 test. These deaths will be added to North Carolina’s COVID-19 dashboard Wednesday, pushing the total deaths for the pandemic to more than 24,000. Data continue to show North Carolina has the lowest per capita rates of COVID-19 deaths in the Southeast and ranks among the lowest in the nation. Gov. Roy Cooper and state health officials are encouraging North Carolinians to seek treatment quickly if they get sick with COVID-19. FDA authorized treatments that can lower the risk of hospitalization and death are widely available. These treatments must be administered early, some within five days, and can only be prescribed by a medical professional. Treatments are available for people who are high risk for severe illness from COVID-19. About two-thirds of adult North Carolinians are considered high risk, including older adults, pregnant people and people with certain medical conditions such as obesity, asthma, diabetes or depression. Learn more about the factors that may put you at risk. May 2 The N.C. Department of Revenue (NCDOR) announced that it is accepting applications for Phase 2 of the Business Recovery Grant (BRG) program beginning today. Many additional businesses now qualify for these grants due to updates to the program’s eligibility criteria. BRG will issue a payment to an eligible North Carolina business that suffered an economic loss of at least 20 percent during the pandemic. The grant amount is a percentage of the economic loss demonstrated by the eligible business or $500,000, whichever is less. The application deadline is Wednesday, June 1, 2022. April 2022 April 28 NCDHHS today made changes to its weekly Respiratory Virus Surveillance Report. The report will no longer include attack rates and ratios by vaccination status. This is because it has become difficult to interpret recent trends in reported case rates by vaccination and booster status. Read about this change on the Respiratory Virus Surveillance page or in the report. April 26 NCDHHS will host a live Cafecito and Spanish language tele-town hall from 6-7 p.m. today to discuss COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. Key topics include: the importance of staying up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines, how informing and engaging the community keeps people protected, and ways to take care of your overall health this spring and summer. The NCDHHS social media platforms will host the livestream: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Visit the channel of your choice to watch. The event includes a tele-town hall, which invites people by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone who is interested can participate. People can also dial into the event by calling (855) 756-7520, Ext. 80956#. April 22 Today, Gov. Roy Cooper directed $34 million in new federal funding to further support postsecondary students in completing their degree or credential and to help address K-12 student learning and mental health needs as students continue to recover from the pandemic. The governor is investing $27 million in creating the Summer Accelerator grant program. The program will provide tuition assistance to public and private postsecondary students who take summer courses in order to accelerate or stay on track towards graduation. April 1 Today, Gov. Roy Cooper signed Executive Order 256 to support the state’s ongoing fight against COVID-19 by providing flexibility for health care workers and care facilities, as well as easier access to vaccines, tests and treatments. The regulatory waivers in the Order are key to facilitating the state’s COVID-19 response at this phase of the pandemic. Currently, COVID-19 cases, associated hospitalizations, and other key COVID-19 metrics are in sustained decline. NCDHHS recently modified its key COVID-19 metrics to also take into account wastewater surveillance data, vaccination and booster rates, prevalence of variants across the state, and data from the CDC identifying levels of community spread of COVID-19. These metrics, taken together, indicate declining COVID-19 transmission across North Carolina and declining severity of disease and hospital burden from COVID-19. However, North Carolina will continue to prepare for the possibility of future surges. March 2022 March 30 Gov. Roy Cooper sent a letter to the North Carolina Congressional Delegation urging Congress to act immediately on a funding package for COVID-19 so that the state can stay ready in the event of a future surge. The letter urges Congress to make national investments in vaccines, boosters, therapeutics and testing to help sustain the production of supplies. Stable, consistent federal funding will support production and supply efforts. March 28 NCDHHS will host a live Cafecito and Spanish language tele-town hall on Tuesday from 6 to 7 p.m. to discuss COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. Key topics include: COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness for children ages 5 and older, what it means to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines, current recommendations for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant and tips for a healthier spring and summer season. The Cafecito will stream live from the NCDHHS social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube), where viewers can submit questions. The event includes a tele-town hall, which invites people by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone who is interested can participate. People can also dial into the event by calling (855) 756-7520, Ext. 80196#. March 22 NCDHHS today launched Spring into Summer, a community campaign focused on increasing rates of COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters for adults and children. Spring into Summer offers a fun, flexible, and community-centered way for health care providers, businesses, faith leaders, community organizations and individuals to encourage people to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters — and to get the health visits, check-ups or other vaccinations they might have delayed because of the pandemic. March 21 NCDHHS today announced that an average of nine North Carolinians died each day from a drug overdose in 2020, a 40% increase from the previous year. Stress, loss of housing and loss of employment for those in recovery caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a backslide in the fight against substance use disorders. Amidst the challenging backdrop of the pandemic, NCDHHS is working to reverse this trend with the North Carolina Opioid and Substance Use Action Plan. March 17 NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley joined Gov. Roy Cooper and Department of Commerce Secretary Machelle Sanders for a press briefing today to look ahead to the next phase of COVID-19. NCDHHS released its Moving Forward Together plan (Spanish) and announced updates to its data dashboard, which will go into effect March 23. March 15 North Carolina is earning national recognition for its success in helping low-income families through a new water assistance program for households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP), NCDHHS has helped more than 20,000 households pay their water bills and keep access to water services since Dec. 1, 2021. North Carolina was awarded more than $38 million in federal funds for the program and has distributed nearly $7 million to date. LIHWAP is a temporary emergency program to help eligible households and families afford water and wastewater services. The program provides payments for eligible low-income households directly to the utility company. LIHWAP runs through September 2023 or until the funds run out. Individuals can apply online at epass.nc.gov. Individuals can also apply by printing a paper application from epass.nc.gov and dropping it off at or faxing it to their local county Department of Social Services or by calling their local county DSS to apply by phone. March 9 NCDHHS will host a live fireside chat and tele-town hall on March 10 from 6-7 p.m. to discuss COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness for children ages 5 and older. Key topics also include: Ways parents can support their child’s mental health, current recommendations for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, and what to know about vaccines for kids under 5 and when they might be available. The fireside chat will stream live from the NCDHHS social media accounts — Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — where viewers can submit questions. People can dial into the tele-town hall by calling (855) 756-7520, Ext. 79570#. February 2022 Feb. 24 To ensure more North Carolinians have access to the information they need to make decisions about their health and wellbeing, NCDHHS has made key COVID-19 vaccine information available in the state’s most used languages. In addition to a dedicated Spanish webpage for COVID-19 vaccines, vacunate.nc.gov, materials and videos in English and Spanish, NCDHHS now has COVID-19 vaccine materials in the state’s five other most used languages. In a state as diverse as North Carolina where more than 11.8% of the state's population uses a language other than English at home, providing information in multiple languages is part of the department’s ongoing commitment to health equity. Information outlining the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, the right to receive a free COVID-19 vaccine and the importance of vaccination for kids and teens was translated into Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Russian and Vietnamese and is available for download in the COVID-19 Communications Toolkit. Feb. 17 Today, Gov. Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley provided an update on the state’s COVID-19 metrics and trends. As North Carolina’s COVID-19 metrics continue to move in the right direction and with vaccines widely available, Gov. Cooper encouraged schools and local governments to end their mask mandates. As entities decide how to move forward, people and businesses should continue to make the best decisions for themselves, their employees and their customers. There are still some places, such as health care, long-term care and transportation like airplanes, where a mask will be required because of the setting or federal regulations. As it has throughout the pandemic, North Carolina is adapting its response based on the data and for the current stage of the pandemic. Vaccines and boosters are widely available and have protected millions of people against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Treatment is available for those at higher risk of severe disease. And the state’s COVID-19 trends are decreasing, lowering the risk of infection, and improving hospital capacity. Feb. 16 NCDHHS, in partnership with North Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, is hosting a mental health summit to assess the mental health needs of minority students on campus and the effects of the impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The summit, Peeling Back the Layers on Minority Mental Health, will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 23, from noon to 3 p.m. This discussion panel will feature students and representatives from North Carolina HBCUs. The panel will address the issues faced on HBCU campuses and how administrators are addressing the mental health impacts of the pandemic on both students and faculty. NCDHHS will host a live fireside chat and tele-town hall today, Feb. 16, from 6-7 p.m. to discuss COVID-19 vaccines, boosters and more. In recognition of Black History Month, the event will hone in on the health disparities and initiatives to advance health equity. Key topics include: how the historical mistrust of the health care system among Black communities has informed COVID-19 vaccine outreach, ways to protect your mental health while navigating the traumas of the pandemic, the importance of staying up to date on your vaccinations, and steps NCDHHS is taking to improve equitable access to information and vaccines. Watch a recording of the event. Feb. 15 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its recommendations for COVID-19 vaccination for people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised. Emerging data suggest some people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems do not always build the same level of immunity compared to people who are not immunocompromised. The CDC’s recommendations ensure everyone, including people who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19, gets as much protection as possible through vaccination. NCDHHS encourages North Carolinians to seek mental health support through the Hope4NC helpline (1-855-587-3463) available 24/7 via call, text or chat. The Hope4NC helpline provides free and confidential emotional support and connects people with counseling referrals and community resources. Hope4NC can also help people who do not have insurance find behavioral health, mental health and substance use services. Feb. 10 NCDHHS today announced updates have been made to the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit focusing on strategies that are most effective at this stage of the pandemic, like vaccines, boosters, testing and masking, and no longer recommending individual contact tracing in K-12 schools. Additionally, NCDHHS recommends students and staff no longer be required to stay home from school following a COVID-19 exposure, unless they have symptoms or test positive. Similar updates will be made to the ChildCareStrongNC Public Health Toolkit. Updates for both toolkits will go into effect Feb. 21, 2022. Feb. 9 The North Carolina National Guard (NCNG) is deploying guard members to Alamance Regional Medical Center, part of the Cone Health System, in Burlington, N.C. to support staff and hospital operations. The 25 NCNG soldiers and airmen will arrive Thursday morning. While COVID-19 cases are declining and hospitalizations are starting to show downward trends, the recent Omicron wave strained many hospital systems across the state. This assistance from the NCNG will help Alamance Regional staff who are still experiencing a high caseload from the surge and is navigating staff shortages. Feb. 4 Wastewater monitoring data from North Carolina are now part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention national COVID Data Tracker (CDT) website. North Carolina was one of the first eight jurisdictions in the CDC’s National Wastewater Surveillance System and is one of 13 jurisdictions currently participating in the NWSS and reporting wastewater data in the CDT. Wastewater monitoring tracks COVID-19 trends at the community level. It has become an important tool for tracking the COVID-19 pandemic as testing behaviors and access have changed over the course of the pandemic. Wastewater measurements include everyone in a community regardless of whether they have been tested and can be completed at a fraction of the cost of clinical COVID-19 testing. The data can also provide an early indicator of COVID trends even before changes can be seen in the numbers of reported cases. Feb. 3 In the most recent hospital report, American Indian people are experiencing the highest rates of hospitalization from COVID-19, nearly double the rates in the white population. Black/African American hospitalizations decreased by 17%, and are still higher than rates for white people. This data is normalized, meaning it shows the proportion of people hospitalized for each 100,000 members of a racial group. Data is for the week of Jan. 18. Feb. 2 With COVID-19 cases reaching record highs last month, North Carolina laboratories reported 2,627,371 tests performed across the state during the month of January. This included 11 days with more than 100,000 tests and a one-day high of 135,031 on Jan. 12. To help meet the unprecedented demand for testing and promote greater equity in test availability, NCDHHS’ COVID-19 response team shipped 441,038 rapid antigen test kits across North Carolina since Dec. 23, 2021. Testing kit delivery was prioritized for local and community settings, including: 62,780 tests to K-12 schools for use in the StrongSchoolsNC Testing Program 98,150 tests to local health departments 174,854 tests to long-term care and assisted living facilities and other high priority settings, including migrant farmworker camps, tribal health clinics and free and charitable clinics Feb. 1 NCDHHS will host a live Cafecito and Spanish language tele-town hall on Thursday, Feb. 3, from 6-7p.m. to discuss COVID-19 vaccines, boosters, testing and more. Key topics include: the recent surge in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations; steps to protect yourself and your household by masking, testing and more; new guidance on vaccines and boosters for kids ages 5 to 11, teens and adults; and when to isolate or quarantine, and how the two differ. The Cafecito will livestream from the NCDHHS social media accounts and will also include a tele-town hall feature. Households will be invited by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone who is interested can participate. People can also dial into the event by calling 855-756-7520 Ext. 78552#. NCDHHS today announced the approval of its staffing support request, in partnership with Atrium Health, to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. North Carolina is also receiving an additional 25 Advanced Life Support Ambulances. The 16-person National Disaster Medical System team deployed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will arrive at Atrium Health Pineville Wednesday and remain on-site until Feb. 13, 2022, to support the medical surge in the emergency department. The team consists of five oversight and support personnel and 11 clinicians — one physician, two advanced practice providers, four registered nurses and four paramedics. January 2022 Jan. 27 North Carolina households receiving Food and Nutrition Services benefits will continue to receive the maximum amount for their household size for the month of February, NCDHHS today announced. FNS recipients have been receiving the maximum allotment, though they may qualify for less, since March 2020 to help families access food during the COVID-19 pandemic and compensate for financial and economic hardships resulting from the pandemic and widespread business and industry closures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated vaccination data from the U.S. Department of Defense and Federal Bureau of Prisons to more accurately reflect the county of residence for the person vaccinated. The updated data will result in the vaccination rate changing for the state and for several counties on the North Carolina COVID-19 Dashboard. The vaccination data updated today results in more than 100,000 additional first and second doses administered in the state, increasing the rate of adults vaccinated with at least one dose to 75%. At the county level, most impacted counties will see an increase in vaccination rates, and 12 counties will see an increase of 2% or more and two counties will see a decrease of 1% or more. Jan. 21 People who received their COVID-19 vaccine or booster in North Carolina from a pharmacy or grocery store participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program are now able to access their COVID-19 vaccine information in the NC COVID-19 Vaccine Portal. For security purposes, people will need to first activate their Vaccine Portal by calling the COVID-19 Vaccine Help Center at (888) 675-4567 to verify their identity. The help center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The COVID-19 mass testing site at the Greensboro Coliseum will be staffed by a new federally supplied testing services provider beginning tomorrow, Jan. 22, in response to a recent request from North Carolina state officials to the Federal government. The state submitted a request last month through FEMA to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for testing support through the Increased Community Access to Testing (ICATT) program. That request was granted, and the federally contracted vendor eTrueNorth begins providing testing services tomorrow, replacing Mako Medical, a vendor providing testing under a state contract. Mako Medical’s resources will shift to provide additional testing at other North Carolina locations. The highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 is sending record numbers of people to North Carolina hospitals, straining hospital capacity. As hospitals continue to take steps to protect their ability to provide patient care in the face of nationwide COVID-19 related staffing shortages, NCDHHS and North Carolina Emergency Management are requesting federal support for the Charlotte region to help alleviate capacity constraints. The state is acting in partnership with Atrium Health, North Carolina’s largest health provider, with a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response for staffing support. Atrium Health reports it has employed numerous strategies to stretch its capacity, including redeploying staff from urgent care and outpatient centers; limiting non-urgent procedures; closing specialty centers; and using additional state-provided flexibilities, as outlined in a letter NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley sent to hospitals last week. Despite these actions, the health system is currently above 95% capacity. Due to the Omicron variant, COVID-19 cases have been on a steep rise for the past three weeks, achieving a 7-day average of new cases of nearly 29,000 cases per day. This is more than four-times the 7-day average of cases during the prior wave, led by the Delta variant. Similarly, but not to the same degree, hospitalizations have exceeded peak levels more than all past waves, with over 4,700 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19. NCDHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley sent a letter to employers, thanking them for all they are doing to help their employees, customers and members of the community remain as healthy as possible and asking that they encourage vaccinations and boosters, as well as masking up, to help prevent viral spread in the workplace. Jan. 20 The rate of COVID-19 infections is once again disproportionately impacting Black and Hispanic North Carolinians. Since Dec. 26, the rate of infections was twice as high among the Black population as compared to the white population and as much as 57% higher among the Hispanic population as compared to the non-Hispanic population, according to an analysis of positive cases reported to NCDHHS. Case rates in the Black community were lower than whites at the beginning of December but rose much more quickly with the Omicron variant. With greater rates of infection, disparities are now also showing up in hospitalizations. From Jan. 1 through Jan. 17, hospitalization rates were highest among Blacks, followed closely by American Indians, at nearly double the rate of whites. Vaccines, boosters and masks are the best tools that we have to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Two programs are connecting historically marginalized populations to vaccines: Healthier Together: Health Equity Action Network and NCDHHS’ Community Health Worker program. NCDHHS has taken action to ensure NC Medicaid beneficiaries have access to free at-home tests for COVID-19. In alignment with the Biden administration’s requirement last week to provide free at-home tests for COVID-19, State Health Director and NCDHHS Chief Medical Officer Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, M.D., signed an order on Jan. 14, 2022, enabling NC Medicaid beneficiaries to receive free at-home COVID-19 tests from their local pharmacies. Beneficiaries should select an at-home test at their preferred pharmacy and present their NC Medicaid ID card to the pharmacy for no out-of-pocket cost. The pharmacist will be able to bill Medicaid on the patient’s behalf. Jan. 19 NCDHHS will host a live fireside chat and tele-town hall on Jan. 20 from 6 to 7 p.m. to discuss COVID-19 vaccines, boosters, testing and more. Key topics include: the recent surge in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations; steps to protect yourself and your household by masking, testing and more; new guidance on vaccines and boosters for kids ages 5 to 11, teens and adults; and when to isolate or quarantine, and how the two differ. The fireside chat will livestream from the NCDHHS social media accounts and will also include a tele-town hall feature. Households will be invited by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone who is interested can participate. Watch a recording of the fireside chat and tele-town hall. Jan. 13 NCDHHS today updated the COVID-19 vaccination dashboard to better show how many people in North Carolina are up to date with current COVID-19 vaccination recommendations. NCDHHS has added state-level and county metrics on people who are vaccinated with at least one booster/additional dose. The "Fully Vaccinated" metric is now "Vaccinated with Two Doses or One Dose J&J." The dashboard shows the percent of people who have: received at least one or two doses of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccination series (Pfizer and Moderna); one dose of a one-dose series (Johnson & Johnson); and, now, vaccinated individuals who have received at least one booster/additional dose. This week, North Carolina broke a record for number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 with 4,098. Daily admissions for COVID-19 also broke a record at 639. NCDHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley sent a letter to hospital leaders thanking them for their hard work and highlighting emergency measures, flexibilities and tools that the Department has put in place to help manage capacity. Those tools give broader latitude for staffing, waive state regulations at health care facilities and coordinate patient transfer for overcrowded hospitals. Jan. 11 In the face of nationwide competition for testing supplies and shortages of testing staff, NCDHHS is pulling all available levers to support existing testing sites, to open more sites across the state and to increase access to at-home collection kits. NCDHHS contracted with two more testing vendors to expand local testing options and expanded the footprint of the existing 12 vendors to cover hundreds of no-cost testing sites across the state. More than a million professional rapid antigen tests, at-home rapid antigen tests and at-home collection kits are also on their way to the state. Today NCDHHS is shipping the initial tests from the surge order. Jan. 7 With COVID-19 cases reaching pandemic highs, NCDHHS urges K-12 schools to promote vaccination and boosters for students and staff and require students and staff wear masks indoors to keep students in the classroom and limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Jan. 6 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday announced it recommends the Pfizer COVID-19 booster for children ages 12 to 15 to further protect them from COVID-19. The CDC also recommends a third dose of Pfizer for children ages 5 to 11 who have compromised immune systems. In addition, the wait time for boosters for anyone who received Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations has been reduced from six months to five months. People who received two doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine should receive their booster in six months. People who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should receive their booster two months after their vaccination. COVID-19 infections have skyrocketed to a seven-day daily average of more than 480,000 cases per day in the United States, and the number of children being hospitalized across the country is increasing. COVID-19 cases among children in the U.S. have reached their highest ever reported since the start of the pandemic — more than 325,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported nationally in the final week of December. North Carolina is experiencing a similar surge in COVID-19 infections. Hospitalizations are rising nationally and in North Carolina, with intensive care units in the state at 85% of capacity. NCDHHS today announced it will issue the first round of Student Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer benefits next week for students eligible between the months of September and November 2021. North Carolina is still awaiting federal approval for Child Care P-EBT (formerly “Children Under 6”) and cannot issue benefits to this group until U.S. Department of Agriculture approval is received. Jan. 5 Today, Gov. Roy Cooper signed Executive Order 245 to strengthen the state’s ongoing fight against COVID-19 with more health care workers and flexibility for care facilities, as well as easier access to vaccines, tests and treatments. The regulatory waivers in the Order are key to facilitating the state’s COVID-19 response at this critical juncture in the pandemic. North Carolina is experiencing a significant wave of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the increasing spread of the Omicron variant, which is more transmissible than the original virus and previous variants. The spread of this variant and the Delta variant, particularly across the state’s unvaccinated population, has generated increased concern from medical professionals. Jan. 4 With cases of COVID-19 reaching record highs and hospitalizations increasing, Gov. Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley are calling on all North Carolinians to get vaccinated and get a booster as soon as they are eligible to protect themselves from severe illness from the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19. Early studies show that boosters greatly increase someone’s immune response and provide greater protection against the Omicron variant than no vaccine. The booster is especially important for those over 65 or in other populations at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Jan. 3 NCDHHS today announced the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program will expand to include all low-income households needing assistance in paying their water bill. LIHWAP was created in December 2021 after the State of North Carolina was awarded more than $38 million in federal funds to establish a new water assistance program for households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. December 2021 Dec. 30 NCDHHS reported on its COVID-19 dashboard today the highest one-day number of COVID-19 cases. NCDHHS is closely monitoring hospital capacity and is urging North Carolinians to gather safely, get vaccinated and boosted, and wear a mask indoors in public places. Statewide, 18,571 positive tests for COVID-19 were reported, 60% higher than the previous record of 11,581 set in January of this year. The number of people visiting the emergency room for COVID-like illness also set a record at 4,171. The number of individuals currently hospitalized with COVID-19 has nearly doubled since the beginning of December. Data suggests that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 may cause less severe illness for people who are vaccinated. However, those who are unvaccinated or who have underlying medical conditions are at highest risk of severe illness and hospitalization. 89% of people in intensive care for COVID are unvaccinated. Hospitalizations are likely to increase as the trend typically lags four to five days after an increase in cases. Dec. 29 With hospitalizations due to COVID-19 rising, getting a booster of the COVID-19 vaccine remains the most important thing North Carolinians can do to keep themselves and their loved ones out of the hospital, NCDHHS officials announced today. Hospitalizations of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina have increased by over 20% in the last three days. Hospitals reported 331 admissions in the last 24 hours, an increase of over 40% from Monday’s seven-day rolling average of 232 admissions per day. Dec. 20 COVID-19 cases are currently rising in North Carolina due to the Delta variant. The highly contagious variant, Omicron, is beginning to spread rapidly and is expected to cause the highest rates of COVID-19 infections of the pandemic in the coming weeks. The Omicron variant is two to three times as contagious the Delta variant, making it four to six times as contagious as the original COVID-19 virus. With the holidays approaching and people gathering, it is critical and urgent to act now to protect yourselves and your family and friends. Vaccinating and boosting against COVID-19 remain the most effective ways for people to protect themselves from serious illness, hospitalization and death. Early evidence shows that boosters provide a significant level of protection against Omicron. Dec. 17 Health experts are warning that the highly contagious COVID-19 variant, Omicron, is expected to cause the greatest surge in COVID-19 infections to date in the coming months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NCDHHS urge people to get vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) as soon as possible and to get a booster as soon as they are eligible to help prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death. Early evidence suggests that Omicron is two to three times as contagious the Delta variant, making it four to six times as contagious as the original COVID-19 virus. Data collected so far show more rapid waning of protection after the primary vaccination series than was seen with Delta or other variants, although vaccines are still effective at preventing severe disease. Dec. 15 NCDHHS today announced it has received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to continue the Student Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) food assistance program for eligible K-12 students through the 2021-22 school year under new rules. North Carolina is still awaiting federal approval for Child Care P-EBT (previously called “Children Under 6”) and cannot issue benefits to this group until USDA approval is received. North Carolina was one of the first states to launch Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) early in the pandemic. The federally funded program has provided more than $1.7 billion of groceries to more than 1.3 million children at risk of hunger due to school closures. Eligibility for the program has changed. More information on eligibility and benefits can be found by visiting the P-EBT website. North Carolina plans to start issuing benefits to eligible students by the end of January 2022 and will announce when issuances begin. A temporary mobile vaccination unit that operated across Western North Carolina since July has ended its operations this week after providing more than 9,300 vaccinations, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today announced. The mobile unit offered all three approved vaccines and administered 6,333 boosters, 2,054 first and second doses for adults and 915 pediatric first and second doses. To find a COVID-19 vaccine location, or for more information about COVID-19 vaccines in North Carolina, visit MySpot.nc.gov or call the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Help Center for free at 888-675-4567. Dec. 14 North Carolina’s key metrics have all been increasing, including people going to the emergency department with COVID-like symptoms, cases, the percent of tests that are positive, and hospitalizations. In addition, the state is once again classified as red by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicating high community transmission. With the holidays approaching and people getting together, there is greater risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. To reduce the risk, North Carolinians should get vaccinated as soon as possible and get a booster as soon as they are eligible. Health leaders also recommend getting tested, even if you are vaccinated, before and after you travel and before gathering with others. Everyone should continue to wear a mask when in indoor public settings. Dec. 9 Eligibility for Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster shot has been expanded to include 16- and 17-year-olds, making safe and effective boosters now available for everyone ages 16 and older. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends a booster for 16- and 17-year-olds following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization for 16- and 17-year-olds to receive a Pfizer booster six months after the date of their second Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine dose. Dec. 3 Healthier Together, a public-private partnership between the NCDHHS and NC Counts Coalition, has awarded $500,000 in the second round of grants to support a new cohort of local community groups to support equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines throughout North Carolina. Grants will fund activities to conduct vaccine outreach and education efforts to help people get connected to first, second, additional or booster vaccines. The equity initiatives also support activities to connect residents to transportation resources, community health workers and COVID-19 testing resources. The funding period is November 2021 through February 2022. November 2021 Nov. 30 Gov. Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen provided an update today on the state’s COVID-19 key metrics and trends and urge North Carolinians to get vaccinated this holiday season. North Carolina is making progress increasing the number of vaccinated people across the state. Since Executive Order 224 went into effect requiring state employees be vaccinated or tested weekly, the vaccination rate has increased from 65% in mid-September to 76% at the end of November. State health facilities have required vaccinations for their workers to protect them and their patients, and more than 99% of those workers have now been vaccinated. Younger children are also getting vaccinated following the CDC’s recent recommendation that children ages 5 to 11 receive a safe and effective lower dose COVID-19 vaccine to protect them from serious illness and complications from the virus. In North Carolina, 13 percent of children ages 5 to 11 have already received their first dose. Booster shots for those already vaccinated are widely available in North Carolina. The CDC recommends that everyone 18 years or older receive a booster shot to strengthen and extend protections against serious illness, hospitalization, or death from COVID-19. NCDHHS today announced the State of North Carolina has been awarded more than $38 million in federal funding to establish a new water assistance program for households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning Wednesday, eligible households that have had their water services cut off or have received notice that their water services are in danger of being cut off can apply for assistance in paying their bill through a new federal program called the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP). Nov. 24 NCDHHS today added COVID-19 vaccine administration data on additional and booster doses to its vaccine data dashboard, allowing dashboard users to see the number of doses administered following a recipient’s primary series. Following the CDC’s lead, these doses will be displayed as a state-level total — "Additional/Booster Doses Administered." The information is displayed on the "Summary Data" tab on the vaccination progress summary section of the dashboard and replaces the "Total Doses Administered" metric. The count of people who received a booster dose includes anyone who is fully vaccinated and has received another dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, or any dose that has been indicated as an additional or booster dose by the person’s health care provider, since Aug. 13, 2021, the date of the CDC's first recommendations on additional doses and boosters. Nov. 19 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone 18 years or older who received the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine get a booster six months after their second dose to help strengthen and extend protections against COVID-19. This comes after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the boosters for such use today. The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 booster was made available in late October and is recommended for individuals ages 18 and older who were vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago. Nov. 16 NCDHHS will host a live Cafecito and tele-town hall on Nov. 16, 6-7 p.m. to discuss the safety and effectiveness of the recently authorized Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Participants include Yazmin Garcia Rico, Director of Hispanic/Latinx Policy and Strategy at NCDHHS, Gabriela Maradiaga Panayotti, M.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Duke University Medical Center and Jenice Ramirez, Executive Director of ISLA NC. Belén Gómez-Jordana, reporter and anchor at Telemundo Charlotte, will moderate the conversation. The Cafecito will livestream from the NCDHHS and participant social media accounts and will also include a tele-town hall feature. Households will be invited by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone interested can participate. People can also dial into the event by calling 855-756-7520 Ext. 76808#. Nov. 12 NCDHHS has partnered with community groups to create nine walk-in Family Vaccination Sites across the state to help families get vaccinated against COVID-19. From Saturday, Nov. 13, until Thanksgiving, any adult who brings someone to a Family Vaccination Site for their first dose will receive $25 in the form of a prepaid Mastercard to offset the time and transportation costs of getting vaccinated. Nov. 8 NCDHHS will host a live fireside chat and tele-town hall on Tuesday, Nov. 9, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. to discuss the safety and effectiveness of the recently approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11. NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D, will host the event and will be joined by pediatrician Rasheeda Monroe, M.D. Dr. Monroe currently serves as the Medical Director of Primary Care Pediatrics at WakeMed. She is also the Raleigh area Campus Director of the UNC School of Medicine and the Director to the Kenan Urban Scholars program at the UNC School of Medicine. The fireside chat will livestream from both the NCDHHS and WBTV social media accounts and will also include a tele-town hall feature. Households will be invited by phone to listen in and submit questions to help ensure everyone interested can participate. People can also dial into the event by calling 855-756-7520 Ext.76807#. Nov. 3 Children ages 5 to 11 can now receive a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. The Food and Drug Administration has authorized a lower dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children in this age group, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend all children 5–11 get the vaccine to protect against serious illness and help keep them healthy. October 2021 Oct. 27 Vaccines may be available for younger children as early as the end of next week, Gov. Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said today during an update on the state's COVID-19 key metrics and trends. Yesterday, the independent advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration recommended the use of Pfizer's vaccine in children 5 to 11 years. Once the CDC completes its review process, there will be ample vaccine supply across the state. More than 750 locations are preparing to provide vaccines to this age group, including doctor's offices, pharmacies, local health departments, community vaccination events and family vaccination sites. Oct. 22 COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are now available for more North Carolinians. The Food and Drug Administration has authorized, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 booster shots to help strengthen and extend protections against COVID-19 infections. Additionally, individuals are now able to receive any brand of the COVID-19 vaccine for their booster shot. Some people may have a preference for the vaccine type they originally received and others may prefer to get a different booster. Limited preliminary evidence suggests that booster doses of one of the two mRNA vaccines — Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech — more effectively raise antibody levels than a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. NCDHHS encourages individuals to speak with a doctor, nurse or pharmacist if they have questions about what booster is right for them. Oct. 19 As COVID-19 cases surged this summer fueled by the Delta variant, hospitalizations and deaths among residents in North Carolina long-term care facilities were significantly lower than during the winter surge, as shown in data from NCDHHS. The decrease in cases and severe illness can be attributed to vaccination for residents and staff of long-term care facilities and to the work done by long-term care providers to implement measures to protect staff and residents from COVID-19. While reported COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities increased during July through September of 2021, average weekly cases decreased by 89%, hospitalizations decreased by 93% and deaths decreased by 95% when compared to November and December of 2020, when most long-term care residents were not vaccinated. As of last week, more than 80% of long-term care facility residents have been fully vaccinated. Oct. 12 NCDHHS has expanded its vaccine data dashboard to provide more statewide demographic data for COVID-19 vaccinations. Users will be able to see vaccination rates by race for age groups and ethnicity for age group. The information will be displayed on a new tab named “Additional NC Demographic Data” on the dashboard. North Carolina has been nationally recognized for the quality and transparency of its vaccine data dashboard. The “Additional NC Demographic Data” tab will provide further insight into race, age and ethnicity. Oct. 11 Nearly all 10,000 employees at state-operated healthcare facilities are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and compliant with a mandatory vaccination requirement, according to NCDHHS. The department’s Division of State Operated Healthcare Facilities (DSOHF), a state-operated health care system comprised of 14 facilities, moved to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in July. Oct. 7 NCDHHS announced a significant milestone in the fight against COVID-19: 70% of North Carolinians age 18 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines offer significant protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death. People who are not fully vaccinated are more than 18 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than people who are fully vaccinated. This protection will be strengthened and extended through booster shots for people who are 65 and over, have a high-risk medical condition, work in higher risk settings or live or work in a place where many people work together. Boosters are currently available for people who received their second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months ago. Oct. 1 Today, NCDHHS updated North Carolina county vaccination data from the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Indian Health Services and Federal Bureau of Prisons to reflect the county of residence for the person vaccinated. This will result in the vaccination rate changing for several counties on the North Carolina COVID-19 Dashboard. As part of its regular data quality review, NCDHHS discovered a vaccination report from the CDC was based on county of administration. All other vaccine data is by county of residence. North Carolina was the first state to raise the issue to the CDC as most other states are not providing this level of data on their public dashboards. The CDC has now provided the correct report, and NCDHHS has updated the public dashboard accordingly. Beginning Oct. 4, NCDHHS’ COVID-19 Support Services Program, along with the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina will provide food assistance to North Carolinians in 34 counties who face food insecurity resulting from the need to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19. Additionally, NCDHHS is expanding program eligibility to North Carolinians in those counties who are at high risk for severe illness due to COVID-19, as defined by the CDC. September 2021 Sept. 24 To strengthen and extend protections against severe illness, North Carolinians at high risk for serious illness or exposure who have been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech (COMINARTY) vaccine for six months or more can now receive a COVID-19 booster shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today announced the Pfizer-BioNTech (COMIRNATY) COVID-19 booster shot is recommended for individuals who have been fully vaccinated for six months or more with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. People who are 65 years or older, 18 years or older with underlying medical conditions or work in a high-risk setting like healthcare workers, teachers and childcare providers or food workers are eligible in North Carolina. Sept. 21 In an open letter to faith leaders, Gov. Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen expressed their gratitude for the faith community's support throughout the pandemic response and asked for their help reaching North Carolinians who have not yet been vaccinated. The letter outlines three actions faith leaders can take, including directing their congregation and faith community to trustworthy sources about COVID-19 vaccines, serving as vaccine ambassadors and hosting vaccination events. Sept. 17 Advisors to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today the Pfizer-BioNTech (COMIRNATY) COVID-19 booster shot is safe, effective and recommended for individuals who have been fully vaccinated for at least six months and are: 65 years and older; at high risk of severe COVID-19; and, at high risk of occupational exposure. As a next step, the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot must be reviewed and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to further define these groups before it will be made available for use. That meeting will take place Wednesday, Sept. 22. NCDHHS announced four new locations offering monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) for treatment of COVID-19 managed by local organizations in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, bringing the number of sites in the state offering this therapy to more than 200. FEMA will also help staff one existing site. This partnership will give more North Carolinians access to monoclonal antibody treatment, which can decrease the likelihood of hospitalization related to COVID-19 if taken early. Sept. 16 Healthier Together, a public-private partnership between NCDHHS and NC Counts Coalition, released the second round of funding of up to $500,000 for community-based organizations to apply for grants to help North Carolina achieve its goal of delivering equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. Grants will range from $10,000–$25,000 each (or up to $60,000 for collaborative proposals). Sept. 13 Public health officials with NCDHHS are urging North Carolinians to protect themselves, their families and those around them by getting vaccinated against Influenza as the state enters flu season while experiencing a surge of COVID-19 caused by the Delta variant. Sept. 9 Gov. Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen urge school districts to keep mask mandates. Currently, 109 school districts covering more than 95% of children have mandatory masks, an increase from three weeks ago when only 74 school districts covering roughly 64% of children statewide were requiring masks. The first weeks of school have brought more COVID cases among schoolchildren, which can lead to quarantines when schools don't have strong mask requirements in place. Sept. 8 NCDHHS is seeing a sharp increase in COVID-19 clusters among school sports teams. For the period between July 1 and Sept. 2, clusters among school sports teams accounted for 45% of all clusters in North Carolina middle and high schools, despite most school sports activities not beginning until August as schools began for the fall semester. School sports teams are urged to follow NCDHHS guidance for youth sports. Sept. 2 Gov. Roy Cooper signed an Executive Order to make it easier for North Carolinians to access treatment for COVID-19. The Executive Order authorizes and directs State Health Director Dr. Betsey Tilson to issue a statewide standing order to expand access to monoclonal antibody treatment, which if taken early can decrease the risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death. August 2021 Aug. 30 North Carolina’s $100 Summer Card program will end Tuesday, Aug. 31. As part of its ongoing effort to get more North Carolinians vaccinated and safely bring summer back, NCDHHS has been offering $100 Summer Cards at select locations in various counties across the state. Cards were distributed to offset the time and transportation costs of getting vaccinated. Aug. 27 NCDHHS yesterday released new data in the weekly respiratory surveillance report showing that unvaccinated people were 15.4 times, or 1,540%, more likely to die from COVID-19 during the four-week period ending Aug. 21, 2021. This comes as the state hit a pandemic high on Aug. 26 with 912 adults in the ICU with COVID-19. The number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators also reached a record high at 574. Aug. 23 NCDHHS has launched TeenVaxFacts.com – a website dedicated to providing teens with the information, tools and resources they need to educate themselves, their friends and their family members about the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines. TeenVaxFacts.com sends a clear, fact-based message to teens and parents: Don’t wait to vaccinate. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which Pfizer is calling Comirnaty, for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The Pfizer vaccine will continue to be available under emergency use authorization for teens 12 to 15 and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals. FDA approval for these populations will require additional time as the vaccine was not authorized for such use until more recently. Aug. 20 As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge across North Carolina, the use of monoclonal antibodies for treatment of COVID-19 increased by 18-fold since late June from 100 administrations for the week of June 23 to 1,874 for the week of Aug. 11. Statewide, there are more than 130 sites offering monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19 as this treatment can decrease the likelihood of hospitalization related to COVID-19. Aug. 16 North Carolinians who are moderately to severely immunocompromised and received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines can now begin receiving an additional dose to better protect themselves from COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has amended the Emergency Use Authorizations for both vaccines to allow for the use of an additional dose in some immunocompromised individuals, which was then recommended by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). A full list of conditions can be found on the CDC's website. Aug. 13 North Carolina providers have now administered more than 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with vaccinations trending upward as the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus spreads through the state. Aug. 10 North Carolina experienced the largest single day jump in hospital ICU admissions since the beginning of the pandemic. Weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations among people ages 20-49 are at an all-time high. ICU admissions related to COVID-19 jumped to 557 yesterday from 502 the day prior. From Aug. 3 through Aug. 9, there were 547 people ages 20-49 admitted to the hospital due to COVID-19. Overall, 2,179 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19, with 272 people admitted in the past 24 hours, according to data reported to NCDHHS. Aug. 5 NCDHHS selected two medical testing vendors with experience operating K-12 testing programs, MAKO Medical and Concentric by Ginkgo, that will be available to provide COVID-19 testing services to all North Carolina schools. In accordance with CDC guidance, K-12 schools are strongly encouraged to participate in the StrongSchoolsNC K-12 COVID-19 Testing Program and require students, teachers and staff wear masks indoors in all K-12 schools. Aug. 3 As part of its effort to help more North Carolinians protect themselves against COVID-19 and the highly contagious Delta variant, North Carolina is now offering $100 Summer Cards at some vaccine sites across the state to offset the time and transportation costs of getting vaccinated. From Aug. 4 through Aug. 31, the $100 Summer Cards are available to anyone 18 and older who gets their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a participating site—while supplies last. July 2021 July 30 North Carolina received more than $4.9 million federal funds for small rural hospitals in the state to provide COVID-19 testing and mitigation. The program will provide increased COVID-19 testing to rural populations ensuring an equitable distribution across the state. Nineteen hospitals will receive up to $258,376 to increase COVID-19 testing efforts, expand access to testing in rural communities and expand the range of COVID-19 mitigation activities to meet community needs. All 19 hospitals have fewer than 50 beds or are critical access hospitals. NCDHHS is expanding the COVID-19 Community Health Worker program, bringing it statewide. El Centro Latino and UNETE join six other vendors that were previously selected for this work to aid in North Carolina’s efforts to connect those affected by COVID-19 with needed support, including assistance with COVID-19 vaccinations. In addition to the selection of two new vendors, Kepro, Southeastern Healthcare NC and Vidant Health are expanding the counties they serve. July 29 Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen announce that state government will begin verifying vaccination status of its workers. Employees not vaccinated are required to wear a mask and be tested at least once a week. The announcement comes as North Carolina’s latest upswing in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is driven by unvaccinated North Carolinians. July 23 NCDHHS urges all unvaccinated North Carolinians age 12 and older to get a COVID-19 vaccine as North Carolina experiences a rapid increase in COVID-19 spread among those who are unvaccinated. There have been 9,053 cases reported over the past seven days compared to 5,441 cases in the preceding seven days — a 66% increase — and hospitalizations doubled since July 9 and are at the highest rate they have been since the May 11. The state’s other key metrics are also increasing, including the number of people going to the emergency department with COVID-like symptoms and the percent of tests that are positive — which has been over 6% for the past week. July 22 NCDHHS announces expansion of the COVID-19 wastewater surveillance program from 10 to 19 sites to better identify areas where virus is spreading. Since January 2021, NCDHHS has been testing wastewater samples to look for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as part of a new surveillance program — the North Carolina Wastewater Monitoring Network. People who are infected with COVID-19 shed viral particles in their feces. These viral particles are no longer infectious in wastewater but can be measured if enough people are infected. Since May, data from 10 wastewater treatment facilities in North Carolina have been updated weekly on the wastewater monitoring dashboard. The additional sites were selected to include wastewater monitoring sites in all parts of the state. July 21 Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen share updated public health guidance for K-12 schools to follow in the upcoming school year. The updated StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit is aligned with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics guidance, which urges that everything possible be done to keep students in schools and emphasizes continued masking. This guidance is effective July 30th and local school leaders are responsible for requiring and implementing protocols in the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit in consultation with their local health departments. July 20 NCDHHS is partnering with Piedmont Triad Regional Council Area Agency on Aging (PTRC AAA) to provide free COVID-19 vaccinations to people with limited mobility who cannot leave their home. This new initiative expands PTRC AAA’s successful local at-home vaccination program to communities across the state. The At-Home Vaccination Hotline at 1-866-303-0026 allows caregivers, providers and individuals across North Carolina to schedule an at-home vaccination. An online registration form is also available. July 13 NCDHHS’ vaccine data dashboard now includes vaccination information from federal providers, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Prisons and Indian Health Service. The new data provides a more accurate representation of how many North Carolinians have been vaccinated. This federal data is now included in the statewide percent of population by age group that has received at least one dose and those who are fully vaccinated. July 8 NCDHHS is urging all unvaccinated North Carolinians to get a COVID-19 vaccine as cases, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise across the state. North Carolina’s early warning systems are showing more people going to the emergency department with COVID-like illness and elevated viral levels in wastewater in certain regions of the state. The Delta variant – classified as a “variant of concern” by the Centers for Disease Control due to evidence of increased transmissibility – is spreading rapidly in the state and across the country. July 1 Healthier Together, a public-private partnership between NCDHHS and NC Counts Coalition, has awarded $500,000 in grants to support community groups that will help North Carolina achieve its goal of delivering equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. June 2021 June 30 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today updated North Carolina’s vaccine data on its COVID Data Tracker . The number of vaccine doses administered for North Carolina increased by 621,198 doses in addition to regularly uploaded data. June 25 Bladen County, which has a vaccination rate of only 33%, is experiencing critical viral spread and increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Today’s COVID-19 County Alert System report shows the county is now red. State health officials urge people to get vaccinated now to protect themselves and the community from serious illness and virus-related hospitalization and death. June 23 To help Medicaid beneficiaries get the accurate information they need to make an informed decision about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, NCDHHS will reimburse Medicaid providers for providing counseling on the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination. June 22 NCDHHS is expanding the number of locations providing $25 Summer Cards to offset the time and transportation costs of getting vaccinated. Beginning this week, participating vaccination sites will offer the cards to anyone 18 and older who gets their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — or drives someone to their vaccination. June 18 North Carolinians vaccinated by the Veterans Administration (VA) and through the Tribal Health Program are now eligible for the $4 Million Summer Cash and College Tuition drawings announced last week by Governor Roy Cooper to motivate people to get vaccinated as soon as they can — and thank those who already have. June 16 There is increasing urgency for people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the more dangerous new Delta variant is rapidly spreading in the United States, including in North Carolina. NCDHHS announced the state is expanding availability of its at-home COVID-19 test collection. Any North Carolina resident may receive a Pixel by Labcorp® COVID-19 PCR Test Home Collection Kit that is shipped overnight directly to their homes at no cost. Tests can be used on people age 2 and up. June 15 NCDHHS is launching an expanded COVID-19 screening testing program to support public, charter and private K-12 schools in protecting students and staff from the spread of COVID-19. The program will launch in fall 2021 and schools can register to participate beginning in early July. June 3 NCDHHS announced more than 80% of adults 65 and older in the state have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. June 2 NCDHHS announced North Carolina has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to continue the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) food assistance program through Summer 2021. Governor Roy Cooper and Chief Operating Officer of the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency (NCORR) Laura Hogshead shared an update on the application process for the N.C. Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions (HOPE) Program. The program is open for a second application period to assist very low-income renters that are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. The HOPE Program provides rent and utility bill assistance to prevent evictions and utility disconnections. May 2021 May 25 A new tool created by the NC Department of Health and Human Services that maps social vulnerability and vaccination rates by census tract has helped North Carolina vaccine providers increase vaccinations by 50 percent in 89 underserved communities. As part of its ongoing effort to get more North Carolinians vaccinated and safely bring summer back, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is offering $25 Summer Cash Cards at select vaccine sites to offset the time and transportation costs of getting vaccinated. May 21 The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today expanded its NC COVID-19 Dashboard to include a new metric – wastewater monitoring. Since January 2021, NCDHHS has been testing wastewater samples to look for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as part of the CDC’s National Wastewater Surveillance System. This new statewide program, known as the North Carolina Wastewater Monitoring Network, is a collaboration between 11 wastewater utilities, 8 local public health departments and researchers at the University of North Carolina. May 19 The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with the NC Department of Public Instruction, announced today the expansion of the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program to provide benefits to eligible children under the age of 6 who are in households receiving Food and Nutrition Services (FNS). This expansion will provide benefits to families with young children and infants who need extra help buying food. The state will begin issuing P-EBT benefits to eligible children under the age of 6 starting this week. May 14 Following yesterday’s guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that fully vaccinated individuals can safely do most activities without wearing a mask or the need to social distance from others, Gov. Cooper and Secretary Cohen announced that North Carolina will remove its indoor mask mandate for most settings. Additionally, the state will lift all mass gathering limits and social distancing requirements. These changes are now in effect as of 1:30 p.m. today. Masks will still be required in child care, schools and camps as most children are either not yet vaccinated or are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. Everyone, including people who are fully vaccinated, will still be required to wear a mask in certain settings such as public transportation, health care settings like hospitals, doctor’s offices and long-term care settings like nursing homes, and certain congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters. NCDHHS will continue to have strong public health recommendations for individuals to continue to protect one another until more people are vaccinated. People who are not vaccinated should wear a mask and maintain distance in all indoor public settings and in outdoor settings when they can't maintain six feet of distance. Read the frequently asked questions for more information. May 12 With the CDC recommendation, North Carolina teens ages 12 and older can now get vaccinated with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves from COVID-19, including preventing virus-related hospitalizations and deaths. The NC Department of Health and Human Services' State Health Director has amended the Standing Order authorizing health care providers to administer COVID-19 vaccines through an Emergency Use Authorization to include the use of the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents ages 12 through 15. To find providers with the Pfizer vaccine, go to MySpot.nc.gov and filter for Pfizer. May 6 NCDHHS announced more than 50% of adults 18 and older in the state have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. More than 43% of the adult population is fully vaccinated against the virus. To date, the state has administered more than 7.4 million vaccines. More than 74% of the population over 65 years of age is fully vaccinated, and nearly 40% of the total population of the state, regardless of age, has received at least one dose. The department is working to ensure receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is easy and convenient for anyone 16 and older. The vaccine is widely available through a variety of providers, often with no wait time and without the need for an appointment. To find a vaccine in your area, use the Find a Vaccine Location tool or call 888-675-4567. May 7 The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will kick off the Bringing Summer Back campaign on May 9 with more than 140 partner organizations across the state registered to rally together to promote COVID-19 vaccination in their communities. The new summer get-out-the-vaccine campaign offers a fun, flexible and community-centered approach that creates a space for every organization and individual to roll up their sleeves and do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19. The campaign will run during two weeks in May (May 9–15 and May 16–21) and two weeks in June (June 6–12 and June 20–26). The more than 140 organizations registered vary and include the business sector, medical organizations, health departments, faith-based organizations, community-based groups and various charitable organizations. Partner activities will vary and are set by participating groups. Groups plan to host vaccine clinics, distribute information about COVID-19 vaccines, offer incentives to those who get vaccinated and participate in other ways that will resonate with their communities. April 2021 April 30 The federally supported COVID-19 Community Vaccination Center in Greensboro at Four Seasons Town Centre began offering the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is available in addition to the two-dose Pfizer vaccine already offered. The vaccination site is offering the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines on a walk-in and drive-up basis, without appointment. April 28 Governor Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen gave an update on the state’s current data, trends and vaccination progress. As the state’s metrics and key indicators remain stable, Governor Cooper signed Executive Order 209 outlining safety measures for the month of May. Executive Order 209 will take effect April 30 and is set to expire June 1. As more North Carolinians get vaccinated and adhere to safety protocols over the course of the next month, the state anticipates lifting more restrictions on June 1. Under the new Executive Order, masks will still be required indoors but are no longer mandated outdoors. Masks are still strongly recommended outdoors by NCDHHS in crowded areas and higher risk settings where social distancing is difficult. The Order will also increase mass gathering capacity limits. The number of people who may gather indoors will increase from 50 to 100 and the number of people who may gather outdoors will increase from 100 to 200. Occupancy limits currently in place will remain the same. April 23 Following a thorough safety review, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have confidence that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19 and recommend its continued use to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is recommending that providers in the state resume administration of the vaccine now that the CDC and FDA have reaffirmed its safety. Read more. April 22 NCDHHS announced the Bringing Summer Back get-out-the-vaccine campaign that will engage community organizations across the state to fully vaccinate as many people as possible by summer. The campaign will run during two weeks in May (May 9–15 and May 16–21) and two weeks in June (June 6–12 and June 20–26), during which organizations across the state will rally together to promote vaccination. April 21 Governor Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Cohen laid out a timeline for lifting current pandemic restrictions. With stable trends and continued vaccination success, the state expects to lift mandatory social distancing, capacity and mass gathering restrictions by June 1. The Governor plans to issue an executive order next week outlining safety restrictions for the month of May. Read the press release. April 19 More than 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered through the federally supported vaccination center that opened March 10, 2021 in Greensboro, N.C. The Greensboro clinic will be extended through May 27 and will continue to provide the Pfizer vaccine. While appointments are encouraged and available online at GSOmassvax.org or by phone at 888-675-4567, walk-in and drive-up vaccines are also available without appointment. Read more. April 16 The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services updated the COVID-19 County Alert System, which shows one red county — an increase from zero on the previous April 1 County Alert System. Today’s update also lists 20 orange counties (previously 21 counties in the April 1 report), 48 yellow counties (previously 47), 30 light yellow counties (previously 31) and one green county (previously one). These updates account for 18 counties having moved up a tier (toward red) since the last report, 19 counties having moved down a tier (toward green) and 63 counties remaining in the same tier. April 15 The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services updated its vaccine data dashboard to align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and provide additional information on people who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. April 13 NCDHHS has released the following statement regarding the CDC and FDA's joint statement on Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine: "Our primary concern is the health and safety of all North Carolinians. Out of an abundance of caution, we are following the recommendations of the FDA and CDC and have paused the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine until we learn more.The safety system in place is working as it should. If you have an appointment for Pfizer or Moderna, please go to your appointment as planned. If you have an appointment for Johnson & Johnson, your appointment will be re-scheduled." April 9 NCDHHS has worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Wake County Public Health Department to investigate a limited number of reactions that were reported during Johnson & Johnson vaccinations at PNC Arena on Thursday, April 8. Analysis by the CDC did not find any safety issues or reason for concern; and the CDC recommends continuing to administer the vaccine. Read more. April 8 NCDHHS released findings from recent public opinion research on COVID-19 vaccine risks, rewards and vaccination motivations across the state. Findings show a clear and welcome improvement in North Carolinians’ attitudes related to COVID-19 vaccines. When compared with the same survey conducted last fall, vaccine risk perceptions have dropped significantly overall, while the perceived rewards of being vaccinated have risen. The number of people who would recommend COVID-19 vaccination to family and friends nearly doubled from 30% in November to 59% in March. April 7 North Carolina’s work to reach underserved and historically marginalized populations and deliver equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is a model approach for the country, according to a new report released this week by the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA). The report, Prioritizing Equity in COVID-19 Vaccinations: Promising Practices from States to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities, highlights promising actions states can take to promote equitable vaccination within historically marginalized communities, reduce systemic barriers to vaccine access, and improve race and ethnicity data to inform vaccine distribution. April 6 April 7 marks the opening of vaccine eligibility for Group 5. This means anyone 16 years and older who wants a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination is eligible to get one. To find a local vaccine provider, visit myspot.nc.gov. March 2021 March 30 Governor Roy Cooper signed three Executive Orders, including: Executive Order 206 extends North Carolina’s statewide residential eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021 in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s recent extension of the nationwide moratorium through the same date. Executive Order 207 expedites the processing of unemployment insurance claims and is also effective through June 30, 2021. Executive Order 205 extends the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABC Commission)’s authorization to permit the delivery or carry-out of mixed beverages as an alternative to on-site consumption through April 30, 2021. March 29 Through the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID-19 Support Services Program, more than 35,000 households received relief payments, food, transportation to and from testing sites or additional supports to help them isolate or quarantine during the pandemic. The program — which was set to end when all available funds were spent — is winding down this month, which means no new services