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What to know now about COVID-19 in Wake County (updated)

Bookmark this page for regular updates on state + local rules. Last update: Thursday, July 29.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends even fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas of significant or high community spread.

According to the CDC’s map on Wednesday, Wake County is experiencing high community transmission — as is most of the country, particularly the Southeast.

A screenshot of Wednesday’s measurement. Click the image to access the database.

The July 20-26 CDC measurement is different than the state’s County Alert System, which puts Wake County at a yellow “significant impact” as of the July 22 every-other-week report. Additional actions are recommended for higher orange and red levels.

However, during a press conference Thursday, NC Governor Roy Cooper urged more people to get vaccinated and recommended people wear masks indoors in areas of high spread, the majority of the state.

He made stronger recommendations for schools mask use as well.

Wake County’s public school system hasn’t yet decided if masks will be required for students and teachers, a decision expected soon.

New schools guidelines from state

NC Governor Roy Cooper announced new guidelines for schools on July 21 that will go into effect 5 p.m. July 30.

The new guidelines were developed based on the CDC’s guidelines for schools and American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations, both of which were updated earlier this month.

The guidance in the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit includes:

😷 Require masks for younger students and staff at elementary and middle schools when indoors

😷 Require masks for unvaccinated high school students when indoors

😷 High school students and high school teachers who are fully vaccinated aren’t required to wear masks. State leaders updated their guidance on Thursday, July 29, to recommend all students and teachers wear masks.

The context: A mask requirement is the most contentious; the executive order requiring masks in schools will expire July 30 and there’s currently no penalty for school districts that don’t follow the guidelines.

In Wake County, which has year-round school in session now, some have protested masks in schools at the Wake County school board meetings, WRAL reports.

Other updates: The state guidelines loosened quarantine rules for people exposed to COVID-19 in close proximity, including:

😷 Fully vaccinated people who are asymptomatic do not need to quarantine

😷 People who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last three months and don’t have symptoms don’t need to quarantine.

😷 If all parties were masked appropriately at all times, the person exposed does not need to quarantine if asymptomatic.

The new guidelines also no longer recommend daily symptom screening, limiting nonessential visitors to schools or avoiding field trips or assemblies.

If you get COVID-19, it’s likely the Delta variant: According to Secretary Cohen during the briefing, at least 80% of the COVID-19 cases sequenced in NC are the Delta variant now, a more contagious version.

Vaccines promoted: The governor asserted the “strongest tool” is a COVID-19 vaccine, and additional information is added on promoting and offering a COVID-19 vaccine.

📊 More data: Our weekly analysis, by ZIP codes, updated July 14, 2021.

About coronavirus cases in Wake County

Wake County‘s total count of confirmed COVID-19 cases is 91,943 as of Wednesday, according to the state dashboard.

744 people in Wake County have died from complications with COVID-19, according to state numbers.

There have been more than 1 million total confirmed cases in North Carolina, according to the state’s tally. [NCDHHS]

At least 13,606 people in N.C. have died from COVID-19, according to the state’s report.

Want a COVID-19 vaccine locally?: The county COVID-19 vaccine form will allow you to select an appointment.

Many restrictions lifted statewide

NC Governor Roy Cooper announced May 14 that most restrictions in place for more than a year are now lifted.

That includes lifting the executive orders requiring:

  • Capacity limits
  • Mass gathering limits
  • Social distancing requirements
  • Many mask requirements (but not all).

A mandatory mask requirement will stay in place indoors on public transportation, in childcare settings, in schools, in prisons and certain public health settings, even for those who are vaccinated.

Masks are still encouraged, NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said, in crowded indoor areas. Those who are not yet vaccinated should still take masking and distancing precautions.

Businesses can choose to require masks of vaccinated and unvaccinated people, as well — the CDC recommendations and the loosened mask requirement doesn’t require businesses to follow suit.

Previously, Gov. Cooper previously said he anticipated lifting restrictions on June 1 and mask requirements would potentially be lifted when two-thirds of adults in NC were vaccinated.

Now, half of adults are partially vaccinated and 46 percent are fully vaccinated. Read more in a release.

Masks no longer required outdoors

Masks are no longer be required outdoors, Gov. Roy Cooper announced April 28.

