We’re tracking the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus and vaccines in North Carolina. Check back for updates.

Cases top 986,000

At least 986,443 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 12,830 have died since March 2020, according to state health officials.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,493 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, up from 699 the day before.

Twenty-nine additional coronavirus-related deaths were reported Wednesday. Deaths don’t all occur on the day the state reports them. The state health department revises its daily figures as information becomes available.

At least 933 people were hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Wednesday, down from 968 the day before.

As of Monday, the latest day for which data is available, 5.3% of coronavirus tests were reported positive. Health officials say 5% or lower is the target rate to slow the spread of the virus.

Roughly 50% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine and 45.1% are fully vaccinated.

Prisons close controversial COVID quarantine program

The N.C. Department of Public Safety announced Wednesday its ending a program that used a motel in Durham to provide transitional housing for men being released from prison.

DPS told The News & Observer the program, which operated out of the Quality Inn & Suites on Hillsborough Road, was never intended to be a long-term operation. Its contracts will expire at the end of May.

“With new COVID-19 cases on the decline and vaccines more widely available, the department is moving toward the close of the program,” DPS said. “There are transitional housing locations for male offenders across the state. At the beginning and height of the pandemic, many of them were not able to take in recently released individuals for quarantine.”

Activists had said the facility was unsanitary, lacked access to medical supplies and left the men who lived there with “an ever-present fear of sickness,” The N&O reported.

The motel had been the subject of protests in recent months.

CDC panel recommends Pfizer vaccine for kids

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 on Wednesday, finding the shot is safe and effective in adolescents.

The final hurdle before teens will be allowed to receive the vaccine will be approval from CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, McClatchy News reported.

Officials expect that approval will come soon.

Fauci answers questions from readers

McClatchy News reporter Brian Murphy asked Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Cameron Webb, a member of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus response team, about a dozen questions about the pandemic during a question-and-answer session.

During the interview, Fauci and Webb answered everything from how to convince patients to get the COVID-19 vaccine to how many people should be vaccinated before North Carolina’s mask mandate is lifted.

“There’s one thing that we absolutely are certain of: That the more people that get vaccinated, the less and less infection you’re going to have in the community,” Fauci said in response to the latter question. “That’s an incontrovertible, an absolutely slam dunk fact.”

A transcript of the conversation edited for clarity is available here.

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Hayley Fowler is a reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking and real-time news across North and South Carolina. She has a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously worked as a legal reporter in New York City before joining the Observer in 2019.

Simone Jasper is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer and real-time news in the Carolinas.

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