NCDHHS Secretary Issues SecretarialAdvisory Urging Vaccination and Boosters Against COVID-19, Omicron Variant
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. today issued the below Secretarial Advisory, urging the following actions to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
NCDHHS Secretarial Advisory, Dec. 20, 2021
COVID-19 cases are currently rising in North Carolina due to the Delta variant. The highly contagious variant, Omicron, is beginning to spread rapidly and is expected to cause the highest rates of COVID-19 infections of the pandemic in the coming weeks. The Omicron variant is two to three times as contagious the Delta variant, making it four to six times as contagious as the original COVID-19 virus.
With the holidays approaching and people gathering, it is critical and urgent to act now to protect yourselves and your family and friends. Vaccinating and boosting against COVID-19 remain the most effective ways for people to protect themselves from serious illness, hospitalization and death. Early evidence shows that boosters provide a significant level of protection against Omicron.
This Winter and Holiday Season, Everyone Should:
Visit the NCDHHS website for more information about boosters and additional doses. More information about vaccines for kids can be found here.
To find a vaccine location, or for more information about COVID-19 vaccines in North Carolina, visit MySpot.nc.gov or call the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Help Center for free at 888-675-4567.
Health Experts Warn of Significant Impact From Omicron Variant of COVID-19; NCDHHS Urges Everyone to get Vaccinated and Boosted witha Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine
Health experts are warning that the highly contagious COVID-19 variant, Omicron, is expected to cause the greatest surge in COVID-19 infections to date in the coming months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services urge people to get vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) as soon as possible and to get a booster as soon as they are eligible to help prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death.
"Please get vaccinated and boosted because that’s the best way to protect yourself, your friends and your family during the holidays," said Goernor Roy Cooper. "As the Omicron variant spreads through the United States, it is more clear than ever that these shots provide strong protection against serious illness and death if you get infected."
Early evidence suggests that Omicron is two to three times as contagious the Delta variant, making it four to six times as contagious as the original COVID-19 virus. Data collected so far show more rapid waning of protection after the primary vaccination series than was seen with Delta or other variants, although vaccines are still effective at preventing severe disease. Protection against Omicron increases greatly after a booster dose. Health experts predict that once Omicron is in a community, it will be nearly impossible to contain, making vaccines and boosters essential in protecting people from severe illness. The elderly, people living in long-term care facilities and people with underlying medical conditions or who are immunosuppressed are at the greatest risk and should get vaccinated as soon as possible and get a COVID-19 booster as soon as they are eligible.
"Early data show boosters offer substantial protection from severe illness from Omicron, showing that vaccines continue to be the best way to protect your health. Get your booster as soon as its time — especially if you are over 65 or have underlying medical conditions," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "This new variant is extremely contagious, and I am very worried about North Carolinians who have not been vaccinated yet. Don’t wait to vaccinate. It’s not too late to decide to get your shot."
The CDC now recommends the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines as the best choice for most people for preventing infection from COVID-19. There is ample supply of both vaccines in North Carolina and across the country. The CDC emphasized receiving any vaccine, including the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, is better than being unvaccinated. People who prefer to receive the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will continue to have access to it, as will people who cannot receive an mRNA vaccine. However, people with a history of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia, a condition defined as blood clotting with low platelets, should not receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
To date, all three vaccines have prevented severe illness and hospitalization among millions of Americans. A study released this week by The Commonwealth Fund estimates COVID-19 vaccines prevented more than 1 million additional deaths and more than 10 million additional hospitalizations in the United States through November 2021.
Vaccinating against COVID-19 remains the most effective way for people to protect themselves from serious illness, hospitalization and death. Once vaccinated, people should get a booster. Anyone who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, should get a booster 6 months after their second dose. Anyone who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine should receive a Pfizer or Moderna booster 2 months after their original shot.
