North Carolina reached a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic — more than 10,000 North Carolinians have died from the virus as of Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2021. The state also surpassed 800,000 total cases on Tuesday. 

“Together we grieve with the family and friends of the North Carolinians who have lost their lives to this terrible pandemic,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “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.”

Both CDC and NCDHHS guidelines say everyone should keep wearing a mask, waiting at least 6 feet apart and washing hands often to help slow the spread of COVID-19. 

For more New Bern Post COVID-19 coverage, go here.

“We are still seeing very high levels of spread across North Carolina,” Secretary Cohen said. “Our most powerful tools to help protect ourselves and our loved ones are to practice the 3Ws and get vaccinated when it’s your turn.”

Craven County has had 7,539 lab-confirmed cases as of Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, with 110 deaths. The county has had 777 new cases over the past 14 days, which reflects a decline following a sharp increase that resulted from the Christmas Break.

The post-holiday increase was severe enough to force one Craven County School, West Craven High School, to shift to online-only classes for a short time after 31 percent of its staff were either sick with the virus or had been exposed to it and were in isolation.

North Carolina’s goal is to vaccinate as many people as quickly and equitably as possible. As of Tuesday, North Carolina has administered more than 1.4 million doses of the vaccine. Over 100 percent of first doses received by the federal government for NC providers have been administered, as well as 50 percent of second doses. Last week, NCDHHS added county demographic data for COVID-19 vaccinations to the vaccine data dashboard.

Vaccine supply is limited; therefore, states must vaccinate people in groups. North Carolina is currently vaccinating people in Groups 1 and 2, which include health care workers, long-term care staff and residents, and people 65 and older. Group 3 will include frontline essential workers; Group 4 will include adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk of severe illness; and Group 5 will include everyone.

Detailed information about each vaccine group is online at YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov (English) or vacunate.nc.gov (Spanish).

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Recently, NCDHHS launched a new online tool to help North Carolinians know when they are 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.

For more NCDHHS data on COVID-19 in North Carolina, visit covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard. 

‘Equitable access’

N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper and Dr. Cohen on Tuesday 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.

“Speed is critical, but we are also emphasizing equity,” said Governor Cooper. “Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by this devastating pandemic, and the state is working to reduce the high rates of sickness this population is experiencing.”

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. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has formed a dedicated team to track and provide technical assistance to vaccine providers to ensure they are hitting targets for speed and equity. 

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“We are embedding equity into all aspects of our vaccine plan and holding ourselves and vaccine providers accountable for ensuring that underserved and marginalized communities have access to vaccines,” said Sec. Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “The vaccine is still in short supply, but all North Carolinians will have a spot to get their shot.”

The state continues to engage historically marginalized communities and share accurate information from trusted messengers. Commissioner Evans encouraged everyone, especially people of color, to get their vaccine when it’s their turn.

“Some Black and Brown citizens may mistrust the vaccine, and I understand why based on longstanding and continuing racial and ethnic injustices in our health care system,” Commissioner Evans said. “I trust the vaccines because they have been tested. They are safe and effective. If we are going to gain control of our lives, we need to get vaccinated.” 

North Carolina is making some progress in improving vaccine access for Black North Carolinians. The state has seen a 65% increase in the weekly number of first doses administered to our African American population over the past four weeks. The week of February 3rd, 18 percent of the vaccines administered in the state have gone to our Black/African American population, up from 11 percent the week of January 13th. African Americans make up 22% of North Carolina’s population. There is still more work to do in our Latinx/Hispanic community where rates have stayed around two percent of vaccines administered in the state.

Last week, North Carolina became one of the first states in the country to release statewide race and ethnicity data for COVID-19 vaccines. The Department added new county demographic data including data by race, ethnicity, gender, and age group for COVID-19 vaccinations to the vaccine data dashboard.

NCDHHS also expanded its COVID-19 vaccine help center to answer people’s questions and help them determine when they are eligible for a vaccine. The hotline, 888-675-4567, is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Callers can get help with general COVID-19 vaccine questions, information on eligibility groups, clinical questions about the vaccine, and how to find vaccine locations and transportation services.

Because vaccine supply is limited, states must vaccinate people in groups. North Carolina is currently vaccinating people in Groups 1 and 2, which include health care workers, long-term care staff and residents and people 65 and older. Detailed information about each vaccine group is online at YourShotYourSpot.nc.gov(English) or covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vacuna (Spanish).

Governor Cooper also issued Executive Order No. 193, which amends and extends Executive Orders Nos. 130 and 139. Today’s Order also gives the NCDHHS Secretary the authority to expand the types of providers who may have the authority to administer FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines. Through this Order, providers with this authority will now include dentists licensed in North Carolina. As the state continues to fight the pandemic and protect North Carolinians, the Order directs state officials to marshal all state resources, including property, facilities, and personnel, upon request by NCDHHS, towards vaccination efforts.

Today’s Order received concurrence from the Council of State. 

Read Executive Order No. 193.

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