Since the new strain of coronavirus was first reported out of Wuhan, China NC Health News reporters have kept our ears open for news of COVID-19 (the official moniker for coronavirus disease 2019). The disease is a novel version of a coronavirus, other examples include SARS, MERS and the common cold. We’ll update this page with each of our stories on the coronavirus pandemic as we publish them. We’re also keeping an eye on the most recent case tally in the state. Visit the timeline at the bottom of the page for more information.
State’s free and charitable clinics chart vision for health equity
New hires and clinic initiatives are pushing health equity to the forefront.
Shifting strategies for monkeypox vaccines
Public health leaders are reaching out to community groups to help educate those at risk for monkeypox and get them vaccinated.
Q & A with Dr. Wohl: What to expect from Omicron-specific COVID boosters
David Wohl, a UNC Health physician, talks about the bivalent vaccines and COVID-19 two and a half years into the coronavirus pandemic.
Meet Mary Wakefield, the nurse administrator tasked with revamping the CDC
Mary Wakefield, formerly the deputy secretary of Health and Human Services, is next in line to oversee major changes to the government organization.
NC students fell behind in required vaccinations during the pandemic. Some – not all – are catching up.
In one NC county, more than 73 percent of high school seniors don’t have required immunizations. But state health officials are optimistic overall.
Big changes are needed to turn the tide of North Carolina’s mental health crisis, health leaders say
For North Carolinians to have affordable access to readily available mental health services, health leaders say a cascade of changes need to take place from Medicaid expansion to higher reimbursement rates for providers.
New mental health data show ‘unsustainable’ burden on NC hospitals
Rising mental health-related emergency room visits, more involuntary commitments and longer wait times for psychiatric hospital beds are symptoms of much larger problems within the state’s mental health system, health experts say.
What happens in NC now that the COVID state of emergency has expired?
The COVID state of emergency offered temporary protections to health care facilities and providers.
Samaritan House in Charlotte offers respite care for the homeless
As advocates for the homeless push for more respite care centers, Samaritan House in Charlotte is a trailblazer.
What does ‘back to normal’ mean for people hit hardest by the pandemic?
People with disabilities and low-income people experienced higher death rates during the pandemic. Those inequities should be addressed, advocates say.
Medicaid patients and county workers brace for the end of the COVID public health emergency
Throughout the pandemic, people have been allowed to remain on Medicaid regardless of changes to their income. In October, that’ll likely change. County workers and patients worry about the fallout.
Monkeypox straining already overstretched public health system
State and local public health agencies, still busy with COVID-19, now must contend with another rapidly spreading viral outbreak.
Trusted community messengers, data key in North Carolina’s journey to vaccine equity
The state’s vaccine rollout which centered on equity garners national attention, even from the White House.
A new clinic to meet WNC Latinos’ medical, mental and social health needs
Since 2004, Vecinos, a community health organization in western NC, has served Latino farmworkers. A new multi-million dollar project and partnership with other organizations will mean all low-income Latinos in the region will soon have easier access to care.
Youth mental health crisis is “the next wave of the pandemic,” Duke psychiatrist says
The pandemic has magnified how fragile mental health is for many children and adolescents.
Health Care Half Hour – The future of nursing homes
What has the pandemic taught us about the needs of nursing homes and their residents going into the future?
Congress passes a bill with provisions to save pandemic-era universal free school lunches
The recently passed Keep Kids Fed Act offers an expansion on pre-pandemic benefits.
NC pediatricians gear up for giving COVID-19 shots to infants, toddlers
COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed across North Carolina for children as young as 6 months old. Some parents are more excited than others.
When a loved one dies at a nursing home, families face mazes and mirages in search for answers
Long-term care experts who created a national report say consumers need full information about nursing homes, how they treat residents, how they make money and how they are regulated by state and federal authorities.
New study asks Black and Latino residents who had COVID-19 in pandemic’s first year about their experience
Much research has documented how the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately hit Black and Latino residents. Fewer studies asked them what that experience was like.
Prisons were some of the hardest hit places during the pandemic. What are the next steps forward?
The pandemic proved that, despite brick walls and barbed-wire fences, incarcerated people are part of the community.
NC public health workers draw road map for years ahead
Medicaid expansion plays a key role in how much funding will be available to address needs in a post-COVID health care climate.