With the presence of Omicron and the upcoming holiday, all North Carolinians should:
North Carolina Approved to Extend Student P-EBT Food Assistance Benefits Through 2021-22 School Year; Child Care P-EBT Still Pending Federal Approval
Carolina del Norte aprobó extender los beneficios de asistencia alimentaria de P-EBT para estudiantes hasta el año escolar 2021-22, los beneficios P-EBT en Guarderías Infantiles aún siguen pendiente de aprobación federal
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today announced it has received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to continue the Student Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) food assistance program for eligible K-12 students through the 2021-22 school year under new rules. North Carolina is still awaiting federal approval for Child Care P-EBT (previously called “Children Under 6”) and cannot issue benefits to this group until USDA approval is received.
North Carolina was one of the first states to launch Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) early in the pandemic. The federally funded program has provided more than $1.7 billion of groceries to more than 1.3 million children at risk of hunger due to school closures.
Eligibility for the program has changed. Under new federal rules for P-EBT, students will only get P-EBT for eligible days. With most students now in school and receiving meals in person, many households will not get P-EBT this year or will receive only a small amount when the student experiences a COVID-19 related absence. Like last year, there is no application for P-EBT. Students are eligible for the program if they are approved for free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) AND their attendance record reflects they are not physically present in school because of a COVID-19 related absence. More information on eligibility and benefits can be found by visiting the P-EBT website.
North Carolina plans to start issuing benefits to eligible students by the end of January 2022 and will announce when issuances begin.
“A nutritious diet is an essential part of a student’s health, well-being and academic success,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “The P-EBT program helps students and their families who are directly impacted by COVID-19 by providing resources to buy food so they can focus on learning.”
COVID-19 related absences are days when students enrolled in physical schools are in quarantine and/or temporary virtual instruction. These absences are eligible for P-EBT when recorded by the student’s school using special attendance codes. For more information on COVID-19 absences, visit NCDHHS’s P-EBT Frequently Asked Questions.
The Student P-EBT program helps eligible K-12 students whose access to free or reduced-price meals at school has been impacted by COVID-19. The program provides benefits on a debit-like card that can be used to buy food at authorized retailers, including most major grocery stores. P-EBT is issued through a partnership between NCDHHS and the NC Department of Public Instruction.
Households can check HERE to see if their child’s school participates in the NSLP. Households with a student(s) who attends a NSLP school and is not approved for free or reduced-price meals for this school year can contact their child’s school to apply to be approved for free or reduced-price meals.
Virtual schools are not eligible to participate in the NSLP, therefore students attending these schools are not eligible to receive P-EBT. This is a federal rule set by USDA and North Carolina cannot change the rule.
Eligible students will only receive benefits for day(s) they were marked absent due to a COVID-19 related absence. Visit the P-EBT FAQs for more information on benefit amount.
For more information on P-EBT, visit the updated P-EBT website.
El Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos de Carolina del Norte anunció hoy que ha recibido la aprobación del Departamento de Agricultura de los Estados Unidos para continuar con el programa de asistencia alimentaria para estudiantes durante la Pandemia (P-EBT) para estudiantes elegibles de K-12 durante el año escolar 2021-22 bajo nuevas reglas. Carolina del Norte todavía está esperando la aprobación federal para estos beneficios P-EBT en Guarderías Infantiles (anteriormente llamado "Niños menores de 6 años") y no puede emitir beneficios a este grupo hasta que se reciba la aprobación del USDA.
Carolina del Norte fue uno de los primeros estados en lanzar los Beneficios P-EBT al inicio de la pandemia. El programa financiado con fondos federales ha proporcionado más de $1.7 mil millones en comestibles a más de 1.3 millones de niños en riesgo de padecer hambre debido al cierre de escuelas.
La elegibilidad para el programa ha cambiado. Bajo las nuevas reglas federales para P-EBT, los estudiantes solo obtendrán P-EBT durante los días elegibles. Con la mayoría de los estudiantes ahora en la escuela y recibiendo comidas en persona, muchos hogares no recibirán P-EBT este año o recibirán solo una pequeña cantidad cuando el estudiante experimente una ausencia relacionada con el COVID-19. Al igual que el año pasado, no hay ninguna solicitud para P-EBT. Los estudiantes son elegibles para el programa si están aprobados para recibir comidas gratuitas o a precio reducido a través del Programa Nacional de Almuerzos Escolares (NSLP) Y su registro de asistencia refleja que no están físicamente presentes en la escuela debido a una ausencia relacionada con el COVID-19. Puede encontrar más información sobre elegibilidad y beneficios visitando el sitio web de P-EBT.
