As COVID-19 Variant of Concern Spreads Rapidly, Health Officials Urge North Carolinians to Get Vaccinated
There is increasing urgency for people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the more dangerous new Delta variant is rapidly spreading in the United States, including in North Carolina. Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classified the Delta variant as a ‘variant of concern’ because it spreads faster than current COVID-19 variants. Early studies from the United Kingdom have also shown a possible increased risk of hospitalization in people infected with the Delta variant. The currently available COVID-19 vaccines are the best protection against the virus and its variants.
The news comes as research is showing medical problems from COVID-19 can last even for those who did not have symptoms. A study by FAIR Health found that 19% of asymptomatic COVID-19 patients develop long-term symptoms such as pain, breathing difficulties, fatigue and high blood pressure. In addition, the study found that 27.5% of COVID-19 patients who were symptomatic but not hospitalized also developed lasting symptoms.
"While our COVID-19 trends are good, we are still seeing unvaccinated people hospitalized and dying from this virus, and many struggling with long-term effects like having difficulty breathing when doing simple activities. This is preventable if you get a vaccine to protect yourself and your community," said NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.
Getting a vaccine is the best way for people to protect themselves from COVID-19. Rigorous clinicals trials among thousands of people ages 12 and up have proven the vaccines are safe and effective against all circulating variants. More than 140 million Americans have now been safely vaccinated and protected from serious illness and virus-related hospitalization and death.
North Carolinians now have another reason to get vaccinated. Four vaccinated North Carolinians 18 and older will win $1 million each and four North Carolinians ages 12 to 17 will win tuition for post-secondary education. Drawings will run from June 23 through Aug. 4. All North Carolina residents 12 and older who have been vaccinated with at least one dose are eligible, some restrictions may apply. Those vaccinated starting June 10 are entered twice for each drawing — increasing the chance of winning for the newly vaccinated. Drawings will take place every other week on Wednesdays with the first drawing on June 23. New entries will close at midnight on the Sunday prior to the Wednesday drawing. Winners will be verified and then announced.
Learn more about the $4 Million Summer Cash and Summer Cash 4 College Drawings at SummerVaxCash.com. For more information about COVID-19 vaccines and the state’s Bringing Summer Back initiative, visit YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov or dial 1- 888-675-4567.
The NC Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions (HOPE) Program is reopening applications soon. The HOPE Program provides rent and utility bill assistance to renters who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The HOPE Program has been updated since the first open application period. This fact sheet is intended to inform tenants, landlords and utility providers about how the new program works.
The HOPE Program will serve very low-income renters in 88 North Carolina counties. Very low income is defined as earning less than or equal to 50% of the area median income for the county where the renter lives. The 12 counties listed below received direct federal funding for rent and utility assistance programs. If you live in the one of these counties, you should apply to your local rent and utility assistance program instead of the HOPE Program:
Native American tribes also received direct federal funding for rent and utility assistance programs. Recognized members of the following tribes will be served by programs managed by their tribal governments: Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Coharie Tribe, Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe, Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and Waccamaw-Siouan Tribe.
Very low-income renters are eligible for rent and utility assistance from the HOPE Program. To qualify for assistance, you must meet all of the following requirements:
The new phase of the HOPE Program will pay the monthly rent you owe to your landlord, up to the fair market rent for a 2-bedroom unit in your county. You can find the county fair market rent limits using the 2021 HUD Fair Market Rent Documentation System. Rent limits are rounded down to the nearest $5 for easier calculation.
Eligible applicants may receive up to 12 months of rent assistance, which may include up to nine months of past due rent. Rent assistance provided during the first phase of the HOPE Program counts towards the nine months of past due rent assistance that an applicant can receive.
The program also pays three months of future rent at a time, with 12 months being the maximum amount of assistance the program can provide in total. If the applicant has not exhausted 12 months of rent assistance, and funds are available, then an applicant may apply for additional rounds rent assistance if they still require rent assistance. Federal grant guidance requires that applicants re-apply and re-qualify every three months to ensure that the applicant continues to qualify for assistance.
Rent assistance is paid to the landlord on behalf of the eligible applicant. Landlords that accept this phase of HOPE funds agree to not evict the applicant for non-payment of rent during the period of assistance and for at least 60 days after that period ends.