Billions in federal funds may make rural hospitals look more stable than they really are
While federal funding helped keep rural hospitals afloat throughout the pandemic, researchers worry about a wave of closures once the money goes away.
North Carolina nurses press for fixes in the health care system during D.C. march
Most nurses in attendance cited unsafe staffing levels that jeopardized both patient care and their own professional licenses and, often, their physical safety.
N.C. nursing shortage likely to increase, report shows. Can community colleges help?
North Carolina could be among the top five states for nursing shortages by 2026 if current trends continue.
NC advocates work to reduce HIV transmission and stigma
HIV testing may have gone down during COVID, but that doesn’t mean it has not been transmitted across communities in North Carolina.
You can get Botox at your dentist’s office now
The North Carolina dental board issues guidance for how botulinum toxin can be used by dentists in this state.
With implicit bias hurting patients, some states train doctors
Some states have begun trying to help medical providers stop acting on implicit bias.
Uncertainty over pandemic’s end complicates NC’s Medicaid budget
With extra people on the rolls, North Carolina’s Medicaid looks like it will be over budget. But lawmakers are giving the program some latitude as the pandemic raises costs.
OSHA and USDA should have done more to protect meatpacking workers, report says
An Office of Inspector General report concluded the two agencies could have done more to protect meatpackers from contracting Covid-19. The industry was among the hardest-hit sectors in the early months of the pandemic.
Refurbished walkers and wheelchairs fill gaps created by supply chain problems
Medical equipment reuse programs collect, clean, and lend devices — often at no cost to the borrower. Such programs save low-income and uninsured patients money, and by refurbishing used medical equipment, they keep it out of landfills.
Postpartum Medicaid to be extended for pregnant people to one year after birth
The change allows pregnant people to be covered for a variety of services — including dental, vision and mental health services.
Restorative justice solutions for youth are growing abroad, can they become part of the mix in the U.S.
As schools have returned to in-person instruction, advocates for children say they’re starting to see an uptick in juvenile justice complaints. We look at how diversion works in other countries.
COVID-19 in NC: What now?
Here’s what you need to know as COVID cases continue to decrease in NC, even as a new variant is causing an uptick of cases in Europe.
CDC’s wastewater surveillance system serves as early COVID detection
The early detection system that’s proven to be a valuable tool in predicting COVID-19 trends could soon expand.
Coronavirus Today – March 17 ‘The worst is behind us,’ NC and COVID
Gov. Roy Cooper and DHHS Sec. Kody Kinsley chart a new pandemic course as COVID-19 cases decrease and call for continued federal support.
Back to school: Advocates worry about pandemic’s impact on most vulnerable youth in the justice system
School-based juvenile justice complaints decreased when children were not in school during the pandemic, but what about now?
Congestion, fever and vomit… oh my! Other viruses are back.
As pandemic restrictions loosen, we could see more non-COVID viruses, particularly among toddlers.
Should NC worry about omicron BA.2?
NC medical experts see mixed evidence, but point to experience of places where BA.2 has become prevalent without causing a major surge.
Within a decade, NC could be short more than 21,000 nurses
In the same week as a statewide nursing organization published survey results showing high levels of burnout among RNs, a researcher painted a grim picture of future staffing to lawmakers.
Coronavirus Today – Feb. 17 Making masks for school children optional
Gov. Roy Cooper and his top public health official encourage the lifting of indoor mask requirements in schools and most other indoor settings.
State health leaders discuss COVID exit strategy, mental health need
At Sec. Kody Kinsley’s first showing at the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee, he highlighted the agency’s efforts to work past COVID and focus on issues exacerbated by years of pandemic life.
Rate of New COVID Infections Falls 40% in Rural Counties
Two weeks after rates started falling in metropolitan America, the number of rural cases is falling, too. But rural deaths rose 13% while metropolitan deaths fell slightly.
Breaking Point: What is the future of COVID and incarceration?
Two years of COVID has broken down prisoners and carceral systems. Advocates have called for decarceration as a long-term solution.
Native Americans look for ways to stop soaring overdose deaths
North Carolina’s opioid crisis has devastated the American Indian population more than any other. Combating it effectively requires a new approach, and a lot of money.