Carolina del Norte planea comenzar a emitir beneficios a los estudiantes elegibles para fines de enero de 2022 y anunciará cuándo comiencen las emisiones.
"Una dieta nutritiva es una parte esencial de la salud, el bienestar y el éxito académico de un estudiante", dijo la secretaria de NCDHHS, Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "El programa P-EBT ayuda a los estudiantes y sus familias que se ven directamente afectados por COVID-19 al proporcionar recursos para comprar alimentos para que puedan concentrarse en el aprendizaje".
Las ausencias relacionadas con el COVID-19 son días en que los estudiantes inscritos en escuelas están en cuarentena y / o instrucción virtual temporal. Estas ausencias son elegibles para P-EBT cuando son registradas por la escuela del estudiante utilizando códigos de asistencia especiales. Para obtener más información sobre las ausencias del COVID-19, visite las Preguntas frecuentes de P-EBT de NCDHHS.
El programa P-EBT para estudiantes ayuda a los estudiantes elegibles de K-12 cuyo acceso a comidas gratuitas o a precio reducido en la escuela se ha visto afectado por el COVID-19. El programa proporciona beneficios en una tarjeta similar a una de débito que se puede usar para comprar alimentos en minoristas autorizados, incluidas la mayoría de las principales tiendas de comestibles. Los beneficios de P-EBT se emiten a través de una asociación entre NCDHHS y el Departamento de Instrucción Pública de NC.
Los hogares pueden consultar AQUÍ para ver si la escuela de su hijo participa en el Programa NSLP. Los hogares con un estudiante o estudiantes que asiste a una escuela NSLP y no está aprobado para comidas gratuitas o a precio reducido para este año escolar pueden comunicarse con la escuela de su hijo para solicitar ser aprobado para comidas gratuitas o a precio reducido.
Las escuelas virtuales no son elegibles para participar en el Programa NSLP, por lo tanto, los estudiantes que asisten a estas escuelas no son elegibles para recibir beneficios de P-EBT. Esta es una regla federal establecida por el USDA y Carolina del Norte no puede cambiar la regla.
Los estudiantes elegibles solo recibirán beneficios por los días en que fueron marcados como ausentes a causa del COVID-19. Visite las preguntas frecuentes de P-EBT para obtener más información sobre el monto del beneficio.
Para obtener más información sobre P-EBT, visite el sitio web actualizado de P-EBT.
Secretary Mandy Cohen to step down as DHHS Secretary, Governor Cooper selects current DHHS Deputy Secretary to lead department
Governor Roy Cooper announced today that North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. will be stepping down from the agency after 5 years of service to the state. Governor Cooper has appointed Kody Kinsley, current NCDHHS Chief Deputy Secretary for Health and lead for COVID operations, to succeed her beginning January 1st.
“Mandy Cohen has shown extraordinary leadership during her tenure and she has worked every day during this pandemic to help keep North Carolinians healthy and safe,” said Governor Cooper. “We are stronger because of her efforts and I am enormously grateful for her service. She has built a remarkable team of talented people including Kody Kinsley, and I know he will continue the strong legacy of competence, effectiveness and efficiency as he takes over as Secretary.”
Secretary Cohen, an internal medicine physician, was appointed by Governor Cooper in January of 2017 and has served as Secretary of DHHS leading the state during some of the most challenging times in North Carolina history. She has led the state’s response to COVID-19 and served as Governor Cooper’s chief advisor and strategist on beating the pandemic.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve this state at such an important moment in history,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen. “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. There is much work still to do, and I am so pleased the Governor selected Kody Kinsley to take the baton to run the next leg of this race.”
Under Dr. Cohen’s leadership, North Carolina has been a model for best practices to provide equitable access to COVID-19 testing and support to families so that they could safely quarantine and isolate; been recognized as best in the nation for data quality for vaccinations by race and ethnicity; and eliminated a vaccination gap between Hispanic and non-Hispanic North Carolinians and narrowed the gap for Black/African American communities.