Utility assistance is available to applicants that apply and qualify for rent assistance. Utility-only applications will not be accepted in this phase of the HOPE Program.
The program covers essential utilities, up to a maximum amount. Those utilities and the maximum assistance amounts are as follows:
Rent and utility assistance is provided based on the availability of funding.
Exec. Order No. 216 Expands Work Search Guidelines to Connect All Unemployment Claimants with Employers, Jobs
Governor Roy Cooper today issued an Executive Order directing the Department of Commerce to encourage and help people who are receiving unemployment benefits transition back into employment.
“Unemployment benefits have provided a critical lifeline for many North Carolinians living on the edge due to the pandemic. As our state emerges from the pandemic, we want to help people safely return to work as soon as possible. Reinstating the work search guidelines will help connect claimants with employers, resources and tools to help them return to the workforce,” said Governor Cooper.
Under Executive Order 216, all existing claimants of unemployment benefits will be required to fulfill work search requirements beginning June 6, 2021. All existing claimants will be required over the next several weeks to register with a jobseeker account on NCWorks.gov.
The Order also directs the N.C. Department of Commerce to explore opportunities, consistent with federal law and through the use of certain federal funds, to establish a reemployment incentive program for jobless workers who find and maintain employment.
Today’s action expands upon Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 200, which reinstated work search requirements for new claimants after March 14, 2021. As North Carolina makes progress on its key COVID-19 metrics, the work search requirements will now apply to everyone currently filing for unemployment benefits.
Under the Order:
Since the start of the pandemic, North Carolina has distributed more than $11.7 billion in unemployment benefits across multiple state and federal programs. Approximately 245,000 North Carolinians are currently receiving benefit payments each week.
For work search assistance in North Carolina, jobseekers can contact NCWorks at NCWorks.gov or 1-855-NCWorks. Information about unemployment benefits can be found at des.nc.gov.
Read the Order.
State to lift gathering limits, social distancing requirements in all settings and indoor mask mandate for most settings
Today, Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. shared an update on the state’s COVID-19 progress. Throughout the pandemic, state officials have taken a data-driven approach and have been guided by the science in making decisions. Following yesterday’s guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that fully vaccinated individuals can safely do most activities without wearing a mask or the need to social distance from others, the state will remove its indoor mask mandate for most settings. Additionally, the state will lift all mass gathering limits and social distancing requirements. These changes are now in effect as of 1:30 PM today.
“We can take this step today because the science shows our focus on getting people vaccinated is working,” said Governor Cooper. “But to keep moving forward – and to make sure that we keep saving lives – more people need to get vaccinated.”
The ability to lift restrictions sooner than anticipated following the CDC’s guidance shows the importance of vaccinating all North Carolinians. As of this week, even more people can get vaccinated. Younger teens between 12 and 15 can now get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Young people are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, just like everyone else, and the percent of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina children 17 and under has been increasing.
North Carolina continues to focus on distributing vaccines quickly and equitably. To date, the state has administered over 7.7 million doses. 51% percent of those 18 and up are at least partially vaccinated, and 46% percent of those 18 and up have been fully vaccinated.
“I am so proud of the incredible progress we have made in beating back this pandemic,” said Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “Vaccines continue to be incredibly effective at protecting individuals from this terrible virus. And as more and more people get vaccinated, the results show in our stable metrics with lower cases, lower hospitalizations, and lower deaths.”
In accordance with the new CDC guidance, there will still be certain settings where masks and other safety measures will be required. Masks will still be required in child care, schools and camps as most children are either not yet vaccinated or are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. Everyone, including people who are fully vaccinated will still be required to wear a mask in certain settings such as public transportation, health care settings like hospitals, doctor’s offices and long-term care settings like nursing homes, and certain congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters.
NCDHHS will continue to have strong public health recommendations for individuals to continue to protect one another until more people are vaccinated. People who are not vaccinated should wear a mask and maintain distance in all indoor public settings and in outdoor settings when they can't maintain six feet of distance.
Masks are strongly recommended for everyone at large crowded indoor events like sporting events and live performances.