NC health head Kinsley’s vision for DHHS shaped by lessons from his past
New DHHS Sec. Kody Kinsley, who grew up without health insurance, wants to apply aspects of the state’s pandemic response to other health issues in North Carolina.
Talking to long-haul COVID: How an NC doc and patient fight the mysterious syndrome
“We just want our old body back,” an NC long-COVID patient says, a year into the syndrome.
Breaking Point: Families and loved ones of incarcerated people feel the collateral damage of incarceration in COVID
Prisoners are not the only people impacted by incarceration — parents, children and other loved ones who committed no crime are also impacted by less visitation.
Breaking Point: Two years of pandemic measures take a toll on prisoners during Omicron surge
Beyond long COVID, what will be COVID’s legacy for incarcerated people in North Carolina’s prisons?
Making sense of COVID testing in NC in 2022: an FAQ
Find answers to common questions about coronavirus testing in North Carolina.
A combination of luck and risk-taking quickly propel small medical clinic to forefront of COVID testing
StarMed was a relatively new clinic in 2018. Then they decided to pivot toward medical testing… just before COVID hit.
Life in the other Piedmont: What does life with a vaccine passport look like?
Italy is one of few countries requiring people to be vaccinated to use most public spaces. This is what it’s like.
Health Care Half Hour: COVID testing in the Omicron era
Can you explain the difference between PCR testing and antigen testing? What day is best to test? What to assume when there are mixed results, ie at home negative, but on PCR positive or vice versa? And why might you get mixed results? All these questions and more were answered on the Jan. 2022 Health Care Half Hour!
Keep it real, up to date when explaining Omicron to older NC people
With all the news coming out about COVID-19 and its Omicron variant, caregivers and clinicians should pass on to seniors the latest news to use, while considering their needs.
More rapid tests are coming. What’s the best way to use them?
The Biden Administration has said it will distribute more rapid antigen tests and some municipalities are distributing them. Use of them requires a shift in thinking about testing.
Record number of Americans sign up for ACA health insurance
A record 13.6 million Americans have signed up for health coverage for 2022 on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, with nearly a month remaining to enroll in most states, the Biden administration announced Wednesday.
Las vacunas son ahora más asequibles para los trabajadores agrícolas, pero muchos aún tienen dificultad con el acceso a Internet
La COVID-19 ha sido especialmente devastadora para los trabajadores agrícolas migrantes, encima de otras disparidades de salud que ya enfrentaba la comunidad. Ahora un programa estatal intenta derribar una gran barrera que ya existía antes de la pandemia: la del acceso a Internet.
‘Incidental’ COVID cases, full ICUs, plus staff shortages stressing NC hospitals
NC hospitals put out public plea for people to get vaccinated, boosted, mask up and take protective measures as the Omicron variant breaks hospitalization records.
NC doulas guide new parents through birth and beyond
Doulas have been found to reduce negative outcomes at birth and increase satisfaction with birth, especially among parents of color. In North Carolina, they are helping their clients feel safer as COVID still looms large.
Vaccines become more accessible to farmworkers, but many still struggle with internet access
COVID-19 was especially devastating to migrant farmworkers, crowding out some of the other health disparities the community faces. Now, a state program tries to tackle one big barrier to care that predates the pandemic: internet
Tired of seeing barriers disrupt mental health support for students, this district redesigned its process
“Our vision is for us to have three times as many of our mental health support specialists to serve our district. We want to grow this. We want this to be desirable for qualified clinicians to reach out and say, ‘Hey, I want to come and I want to work here and I want to be part of this because it is amazing.’”
More than 3,600 N.C. children are coping with the death of a caregiver due to the pandemic
Researchers estimate that more than 3,600 children have lost caregivers in North Carolina due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Training teens to take COVID vaccine messages to their communities
LATIN-19 and ISLA are empowering teens to deliver public health messages in their own languages to their own people.
Coronavirus Today – Jan 4 Omicron records; COVID testing woes; Requiring boosters for some state employees
North Carolina set record COVID case counts last week and record COVID-19 test numbers.
A look ahead for health in N.C. for 2022
COVID will still dominate the news cycle, bringing with it implications for major institutions in our state. A new NC Health News environmental reporter will keep tabs on PFAS in our waterways. And as the Medicaid transformation rolls along, we will report on any bumps in the process.