Secretary Cohen has been lauded for her outstanding leadership during the COVID crisis. In September of 2020, Secretary Cohen was awarded the Leadership in Public Health Practice Award from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She was named the 2020 Tar Heel of the Year by the Raleigh News and Observer newspaper and Dr. Cohen was also elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2021.
In addition to her COVID response leadership, Secretary Cohen and her team successfully launched Medicaid managed care, receiving national recognition for the state’s innovative approach to whole-person care, including the integration of physical and mental health and using Medicaid to address drivers of health such as housing, transportation, and employment. Under Secretary Cohen’s leadership, NCDHHS hired its first Chief Health Equity Officer and has focused on reducing disparities in opportunity and outcomes for historically marginalized populations. In addition, North Carolina implemented the first-in-the-nation statewide coordinated care network, NCCARE360, to electronically connect those with identified needs to community resources. This private-public partnership has been a key feature of NC’s COVID response and backbone to the innovative Health Opportunities pilot authorized under North Carolina’s 1115 Medicaid waiver.
Dr. Cohen is leaving DHHS in a strong position to continue to carry out its mission, Cooper said. Dr. Cohen plans to spend more time with her family while exploring new opportunities to carry on her work improving the health and well-being of communities.
Kody H. Kinsley, a native of Wilmington, NC, currently serves as the Chief Deputy Secretary for Health at NCDHHS and Operations Lead for NC’s COVID-19 pandemic response. During his nearly four years of service at NCDHHS, Kinsley has overseen the state’s response to the Opioid Epidemic; increased investments in services and supports for individuals with behavioral health needs and developmental disabilities; created strategic interventions to transition justice-involved populations to care; and has been a driving force behind the state’s COVID-19 pandemic response, including North Carolina’s vaccine distribution efforts.
Kinsley returned home to North Carolina after serving as the presidentially appointed Assistant Secretary for Management at the U.S. Department of the Treasury where he led operations and finances for the cabinet-level agency, a position he held during both the Obama and Trump Administrations. He has also held roles at the White House and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Kinsley is a recipient of SEANC’s Unsung Hero Award, the Alexander Hamilton Award, and is a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Brevard College in Brevard, NC and a Master of Public Policy from the Goldman School at the University of California at Berkeley.
Kinsley will be the first openly gay cabinet Secretary in North Carolina history.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today announced the State of North Carolina has been awarded more than $38 million in federal funding to establish a new water assistance program for households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beginning Wednesday, eligible households that have had their water services cut off or have received notice that their water services are in danger of being cut off can apply for assistance in paying their bill through a new federal program called the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP).
LIHWAP is a temporary emergency program that will help eligible households and families afford water and wastewater services. The program provides a one-time payment for eligible low-income households directly to the utility company. LIHWAP runs through September 2023 or until the funds run out.
"Due to the pandemic and its impact on our economy, many households are struggling to maintain their water service," said Tara Myers, NCDHHS Deputy Secretary for Employment, Inclusion and Economic Stability. "The LIHWAP program will help families in North Carolina keep their water running, a basic human need that’s critical for good sanitation and better health."
Households that currently receive Food and Nutrition Services (FNS), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Work First services, or those that received Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) services between Oct. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, are automatically eligible to receive this benefit if their water services have been cut off or are in danger of being cut off.
All other households that have had their water services or are in danger of losing it can apply starting Dec. 1, 2021, online at www.epass.nc.gov. Individuals can also apply by printing a paper application from www.epass.nc.gov and dropping it off at or faxing it to their local county Department of Social Services or by calling their local county Department of Social Services to apply by phone.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, all households that are not in danger of having their water service cut off can apply for assistance if they meet the eligibility requirements. To be eligible for the LIHWAP program, a household must have at least one U.S. citizen or non-citizen and:
For more information on this program and eligibility, visit the LIHWAP website at www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/social-services/energy-assistance/low-income-household-water-assistance-program-lihwap.