NCDHHS recommends public facing businesses post signage reminding guests to social distance and wear a face covering if they are not fully vaccinated; remind employees to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19; have a plan to immediately isolate and remove sick workers; and clean high-touch surfaces once a day. Businesses may choose to continue to require that their customers wear masks.
The Department of Health and Human Services will also continue to expand strategies to reach people who have not yet gotten vaccinated.
Information on the state’s vaccine distribution is available at YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov (English) or Vacunate.nc.gov (Spanish). People can find nearby vaccine providers using NCDHHS’ online tool, Find a Vaccine Location. The state’s COVID-19 vaccine hotline number is 888-675-4567.
Read the Executive Order.
Read a FAQ about today’s Order.
Rotary Club of Murphy has several $1,000 scholarships available to Cherokee County students pursuing higher education. The original deadline for receipt of completed applications was Friday, May 14, 2021 but will be extending that to Monday, May 17, 2021 at NOON.
Students will have the weekend to complete the application.
Rotary Club of Murphy offers a $1,000 scholarship to a student at each of Cherokee County's 5 high schools and, in cooperation with his family, a special $1,000 scholarship in memory of Jack Earley who served our community and club for many decades. Jack had a passion for agriculture, vocational and trades programs and this scholarship is a great way to carry on his legacy.
The applications are attached. Once again, the deadline to receive completed applications is at NOON on Monday, May 17, 2021. Instructions on how to submit are on the applications.
Governor Urges N.C. Families to Sign Up Starting May 12 for Discounts on Internet, Computers
North Carolinians can get critical help to pay for high-speed internet from a $3.2 billion federal program opening in May for families and households working, learning and shopping from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Many North Carolina families struggle to afford high-speed internet," North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. "The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will help bridge the digital divide so that people in need can get online to talk with their doctors, learn remotely, find or do work, and connect with friends and family."
The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP) gives a discount of up to $50 a month to a household's internet bill. That increases to $75 a month for those living on tribal lands. Eligible households can also get a one-time discount of $100 toward the purchase of a laptop, tablet or desktop computer through participating providers.
Enrollment in EBBP will open on May 12. Households with an income at or less than 135 percent of federal poverty guidelines are eligible for the EBBP. A household also qualifies if at least one member participates in a federal benefits program such as Medicaid, SNAP, or Lifeline, receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program, lost a job or a significant amount of income in the past year, received a Federal Pell Grant, or is part of an internet service provider’s low-income or COVID-19 program.
"Affordability is one barrier among the inequities that prevent numerous North Carolina residents and households from accessing high-speed, high-quality internet," Jim Weaver, North Carolina Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) secretary and state chief information officer, said. "This benefit can spur demand for building infrastructure to bring that service into areas of the state that have little or no access to broadband."
Administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the program was created by Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 to help Americans access healthcare, jobs, classrooms and businesses during the pandemic. Many types of providers, including those offering landline and wireless broadband, are offering the discount. The FCC gives extensive guidance for providers seeking to participate.
The NCDIT Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO) offers guidance on how North Carolina households can apply for the benefit and how providers in the state can participate in it.
The FCC's consumer site has detailed information on how households can qualify and apply for the program. Households can also see a list of participating providers in their state. Governor Cooper has called on internet service providers in North Carolina to participate in the program so that more North Carolinians can afford to get online.
The EBBP will end six months after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declares the pandemic is over or when the program uses all its $3.2 billion funding, whichever happens first. Providers must notify consumers at least 30 days before the discount ends and must let consumers opt-in to continue service before charging them a higher rate.
To help get high-speed internet service to even more North Carolinians, NCDIT’s Broadband Infrastructure Office is currently conducting a survey to gather better data on broadband availability and quality in the state. All North Carolinians are encouraged to take the five-minute survey by visiting ncbroadband.gov/survey or calling 919-750-0553.
Gov. Cooper Issues Executive Order to Relax State’s Outdoor Mask Mandate and Ease Mass Gathering Limits
State continues to strive to get two thirds of adults at least partially vaccinated
Today, Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. gave an update on the state’s current data, trends and vaccination progress. As the state’s metrics and key indicators remain stable, Governor Cooper also signed an Executive Order outlining safety measures for the month of May. Executive Order No. 209 will take effect April 30 and is set to expire June 1. As more North Carolinians get vaccinated and adhere to safety protocols over the course of the next month, the state anticipates lifting more restrictions on June 1.