NC Health News’ top ten reader picks in 2021
On your minds: COVID, medical marijuana, mental health and opioids, aging care, Medicaid and more.
Genomic sequencing: Here’s how researchers identify Omicron and other COVID-19 variants
Sequencing the genome of a virus gives researchers information on how mutations can affect its transmissibility and virulence.
Faith, medicine and COVID-19: Why do religious vaccine exemptions exist?
Vaccine exemptions are federally protected. But what is the history of these exemptions and what are the consequences?
More states to provide free home COVID test kits
New Jersey announced in mid-December that it is joining New Hampshire and Washington state in sending free COVID-19 testing kits to the homes of residents who request them.
NC senior centers use holidays to reunite the lonely, combat continuing peril of COVID
People who spend time at North Carolina’s senior centers saw many of these favorite destinations closed by the pandemic. Now facilities like the Eastern Wake Senior Center are taking pains to draw patrons back with well-planned activities and strong anti-COVID precautions.
Omicron variant Q&A with UNC virologist Lisa Gralinski
We got the latest from a virologist who’s been studying coronaviruses for more than a decade about what the new information about Omicron could mean for our holidays.
Flu brings fear of ‘twindemic’ in NC
Health officials urge vaccination against influenza and COVID-19 to avoid respiratory illnesses.
Prisoners on work release fear bringing in COVID from the outside, then spreading it inside
Incarcerated people on work release are deemed safe enough by the prison system to work in the outside world, but they still face the dangers of a COVID outbreak should they bring COVID back with them.
Coronavirus Today – Dec 14: One year with COVID-19 vaccine
As Mandy Cohen prepares to leave DHHS for rest and new opportunity, she gives her final COVID briefing to North Carolina and reporters.
Everything you need to know about Omicron: Q&A with UNC infectious disease expert
Tips for how to stay safe, whether or not to travel and what exactly is going on with the new variant.
Health secretary Mandy Cohen resigns, governor taps a successor
She led the state Department of Health and Human Services through massive changes to Medicaid and a historic pandemic.
Coronavirus Today – Nov 30: What is and isn’t known about Omicron variant
DHHS Sec. Mandy Cohen gets out her charts and graphs per usual as she plans to leave her job in a month.
NC’s perennially popular senior centers eye post-COVID changes, modernized approaches
After shutting down during the pandemic, North Carolina’s senior centers are going through some self-examination. Leaders want to learn which of their COVID-fueled innovations will continue to work, and which other offerings need to change with the times.
Religious burial rituals slowly resuming after shift forced by pandemic
During times of peak hospitalizations and deaths during the past pandemic year, there’s been a lot of coverage of how morticians were overloaded. But how did the pandemic affect religious communities that have specific rituals around preparing bodies for burial?
Why you can’t find cheap at-home COVID tests
Nearly two years into the pandemic, U.S. consumers have few options for cheap tests that quickly screen for infection, though they are widely available in Europe.
State budget funds some mental health crisis response and hospital diversion efforts
The budget includes funding to divert mental health patients from emergency rooms, adds slots for enhanced services for people with disabilities plus several smaller allocations to treat opioid addiction.
COVID funds beef up health care spending in proposed state budget, which still lacks Medicaid expansion
The $25.9 billion dollar plan allows for historic rates of investment using federal dollars. But some long-held health policy goals remain out of reach.
Rural NC hospital opens more psychiatric beds to meet rising mental health need
A hospital in Avery County is converting regular hospital beds to psychiatric beds as the number of behavioral health referrals increases in the region.
Children and COVID-19 vaccine FAQ
Find answers to common questions about COVID-19 vaccines for children 5 to 11 in North Carolina.
Q & A about booster shots with a Duke infectious disease expert
With Thanksgiving coming up, we asked medicine professor Cameron Wolfe all your questions about booster shots, what they are and whether you should get one.
COVID antibody tests won’t tell you what you want to know
COVID-19 vaccinations cause the body to generate antibodies to fight the disease, but antibody tests to determine whether someone has immunity against the virus do not provide the answers many patients are seeking.
Coronavirus Today – Nov 10 – Mandy Cohen and her daughters share their COVID vaccine experience
Parents have questions about COVID-19 vaccines for younger children. Top public health officials have answers.
COVID-19 Q&A – Your questions answered
Want to ask a question about the novel coronavirus? Leave us a message here.