can be requested. As the program ends, NCDHHS is celebrating its partners and the results of this innovative initiative. Read more. March 25 Governor Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Cohen announced an accelerated timeline for moving to Groups 4 and 5 for vaccine eligibility with the rest of Group 4 eligible on March 31 and all adults eligible beginning April 7. The move will allow the state and vaccine providers to continue to get vaccines into arms quickly and continue to reach underserved and historically marginalized populations. A new public private partnership, Healthier Together: Health Equity Action Network, will enhance the state’s work to deliver equitable access to vaccines, and NCDHHS released a new biweekly equity data report to provide another avenue for transparency. March 23 As North Carolina’s trends continue to show improvement and vaccine distribution increases with 31.7% of North Carolinians over 18 having received at least one dose of vaccine, Governor Roy Cooper announced that the state will continue to ease some COVID-19 restrictions. Executive Order 204 will take effect March 26 at 5 p.m. The state’s general mask mandate remains in effect. NCDHHS expanded its vaccine data dashboard to provide information on people who have been partially or fully vaccinated through the federal long-term care and retail pharmacy programs. Users will be able to view information about who has been vaccinated through these federal pharmacy programs by county, race, ethnicity, gender and age group, and by week. March 17 Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen gave an update on the state’s current data, trends and vaccination progress. Today marked the opening of vaccine eligibility for people who have a medical condition that puts them at higher risk for severe illness or who live in certain congregate settings. In a new PSA released today by NCDHHS, North Carolina NCAA men’s and women’s basketball coaches have come together to urge everyone to take their shot against COVID-19. They talk about why they personally chose to get vaccinated and how that helps to protect others. March 16 North Carolina native and NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty recently received a COVID-19 vaccine. In a public service announcement released by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Petty, 83, shares his reasons for getting vaccinated and urges others to find their spot and take their shot. March 12 NCDHHS is updating its visitation guidance for long-term care facilities to allow for in-person, indoor or outdoor, visitation in most circumstances. The change aligns with new guidance released this week from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and reflects rapidly improving trends in long-term care facilities.In addition to updating its guidance, the department is rescinding Secretarial Order 6: Visitation for Long-term Care Facilities. Read more. March 11 Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen announced beginning on March 17, people in Group 4 who have a medical condition that puts them at higher risk of serious illness and people who live in certain congregate settings will be eligible for vaccination. The rest of Group 4, which includes other essential workers will become eligible April 7. March 9 NCDHHS expanded its vaccine data dashboard to provide more demographic data on people who are partially or fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Users will be able to see vaccinations by race, ethnicity, gender and age group by county, by week and since vaccinations began. March 4 NCDHHS updated the COVID-19 County Alert System, which shows six red counties — a decrease from 27 red counties on the previous Feb. 22 County Alert System and the fewest red counties in the state since the start of the County Alert System. NCDHHS will be expanding access to COVID-19 rapid testing in K-12 public schools to protect students, teachers and staff from COVID-19. When schools implement testing combined with the state’s strong mitigation strategies, they can detect new cases to prevent outbreaks and reduce the risk of further transmission. New COVID-19 cases in North Carolina long-term care facilities have declined rapidly in the last several weeks. Case rates are down over 15-fold in skilled nursing facilities, adult care homes and other licensed facilities since the peak of transmission in January 2021. Given the rapid decline in new cases, most facilities currently meet criteria to resume indoor visitation while continuing to follow infection prevention recommendations. Read more. March 2 Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen announced that additional frontline essential workers in Group 3 will be eligible for vaccinations beginning March 3. The expedited timeline follows the approval of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine and an expected increase in vaccine supply to North Carolina. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes as the federal government has also increased vaccine in North Carolina beyond the state’s allocation. A new federally-supported site will open in Greensboro next week, and Walgreens is providing vaccine through the federal pharmacy program. Gov. Cooper also outlined an expected timeline for beginning Group 4 vaccinations. Beginning on March 24, people at higher risk from COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions will become eligible to receive a vaccine, as well as people in certain congregate-living settings. February 2021 Friday, Feb. 26 Kaiser Family Foundation ranks North Carolina as first in the nation for vaccinating the largest share of its 65 and older population at 49%. This rate does not include those in long-term care facilities. The state has also been recognized for the quality of its data. Bloomberg News scored North Carolina as best in the nation on vaccine race and ethnicity data quality, reporting the data for nearly 100% of people vaccinated in the state. Read more. Governor Roy Cooper announced the establishment of a COVID-19 vaccination center in North Carolina, in partnership with the federal government. The FEMA-supported COVID-19 Community Vaccination Center will open at Four Seasons Town Centre in Greensboro on March 10 and will remain open for eight weeks. It will operate seven days a week with the capacity to provide up to 3,000 vaccinations per day, with options for drive-thru service in the parking lot and walk-in service in the space formerly occupied by Dillard’s department store. Wednesday, Feb. 24 As North Carolina’s numbers continue to show improvement and vaccine distribution increases, Governor Roy Cooper announced that the state will carefully ease some of its COVID-19 restrictions. Executive Order 195 will take effect Feb. 26 at 5 p.m. and will expire March 26 at 5 p.m. Executive Order 195 lifts the Modified Stay at Home Order requiring people to stay at home and businesses to close to the public between 10 pm and 5 am. The number of people who may gather indoors will increase from 10 to 25, while 50 remains the limit for outdoors. The curfew on the sale of alcohol for onsite consumption will be moved from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. A face covering is still required. For more information, read the frequently asked questions. Monday, Feb. 22 NCDHHS updated the COVID-19 County Alert System, which shows 27 red counties — a decrease from 61 red counties on the previous Feb. 4 County Alert System — and the fewest red counties in the state since the start of the County Alert System. Today’s update also lists 40 orange counties and 33 yellow counties — both changes from 33 orange counties and 6 yellow counties on Feb 4. Although North Carolina’s key metrics remain high, they are moving in a positive direction with decreasing trends in numbers of COVID-19 cases reported each day, people being hospitalized with COVID-19, people in the intensive care unit and the percent of tests that are positive. Thursday, Feb. 18 NCDHHS has been notified by the federal government of continued delays in some shipments and deliveries of COVID-19 vaccine this week due to severe weather. Both first and second dose shipments have been impacted. The Department is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and vaccine providers to help minimize the potential effects of these delays. These delays may cause vaccination appointments to be postponed or rescheduled. Read the press release. Wednesday, Feb. 17 NCDHHS in partnership with NC Department of Public Instruction announced it will begin issuing additional benefits on Feb. 19, 2021 through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program. These benefits will be received over several days starting Friday for those who already have an EBT card for Food and Nutrition Services or P-EBT benefits. Thursday, Feb. 11 NCDHHS reported the first identification of the COVID-19 variant B.1.351 in a North Carolina resident. The B.1.351 variant was first detected in South Africa in October and in the United States in January. Viruses change all the time, and NCDHHS expects to see new COVID-19 variants in the state as the pandemic continues. Data suggest this variant may be more contagious than other variants but does not suggest that it causes more severe disease. Current COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be effective against this and other new variants. Wednesday, Feb. 10 Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen outlined a timeline for Group 3 frontline workers becoming eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, beginning with anyone working in child care or in PreK – 12 schools on February 24. Under the timeline outlined today, the state plans to move to additional frontline workers on March 10. Tuesday, Feb. 9 Governor Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Cohen outlined how North Carolina is working to provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. They were joined by Charles Evans, president of the North Carolina Association of Black County Officials and Chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners. Among the strategies that the state is implementing are requiring all vaccine providers to collect race and ethnicity data. The state is also prioritizing a portion of its weekly vaccines to events that focus on underserved communities and allocating a baseline weekly amount of vaccine based on county population to ensure geographic equity with vaccine available in all 100 counties. NCDHHS reported that North Carolina has reached a sobering milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic — more than 10,000 North Carolinians have died from the virus. The state also surpassed 800,000 total cases today. "Together we grieve with the family and friends of the North Carolinians who have lost their lives to this terrible pandemic," said NCDHHS Secretary Cohen. "Each one of these numbers represents a daughter or son, a parent or grandparent, a neighbor or friend — people who are deeply loved and who were part of the fabric of our community" Tuesday, Feb. 2 NCDHHS released new tools to help North Carolinians get their COVID-19 vaccine questions answered and to find vaccine locations in the state. The newly expanded COVID-19 vaccine help center can be reached at 888-675-4567 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The Find a Vaccine Location search tool lets North Carolinians enter their ZIP code or current location to find nearby vaccine providers. The Find a Vaccine Location tool will be updated regularly with the latest available data. Users should contact vaccine providers directly to confirm availability and schedule appointments. Vaccine supplies remain very low, and people eligible to be vaccinated may have to wait for an appointment. North Carolina is currently vaccinating health care workers, long-term care staff and residents, and people 65 and older (Groups 1 and 2). Not all vaccine providers may be ready to vaccinate all eligible groups yet. Find My Vaccine Group, launched last week, walks users through a series of questions to determine which vaccine group they are in. People can then sign up to be notified when their group can get vaccinated. Governor Roy Cooper joined NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt and State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis to thank educators for their extraordinary work during an unprecedented time, to highlight ongoing research that shows that with proper mitigation measures, in-person learning is safe, and to emphasize the critical importance of ensuring all students have an opportunity to learn in a classroom. For more information, read the updated StrongSchools NC Public Health Toolkit and what we are learning about school children and COVID-19. Monday, Feb. 1 North Carolina surpassed the 1 million mark of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered across the state last Friday. This milestone capped a week when the state’s vaccine providers administered more than 99 percent of first doses. Beginning today, the state’s dashboard will be updated every weekday so North Carolinians can track the state’s administration of COVID-19 vaccines. The state’s dashboard is the source for the most accurate and timely information for vaccine data for North Carolina. January 2021 Wednesday, Jan. 27 Gov. Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen announced that North Carolina’s Modified Stay At Home Order, requiring people to be at home from 10 p.m.-5 a.m., will be extended. Face covering requirements and restrictions on individuals gathering in both indoor and outdoor settings are still in place. Executive Order 189 will be in effect through at least Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021 at 5 p.m. The extension of Executive Order 190 allowing for the sale of “to-go” or delivery of mixed beverages will continue to help businesses that are struggling right now. The extension of Executive Order 191 will help families have the ability to stay in their homes, a critical component of slowing the spread of the virus. Read the press release. NCDHHS will continue two programs that help North Carolinians access services such as relief payments, access to primary medical care, diagnostic testing, food and additional supports during the pandemic. The Community Health Worker program supports community health workers in 55 counties to connect North Carolinians with medical and social supports such as diagnostic testing, behavioral health services and education about vaccines. A community health worker is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of the community or who has a close understanding of the community served. This program will continue through June 30. The COVID-19 Support Services program provides assistance such as home-delivered meals and groceries, financial relief payments, COVID-related supplies, transportation to medical or vaccine appointments and medication delivery to individuals in 29 of the 55 counties served by the Community Health Worker program. The Support Services program helps people who need support to be able to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19. This program will continue until available funds have been spent. Tuesday, Jan. 26 NCDHHS expanded its vaccine data dashboard to provide information about vaccine doses promised to and received by the state. Users also will be able to see the percent of doses received that have been administered. Today’s dashboard shows 95% of all first doses have been reported as being administered and 812,586 total doses have been administered. NCDHHS also shared more detailed guidance on the process for allocations for the coming weeks to ensure more transparency and certainty now that the state has largely exhausted the backlog of vaccine supply. Monday, Jan. 25 NCDHHS launched a new online tool to help North Carolinians know when they will be eligible to get their vaccine. Find My Vaccine Group walks users through a series of questions to determine which vaccine group they are in. People can then sign up to be notified when their group can get vaccinated. Read the press release. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released the COVID-19 Community Readiness toolkit to help individuals find mental and behavioral health supports and resources in their communities. The toolkit, COVID-19 Community Readiness: Helping Meet Needs for Persons Living with Behavioral Health Issues, Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities, and Traumatic Brain Injuries, provides resources to the public for a variety of mental health needs, including resources for parents engaging in online-school, family-based needs, resources for those within the I/DD community and others. Saturday, Jan. 23 NCDHHS reported the first identification in a North Carolina resident of the COVID-19 variant called B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the United Kingdom in December. The B.1.1.7 variant was identified in a sample from an adult in Mecklenburg County processed by Mako Medical Laboratories. Read the press release. Thursday, Jan. 21 The NC Department of Transportation and the NC Department of Health and Human Services announced that approximately $2.5 million in Coronavirus Relief Funding is being distributed to local transit agencies across the state to help pay for rides for individuals who need transportation assistance to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. People who need transportation assistance to a COVID-19 vaccine should reach out to their local transit agency. Local transit agencies serve all 100 North Carolina counties. Some vaccine locations are providing the vaccine by appointment only. For a list of vaccine providers by county, visit YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov. Thursday, Jan. 14 NCDHHS announced that vaccine providers that are ready to expand may vaccinate all health care workers and anyone 65 years and older. Because vaccine supplies are currently limited, states must make vaccine available in phases. To save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19, independent state and federal public health advisory committees recommend first protecting health care workers, people who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying, and those at high risk of exposure to COVID-19. North Carolina moves through vaccination phases by aligning to federal priorities while giving local health departments and hospitals the flexibility to move to the next priority group as they complete the previous one and have vaccines available. With today’s announcement, vaccine providers who are ready may vaccinate adults 65 years and older and health care workers, which will be followed by frontline essential workers, then adults with high risk of exposure and increased risk of serious illness, then everyone. NCDHHS is partnering with health systems, local health departments and community health centers across the state to host large community vaccine events for people currently eligible to be vaccinated. More than 45,000 vaccines are expected to be given through these events. Read more. Tuesday, Jan. 12 Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen provided an update on vaccines for COVID-19. Helping local health departments, hospitals, and other health care providers get vaccines in arms as quickly and equitably as possible remains the top priority. The state is continuing to see a steady increase in vaccination rates, which we expect to continue. There was a 113% percent increase in vaccinations over the past 7 days compared to the week before. More than 100,000 doses were given in just the past 7 days. Wednesday, Jan. 6 Governor Cooper extended North Carolina’s Modified Stay At Home Order that requires people to be at home from 10 p.m.-5 a.m. to last through at least Friday, Jan. 29. NCDHHS issued a Secretarial Directive telling North Carolinians to stay home except for essential activities and avoid gathering, especially indoors, with people who do not live with you. The directive comes as the state reports 84 counties as red in the COVID-19 County Alert System released today, meaning most of the state has critical levels of viral spread. North Carolina also has experienced record high numbers on key metrics in recent weeks, including its highest number since the start of the pandemic of cases reported each day, the percent of tests that are positive and people hospitalized with COVID-19. Tuesday, Jan. 5 NCDHHS announced that Food and Nutrition Services recipients will see a temporary increase in the amount of benefits they receive. This increase is part of the federal Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020. Read more. December 2020 Wednesday, Dec. 23 To notify people as quickly as possible if they have tested positive for or been exposed to someone with COVID-19, NCDHHS in cooperation with Local Health Departments, is expanding how it contacts people. Starting this week, all residents who have provided cell phone or email addresses will receive an automatic text or email message to connect people to follow-up resources and supports. Read more. Governor Cooper shared that Santa Claus is exempt from the Modified Stay at Home Order and will be able to carry out his delivery duties on Christmas Eve: “It’s important that we all follow the Modified Stay At Home order this year to be home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., but after being assured of his safety measures, Santa will receive a special exemption to carry out his job on Christmas Eve,” said Governor Cooper. “Santa will wear a mask to protect the families in our state, so make sure you do your part and wear a mask, too.” Watch Governor Cooper's video message. Tuesday, Dec. 22 NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen shared updates on the COVID-19 County Alert System, warning that more than 90 percent of North Carolina counties are now designated as red or orange. The County Alert System uses COVID-19 case rates, the percent of tests that are positive and hospital impact within the county to categorize counties into the following tiers: yellow (significant community spread), orange (substantial community spread) and red (critical community spread). NCDHHS added data on people vaccinated to the NC COVID-19 Dashboard. Data will be provided for the total number of people statewide and by county of residence who have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Data for people who have received the second dose of the vaccine will be added in January. Today’s dashboard reflects data through Tuesday, December 22 at 8 a.m. It shows less than a week of data for the state. Most hospitals in North Carolina did not receive their first shipment from Pfizer until Thursday, December 17 and continued ramping up vaccine administration through the weekend. There can be a 72-hour lag in data reported to state. Additional data reported after 8:00 a.m. December 22 will be reflected in the next dashboard update on December 29. NC is currently providing vaccinations to individuals in Phase 1a: Health care workers fighting COVID-19 & Long-Term Care staff and residents. Monday, Dec. 21 Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen visited Duke University School of Medicine to see Duke Health frontline workers receive the COVID-19 vaccine. After months of caring for COVID-19 patients, these health care workers began receiving the vaccine last week. Read more about the state’s vaccine plan. Friday, Dec. 18 NCDHHS reported the state’s highest one-day number of COVID-19 cases with 8,444 new cases reported Friday, doubling a record day reported just one month ago on Nov. 19 when the state reported 4,296 new cases. People who have been recently diagnosed with COVID-19, have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been around a person with COVID-19, should not host or participate in any in-person gatherings until they complete their isolation or quarantine period. For a full list of guidance about traveling and gathering during the holidays, along with a chart outlining low, medium and high-risk activities, see the NCDHHS Interim Guidance for Winter Holidays. Thursday, Dec. 17 NCDHHS has selected 17 school districts and 11 charter schools to participate in a pilot program to deploy COVID-19 rapid testing in K-12 public schools where any in-person instruction is happening. Read more. Tuesday, Dec. 15 NCDHHS will offer more than 300 no-cost, walk-up or drive through COVID-19 testing events over the next two weeks to help North Carolinians protect themselves and their loved ones during the holidays. This includes testing in partnership with new retailers in seven counties across the state. In addition to existing testing events throughout North Carolina, retailers in Buncombe, Durham, Harnett, Iredell, Lee, Mecklenburg and Wake counties are offering testing Dec. 18-20 and Dec. 26-27 in the parking lots of select Agri Supply, Carlie C’s IGA, Home Depot, Piggly Wiggly and Wegman’s stores. Starting today, North Carolina Food and Nutrition Services participants will be able to purchase groceries online using their Electronic Benefit Transfer cards at an additional authorized online EBT retailer, ALDI. This flexibility will allow participants to buy food while promoting social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and will help families with transportation and mobility barriers. Friday, Dec. 11 The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released the following statement from NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "Having more than 7,500 cases is staggering and alarming. We are now seeing the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings. Do not wait until it is you or your loved one sick or alone in the hospital or you are facing the loss of a loved one to wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash your hands often. Act now. Please ask yourself what you can do to help slow the spread of this virus and save lives. I want to remind everyone that our Modified Stay at Home Order goes into effect tonight. This order requires people to stay at home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Businesses including restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, personal care businesses, most retail stores and more, will be required