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NC coronavirus live updates: 53 new COVID deaths on Jan. 14

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

NC passes 2 million cases

At least 2,011,302 coronavirus cases have been reported in North Carolina, and at least 19,903 people have died since March 2020, according to state health officials.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday, Jan. 14, reported 35,759 new COVID-19 cases, down from 44,833 the day before. Health officials had said the Jan. 13 count would be higher due to more than 10,000 earlier cases that hadn’t been submitted. Neither number includes home tests.

At least 4,381 people were reported hospitalized with COVID-19 on Jan. 14, a single-day record and up from 4,275 the day before. Fifty-three coronavirus-related deaths were also added.

As of Jan. 12, the latest date with available information, 31.6% of coronavirus tests were reported positive. Health officials say 5% or lower is the target rate to slow the spread of the virus.

Roughly 74% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and about 70% have been fully vaccinated. Of the state’s total population, about 59% are fully vaccinated and 63% have received at least one dose. State officials round vaccination numbers to the nearest whole number.

More than 2.7 million ”booster/additional” doses have been administered in North Carolina as of Jan. 14, the health department said. Health officials have urged those who are eligible to get boosters, as data suggests it offers increased protection against the omicron coronavirus variant.

About 99% of all new COVID-19 cases in the Southeast were attributed to the omicron variant as of Jan. 8, the latest date for which data is available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2 Carolinas attractions to host COVID-19 testing

As COVID-19 cases hit an all-time high in neighboring Mecklenburg County, the Carowinds amusement park south of Charlotte and zMAX Dragway across from Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord will host free COVID-19 testing beginning Monday.

Mecklenburg County Public Health and Cabarrus Health Alliance, Cabarrus County’s health department, worked with testing providers StarMed and MAKO to open the testing sites.

As COVID-19 cases hit an all-time high in neighboring Mecklenburg County, the Carowinds amusement park south of Charlotte will host free COVID-19 testing beginning Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. David T. Foster, III Observer file photo

“We are so appreciative of organizations who continue to recognize and help meet the need for testing in our community,” Mecklenburg Public Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington said in a statement Friday announcing the sites. “Thank you for keeping public health a priority.”

StarMed will offer PCR and rapid testing at zMAX Dragway, 6570 Bruton Smith Blvd., noon–4 p.m. Jan. 17, 19-20, 22, 24-25, 29 and 31 and Feb. 1-3.

MAKO will offer PCR testing at Carowinds, 14523 Carowinds Blvd., Charlotte, 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays

No appointment is necessary. Check the StarMed and MAKO websites for updated details.

COVID-19 closes Asheville City Schools

Asheville City Schools switched to at-home learning Friday after COVID-19 caused a “high number” of staff absences, district officials posted on Facebook.

With so many at home, “Asheville City Schools is unable to maintain facilities operations or hold classes,” according to the post. Only workers deemed essential were allowed in schools Friday, officials said.

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The closing let the district sanitize each campus and give students and staff time to recover from the virus, officials said.

In-class learning is expected to resume after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

‘Friend to all.’ NC paramedic dies of COVID-19 complications

Family, friends and colleagues are mourning a Gaston County EMS leader who died of COVID-19 complications.

Lt. Melanie Massagee died Sunday after battling the disease since just before Christmas, Gaston County EMS posted on Facebook this week. She was put on a ventilator shortly before she died, according to the agency.

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Gaston County EMS Lt. Melanie Massagee died on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, of COVID-19 complications, her agency posted on Facebook. GASTON COUNTY EMS

“Her family hopes that this tragedy will help others realize how devastating this virus can be and encourages everyone to take all necessary precautions to help prevent such future tragedies,” Gaston County EMS officials said in Monday’s Facebook post.

Officials aren’t saying if Massagee was vaccinated against the virus.

“Melanie was known for her giving personality, dedication to ensuring no one was left unheard or went without,” according to the agency’s post.

She was “a friend to all who knew her” and “lived a life of service and commitment to her faith, family, friends, and the patients she served,” agency officials said in the post.

Massagee’s husband, Wayne, also has COVID and is in an area hospital, according to a Jan. 6 Facebook post by Yvette Ellis, her sister.

“They are fighters and stubborn but need prayers from everyone,” Ellis wrote at the time.

COVID cluster prompts mass testing at jail in NC mountains

A COVID-19 cluster prompted mass testing at the Buncombe County jail in Asheville, the sheriff’s office posted on Facebook Thursday.

Testing began Tuesday after symptoms and positive tests rose among inmates, according to the post. As of Thursday, 35 inmates and 15 detention officers tested positive in the recent outbreak, officials said.

The cluster represents 8% of the 433 inmates and 9% of the 160 staff, the (Asheville) Citizen Times reported.

A “significant number” of positive tests among staff involved post-vaccination infections, according to the Sheriff’s Office Facebook post. And many affected staff and inmates are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, officials said.

Some other jail officers and staff are in quarantine due to positive tests among their school-age children or other family, according to the office.

A COVID-19 cluster prompted mass testing at the Buncombe County jail in Asheville, the sheriff’s office posted on Facebook Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. Getty Images/iStockphoto

While 76% of staff received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, only 15% to 20% of people being jailed had a shot, sheriff’s officials posted.

Some NC schools reverse face mask decisions

At least 22 school districts that had made face mask-wearing optional on their North Carolina campuses are now changing their decisions.

The districts will mandate masks again as district leaders say students and teachers have been exposed to COVID-19 or gotten sick.

“It’s doing something to reduce the number of people we’re sending home that need to be in school,” said Rob Walter, a school board member in Cabarrus County, which recently changed its mask rules. “I mean, 1,200 kids (under quarantine) is just too many. We’ve got to do something.”

Of the 115 districts in the state, 85 have mask requirements, an N.C. School Boards Association database shows. Other districts this month have decided to continue making masks optional even as COVID-19 case counts rise.

This school year, each district can make its own decisions on face covering requirements. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services recommends school systems make masks optional only if community transmission of COVID-19 is considered moderate or low, The News & Observer reported.

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

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