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

Bookmark this page for regular updates on state + local news and rules. Last update: Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021.

Hospital leaders are now urging people to use alternatives to the emergency room, such as urgent care and primary care physicians, when possible.

Triangle area hospitals’ emergency rooms are filling up. Patients are experiencing longer wait times, and UNC-Rex hospital has more patients than beds.

Officials from the three hospital systems in the area — Duke Health, UNC Health and WakeMed — organized a joint press conference Wednesday morning because of the current conditions.

The context: As hospital beds fill up, patients are getting backed up in the emergency room, the News & Observer reports. Not only are COVID-19 cases are increasing, but summer is a busier time for the emergency room than last winter’s high COVID-related hospitalization numbers. And, more people are being treated for chronic conditions after delaying care.

Hospitalized patients: WakeMed is treating about 200 COVID-19-positive patients, and about 90% of those patients are unvaccinated, WRAL reports. The WakeMed chief physician executive also told WRAL that people hospitalized with the Delta variant are “trending younger and healthier.”

First COVID-19 vaccine gets full FDA approval

The FDA granted full approval of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday, for ages 16 and older. It’s the first COVID-19 vaccine to receive full FDA approval. 

It could mean greater confidence for those who said they would get a COVID-19 vaccine after full FDA approval, which means this vaccine met the FDA’s standards for safety and effectiveness. It could also mean an increase in vaccine mandates. [Axios]

A new name: The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will now be marketed as Comirnaty, the FDA news release said.

Other vaccines, uses: The Pfizer vaccine is still available under emergency use authorization for children 12-15, and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still available under EUA for adults. The booster, or third shot, is not included in the full FDA approval. 

LOSE YOUR VACCINATION RECORD? Here’s how to get valid proof of vaccination.

New local mask requirements

The towns of Garner, Knightdale, Morrisville, Rolesville and Zebulon, and unincorporated parts of Wake County, will also require masks indoors at public places. The Wake County state of emergency signed went into effect 8 a.m. Aug. 20. [more info]

Masks are already required in all indoor spaces in the City of Raleigh beginning Aug. 13. The mask rules apply regardless of vaccination status. [read more]

The Town of Cary issued an indoor mask requirement to go into effect at 5 p.m. Aug. 18. [read more]

Municipalities that didn’t sign on to the Wake County mask mandate or create their own local rules include: Apex, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs, Wake Forest and Wendell.

More testing options

More free, no-cost testing options are available in Wake County.

As the demand increases for testing, Wake County Public Health is increasing the hours for the five drive-through testing sites.

Locations in Raleigh, Wake Forest, Fuquay-Varina and Zebulon are now open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. From the county site, the addresses are:

Free at-home testing kits are available as well, thanks to the state. Order a test online, which arrives the next day. Ship it to a lab in a postage-paid envelope and get results in 1-2 days.

Other news to know:

Pregnancy + vaccines: The CDC is now urging COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant people, joining The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) in endorsing vaccines. Pregnant people are less likely to be vaccinated, at 23%. New data shows no increased risk of miscarriage during the first 20 weeks of gestation, the NY Times reports.

Hospitalizations of North Carolinians ages 20-49 is at the highest point since the beginning of the pandemic, NC DHHS shared Aug. 10.

📊 Data: Our weekly analysis, by ZIP codes.

About coronavirus cases in Wake County

Wake County‘s total count of confirmed COVID-19 cases is 105,393 as of Wednesday, according to the state dashboard.

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

There have been more than 1.1 million total confirmed cases in North Carolina, according to the state’s tally. [NCDHHS]

At least 14,212 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.

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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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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