to close by 10 p.m. In addition, all onsite alcohol consumption sales must end by 9 p.m." Thursday, Dec. 10 A no-cost COVID-19 testing and food distribution event is being held Dec. 12 from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. at the Global Scholars Academy located at 311 Dowd St. in Durham. The event is being sponsored by Union Baptist Church and The Episcopal Church El Buen Pastor, both located in Durham. Registration for the event is preferred but not required. You can register for the Global Scholars Academy Community Testing Event over the phone by calling 984-222-8000 and choosing option 2. For Spanish, call 984-664-4132. If you are prompted to leave a voicemail, please provide your name, date of birth and contact information and you will be automatically registered for the event. Tuesday, Dec. 8 Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen announced that North Carolina will begin a Modified Stay at Home Order after a rapid increase in North Carolina’s key COVID-19 trends. Executive Order 181, which requires people to stay at home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., takes effect Friday, December 11 and will be in place until at least January 8, 2021. The Order requires restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, personal care businesses and more to close at 10 pm. Travel to and from work; to obtain food, medical care, fuel or social services; or to take care of a family member is exempted. Read more in the Frequently Asked Questions. Secretary Cohen also provided an update on North Carolina’s COVID-19 County Alert System. The number of red counties (critical community spread) has more than doubled since November 23, up to 48 red counties from 20 red counties. There are now 34 orange counties (substantial community spread), as compared to 42 orange counties from the previous report. With today’s report, more than 80 percent of the state’s counties fall into the red or orange tier. Saturday, Dec. 5 As cases continue to rise in North Carolina, NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen released the following statement: "In less than a week, we went from exceeding 5,000 new cases reported in one day to exceeding 6,000. This is very worrisome. We are seeing our highest rates of tests that come back positive despite the fact we are doing a lot of testing. This indicates we have even more viral spread across our state right now. We have record numbers of hospitalizations and people in the ICU. I am asking each North Carolinian to take personal responsibility for their actions and slowing the spread of this virus. Always wear a mask when with people you don’t live with, keep your distance from other people and wash your hands often. We are looking at what further actions we can take as a state to protect North Carolinians and save lives." Friday, Dec. 4 The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is launching a pilot program to deploy COVID-19 testing in K-12 public schools to quickly identify students and staff who may have the virus to help slow its spread. Local education agencies including public school districts, charter school networks or individual charter schools currently offering any in-person instruction — either Plan A or Plan B — are eligible to apply. Selected pilot sites will receive federally funded rapid antigen tests to be used for students and staff with COVID-19 symptoms or who are close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Tuesday, Dec. 1 Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen provided an update on COVID-19, including the news that safe, effective vaccines should be available soon. The state is working hard to hit the ground running when these vaccines are approved and shipped. The COVID-19 vaccine will be free regardless of whether someone has health insurance. Health care providers are being enrolled in the vaccination program based on the ability to reach priority populations. Trusted providers like hospitals will be among the first to vaccinate people. Initially, this very limited supply of vaccines will go to a small number of hospitals to vaccinate health care workers at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 – those who are caring for or cleaning areas used by patients with COVID-19. As more vaccine becomes available, the state will be able to have vaccine distributed to more of the state’s hospitals and to our local health departments to focus on vaccinating our high-risk health care workers. Additionally, long-term care staff and residents are prioritized to receive vaccines. Vaccinations at our nursing homes, adult care homes and other long-term care settings are being managed by the federal government. However, the vaccines used in long-term care will come from our state’s allotment. We hope by January that health departments and community health centers will start vaccinating other high-risk adults who are high risk for complications, meaning they have two or more chronic conditions, and who are at higher risk for exposure. Having a safe vaccine within reach is an extraordinary achievement, but it is not a quick fix. It will take several months to have enough supplies that anyone can readily get a vaccine. Until most people are vaccinated, it is imperative to keep practicing the 3Ws. November 2020 Monday, Nov. 30 NCDHHS announced it will issue an automated payment to thousands of eligible households to help with winter heating expenses via the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program. The automated payment will be issued beginning Dec. 1 and is designed to help eligible seniors and people with disabilities access winter heating assistance in a safe and socially distanced manner during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wednesday, Nov. 25 As North Carolina continues to see high numbers of COVID-19 cases across the state, NCDHHS urges caution when gathering for Thanksgiving and other holiday celebrations, especially for gatherings that include people who are at a higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19, such as anyone over the age of 65. Monday, Nov. 23 Governor Roy Cooper issued additional COVID-19 safety measures to tighten mask requirements and enforcement as cases continue to rise rapidly in North Carolina and across the country. Executive Order 180 goes into effect on Wednesday, November 25 and runs through Friday, December 11. The order tightens the existing statewide mask requirement – making it clear that everyone needs to wear a mask whenever they are with someone who is not from the same household. The Order also adds the mask requirement to several additional settings including any public indoor space even when maintaining 6 feet of distance; gyms even when exercising; all schools public and private; and all public or private transportation when traveling with people outside of the household. The Order also requires large retail businesses with more than 15,000 square feet to have an employee stationed near entrances ensuring mask wearing and implementing occupancy limits for patrons who enter. Read the FAQs. Friday, Nov. 20 The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today further expanded the demographic data for North Carolina COVID-19 cases on the NC COVID-19 Dashboard. Demographic data for COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents and total deaths by week are available by age group, gender, race and ethnicity for the state. In addition, demographic data on deaths is available by county. Thursday, Nov. 19 NCDHHS reported the state’s highest one-day number of COVID-19 cases with 4,296 new cases reported. The record-high day follows several days of increasing trends in new cases, the percent of tests that are positive and hospitalizations. The weekly COVID-19 Surveillance Summary report released today on the number of people visiting the emergency department with COVID-like illness also showed an increase. Read more. Tuesday, Nov. 17 Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen announced a new COVID-19 County Alert System report to pinpoint counties with the highest levels of viral spread and offer specific recommendations to bring numbers down. This system will help give local leaders another tool to understand how their county is faring and to make decisions about actions to slow viral spread. The map will be updated every four weeks. Read more. North Carolina communities hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic will have access to $5 million in grants to help address food insecurity needs, Governor Roy Cooper announced. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities is partnering with Livingstone College to execute a community-based program to provide critical resources to vulnerable populations impacted by the pandemic. Friday, Nov. 13 NCDHHS expanded the demographic data for NC COVID-19 cases and added new filtering functions to the NC COVID-19 Dashboard. Demographic data for COVID-19 total cases are available by age group, gender, race and ethnicity and can be filtered by county. The information will be displayed on a new Case Demographics Page on the dashboard. Thursday, Nov. 12 Governor Roy Cooper announced that the state is providing COVID-19 tests to colleges and universities across North Carolina to help bolster schools’ student testing efforts in advance of Thanksgiving and holiday break. Read the press release. Since September, new COVID-19 cases have been increasing faster in rural counties, according to a new report by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Read the press release. Wednesday, Nov. 11 The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting the state’s highest one day number of COVID-19 cases with 3,119 cases reported. Other key metrics also increased with hospitalizations at 1,246 and the percent of tests that were positive climbing to 7.9 percent. Read the press release. Tuesday, Nov. 10 Governor Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina’s indoor mass gathering limit will be lowered to 10 people in an effort to drive down North Carolina’s key COVID-19 metrics. Executive Order 176 will go into effect on Friday, November 13 and will be in place through Friday, December 4. The Order does not change the reduced capacity limits for certain businesses that have already been laid out. For more on this, read the Frequently Asked Questions. Monday, Nov. 9 NCDHHS released new guidance for Thanksgiving celebrations and Black Friday shopping to help North Carolinians gauge the risks, protect their friends and loved ones, and slow the spread of COVID-19. Because North Carolina is experiencing high numbers of COVID-19 cases across the state, NCDHHS urges caution when gathering for Thanksgiving and other holiday celebrations, especially for gatherings that include people who are at a higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19, such as anyone over the age of 65. During Black Friday shopping, it is strongly recommended individuals do not participate in any traditional Black Friday shopping where customers gather in large groups waiting for the store to open or are in crowded stores for extended times. Read more. Friday, Nov. 6 The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced the launch of NC Medicaid’s managed care enrollment website, www.ncmedicaidplans.gov, in preparation for the launch of Medicaid Managed Care scheduled for July 1, 2021. Read more. October 2020 Friday, Oct. 30 NCDHHS partnered with four Latin American sports figures to increase awareness of wearing a mask to slow the spread of COVID-19. Starting today, North Carolina Food and Nutrition Services participants will be able to purchase groceries online using their Electronic Benefit Transfer cards at an additional authorized online EBT retailer, Carlie C’s. This flexibility will allow participants to buy food while also promoting social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and helping families with transportation and mobility barriers. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today launched an online portal for primary care providers to request reimbursement for COVID-19 related costs for individuals without insurance. Read the press release. Wednesday, Oct. 28 Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order 171 to strengthen eviction protections to help North Carolina renters stay in their homes. With COVID-19 case counts increasing and many people continuing to work and learn remotely, preventing evictions is critical to the state’s fight against this virus. This order supplements the existing NC HOPE initiative started two weeks ago that pays landlords and utilities directly to keep people in their homes with the lights on. As North Carolinians look towards the holidays and begin to plan celebratory gatherings, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services launches a new advertisement as part of the statewide "Whatever Your Reason" campaign. This newest television commercial reminds everyone the decision to wear a mask is not about “who you know, or how well you know them.” Wednesday, Oct. 21 Governor Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina will remain paused in Phase 3 for three more weeks as health officials continue to monitor North Carolina’s viral trends. North Carolina has seen increased hospitalizations and trajectory of cases in recent weeks. Governor Cooper underscored the importance of wearing masks, social distancing, and using good judgment despite fatigue or frustration with the pandemic. With North Carolina’s COVID-19 trends moving in the wrong direction, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the NC Department of Public Safety sent a letter to local leaders asking them to help slow the spread of the virus by promoting the 3 Ws and considering local actions to improve compliance with executive orders. Read the press release. In the past two weeks, North Carolina has seen an increase in COVID-19 clusters from social events and other gatherings such as parties, family gatherings, weddings and funerals according to a new weekly report the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services added to the NC COVID-19 Dashboard. The department has also released new guidance for private gatherings. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Division of Health Benefits (NC Medicaid) is extending temporary provider rate increases related to COVID-19 through the end of the federal COVID-19 public health emergency, which goes through Jan. 21, 2021. Read the press release. Tuesday, Oct. 20 The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today added demographic data for hospitalizations to the NC COVID-19 Hospitalizations Demographics Dashboard. Data is provided by age, gender, race and ethnicity for patients who were newly admitted to the hospital and confirmed or suspected to be positive for COVID-19 at the time of admission. The data provides further insight into the different demographic groups being hospitalized due to COVID-19. All North Carolina teachers and parents are invited to attend a free virtual conference on October 28 to help them navigate technology and remote learning. The REAL 2.0 (Remote Education & Learning) Conference is hosted by the North Carolina Business Committee for Education (NCBCE), a business-led, education nonprofit housed in the Governor’s Office. It will build upon the initial REAL Conference attended by more than 1,300 educators in August to learn about best practices for remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Educators from across the state are serving as content advisers for REAL 2.0. Sessions for parents will be available in both English and Spanish, and all sessions will include closed captioning. Friday, Oct. 16 North Carolina submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention its COVID-19 Vaccination Plan. North Carolina’s vaccine plan reflects five principles that guide the planning for and distribution of one or more COVID-19 vaccines in the state. The principles include: All North Carolinians have equitable access to vaccines. Vaccine planning and distribution is inclusive; actively engages state and local government, public and private partners; and draws upon the experience and expertise of leaders from historically marginalized populations. Transparent, accurate and frequent public communications is essential to building trust. Data is used to promote equity, track progress and guide decision-making. Appropriate stewardship of resources and continuous evaluation and improvement drive successful implementation. Thursday, Oct. 15 NCDHHS provided guidelines for voters and local polling locations to help protect the health of North Carolinians during the voting process. In addition, NCDHHS and the NC Department of Public Safety Division of Emergency Management provided personal protective equipment to local election boards and locations. North Carolina residents who plan to vote in-person should wear a face mask and keep it on throughout the voting process, stay 6 feet apart from others while at the polling location, and wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after voting. Governor Roy Cooper announced that applications are now being accepted for the N.C. Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions (HOPE) Program, which will assist eligible low- and- moderate-income renters experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. The new program seeks to promote housing stability during the ongoing pandemic by providing rent and utility assistance to prevent evictions and utility disconnections. Wednesday, Oct. 14 North Carolina has upcoming testing events scheduled in Alamance, Brunswick, Cabarrus, Chatham, Chowan, Cumberland, Davidson, Duplin, Durham, Edgecombe, Forsyth, Gaston, Gates, Greene, Guilford, Hoke, Iredell, Lee, Lenoir, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Moore, New Hanover, Onslow, Orange, Randolph, Rowan, Sampson, Stanly, Wake, Warren and Wayne counties. For an up-to-date list of events, visit the Community Testing Events webpage. Many events offer testing at no cost. For more details about a specific event, call ahead before you go for a test. Tuesday, Oct. 13 State leaders from the NC Department of Health and Human Services' Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services (DMHDDSAS) are partnering with UNC-TV and the Governor’s Institute to host several virtual town hall meetings during October and November to listen to the concerns and experiences of consumers, family members and advocates of the state’s MH/DD/SAS services and system. Each virtual town hall can be accessed via Facebook live on the NC Governor’s Institute Facebook Live page, and the next event will be Oct. 15 at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8 State leaders from the NC Department of Health and Human Services' Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services (DMHDDSAS) are partnering with UNC-TV and the Governor’s Institute to host several virtual town hall meetings during October and November to listen to the concerns and experiences of consumers, family members and advocates of the state’s MH/DD/SAS services and system. Read more for dates and additional details. Wednesday, Oct. 7 More than 100,000 people have downloaded SlowCOVIDNC, the official exposure notification app of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. SlowCOVIDNC alerts users when they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The app relies on users to anonymously submit their positive result to notify others. It is free, completely anonymous and does not collect, store or share personal information or location data. Read more. NCDHHS will launch its new electronic system to streamline the process for creating death records with a staggered rollout beginning on October 19 in eight counties (Buncombe, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Johnston, Mecklenburg, Orange and Wake counties). Statewide implementation is anticipated by June 2021. Tuesday, Oct. 6 Governor Roy Cooper announced that NCDHHS is providing $35 million in operational grants from federal Coronavirus Relief Funds to help child care programs providing in-person child care during the COVID-19 pandemic. From April through July, NCDHHS has provided over $80 million in monthly operational grants for child care programs that served over 105,000 children statewide throughout the pandemic. The grants will be awarded to licensed child care providers operating in-person during the months of August through October 2020 to help offset the significant financial strains due to the additional expenses to meet health and safety guidelines, while experiencing reduced revenues from lower enrollment. Providers have the flexibility to use these grants to meet their unique individual business and operational needs. Monday, Oct. 5 The North Carolina Institute of Medicine is convening a NC COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee to provide feedback to NCDHHS on its COVID-19 Vaccination Plan. The Advisory Committee is comprised of stakeholders including public health experts, health care providers, advocacy organization leaders, and representatives of essential workers and at-risk populations. Read more. Friday, Oct. 2 The U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended essential flexibilities for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to ensure participants continue to receive the food and health support they need throughout the COVID-19 national public health emergency. Extending these waivers allows nutritionally at-risk mothers, babies and children to use their benefits in a safe manner and enables the WIC program to operate based on local conditions throughout the pandemic. Read more. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services updated its COVID-19 guidance for places of worship and shared a toolkit to support faith leaders in slowing the spread of the virus. The toolkit is available in English and Spanish. It includes talking points, sample language for websites and newsletters, social media posts, flyers, information to host a community testing event and to request Personal Protective Equipment and FAQs. Thursday, Oct. 1 NCDHHS partnered with United Providers of Health to address unmet health care needs of historically marginalized communities. A new $7 million statewide effort will support NCDHHS' COVID-19 response by providing preventative health care services, connections to mental health supports and help securing non-medical drivers of health like food and housing. Read more. September 2020 Wednesday, Sept. 30 North Carolina will move to Phase 3, easing some restrictions while continuing safety measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. Executive Order 169 begins Oct. 2 at 5 p.m. and continues for three weeks through October 23. Tuesday, Sept. 29 NCDHHS announced a milestone in the use of telehealth and telephonic visits by NC Medicaid enrollees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since establishing telehealth flexibility policies in early March, NC Medicaid has processed claims for approximately more than 1.1 million telehealth and 350,000 telephonic visits. North Carolina has distributed over $2.6 billion in coronavirus relief funds as of September 21 and continues to work to administer remaining funds in coordination with federal requirements. In May 2020, Governor Cooper established the NC Pandemic Recovery Office (NCPRO) to oversee and coordinate the fiscal response to the COVID-19 pandemic. NC PRO is responsible for overseeing the distribution of the $3.5 billion ($3,585,391,176.20) in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) from the U.S. Treasury to provide support to state agencies, local governments, nonprofits, hospitals, educational institutions, and research organizations. Monday, Sept. 28 As North Carolina’s key metrics continue to remain stable and strong infection prevention and control requirements remain in place, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services issued a Secretarial Order updating visitation guidelines for nursing homes to allow indoor visitation. Read the press release. Friday, Sept. 25 NCDHHS is adding information about antigen testing to the COVID-19 NC Dashboard, including positive COVID-19 cases and deaths diagnosed with an antigen test and the number of antigen tests completed daily. For more information, read the press release and the FAQs. NCDHHS announced it will provide additional benefits through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program to help families purchase food for children whose access to free and reduced-priced meals at school has been impacted by remote learning this fall due to COVID-19. The program provides a benefit on an EBT card that can be used to buy food at authorized retailers, including most major grocery stores. In the P-EBT program this fall, children are eligible if they had access to free or reduced-priced meals at school last year, their school district or charter school is eligible to provide free or reduce-priced meals at school this year, and their school district or charter school utilized remote learning for all students for at least five consecutive school days between Aug. 17 and Sept. 30. Thursday, Sept. 24 A day after announcing the launch of SlowCOVIDNC, more than 50,000 people had downloaded the app. SlowCOVIDNC, the official exposure notification of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, alerts North Carolinians when they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. It is completely anonymous and does not collect, store or share personal information or location data. Wednesday, Sept. 23 NC Medicaid beneficiaries on the NC Innovations Waiver who are attending school virtually due to the COVID-19 public health emergency can now receive waiver support during remote learning. NCDHHS requested a waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to allow individuals to access Innovations Waiver respite during remote learning hours. Other services are still accessible outside of school or remote learning hours. Read the press release. Tuesday, Sept. 22 NCDHHS launched a COVID-19 Exposure Notification app called ‘SlowCOVIDNC’. The app will help North Carolinians slow the spread of the virus by alerting them when they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. It