“While our numbers are mostly stable, we have more work to do to beat back this pandemic,” said Governor Cooper. “Let’s work hard in May and get as many people vaccinated as we can before summer gets here.”
Under the new Executive Order, masks will still be required indoors but are no longer mandated outdoors. Masks are still strongly recommended outdoors by NC DHHS in crowded areas and higher risk settings where social distancing is difficult.
Executive Order No. 209 will also increase mass gathering capacity limits. The number of people who may gather indoors will increase from 50 to 100 and the number of people who may gather outdoors will increase from 100 to 200. Occupancy limits currently in place will remain the same.
“Fortunately, we now have enough vaccine for everyone. They are free and widely available across the state. In many places you don’t need appointment,” said Secretary Cohen. “For those who have questions, I encourage you to go to YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov to learn about the benefits of the vaccines, potential temporary reactions you might experience, and answers to common questions.”
North Carolina continues to focus on distributing vaccines quickly and equitably. To date, the state has administered over 7 million doses. 48.7% percent of those 18 and up are at least partially vaccinated, and 39.2% percent of those 18 and up have been fully vaccinated.
State health officials are continuing to monitor COVID-19 and its more contagious variants in North Carolina, which is why it is important to continue to follow the state’s mask mandate and continue to practice safety precautions, including the Three Ws—wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash hands often.
Dr. Cohen also provided an update on North Carolina’s data and trends.
Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days
In addition to monitoring these metrics, the state continues to respond to virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.
Read Executive Order No. 209.
Read Frequently Asked Questions.
View the slides from today’s briefing.
FCC to Establish 988 as the New Nationwide Number for Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Transition to 10-digit Local Dialing.
On July 16, 2020, the FCC adopted rules to establish 988 as the new nationwide, easy-to-remember 3-digit number for Americans in crisis. The new rule requires all providers, starting July 16, 2022, to route all calls to 988 to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Until then, Americans needing help should continue to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 800.273.TALK (800.273.8255).
In preparation for the new 988 number, the FCC is also transitioning to 10-digit dialing for all local calls as some area codes use 988. The FCC has adopted the follow timeline for transition:
The Nantahala Ranger District is looking to fill four seasonal and temporary positions for the 2021 summer season through the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) program. Positions include two YCC crewmembers and two YCC Crew Leaders with a work season from June 21, 2021 through July 31, 2021.
The Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) is a summer employment program for young men and women, ages 15 through 18, who work, learn, and earn together for 8 weeks on projects that help conserve the natural resources of the United States. The three objectives of the program include, accomplishing needed conservation work on public lands, providing gainful employment for 15- through 18-year-old males and females of all social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds and to develop an understanding and appreciation of the Nation's natural environment and heritage for the participating youth.
YCC work projects vary depending on location and current needs of the Forest Service. Projects may include constructing trails, building campground facilities, planting trees, collecting litter, clearing streams, improving wildlife habitat, building fences, office work, and many other worthwhile tasks. There is hard physical work involved in most tasks, and crews work out in the woods away from towns.
Applicants must be 15 years old by June 19, 2021 and must not turn 19 years old by August 1, 2021. To obtain an application visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/working-with-us/opportunities-for-young-people/youth-conservation-corps-opportunities. To submit your application, download the form, fill it out, and email to Viviana Ruiz, Recreation Manager, at Viviana.firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications must be submitted by May 17, 2021.
For more information on this opportunity visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/newsevents/?cid=FSEPRD904721
Shelters along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia are now available for use. Hikers are encouraged to bring their own personal tent and face coverings. Earlier in the pandemic these shelters were shut down, along with trailheads.
The shelters are located on national forest land, managed by the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Officials say there are hundreds of shelters averaging about 8 miles apart along the trail, although the intervals vary. Shelters might not be frequently maintained at all locations.
Another overnight option is dispersed camping in designated areas of the national forest. Hikers should be prepared to tent camp if social distancing in shelters is not possible.
Hikers can plan ahead by checking forest websites for site-specific details before their trip. The southern portion of the Appalachian Trail runs through four national forests:
Hikers are encouraged to recreate responsibly, maintain a safe social distance and follow health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health authorities.