Another loosened restriction includes an increase in mass gatherings to 100 indoors and 200 outdoors.

Social distancing and capacity limits will remain in place. Masks will still be required indoors.

The decision came after NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen showed updated metrics. The number of cases in the state are still elevated, but level since March 1.

Gov. Cooper announced April 21 that COVID-related restrictions, such as physical distancing, gathering and capacity limits, could be lifted by June 1.

The mask mandate could be lifted “once two thirds of adult North Carolinians have received at least one vaccine dose and if trends remain stable.”

As of Wednesday, half of adults in North Carolina are partially vaccinated (up from 47% last Wednesday) and nearly 40 percent are fully vaccinated (up from 35%).

Racial disparities in vaccinations are improving in Wake County

Black and Latinx residents in Wake County are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, but white residents have received COVID-19 vaccines at disproportionately higher percentages.

Wake County officials are working to change that, leaders said in a press conference Feb. 17, mentioning recent clinics at historically Black churches. Geographic focus areas included the 27610 ZIP code in Southeast Raleigh and Wendell, where officials see disproportionately high rates for COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Wake County demographics, according to 2019 Census estimates, includes:
67.9% white
21% Black
10.4% Latinx
7% Asian
[more info]

As of the end of March, vaccination numbers are starting to become more representative.

Last month’s numbers, first doses through Feb. 25 in Wake County from the state showed:
73.13% white
14.3% Black
3.51% Latinx
6.04% Asian or Pacific Islander.

First doses through March 23 in Wake County from the state shows:
69.8% white
14.9% Black
5% Latinx
7.5% Asian or Pacific Islander.

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What to know about eased restrictions

Gov. Cooper announced significant easing of restrictions March 23, which went into effect at 5 p.m. March 27. The statewide mask mandate will stay in place.

While the new executive order will increase capacity, safety protocols will still require 6 feet of distance, so the actual allowed capacity may be lower.

Businesses/facilities that can open at 100% capacity include:

  • Museums
  • Aquariums
  • Retail businesses and shops
  • Personal care businesses and salons

Businesses that can open up at 75% indoor capacity and 100% outdoor capacity include:

  • Restaurants
  • Breweries and wineries
  • Fitness centers and gyms
  • Pools

Businesses/facilities that can open at 50% indoors and outdoors:

  • Bars
  • Conference centers
  • Reception venues
  • Live music or performance venues

Other significant changes include:

  • The alcohol on-site consumption curfew is lifted (it was 11 p.m.)
  • Gatherings can now be up to 50 indoors and 100 outdoors.

In the same press conference, NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said that case numbers and vaccination numbers are improving. Now 19% of adult North Carolinians are fully vaccinated and 32% of adults in NC are partially vaccinated.

How to get help now

For general help/find resources: NCCARE360, powered by NC 2-1-1, from United Way of North Carolina, is helping connect people with needed resources from COVID-19’s direct and indirect effects. [get info]

House Wake! launched its financial assistance program to help area residents behind on rent or utility bills (including internet) due to pandemic-related loss of income. The Wake County and City of Raleigh financial assistance program uses funds allocated by the federal government.

Legal counsel and relocation assistance is available in some cases. Qualifications include an income level that is 80% or less of the area’s median income (AMI), with priority given to those who are at a household income level of 50% or less AMI.

The program aims to help those who are at risk of becoming housing insecure.

How to apply for help or learn more: wakegov.com/housing or call  919-899-9911, more info at the county news release.

North Carolinians who can’t pay rent have new protections from being evicted with a new executive order from Governor Roy Cooper. The order works with the CDC moratorium on evictions through the end of the year by clarifying that it applies to people living in all types of rental housing.

Under the order, landlords are required to let tenants know about the CDC moratorium.

Previously shared: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has banned evictions through the end of the year in response to the COVID-19 health crisis. The Dallas Morning News has a good explainer: All you need to do is meet the requirements, fill out this form and deliver it to your landlord. No other documentation is required.

Childcare support: Wake County families who meet certain income requirements can get support for childcare and remote learning, thanks to the new WakeSUPPORTS program.

The program helps working parents:

  • Afford to pay for their K-6th grade students to attend virtual school at a “safe location with reliable oversight,”
  • For before and after school care for K-6th graders
  • And pays fees for infant and toddler childcare associated with subsidized childcare.