is completely anonymous and does not collect, store or share personal information or location data. SlowCOVIDNC, which leverages Google and Apple’s Exposure Notification System (ENS), alerts users who have the app if they have been in close contact with an individual who later tests positive for COVID-19. It is voluntary to download and use and designed to enhance the state’s existing contact tracing efforts. The app can be downloaded for free through the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. Governor Cooper and DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced that effective October 2, large outdoor venues would be permitted to open at 7 percent capacity with key safety precautions in place. The announcement was made today during the COVID-19 briefing so these locations could begin putting safety measures in place in order to operate. Large entertainment venues are those that can seat over 10,000. Monday, Sept. 21 The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is launching advertisements in community-based print and online publications to amplify the “Whatever Your Reason” statewide public campaign and urge North Carolinians to “Get Behind the Mask.” NCDHHS has secured print advertisements in 21 of the state’s leading community-based print and online publications across the state, with an intentional focus on reaching historically marginalized communities most impacted by the pandemic. Thursday, Sept. 17 After several weeks of stable COVID-19 trends and continued low virus spread in school settings, Governor Roy Cooper announced that beginning on October 5, North Carolina public school districts and charter schools can choose to implement Plan A for elementary schools (grades K-5). Plan A continues to include important safety measures like face coverings for all students, teachers and staff, social distancing, and symptom screening, but does not require schools to reduce the number of children in the classroom. Tuesday, Sept. 15 The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced its selection of an additional vendor, Optum Serve, to continue surging COVID-19 testing capacity in the state. These new community testing sites build on North Carolina’s ongoing work to increase access to testing and slow viral spread in key locations, including the previously-announced surge of additional testing capacity in seven counties. Monday, Sept. 14 Health officials with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services are urging North Carolina residents to protect themselves, their families and those around them by getting vaccinated against Influenza as the state enters flu season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “This year, with COVID-19 still spreading in our communities, it’s critically important to get your flu vaccine,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “Flu can be a serious, sometimes deadly, disease. It is important to get vaccinated against the flu to keep you and your family healthy.” Read the press release. Wednesday, Sept. 9 Governor Roy Cooper announced nearly $40 million in funding for NC Student Connect, a new partnership created to address internet connectivity gaps that are a barrier to remote learning for many North Carolina students. When school resumed in August, superintendents estimated that at least 100,000 students still lacked a reliable internet connection at home. Governor Roy Cooper and DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen met with Dr. Deborah Birx in North Carolina. The Governor and Dr. Birx also participated together in the call with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and the governor spoke about the need for our elected leaders and candidates to lead by example on the campaign trail this fall by holding events with face coverings and social distancing. Friday, Sept. 4 NCDHHS is developing a COVID-19 Exposure Notification app called ‘SlowCOVIDNC’ that will launch across the state in September 2020. The app will help North Carolinians slow the spread of the virus by alerting them when they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Thursday, Sept. 3 The Whatever Your Reason (Cualquiera que sea tu razón) campaign, a new statewide public campaign to encourage every North Carolinian to wear a mask in our collective fight against COVID-19, is being launched today by NCDHHS. This distinctly North Carolina campaign features real North Carolina people and places and focuses on the personal reasons North Carolinians across the state are choosing, every day, to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Materials are available in English and Spanish. Wednesday, Sept. 2 NCDHHS launched the NC Medicaid Optional COVID-19 Testing program, which will reimburse Medicaid providers for costs associated with COVID-19 testing of people without insurance. The reimbursement program will continue during the duration of the COVID-19 federal declaration of emergency. The NCDHHS website offers resources for individuals and health care providers interested in learning more about or participating in the program Tuesday, Sept. 1 Governor Roy Cooper announced a careful step forward, moving North Carolina into “Safer At Home Phase 2.5" restrictions, beginning 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4. View Executive Order 163 View FAQs about Safer At Home Phase 2.5 August 2020 Monday, Aug. 31 In an effort to continue slowing the spread of COVID-19, Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order 162 to extend the limited hours on the sale of alcoholic drinks in North Carolina. As the state continues to fight the spread of COVID-19, the Order requires restaurants to end the sale of alcoholic beverages at 11 pm. This Order will remain in effect through October 2, 2020. Saturday, Aug. 29 The total new lab-confirmed cases on the NCDHHS COVID-19 Data Dashboard for Aug. 29 reflected an increase caused, in part, by approximately 1,000 positive tests from dates in the first half of the month that were reported to NCDHHS by LabCorp in the past 24 hours. The Department is working with LabCorp to understand the cause of the delayed reporting; however, LabCorp confirmed that individuals were not delayed in receiving their results. Thursday, Aug. 27 Governor Roy Cooper shared a recommended budget, Support for a Determined North Carolina, which outlines how to use the state’s remaining federal coronavirus funding and make responsible investments in the state’s future. Wednesday, Aug. 26 NCDHHS has added new data to the COVID-19 Data Dashboard – average turnaround time for COVID-19 testing. Located on the Dashboard's Testing page, the graph shows the average daily turnaround time based on data from all laboratories that report electronically to NCDHHS. Individual laboratories may have shorter or longer turnaround times and, therefore, people’s individual experiences may vary. Tuesday, Aug. 25 NCDHHS released a Partner COVID-19 Testing Toolkit designed for organizations seeking to host community testing events. The comprehensive toolkit comes in response to widespread interest among North Carolina organizations such as community-based organizations, churches and nonprofits. The toolkit is available in English and Spanish. NCDHHS awarded four contracts to regional organizations to administer its new COVID-19 Support Services program. The program will support North Carolinians in 20 targeted counties who are asked to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19 and need assistance such as food, relief payments, or access to primary medical care. Governor Roy Cooper announced $175 million to help North Carolinians with rental and utility payment support in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Monday, Aug. 24 NCDHHS launched the "¡Recuerda las 3Ms!” (Know your 3Ms) campaign as part of a larger public outreach campaign designed to reach historically marginalized populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. This campaign, which will run in parallel with the “Know Your 3Ws!” English-language campaign, is designed to increase awareness of preventative measures for Spanish-speaking North Carolinians. The 3Ms campaign, originating in Spanish and created by native Spanish speakers, is an authentic and memorable interpretation of the three key steps to prevention, known in English as: Wear. Wait. Wash. Friday, Aug. 21 NCDHHS updated guidance for institutions of higher education, further emphasizing that colleges and universities must work to reduce risk of viral spread of COVID-19 both on and off campus. In compliance with existing Executive Orders, colleges and universities should be requiring and enforcing that students and staff wear cloth masks that cover the mouth and nose and limit social gatherings — whether students are on campus or off campus. The guidance also recommends limiting on-campus housing, closing communal dining settings and implementing procedures to isolate and quarantine cases appropriately to slow the spread of the virus. Thursday, Aug. 20 People living and working in 11 rural counties will get expanded high-speed internet service thanks to more than $12 million in grants awarded by Governor Roy Cooper’s administration. Governor Cooper, along with the NC Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) and its Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO), announced the award of the 2019-2020 Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) grant and COVID-19 Recovery Act funding. Wednesday, Aug. 19 NCDHHS announced its selection of an additional vendor — StarMed Urgent and Family Care, P.A. — based in North Carolina, to continue surging COVID-19 testing capacity in the state. The new sites will be located in seven counties: Forsyth, Guilford, Iredell, Mecklenburg, Onslow, Orange and Randolph counties. NCDHHS selected locations for the additional testing sites based on epidemiological trends and reports from local health departments. Monday, Aug. 17 Returning to school looks different this year. If your child is returning to in-person learning, know what to expect and how to prepare yourself and your children. Read more in English and in Spanish. With schools opening in-person and remotely across the state under new health and safety procedures, NCDHHS is expanding the Hope4Healers Helpline (919-226-2002) to serve NC’s teachers, school personnel and their families. Hope4Healers can provide mental health and resilience supports, and is available 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. When teachers, school personnel or family members call the helpline, they will speak to someone who is trained to listen and offer support. Friday, Aug. 14 NCDHHS is encouraging North Carolinians who are enrolled in the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to use their food benefits during COVID-19 to support good nutrition for their families. All WIC participants are getting monthly food benefits automatically added to their eWIC account because of the pandemic. Thursday, Aug. 13 NC is making progress and while that is encouraging we have to keep working to fight the disease, make our schools strong and rebuild our economy. Staying safe and halting virus spread must continue to be a top priority. The Department of Public Safety is sharing direction to law enforcement across the state and on our college campuses about the importance of enforcing the face mask order and limits on large gatherings. It's important for the health and safety of our communities that we all do our part. Governor Cooper announced that NC Department of Commerce is accepting applications for a program to help businesses and nonprofits that have seen a dip in services due to COVID-19 keep employees on payroll. Applications are due Sept. 1. Wednesday, Aug. 12 NCDHHS announced corrections to the state’s daily and cumulative completed COVID-19 test counts after discovering a discrepancy between electronic and manual reporting of testing data that had been submitted by LabCorp. The LabCorp data error resulted in a higher count of total COVID-19 tests performed. The reporting error does NOT affect the key COVID-19 NC Dashboard trends North Carolina uses to monitor this pandemic, including the number of new positive cases and percent of tests that are positive. This error did not impact reporting of results to patients or doctors. Read the press release. Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order 156 extending, but not waiving, proof-of-immunization and health assessment documentation deadlines for school and child-care facilities. With health care visits limited in some cases due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the order will give students and families more time to get their required vaccines and health assessments completed. Read the press release. Tuesday, Aug. 11 The North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Management and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced a new, expedited reimbursement program that aims to expand non-congregate sheltering options in communities across the state. The new funding option allows local jurisdictions, agencies and community organizations to receive expedited reimbursements from NCEM for all eligible costs for non-congregate sheltering operations and associated wrap-around services (e.g., food, security, cleaning, transportation). Applicants will be considered regardless of whether they currently operate a non-congregate sheltering program. Families and caregivers in need of child care for children up to age 12 can call the child care hotline at 1-888-600-1685 to be connected directly to care options in their community that meet their families’ needs. NCDHHS received its first reported case of a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 positive dog in North Carolina. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. Review resources and guidance for pet owners. Monday, Aug. 10 NCDHHS is seeking regional partners to administer the COVID-19 Support Services Program for individuals who need support if they need to quarantine or isolate. Applications are due August 14 by 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7 NCDHHS announced its selection of seven vendors to hire and manage over 250 Community Health Workers, who will be deployed in 50 targeted counties to connect North Carolinians affected by COVID-19 with needed services and support. NCDHHS today took additional steps to protect nursing home residents and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic by issuing a Secretarial Order requiring biweekly staff testing and announcing continued state funding for staff testing through November. The order mandates the existing recommendation for biweekly testing. Thursday, Aug. 6 NCDHHS and NC Emergency Management have distributed 3.5 million cloth face coverings, 4.5 million procedure masks, and significant amounts of additional personal protective equipment (PPE) to targeted settings. The ongoing PPE shipments support operations including schools, nursing homes, first responders, agricultural facilities, child care facilities and courthouses. Read more. Wednesday, Aug. 5 Governor Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina will remain paused in Safer At Home Phase 2 for another five weeks as students and staff return to schools, colleges and universities. About the extension, NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said, "While overall we are seeing signs of stability, we still have much work to do. Our recent trends show us what is possible when we commit to slowing the spread by wearing face coverings and following those simple but powerful 3Ws." Read the press release. Tuesday, Aug. 4 As cleanup from Hurricane Isaias continues, don’t forget that the pandemic is still with us. Help your neighbor, but do it safely. Wear your mask, keep your distance and bring your hand sanitizer. NCDHHS has upcoming community testing events throughout the state. For an up-to-date list of events, visit the Community Testing Events webpage. NCDHHS events are listed under the name of their coordinating vendor, NCCHCA, Orig3n or Vidant Health. Monday, Aug. 3 Due to Tropical Storm Isaias, some community testing events are being canceled or hours are being changed. Please contact the testing site before arrival to ensure that the site is open. July 2020 Thursday, July 30 If you are experiencing depression, anxiety or stress, you don’t have to go through it alone. There are resources available. Visit ncdhhs.gov/hope4nc for more, including getting the SCOOP on managing stress: S - Stay connected to family and friends C - Compassion for yourself and others O - Observe your use of substances O - Ok to ask for help P - Physical activity to improve your mood Wednesday, July 29 The NCDHHS, DPH Nutrition Services Branch announces its annual participation in the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), ensuring children and adults continue to have access to good nutrition. NCDHHS is committed to providing nutritious food especially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and USDA flexibilities are in place to facilitate meeting participants’ needs during this challenging time. Tuesday, July 28 With actions to slow the spread of COVID-19 beginning to have impact, Governor Cooper issued Executive Order 153, stopping the sale of alcoholic drinks in restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries at 11 pm. North Carolina bars that are currently closed will remain closed. This order will take effect Friday, July 31. The order will not apply to grocery stores, convenience stores or other entities permitted to sell alcohol for off-premises consumption. Local governments that have implemented orders that end alcohol sales before 11 p.m. or that apply to other entities remain in effect. Read the press release. Monday, July 27 NCDHHS has dozens of upcoming community testing events scheduled in Bladen, Duplin, Johnston, Edgecombe, Henderson, Hertford, Northampton, Randolph, Robeson, Sampson and Warren counties as part of the initiative to increase access to free COVID-19 testing for African American, LatinX/Hispanic and American Indian communities that currently have limited testing sites. So far, nearly 130 testing events have been coordinated through this initiative. There is no cost for testing. For an up-to-date list of events, visit the Community Testing Events page of the NCDHHS COVID-19 website. NCDHHS testing events are listed under the name of their coordinating vendor: NCCHCA, Orig3n, Inc or Vidant Health. Friday, July 24 Governor Roy Cooper issued an Executive Order returning regulatory authority for skilled nursing facilities to the Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). Current restrictions remain in place as NCDHHS collaborates with industry and advocacy organizations, monitors progress and evaluates options to best protect the health and wellbeing of staff, residents and their loved ones. Read the press release. The NCDHHS COVID-19 Historically Marginalized Populations Workgroup has shared messages in English and Spanish on the effects of COVID-19 on African American and Hispanic/LatinX communities as well as measures to slow the spread of the virus. A new op-ed from Governor Cooper addresses the need for Congress to act now and extend unemployment benefits for struggling workers. Thursday, July 23 Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D. along with Claudia Velasco-Osorio, Consul General of Mexico in Raleigh, and Jorge Archila, Consul General of Guatemala, released a statement on the effect of COVID-19 as cases increase among the Latinx and Hispanic communities in North Carolina. Tuesday, July 21 Agriculture is vital to our economy and food supply and it is critical that we protect farmworkers and their families from this virus. NCDHHS is taking further action to prevent and respond to COVID-19 outbreaks among the agricultural workforce, delivering critical PPE for use by agricultural workers. The CDC now recommends a symptom-based, instead of test-based, approach to determine when people are no longer considered infectious and can end isolation. Data are showing that people with mild to moderate COVID-19 remain infectious no longer than 10 days after symptom onset. Learn more about when you can end self-isolation. Monday, July 20 NCDHHS unveiled an updated COVID-19 Dashboard that includes more granular information about hospital capacity and hospitalization trends, both statewide and broken down by region. These new hospitalization data will provide additional insight into North Carolina’s hospital capacity in the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the press release. Governor Roy Cooper announced that NCDHHS has approved a third vendor, NC Community Health Center Association (NCCHCA), to expand free COVID-19 testing to historically marginalized communities that currently have limited testing sites. NCDHHS selected 13 businesses to join its pool of qualified vendors to support the state’s response to COVID-19, bringing the total number of vendors to 39. North Carolina is responding to the pandemic on multiples fronts, including building the state’s testing and contact tracing infrastructure, while surging assets in communities and populations that have been hardest hit by COVID-19. The Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for Round 3, which is for testing and lab capacity, is now posted. The deadline for response is July 31. Governor Roy Cooper sent a letter to the North Carolina Congressional Delegation asking for their continued support addressing the critical needs of the state during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more. Friday, July 17 NCDHHS has upcoming community testing events in Duplin, Edgecombe, Halifax, Hertford, Johnston, Northampton and Sampson counties as part of the CHAMP Initiative. For an up-to-date list of events, visit the Community Testing Events webpage. Events are listed under the name of their coordinating vendor, Vidant Health or Orig3n, Inc. There is no cost for testing. As we head into the weekend, remember your 3Ws! When you leave home, WEAR a cloth covering over your nose and mouth. When in public, WAIT 6 feet apart to avoid close contact. WASH your hands or use hand sanitizer. Looking for materials like social media graphics, infographics, video PSAs, signs and flyers? Check out the Prevent and Protect toolkit, which can help inform and educate North Carolinians about testing, contact tracing, and preventive measures they can take to protect themselves and their loved ones and help slow the spread of COVID-19. Thursday, July 16 NCDHHS launched new online tools to help Spanish-speaking North Carolinians to determine if they should consider being tested for COVID-19 and help individuals monitor their symptoms if they have tested positive for or been exposed to COVID-19. Read the release. Tuesday, July 14 North Carolina will continue to stay paused in Safer at Home Phase 2 when the governor’s current executive order expires on Friday, July 17. The order will be extended for three weeks until Aug. 7. North Carolina schools will open in the fall for both in-person and remote learning with key safety precautions to protect the health of students, teachers, staff and families. StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Guidance School Children and COVID-19 NCDHHS announced community testing events in Edgecombe, Halifax, Hertford, Johnston, Northampton, Sampson and Wake counties as part of the initiative to increase access to free COVID-19 testing for historically marginalized communities that currently have limited testing sites. There is no cost for testing. For an up-to-date list of events, visit the Community Testing Events page of the NCDHHS COVID-19 website. Events associated with this initiative are listed under the name of their coordinating vendor, Vidant Health or Orig3n, Inc. Read the press release. Monday, July 13 If you have symptoms of COVID-19, have been close to confirmed cases, live/work in a congregate living situation, are a front-line/essential worker, work in health care, have a higher risk of severe illness, are a member of a historically marginalized population, such as the African American and Hispanic-Latinx communities, you no longer need to wait for a provider referral to get tested. This also applies to people who have attended protests, rallies or other mass gatherings. Need a COVID-19 test, but haven’t found a site nearby? There are new community testing events added every day. Many are free or will bill your health insurance. Saturday, July 11 NCDHHS reported the state’s highest one-day number of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases with 2,462 reported. It is the highest one-day increase to date. Hospitalizations are also at a record high with 1,093 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19. Read the press release and learn more about North Carolina’s strategy to combat COVID-19. Friday, July 10 Need a COVID-19 test, but haven’t found a site nearby? There are new community testing events added every day. Many are free or will bill your health insurance. Check daily for new sites. Thursday, July 9 Today is our highest day of hospitalizations and second highest day of cases. While North Carolina is not in dire straits like some states around us, we have reason to be concerned and need to remain vigilant in slowing the spread of the virus. NCDHHS seeks a vendor to provide 250 Community Health Workers to help with COVID-19 outreach to historically underserved communities with high caseloads. The Student Response Corps is a new virtual internship program matching students in need of work experience with local governments and nonprofits needing additional support for COVID-19 response. Learn more. Tuesday, July 7 NCDHHS took action to decrease barriers to COVID-19 testing by issuing a Statewide Standing Order for COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing, as well as a State Health Director Temporary Order on COVID-19 Diagnostic Test Reporting. The Statewide Standing Order allows testing sites to collect and submit samples to a laboratory for COVID-19 testing without requiring a specific order and authorizes testing sites to receive results directly from laboratories. This will facilitate community-based testing sites and reduce barriers to testing, especially