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RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday gave an update on the status of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Our state is preparing to receive the Pfizer vaccine that requires ultra-cold storage. We’re a big state with rural areas that stretch for hundreds of miles. Every person is important, and we’ll work hard to overcome challenges that our geography presents,” Cooper said.

Cooper said the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has for months been developing a plan to distribute the vaccine but there is still a lot of work to do to get the vaccine from manufacturers to health care providers in the coming weeks.

“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 ability to reach priority populations. Trusted providers like hospitals will be among the first to vaccinate people,” Cooper said.

NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the first people to receive the vaccine will be health care workers and long-term care residents and workers.

After that, the next group to receive the vaccine will be adults with two or more chronic conditions that put them at a higher risk for severe COVID-19 complications.

Cooper expressed confidence in the efficacy of the vaccine.

“I have confidence in this process. Health care workers, people in long-term care and those at risk for severe illness will come first. But when it’s my turn to get this vaccine, I’ll be ready to roll up my sleeve,” he said.

Cohen said North Carolina’s trends are “worrisome.”

“To give some perspective, just under 1,500 people died from the flu in the past 10 years. In just 11 months, COVID has killed more than three times that number,” Cohen said.

Last month, NC health officials launched a COVID-19 alert map for North Carolina.

You can see the alert map here.

North Carolina currently remains in Phase 3.

Under Phase 3:

  • Restrictions for vulnerable populations will be lessened with encouragement to continue practicing social distancing
  • Rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and congregate care settings will continue.
  • Large outdoor venues with seating greater than 10,000 may operate with 7% occupancy for spectators. 
  • Smaller outdoor entertainment venues, like arenas or amphitheaters, may operate outdoors at 30% of outdoor capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less. 
  • Movie theaters and conference centers may open indoor spaces to 30% of capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less.
  • Bars may operate outdoors at 30% of outdoor capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less. 
  • Amusement parks may open at 30% occupancy, outdoor attractions only. 
  • The limits on mass gatherings will be reduced to 10 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. 
  • The 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales for in-person consumption in locations such as restaurants and outdoor bars will be extended.

Timeline of NC coronavirus restrictions

The state-wide stay-at-home order went into effect on March 30. It was initially to be in effect for 30 days, but was extended until May 8, at which point the state entered Phase 1.

NC entered first entered Phase 1 on Friday, May 8.

In Phase 1:

  • Most businesses could reopen
  • Retail businesses reopened at 50% capacity with frequent cleaning and social distancing
  • Parks and trails were encouraged to reopen
  • Certain businesses (gyms, salons, bars, theaters, etc.) remain closed
  • Restaurants continued to be take out and delivery only
  • Gatherings were still limited to 10 people, but gatherings with friends outdoors were allowed
  • Employers were still encouraged to telework when possible
  • Childcare centers that followed strict cleaning requirements opened for working parents or those looking for work
  • Worship services of more than 10 people were allowed outdoors if socially distanced

North Carolina entered Phase 2 of reopening on Friday, May 22.

During a news conference on Aug. 5, Cooper said North Carolina will stay in Phase 2 for five weeks.

Under Phase 2:

  • Gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors
  • Retail stores that are cleaning and social distancing are open at 50% capacity
  • Salons are open at 50% capacity
  • Working from home is encouraged
  • Bars and nightclubs are closed
  • Gyms are closed
  • Movie theaters are closed
  • Bowling alleys are closed
  • Indoor music venues and skating rinks are closed
  • Museums are closed
  • Arenas and stadiums are closed
  • Pools are open with restrictions
  • Long-term care visitation is not allowed

In North Carolina, about 2,033 people are currently hospitalized with the coronavirus as of 12:05 p.m. on Tuesday, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Tuesday’s hospitalization numbers are the highest the state has seen yet. This is the first time more than 2,000 have been hospitalized for the coronavirus in NC.

The cumulative number of coronavirus cases in North Carolina is at least 367,395, and 5,284 people have died. 345,906 are molecular positive cases, and 21,489 are antigen-positive cases.

There have been 5,322,548 coronavirus tests completed. NCDHHS reports that 10.2% of those tests have been positive.

5,552 hospital beds are currently available and staffed, and 15,411 are in use. Others are either unstaffed or unreported.

As of Monday, Nov. 30, there have been 315,979 people in North Carolina who have recovered (note: this number is updated every Monday afternoon).

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