We’re tracking the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus and vaccines in North Carolina. Check back for updates.
More than 1,750 new cases reported
At least 1,534,005 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, and at least 18,740 have died since March 2020, according to state health officials.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday, Nov. 30, reported 1,755 new COVID-19 cases, up from 1,725 new cases reported Monday, Nov. 29.
Twenty-six coronavirus-related deaths were also added Nov. 30. Health officials don’t specify the dates on which newly reported deaths occurred.
At least 1,131 people were reported hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Monday, Nov. 29, including 288 adults being treated in intensive care units, health officials said.
As of Sunday, Nov. 28, the latest date with available information, 9.4%of coronavirus tests were reported positive. Health officials say 5% or lower is the target rate to slow the spread of the virus.
Roughly 72% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and about 68% have been fully vaccinated. Out of the state’s total population, about 57% are fully vaccinated and 61% have received at least one dose. State officials round vaccination numbers to the nearest whole number.
Do COVID vaccines protect against omicron?
Health officials have said vaccines offer the best protection against the coronavirus — including the new omicron variant.
There is also data that suggests vaccines offer better protection than having had COVID-19 previously, The News & Observer reported.
In the interim, Dr. Julie Swann, a health and humanitarian researcher and the department head of NC State’s the Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, said scientists will test the omicron variant in lab settings to determine whether generated antibodies will work against the virus.
Still, Swann said vaccines and booster shots remain important for protection. Masks will also help prevent the spread of the virus, she said, and PCR tests appear to be effective at detecting the omicron variant.
Kody Kinsley tapped to lead health department
Kody Kinsley, chief deputy secretary for health at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Resources, will succeed Mandy Cohen as secretary beginning Jan. 1.
Kinsley previously worked as policy analyst at the White House and U.S. Department of the Treasury, The News & Observer reported. He has been with DHHS since March 2018 and will be the first openly gay person to serve as a cabinet secretary in the state’s history.
Gov. Roy Cooper said Kinsley has been part of a “remarkable team of talented people” assembled by Cohen at the state health department.
“I know he will continue the strong legacy of competence, effectiveness and efficiency as he takes over as Secretary,” Cooper said.
Kinsley has been in charge of operations for the agency’s pandemic response, a role in which he reported directly to Cohen and Cooper. His responsibilities included implementing a significant part of DHHS’s COVID-19 response, such as “medical surge, PPE, testing, contact tracing, data and technology, finance, staffing, response of state facilities, and vaccine administration,” according to his LinkedIn profile.
Cohen to leave state health department
Cohen, secretary of the N.C. DHHS and a key figure in the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is leaving her role, The News & Observer reported.
Cohen has held the position since 2017. She’s attended countless coronavirus-related news conferences alongside Gov. Cooper since the virus reached the state in March 2020. She was also named the N&O’s Tar Heel of the Year in 2020 for her work on the state’s pandemic response.
In March 2021, she received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine alongside the Rev. William Barber and has consistently urged everyone to get vaccinated and to get their booster shots.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve this state at such an important moment in history,” Cohen said in a news release announcing her departure. “I am grateful for Governor Cooper’s leadership, and I am so proud of what we have accomplished to improve the health and well-being of the state over the last five years.”
Cohen didn’t say what her career plans are after leaving the health department, but she said she has no intention of running for office.
“I am looking at opportunities that allow me to continue this impact to the health and well-being of communities,” she told reporters. “I do not know what that will look like exactly yet, but no plans to run for office.”
NC health experts weigh in on omicron
North Carolina experts have weighed in on what the emerging omicron COVID-19 variant could mean for the state.
Very little is known about the variant, which was first discovered by doctors in South Africa. No cases have been detected in the United States, and President Joe Biden said Monday, Nov. 29, that omicron is a “cause for concern, not a cause for panic.” The U.S. also has banned travel for non-citizens from South Africa and seven other sub-Saharan African countries.
But Dr. David Wohl, infectious disease specialist at UNC-Chapel Hill, told The News & Observer that the U.S., including North Carolina, will eventually see cases of the variant.
“All these travel bans do is delay the inevitable. There’s no way to keep this out. This is going to get in no matter what,” Wohl told the N&O.
UNC Health said in a statement that “COVID testing teams are keeping close watch for the omicron variant.”
“Our research teams are working with various partners to determine implications for vaccines and treatments, and our clinical teams remain ready for any increase in cases and hospitalizations,” the statement said.
Wohl urged people to continue wearing masks and to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if they aren’t already.
“This is something more akin to a cloud on the horizon. It’s coming our way. We don’t know if it’s carrying a lot of rain or a little rain or if it’s going to rain at all. We just don’t know,” he said. “We really won’t know until we get a little bit better forecast and a little bit better information.”
The state health department said in a statement that vaccination is the best protection against COVID-19.
“There is still much we do not know yet about the Omicron variant,” the statement said. “Regardless, vaccination remains the best protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”