for members of historically marginalized populations who may be less likely to have a medical home. Read the press release. NCDHHS launched the Community testing in High-priority And Marginalized Populations (CHAMP) Initiative to increase access to no-cost COVID-19 testing for African American, LatinX/Hispanic and American Indian communities that currently have limited testing sites. As many as 300 temporary testing sites will be deployed throughout the month of July, including drive-thru and walk-up sites. Read more. NCDHHS joins the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in alerting consumers of adverse health effects associated with methanol-contaminated hand sanitizers. Read the press release and learn more about ways you can stay healthy. Monday, July 6 In a new short video, the Youth Health Advisors with the North Carolina Division of Public Health share a message on COVID-19 and the 3 Ws. View all videos related to COVID-19. Friday, July 3 NCDHHS reported the state’s highest one-day number of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases with 2,099 cases reported. Hospitalizations were also at a record high with 951 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19. Thursday, July 2 NCDHHS Secretary Cohen shared an update on North Carolina's trends. North Carolina’s trajectory of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases and surveillance data continues to increase. The trajectory in percent of tests returning positive remains steady at about 9 percent and the trajectory of hospitalizations is also leveling. NCDHHS is launching a new social media marketing campaign as part of a larger public outreach campaign designed to reach historically marginalized populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Read more. Please stay safe and don’t forget to practice the 3 Ws as you celebrate Independence Day this weekend: WEAR a cloth covering over your nose and mouth, WAIT 6 feet apart and WASH your hands or use hand sanitizer. Wednesday, July 1 Governor Roy Cooper shared that North Carolina will continue working with schools, teachers, parents and health experts to ensure that plans for school this coming year will protect everybody, especially those at high-risk. “Let me be clear: We want our schools open for in-person instruction in August,” he said. Read the press release. Today was the highest day of confirmed COVID-19 cases with 1,843 new cases. Visit our COVID-19 dashboard for daily updates. June 2020 Tuesday, June 30 NCDHHS will partner with Omnicare, a CVS Health company, to make facility-wide testing available to residents and staff in all North Carolina skilled nursing facilities. There are over 400 nursing homes in the state with approximately 36,000 residents and more than 30,000 staff. Testing will begin in July and continue through August. Read the press release. Monday, June 29 Remember that North Carolina now has a cloth face covering requirement to slow the spread of COVID-19. It is mandatory for people to wear cloth coverings over their nose and mouth when they are in indoor and outdoor public places, where staying 6 feet from people who are not part of their households is impossible. The COVID-19 Patients Presumed to be Recovered report was updated today. There are now 45,538 COVID-19 patients presumed to be recovered. Friday, June 26 Starting today, North Carolinians must wear cloth coverings over their nose and mouth when in public places where physical distancing is not possible. Growing evidence shows that cloth face coverings or masks, when worn consistently, can decrease the spread of COVID-19, especially among people who are not yet showing symptoms of the virus. Learn more. NCDHHS awarded grants to five local North Carolina organizations to help address the disparate impact COVID-19 is having among the state’s Hispanic and LatinX communities. Association of Mexicans in North Carolina Inc. (AMEXCAN), El Centro Hispano, Latin American Coalition, Qué Pasa Media Network and True Ridge will each receive $100,000 to help support disease prevention measures in high-risk Hispanic/LatinX communities. NCDHHS has expanded the COVID-19 Dashboard to include expanded county data on trends, demographics and testing. The updated dashboard also includes a new report on COVID-19 clusters in child care and school settings. Wednesday, June 24 Because of the continued upward trends in COVID-19 related metrics, along with concern for both the public health and for our hospital capacity, North Carolina will remain in Phase 2 until at least Friday, July 17. North Carolina is adopting a face covering requirement to help slow the spread of COVID-19, making it mandatory for people to wear a cloth covering over your nose and mouth when they are indoor and in outdoor public places, where staying 6 feet from people who are not part of their households is impossible. Face coverings are a simple way to control this virus while we protect ourselves, our families, and other people around us. Employees and customers of retail businesses and restaurants, as well as workers in manufacturing, construction, meat process and agriculture settings, must wear face coverings in those places. Atrium Health, Carolina Panthers, Bank of America, Honeywell and many other companies have pledged to distribute 1 million free cloth face coverings to communities in need in North Carolina. NCDHHS has expanded the COVID-19 Dashboard to include county-specific data on COVID-19 cases and deaths, including trends and demographic information by county. The updated dashboard also includes a new report on clusters of COVID-19 in child care and school settings. Tuesday, June 23 NCDHHS released improved online applications for Medicaid and Food and Nutrition Services that will help both North Carolina families and county Departments of Social Services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Monday, June 22 Through a public-private partnership, North Carolina has created the nation’s first statewide technology platform, NCCARE360, to coordinate whole-person care uniting traditional healthcare settings and organizations that address non-medical drivers of health, such as food, housing, transportation, employment and interpersonal safety. NCCARE360 is now available in all 100 counties. Friday, June 19 NCDHHS has been awarded $1.5 million to support and expand the Hope4NC program, which connects North Carolinians to mental health supports that help them cope and build resilience during times of crisis. North Carolinians who call the Hope4NC Helpline talk with trained counselors who provide emotional support and share resources on building coping skills during times of crisis. Additional resources and information on staying physically and mentally healthy can be found on the Managing Overall Health and Wellness Resources webpages. NCDHHS selected 26 businesses to form its initial pool of qualified vendors to support the state’s response to COVID-19. North Carolina is responding to the pandemic on multiples fronts, including building the state’s testing and contact tracing infrastructure, while surging assets in communities and populations that have been hardest hit by COVID-19. Thursday, June 186 Today’s numbers show yet another high day with more than 1,300 new cases, percent of positive tests at 9 percent and statewide hospitalizations at 857. Recent U.S. and international studies are showing that face coverings used by the public all the time - not just when symptoms first appear - could significantly reduce the rate of COVID-19 spread. Testing has increased with 16,800 tests per day, on average, for the past week. We now have more than 500 testing locations across the state along with several pop-up community testing sites. Based on updated guidance from NCDHHS, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety has begun the testing of all 31,200 offenders in the prison system for the virus. Tuesday, June 16 Governor Roy Cooper proclaimed June 15, 2020, as Healthcare Heroes Day to recognize the daily heroic sacrifices made by health care professionals, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. In honor of our frontline heroes, a special flag will be raised in front of the North Carolina State Capitol and will fly until July 15. NCDHHS is allocating $35 million in federal funding to local health departments to support the COVID-19 response. Per federal guidelines, counties will be able to use these funds to support COVID-19 staffing, infection controls, testing and tracing, IT infrastructure and data sharing and visualization. Monday, June 15 NCDHHS is targeting additional testing and tracing resources to nine counties (Mecklenburg, Wake, Durham, Johnston, Alamance, Guilford, Forsyth, Lee and Duplin) that have some of the highest COVID-19 case rates. NCDHHS announced that the state’s Community Action Agencies (CAAs) have begun to receive flexible funds that can be used to help low-income individuals and families meet a variety of needs caused by the economic disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds are part of the federal Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) and can, among other allowable uses, help eligible residents facing eviction with unmet rent and utility expenses. Friday, June 12 Today is North Carolina’s highest day of new cases (1,768) since the pandemic started. COVID-19 remains a serious threat to our state and the trends are concerning. We have the tools to respond to this crisis and slow the spread of the virus – but we all have to work together to make this happen. Practice the 3 Ws - wear a cloth face covering, wait six feet apart and wash your hands frequently. If you think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, get tested – even if you don’t have symptoms. If you attended a mass gathering or a protest, work in a setting where you’re at a higher risk of exposure, or at a high-risk setting like a food processing facility – get tested. In addition to the Test Site Finder, North Carolinians may find single or multi-day pop-up testing events in their community. Wednesday, June 10 On the COVID-19 Data Dashboard, NCDHHS has provided the following data for download: Summary, Cases, Testing and Hospitalization. To learn more about how NCDHHS defines and collects NC COVID-19 dashboard data, visit Data Behind the Dashboards. Tuesday, June 9 NCDHHS released updated guidance for doctors and clinicians on who should be tested for COVID-19. NCDHHS issued an Abatement Order requiring ACE Speedway to immediately close their facility and halt operations. The Speedway’s recent actions constitute an imminent hazard for the spread of COVID-19, an acute threat to North Carolinians which must not continue. Read more. Monday, June 8 New health guidance was released today outlining requirements and recommendations for schools to re-open their doors. Opening school buildings on time could be affected by a failure to slow the spread. Read the press release. NCDHHS announced that child protective services and adult protective services workers are designated as first responders. This classification will help these critical workers access Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needed while working in situations that require face-to-face contact with adults, children and families amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Saturday, June 6 NCDHHS reported the state’s highest one day number of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases with 1,370 cases reported. Other metrics that the state is watching also increased. The percent of tests that were positive climbed to 10 percent. This metric is based only on labs that report electronically to the state. In addition, hospitalizations have exceeded 700 for three of the past five days. Friday, June 5 NCDHHS reported the first COVID-19-associated pediatric death in North Carolina. A child in the central part of the state died June 1 from complications associated with COVID-19 infection. Thursday, June 4 NCDHHS launched new initiatives to expand COVID-19 testing and contact tracing across the state. Two new online tools can help people determine if they need to be tested and find a nearby testing place. Check My Symptoms (ncdhhs.gov/symptoms) helps those who feel uncertain about whether they should get tested. Find My Testing Place is a resource for anyone who needs to locate a testing site. COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color. Governor Cooper signed Executive Order 143 to address these disparities. The order will: Create the Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental and Health Equity Task Force. The task force will focus on access to health care; patient engagement in health care settings; economic opportunities in business development and employment; environmental justice and inclusion; and education. NC Department of Administration Secretary Machelle Sanders will lead the group of a diverse panel of experts, state agency leaders and community members of these five focus areas. Directs the NC Pandemic Recovery Office to ensure that COVID-19 relief funds are fairly distributed. It also expands the capacity of our NC Historically Underutilized Business Office to provide those businesses access to opportunities and resources. Directs NCDHHS, in partnership with community health centers, local health departments, rural health centers and free and charitable clinics, to provide COVID-19 testing and related health care to uninsured North Carolinians. Provides direction for other state agencies. Wednesday, June 3 NCDHHS is extending the deadline for questions for its Request for Qualifications (RFQ) that seeks to create a pool of qualified vendors to support the response to COVID-19. Vendors may now submit questions in writing until 2 p.m. on June 4. Tuesday, June 2 NCDHHS Secretary Cohen shared an update on North Carolina’s COVID-19 trends. The state's trajectory of lab-confirmed cases continues to increase. While more testing is happening, this data also shows there is more viral spread in our communities. North Carolina's trajectory in percent of tests returning positive remains level, while the trajectory of hospitalizations has increased slightly since entering Phase 2. There is hospital capacity, but the data will have to be monitored for any regional patterns. NCDHHS is continuing to increase testing and tracing of known infections. North Carolina now has 32 labs analyzing testing samples and there are now more than 400 verified sites that are collecting those samples. Learn more about testing. Monday, June 1 North Carolina held a Day of Mourning to grieve those who have lost their lives to COVID-19. Testing and contact tracing are how we can best protect ourselves and our loved ones and slow the spread of this virus. This is especially important within historically marginalized populations, who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Our communities of color face real barriers to basic disease prevention tools. NCDHHS is focused on addressing these barriers and ensuring this is front and center in our efforts to respond to COVID-19. As we have expanded our contact tracing capacity, we are focused on hiring candidates that reflect the communities they serve. NCDHHS is seeking to create a pool of qualified vendors to support the response to COVID-19. The Request for Qualifications (RFQ) was issued on May 29 for diagnostic and antibody testing including specimen collection and laboratory processing, reserving potential laboratory capacity and contact tracing. Testing and tracing are part of North Carolina’s strategy to responsibly ease restrictions, while slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting North Carolinians. Vendors can apply to be qualified for individual or multiple components that support testing and lab capacity and contact and tracing. June 1 marks the first day of the 2020 Hurricane Season. Now is the time to make sure your family is ready for the season. This year, make sure to include hand sanitizer, face coverings and sanitizing wipes in your emergency kit. May 2020 Saturday, May 30 Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order No. 142 to extend the prohibition of utility shut-offs and implement a moratorium on evictions. The Order goes into effect today with the Governor’s signature. Read the press release and the FAQ. Friday, May 29 NCDHHS is requesting Congressional support to extend the Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program to provide food for children beyond the traditional school calendar year. Extending P-EBT benefits through the summer months would help provide the families of nearly half of North Carolina school children about $250 in additional support per child to buy groceries. Governor Cooper announced that North Carolina received a $6 million federal grant to support jobs and workforce training to help address the impacts of COVID-19. Thursday, May 28 NCDHHS launched an interactive tool for finding local COVID-19 test sites. There are now more than 300 places across North Carolina to be tested. Additionally, CVS just announced 55 new drive-through test locations. The Community Care of North Carolina has hired nearly all 250 contact tracing employees needed to inform those who have been exposed to the virus. NCDHHS has asked Congress to support the extension of the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program which would provide families of nearly half of North Carolin's schoolchildren about $250 in additional support for each child. Wednesday, May 27 NCDHHS is using radio and video messages to reach historically marginalized populations to share important messages about reducing risks for COVID-19. The messages are part of the Department’s focus during the COVID-19 response to address the underlying causes of long-standing health disparities impacting communities of color across North Carolina. Tuesday, May 26 By the end of this week, 59 counties will have received funds from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund, which they may use and also may share with local municipalities. This money will help local governments pay for health and public safety officials, telemedicine, personal protective equipment and more. Saturday, May 23 NCDHHS reported the state’s highest one-day number of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases with 1,107 cases reported on May 23. Friday, May 22 Today at 5 p.m., North Carolina moves into Safer At Home Phase 2. Restaurants, swimming pools, and personal care businesses, such as salons and barber shops, can re-open at 50 percent capacity, with distancing and cleaning requirements. See guidance for these businesses. NCDHHS, North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association, NC State Extension and Visit North Carolina have partnered to create the Count on Me NC initiative, a free online training for restaurant managers and staff that is focused on advanced cleaning, disinfection, social distancing, and hygiene practices to protect the public from COVID-19. So far, more 3,500 businesses have already completed the training. Find a list of Count on Me businesses and sign the Guest Pledge at CountOnMenc.org. NCDHHS began distributing a one-time supplemental payment to families enrolled in the Work First Cash Assistance program with one or more children. These payments are intended to help vulnerable families during the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thursday, May 21 As North Carolina heads into Phase 2 (Safer at Home), the state recorded 738 new cases of COVID-19 since yesterday. This is another high number of cases over one day and underscores the need to proceed cautiously as we ease restrictions. NCDHHS reported its first case of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19. While children generally experience mild symptoms with COVID-19, recently a possible link has been found between COVID-19 and a serious inflammatory disease in some children and teenagers who have current or recent infections. School nutrition sites in all 115 school districts have provided 23 million meals (breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner) since schools closed on March 16. There are currently 1,000 pick-up/drive-through meal sites and 2,100 yellow school buses delivering meals around the state. Wednesday, May 20 Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Cohen announced that North Carolina will move into Safer At Home Phase 2 on Friday, May 22 at 5 p.m. After two weeks in Phase 1, the state’s overall key indicators remain stable but the continued increases in daily case counts signal a need to take a more modest step forward in Phase 2 than originally envisioned. Read the FAQs and view the Phase 2 Guidance. NCDHHS unveiled an updated COVID-19 Dashboard. The interactive dashboard includes an enhanced NC map, sections on COVID-like illness surveillance, cases, testing, hospitalizations, contact tracing, personal protective equipment (PPE) and congregate living settings. There is also a section on weekly reports that currently includes presumed recoveries and risk factors for severe illness for North Carolinians. Tuesday, May 19 With Avery County reporting its first case of COVID-19, there are now laboratory-confirmed cases in all 100 NC counties. See more info on the DHHS dashboard. Governor Cooper recently proclaimed May as “Older Americans Month.” Do your part to protect older loved ones, friends and neighbors who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 by following the 3 Ws: WEAR a cloth face covering. WAIT 6 feet apart from other people. WASH your hands often. Yesterday, the North Carolina National Guard delivered personal protective equipment (PPE) to facilities in 59 counties. Shipments included isolation gowns, gloves, face shields, multiple types of masks, goggles, thermometers and hand sanitizer. NC is continuing efforts to purchase PPE, and the state is working with the private sector to manufacture PPE in North Carolina. Monday, May 18 All long-term care facilities in the state will receive personal protective equipment (PPE) packs of needed supplies, and facilities will receive a limited increased rate for some Medicaid services to support infection prevention and management. PPE packs will go to more than 3,000 state-licensed long-term care facilities and include a fourteen-day supply of face shields, procedure masks, gloves and shoe covers. NCDHHS is providing a time-limited Medicaid rate increase for nursing facility services such as skilled nursing and rehabilitation services. Friday, May 15 NCDHHS issued updated guidance on who should be tested for COVID-19. The new guidance recommends that clinicians test any patient in whom COVID-19 is suspected. The new guidance recommends clinicians ensure certain populations have access to testing, regardless of symptoms, including: Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 Close contacts of known positive cases, regardless of symptoms Persons who live in or have regular contact with high-risk settings (e.g., long-term care facility, homeless shelter, correctional facility, migrant farmworker camp) Persons who are at high risk of severe illness (e.g., people over 65 years of age, people of any age with underlying health conditions) Persons who come from historically marginalized populations Health care workers or first responders (e.g. EMS, law enforcement, fire department, military) Front-line and essential workers (grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, etc.) in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain New interim guidance was issued for overnight camp settings. Thursday, May 14 Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Cohen shared an update on North Carolina’s key COVID-19 indicators. The data and trends show that North Carolina remains stable nearly one week into Phase 1. Based on the metrics laid out last month by Governor Cooper and Secretary Cohen, officials need to continue watching the trends before announcing a shift into Phase 2. More testing is becoming available, both at hospitals, doctor's offices and retail partners. View testing locations. Wednesday, May 13 Starting today, families impacted by school closings due to COVID-19 are beginning to receive additional food benefits as part of the new Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program. If you think you need a test to determine if you have COVID-19 contact your health care provider and share your symptoms. Not all health care providers provide testing on-site. The sites listed provide testing for COVID-19. Some require an appointment and/or a referral from a health care provider. Locations are subject to change. Tuesday, May 12 More testing is becoming available at hospitals, doctor's offices and retail partners. Later this week, NCDHHS will list testing locations. North Carolina is working with local manufacturers to shift their production to make critical medical supplies. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, an important reminder that we need to think about whole health as we confront this pandemic. Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order 139, which will provide additional regulatory flexibility to help ensure capacity in the state’s health care system and improve its ability to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Monday, May 11 New data on the number of patients presumed to be recovered from COVID-19 was added to the COVID-19 Dashboard. As of this morning, 9,115 patients are presumed to be recovered. Learn how this total is calculated in this summary. Since Friday, teams delivered personal protective equipment to 52 counties and four healthcare coalitions. Shipments included masks, gloves, face shields, goggles, hair and shoe covers, and a few gowns. Additionally, the National Guard has helped distribute more than 870,000 meals for food banks and more than 97,000 meals for schools. During this time, continue to keep in touch with your doctor and keep up with your regularly scheduled appointments, whether through telehealth or in person. Watch this video to learn more about telehealth. Friday, May 8 As Phase 1 begins, NCDHHS is focused on testing, tracing and trends. North Carolina ranks 15th in the nation regarding total number of tests completed, and 8 out of the 10 past days, has reached the goal of 5,000 to 7,000 tests completed per day. While testing is on right track, it needs to increase, especially for North Carolina’s underserved communities. Securing sample collection supplies from the federal government, additional testing sites and expanded lab capacity will help meet testing goals. Thursday, May 7 Wear. Wait. Wash. As North Carolina moves to ease some COVID-19 restrictions at the end of this week, NCDHHS is asking people to remember these three things to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve. Health care providers and hospitals can use a new portal to request reimbursement for claims associated with COVID-19 testing and treatment of uninsured patients retroactive to Feb. 4, 2020. The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) COVID-19 Uninsured Program Portal was launched by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support health care providers in delivering COVID-19 diagnostic testing and treatment at no cost to patients. It can be accessed at COVIDUninsuredClaim.linkhealth.com. Wednesday, May 6 In Phase 1, retail businesses that pose a lower risk can open with 50 percent capacity, although protective measures will be in place to ensure safety. Staying at home is still the best way to slow the spread of COVID- 19, but if you must go out, Know Your Ws: wear a face covering; wait 6 feet apart from others; and wash your hands often. Due to COVID-19, many health care facilities, particularly long-term care facilities, are seeking to urgently hire staff for temporary, part-time or full-time roles. Interested health care employees with the ability to pick up extra shifts or who may have been laid off from facilities and are seeking full-time roles can register at https://nc.readyop.com/fs/4cjq/697b North Carolina Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) participants will be able to purchase groceries online using their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards at authorized online EBT retailers. Tuesday, May 5 Governor Cooper announces a modified Stay At Home order and transition to Phase 1 of easing restrictions effective Friday, May 8 at 5 p.m. Retail businesses are allowed to open at 50% capacity and will be required to direct customers to stand 6 feet apart, perform frequent cleanings, provide hand sanitizer when available, screen workers for symptoms and more. Certain businesses remain closed, including bars, personal care businesses, entertainment venues, and gyms. Restaurants may only continue to serve customers for drive-through, take out and delivery. Phase 1 is set to expire on May 22, but if there is a spike in infection, Phase 1 will be extended. Read a side-by-side explanation of what changes in Phase 1. People should remember the 3 W's when they leave home: wear a face covering; wait 6 feet apart from others; and wash your hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds. Just over half of NC adults are at risk of severe COVID-19 disease because they are age 65+ and/or have an underlying health condition. Monday, May 4 Governor Cooper signs two bills to provide more than $1.5 billion for COVID-19 relief. Funds will be used to meet needs related to education, health care, health disparities, public safety and small businesses. Some of the funds will be for increasing COVID-19 testing and PPE for health care workers. Health disparities funds will specifically address areas and populations being more affected by COVID-19. Education funds will be aimed at feeding children, providing summer programs and computers for students who need them. Friday, May 1 New data on lab-confirmed cases by zip code is posted on the NCDHHS COVID-19 dashboard. NCDHHS Secretary Cohen shared that more than 5,300 tests were completed yesterday and the percent that were positive decreased to 7 percent. While this is good news, North Carolinians should continue to stay home to slow the spread and flatten the curve. About 38 percent of adults under 65 in North Carolina have at least one of the underlying health conditions that the CDC has named as high risk. April 2020 Thursday, April 30 Governor Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen provided an update on COVID-19. A combination of four metrics will drive the easing of restrictions: 1) COVID-like syndromic cases over 14 days, 2) Lab-confirmed cases over 14 days, 3) Positive tests as a percentage of the total tests over 14 days and 4) Hospitalizations over 14 days. FEMA will provide cloth masks to infrastructure workers, mostly in the energy and food sectors who do not need medical-grade masks for their daily work. North Carolina Emergency Management will also receive 149,000 cloth masks to be distributed to food supply chain workers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has programs to provide assistance to people in rural communities affected by COVID-19. Wednesday, April 29 The Stay at Home Order through May 8 remains in effect, and the strong actions of North Carolinians are helping to slow the spread of COVID-19, according to new research from Duke University, NoviSci, RTI International and the UNC-Chapel Hill. New research models from UNC Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research indicate a phased reopening will help avoid overwhelming our health care system. See the report. Meals on Wheels North Carolina continues to serve vulnerable seniors. In the first half of April, approximately 211,000 meals were served to 52,000 seniors. Families who need food assistance can text FOODNC to 877-877 to locate nearby free meal sites. The texting service is also available in Spanish by texting COMIDA to 877-877. Tuesday, April 28 The Hope4Healers Helpline (919-226-2002) is being expanded to support the staff who work in North Carolina’s child care programs. Hope4Healers also is now equipped with 24/7 call line support. Earlier this month, NCDHHS launched the helpline in partnership with the North Carolina Psychological Foundation to provide mental health and resilience supports for health care professionals, other staff who work in health care settings, first responders and their families who are all experiencing stress from being on the front lines of the state’s COVID-19 response. Next week, the FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency will begin shipping personal protective equipment (PPE) to 430 nursing homes, including gloves, gowns, eye protection and masks. NC ordered another $82 million in PPE yesterday. More than 1,000 people have already expressed an interest in working for NC’s Contact Tracing Collaborative. Interested applicants should visit www.communitycarenc.org/carolina-community-tracing. Monday, April 27 Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative, a new partnership with Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC) and the North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (NC AHEC) is part of Governor Roy Cooper’s initiative to slowly lift restrictions by focusing on testing, tracing and trends. Through this collaborative, up to 250 additional local staff will be hired and trained initially to support contact tracing efforts with the potential to add more. Recruitment will start immediately; interested applicants should visit the collaborative’s webpage. The CDC has expanded the list of symptoms that may be associated with COVID-19. In addition to fever, cough and shortness of breath, other symptoms may include chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell. Information on congregate living facilities with outbreaks (two or more cases) has been added to the COVID-19 dashboard. It also includes data on testing and tracing capacity, including our supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), number of tests per day and staffing for contract tracing. A new key metrics tab on the dashboard tracks COVID-19-like syndromic cases; lab-confirmed cases; positive tests as a percentage of the total; and hospitalizations. Friday, April 24 Governor Cooper and education leaders announce that they will continue remote learning for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year for K-12 public schools. Information on student grading for this school year will be sent to schools and parents soon. Teachers and school employees are to continue to work and they remain eligible to be paid. The opening of schools in summer and fall and the availability of summer camps are going to depend on meeting health guidelines. NC has partnered with AT&T and Duke Energy to provide 180+ hotspots for use in school buses to help students without home internet access. The state hopes to add more hotspots later. Governor Cooper's proposed budget directs $1.4 billion in federal money from the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund for immediate needs in three areas: public health and safety (including PPE and increased testing); continuity of operations for education and other state government services (including funding to enhance remote teaching and learning capabilities); assistance to small businesses and local governments (including bridge loans and critical IT software as we transition more services online). Thursday, April 23 Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order 135 extending North Carolina’s Stay At Home order through May 8. Governor Cooper shared details about North Carolina’s plan to lift restrictions in three phases once the data show that key metrics are headed in the right direction. Last week, Governor Cooper laid out the path forward centered on three things: testing, tracing and trends. Today, Governor Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Cohen shared more specifics on those key metrics. The Stay At Home and other orders are extended today because North Carolina has not yet seen a downward trajectory of those metrics needed to begin gradually lifting restrictions. Wednesday, April 22 NCDHHS has been awarded a $2 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to support the state’s behavioral health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant will support NCDHHS’s efforts to address the growing needs of people with mental health issues and substance use disorder as it relates to the COVID-19 crisis, along with the mental health needs of the general public and health care workers who are on the front lines of this pandemic. Read the press release and learn more about the resources available to support your overall well-being. Two groups made up of private and public leaders across NC met today to discuss the path forward when the state eases restrictions. The main topics of conversation were large gatherings and businesses. Vendors of Personal Protective Equipment or industry representatives can now fill out an online form to get in touch with the Purchasing Team. If your offer meets the team’s specifications, you may get a call. Information on how to find or donate to a food bank can be found at feedingthecarolinas.org. Tuesday, April 21 NCDHHS received approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to temporarily waive certain Medicaid policies as part of North Carolina’s response to the COVID-19. The waivers will provide flexibility to NC Medicaid and providers to address the urgent health care needs of beneficiaries during this public health emergency. NCDHHS, the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDACS), local health departments, plant managers and corporate owners, community health centers and local hospitals are working together to keep workers safe and to help ensure the world’s food supply remains stable. See the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help protect workers at food processing facilities from COVID-19. Monday, April 20 North Carolina has been approved for the new Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, which will help families purchase food for children impacted by school closings due to COVID-19. NCDHHS is working to operationalize the program and families will begin to receive this benefit in the coming weeks. Friday, April 17 Governor Roy Cooper announces that NCDHHS is working with academic partners across the state to understand how widespread cases of COVID-19 with mild or no symptoms are in the state and to monitor prevalence of the disease over time. NCDHHS convenes a Testing Surge Workgroup to develop a plan to increase testing, expand testing sites and options, and address testing supply challenges, including the availability of personal protective equipment. NCDHHS shares recommended strategies to support local solutions to maintain and sustain services for individuals with behavioral health needs and intellectual and developmental disabilities along with reducing the burden on emergency departments and hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. NC Medicaid provides additional funding to support nursing homes and adult care homes for older adult Medicaid beneficiaries diagnosed with or at high risk of contracting COVID-19. COVID-19 guidance and resources for Medicaid providers are available online. Thursday, April 16 Staying home does not mean ignoring your health. Telehealth allows people to get health care services using a computer, tablet, smart phone or other technology. All insurance companies in the state, including Medicaid and Medicare, are covering healthcare visits through telehealth. Increasing access to affordable insurance coverage is an important way for our state to fight COVID-19. The easiest way to understand your health insurance options is go to HealthCare.gov. Staying at home and maintaining social distancing is keeping North Carolina ahead of the curve, ensuring our health care system is not overwhelmed. While the supply chain is strong, there is a high demand for certain items, like meat and toilet paper. Please only buy what you need and leave enough for others. To help those in need, visit feedingthecarolinas.org. Wednesday, April 15 Governor Roy Cooper charts a path forward for eventually easing certain COVID-19 restrictions while still protecting North Carolinians from a dangerous second wave of the virus. In order to ease restrictions, the state needs to make more progress in three areas: testing, tracing and trends. Expert modeling has shows it would be dangerous to lift the restrictions all at once because it would increase the chances that hospitals become overwhelmed and unable to care for severely ill patients. Governor Cooper emphasizes that changes in restrictions must protect public health, especially those who are most vulnerable to severe illness, including people over age 65, those with underlying health conditions and people living in congregate settings. Tuesday, April 14 If you have recently lost or can no longer afford your health insurance, or if you are trying to purchase health insurance for the first time, learn about your options. You can also visit healthcare.gov. Data on COVID-19 cases and hospital capacity in North Carolina is available on the NCDHHS dashboard. Watch the latest videos from state leaders who share resources and information on COVID-19. Today, Dr. Cedric M. Bright, associate dean for admissions at East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine, discusses the disproportionate impact of the virus on African Americans. Monday, April 13 At 5 p.m. today, new social distancing policies go into effect. Stores must: Limit the number of customers inside, mark six feet of distance near areas where people gather like checkout lines and disinfect routinely. Stores are also encouraged to provide hand sanitizer and face coverings for employees. Read the press release and the FAQs. NC Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry provided an update on supplies: surgical masks and gloves are being provided to hospitals, first responders and long term care homes. All other forms of personal protective equipment remain in short supply, and we are filling requests in small quantities to meet the most critical needs. Nearly 1,200 medical professional volunteers are screened and ready to work if they are needed to support hospitals. More than 1,000 people are still going through the screening process. Food banks still need your help in keeping shelves stocked. Visit Feeding the Carolinas to learn more. Friday, April 10 In addition to NCDHHS' information on COVID-19, find the latest resources and assistance from across state government here: nc.gov/covid19 Secretary Mandy Cohen thanks North Carolinians for staying home during this year's Passover and Easter celebrations. Thursday, April 9 Governor Roy Cooper issues Executive Order 131 which addresses three key areas: The first requires retail stores that are still operating to implement new social distancing policies to make shopping safer for customers and employees. The second makes earlier COVID-19 guidelines mandatory for nursing facilities, and recommends other long-term care facilities to do the same. The third area is unemployment benefits, issuing changes that will speed up certain benefit payments to those who are out of work. Read questions and answers about this Order. Wednesday, April 8 Governor Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina has received approval from FEMA to provide housing alternatives, such as hotels, motels, and dormitories, for North Carolinians with unstable housing who may need to quarantine in response to or are at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Learn more. NCDHHS has two new mental health resources to support North Carolinians throughout the COVID-19 crisis: Hope4NC Helpline (1-855-587-3463) and the Hope4Healers Helpline (919-226-2002). Learn more about these resources. Governor Cooper signed Executive Order 130 to provide more access to health care beds, expands the pool of health care workers and orders essential childcare services for workers responding to COVID-19. Tuesday, April 7 NCDHHS established an Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program for essential workers as defined in Governor Roy Cooper’s March 27 Executive Order 121. Essential worker emergency child care financial assistance will be offered through May and may be extended. To receive an emergency care subsidy, parents must complete the COVID-19 Parent Application for Financial Assistance for Emergency Child Care and submit it to their child care provider. Learn more in the press release. Governor Roy Cooper, NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen and NC Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry shared an update on COVID-19 in North Carolina. New Executive Orders will be issued this week that will fast track child care for health care professionals and make more hospital bed space quickly available; and put social distancing limits in our essential retailers. FEMA has approved the state's request to set up housing alternatives for those who need it. Yesterday's modeling forecast underscores how critical social distancing is to slow the spread of COVID-19. The interventions North Carolina has put in place are slowing the spread of the virus. Monday, April 6 Leading health scientists across public and private sectors presented information on predictive modeling data studying the spread of COVID-19 in North Carolina. These experts released a composite modeling forecast looking at how COVID-19 could affect North Carolina in the coming months, showing that social distancing is necessary to slow the spread and preserve hospital capacity to save lives. Participants included representatives from Duke University, RTI International and the University of North Carolina. Watch NCDHHS' videos for resources and tips to stay informed and help your family stay healthy. Friday, April 3 Governor Roy Cooper, NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen and NC Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry share an update on COVID-19 in North Carolina. As the state enters the first weekend of the Stay at Home Order, Governor Roy Cooper reminded North Carolinians of the importance of staying home. We are in a crucial period for flattening the curve - this means staying home, and if you absolutely must go out, stay at least six feet away from others. The competition for personal protective equipment is massive. Because these items are in short supply, some manufacturers across the state have shifted their production lines to create these items. With so many people working and learning from home, be sure to be cyber smart. Thursday, April 2 NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen and NC Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry are joined by Assistant Secretary Lockhart Taylor of NC Commerce and Commissioner Todd Ishee of NCDPS for the daily update on COVID-19. Secretary Cohen emphasizes that COVID-19 can be spread by those who have the virus but DO NOT have any symptoms, which is why staying at home as much as you can is so important. Staying home – as directed by the Stay at Home Order – is the best way to slow the spread and protect North Carolinians. NC Emergency Management continues to purchase protective equipment for healthcare workers. Director Sprayberry reminded citizens to NOT CALL 9-1-1 to report violations of social distancing guidelines. More than 350,000 unemployment claims have been filed due to COVID-19. While it may take up to two weeks to get your benefits, the NC Division of Employment Security is working to speed up the application process. Learn more by going to the N.C. Division of Employment Security website. The Division of Prisons is screening all people entering correctional facilities and taking measures to protect the health of offenders and employees. Learn more by going to the N.C. Department of Public Safety website. Wednesday, April 1 If you are an essential worker who needs financial assistance for emergency child care, complete the COVID-19 Parent Application for Financial Assistance for Emergency Child Care and submit it to your child care provider. You can also fill out a hard copy of this form at your child care facility. Learn more under "Child Care Access & Financial Assistance Available for Essential Workers" on the child care page. January-March 2020 Tuesday, March 31, 2020 Governor Roy Cooper announces another step to help families by prohibiting utilities from disconnecting people who are unable to pay during this pandemic. Executive Order 124 applies to electric, gas, water and wastewater services for the next 60 days. The Order directs utilities to give residential customers at least six months to pay outstanding bills and prohibits them from collecting fees, penalties or interest for late payment. To learn more, read the FAQs. Updated Guidance for Interim Long-Term Care Setting Monday, March 30, 2020 Governor Cooper signs an Executive Order to get equipment to health care workers, schools and local governments. To help families access food during the COVID-19 pandemic, NCDHHS is temporarily increasing benefits for March 2020 and April 2020 to current Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) recipients in North Carolina. NCDHHS State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore presented preliminary plans for the state's testing and surveillance of COVID-19. More available in the surveillance overview and accompanying slide deck. NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen and NC Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry provide an update on COVID-19. Secretary Cohen reminded North Carolinians that the Governor’s Executive Order to stay at home goes into effect at 5 p.m. today. She emphasized that when we don’t have vaccines or treatments, social distancing is the only tool we have to slow the spread of COVID-19. For more information about the Order, read the FAQs. Sunday, March 29, 2020 Governor Roy Cooper announces first COVID-19 unemployment benefits will be paid this week. Friday, Feb. 27, 2020 NCDHHS shares CDC’s interim Patient Under Investigation form and releases an updated Interim Patients Under Investigation Toolkit for COVID-19. NCDHHS shares guidance for healthcare providers and facilities regarding conservation of supplies for COVID-19. Thursday, Feb. 26, 2020 The Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force continues to prepare for the possibility of COVID-19 infections and encourages businesses, schools, health care providers, communities and individuals to prepare as well. Friday, Feb. 14, 2020 NCDHHS provides local health departments with updated guidance for COVID-19 investigations. Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020 Governor Cooper announces the creation of the Governor’s Novel Coronavirus Task Force to continue the coordination among state, local and federal partners. The Task Force formalizes the state’s ongoing efforts to monitor, prepare for and respond to the 2019 novel COVID-19. Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020 NCDHHS provides an update for travelers returning to North Carolina. NCDHHS continues to work with the CDC and local health departments to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and assure the health and well-being of North Carolinians as residents return from China. Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 NCDHHS provides a healthcare personnel and visitor Monitoring Log for use by healthcare providers and local health department personnel. NCDHHS releases an interim Healthcare Facility Preparedness Checklist to provide guidance to healthcare facilities on preparing for COVID-19. Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020 NCDHHS provides a COVID-19 update. NCDHHS is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), local health departments, and health care providers to closely monitor COVID-19. There are no confirmed cases in North Carolina. Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020 NCDHHS provides Emergency Medical Services agencies with an Interim EMS Preparedness Checklist for COVID-19. Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020 NCDHHS reports that the possible case tested negative for COVID-19. Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announces it is investigating a possible case of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The individual had recently traveled to China and passed through Wuhan City, where the outbreak originated, but had not visited the market linked to many early cases. This person arrived at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Jan. 23, 2020.