WakeSUPPORTS will pay between $516-$870/month to care centers and organizations for qualified families within low-moderate income levels. [learn more]

The program comes after the pandemic showed that lower income families had fewer options to support their virtual learning children, while families with more resources were able to create “learning pods” or find and pay for other quality solutions.

Housing assistance: Wake County and Raleigh/Wake Partnership to End Homelessness rolled out a new hotline for housing assistance, the House Wake! Access Hub. Call 919-443-0096 or email HW_AH@partnershipwake.org to get connected to resources. The phone line and email is monitored 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

House Wake!, a program that helps Wake County residents experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity, will now pay up to 100% of 6 months of approved tenants’ late rent. That increased from what was originally possible with the program because of money from the state. [more details]

Wake County offers help with utility bills: WakeHELPS is a new program for Wake County residents who are unable to pay their gas, power, water or other utility bills because of COVID-19-related financial issues.

Qualified applicants will live in Wake County, are low- to moderate-income households, are effected financially by COVID-19 and are behind on utility bills.

Funding for the program comes from the CARES Act. [learn more + apply]

Need help paying rent this month? Wake County’s Wake Network of Care has a list of resources to get help. [more info]

Get mental health support: The Hope4NC Helpline is a 24/7 mental health resource during COVID-19. Call 1-855-587-3463. “A Hope4Healers Helpline (919-226-2002) is also available for health care workers experiencing stress,” the NCDHHS shared in a tweet.

If you’ve lost health insurance or are seeking it for the first time, you can find some resources here.

Help for Triangle area hospitality workers: The Triangle Restaurant Workers Relief Fund was announced March 18, run by Frankie Lemmon Foundation, to help those working in the industry experiencing layoffs or loss of income.

That fund has since been moved to NC Restaurant Workers Relief Fund, managed by the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association and available for hospitality workers across the state. [donate or get help]

Families experiencing food insecurity: Community food distribution sites to help families experiencing food insecurity are open at lunchtime at some schools and community centers. ID will not be required to pick up. [Find the closest location]

Some schools will also be offering lunch and breakfast pickup. You can also text FOODNC to 877-877 for locations.

Unemployment: Gov. Cooper made it easier for people to file for unemployment, removing some of the requirements that will help food & beverage workers, including removing the one-week waiting period to apply, removing the requirement that they must be actively looking for another job, allowing those who have had their hours reduced to apply and removing the requirement to apply in person. [learn + file here]

Business owners in Wake County with questions can contact the county at a “a dedicated phone number — 919.856.7420” or visit the website https://covid19.wakegov.com/guidance-for-business/. Wake Forward is another program for Wake County small businesses.

Domestic abuse and isolation are a dangerous mix, INDY Week reports. If you need help, call the InterAct 24-hour crisis line at 919-828-7740 for safety planning, resources and advocacy. In an emergency, always call 9-1-1.

Find a list of resources to get help: Revive 919.

CDC’s order on evictions: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has banned evictions through the end of the year in response to the COVID-19 health crisis. The Dallas Morning News has a good explainer: All you need to do is meet the requirements, fill out this form and deliver it to your landlord. No other documentation is required.

The requirements include but aren’t limited to: Exhausting all efforts for government assistance for housing, an income cap, and if evicted, would have no place to go.

Local arts fund created: Wake County officials allocated $1 million from federal funds to create the Wake County Nonprofit Arts Relief Fund, which will support local arts and culture nonprofits that have lost revenue as a result of the pandemic. [learn more]

Previously: House Wake! helps residents on the brink of homelessness
Previously: Southeast Raleigh braces for wave of evictions

READ MORE: How to help your neighbors

What progress do N.C. officials track?

State officials evaluate “key indicators” over a 14-day period, looking at “COVID-like syndromic cases” that come into an emergency room as well as how the number of lab-confirmed cases is trending. 

The percentage of positive tests of total tests also inform officials’ decision-making. 

Officials will look at tests completed per day, whether or not there’s capacity for widespread tracing of cases, and the supply of personal protective equipment.

The state released a new dashboard that updates the key indicators they’re tracking.

This story will be updated.

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Author: raleighconvergence

Sarah Day Owen Wiskirchen is the editor of Raleigh Convergence.

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