COVID’s return: COVID vaccines for kids, new vaccine mandate for big employers

COVID’s return: COVID vaccines for kids, new vaccine mandate for big employers
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This is a running stream of COVID-19 updates. It was last updated on Nov. 8, 2021 at 8:30am.

Charlotte-area medical providers last week started distributing COVID-19 vaccines to children ages 5-11, following FDA emergency use authorization and CDC approval.

  • StarMed is offering vaccinations for kids at all of its locations by appointment.
  • Mecklenburg County Public Health is offering vaccines for those 5+ at the following locations: Southeast Health Department (249 Billingsley Rd.), Northwest Health Department (2845 Beatties Ford) and Valerie C. Woodard Center (3205 Freedom Dr.). More info here.
  • Novant Health is offering the vaccine for children certain days at its East Mecklenburg location (6070 East Independence Blvd.), and at select pediatric and family medicine clinics throughout the region.
  • Atrium Health is offering vaccines for children by appointment only through pediatric and primary care offices. More info here.

Why it matters: “I have yet to meet a child who likes getting a shot, but it’s a good idea for them,” Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease expert with Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, said during a briefing Thursday.

  • Roughly one-third of COVID cases this fall are being transmitted by children, so vaccinating children will help to reduce overall community transmission.
  • Plus, he added, children who don’t get sick can stay in school. “No one wants their kids to get sick.”

Mask mandate: This week, Mecklenburg County Commissioners approved a change to the county’s mask mandate, as WFAE reported. Now, county residents will no longer have to wear masks indoors if the county’s COVID test positivity rate drops to less than 5% for 7 days in a row.

  • Mecklenburg County’s positivity rate was 7.9% on Oct. 31, but fell to 5.8% on Nov. 1, 4.9% on Nov. 2, and 2.7% on Nov. 3, according to the latest figures from the county.

Vaccine mandate: Under new federal government rules released Thursday, everyone who works at a company with 100 or more employees will have to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing by January 4.

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  • Otherwise, they face fines starting at $14,000 per violation, Axios’ Marissa Fernandez reported.

By the numbers: There were 308 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the Charlotte area as of Nov. 2, according to state data.

  • Statewide, there are 1,194 COVID patients in the hospital.
  • Of those hospitalized patients statewide, 30% are in the ICU.
  • Currently in Mecklenburg County, 61% of the population has at least one dose of the vaccine, according to state data.

What they’re saying: “The way out of this is vaccination. We were able to conquer smallpox and polio through vaccination. We have that opportunity now,” Dr. Todd Davis, chief physician executive for CaroMont Health, told reporters recently. “Do it for the people you care about and love.”

Even those who’ve been infected with COVID-19 previously should still get a vaccine, says Dr. David Priest, chief safety, quality and epidemiology officer at Novant Health, said recently.

That’s because a range of factors play into how strong the person’s immune response is — including age, other underlying health issues, medications and the amount of virus they were infected with before, Priest told reporters this fall.

  • Recent research from the CDC also shows that vaccination offers more protection than a previous COVID-19 infection.

“If you’ve had COVID, your immune response is not as predictable as if you’ve been vaccinated — and you’re at risk for getting COVID again,” Priest said.

The latest numbers from state health officials underscore the degree of protection vaccines offer.

  • Unvaccinated people are 467% more likely to contract COVID-19 as vaccinated people, per the NCDHHS.
  • Unvaccinated people are 2,014% more likely to die from COVID-19 than their vaccinated counterparts.

    In late August, a mask mandate went into for Mecklenburg County.

      Details: It says individuals over 5 years old are required to wear a mask “when indoors in all businesses, establishments and public places.”

      • Law enforcement officers and the public health director and her designees can enforce it.
      • The county voted to include religious gatherings in the indoor mask mandate.

      Exceptions: People aren’t required to wear a mask if they have a medical condition that prohibits it, or if they’re actively eating or drinking, or giving a speech, or a number of other exceptions (all of which you can find here by going to the 8/18/21 meeting and clicking on the Agenda).

        Also in Charlotte, doctors continue to echo the CDC’s new recommendation that women who are pregnant and breastfeeding get the COVID-19 vaccine.

        What they’re saying: Women who are pregnant are at much higher risk of severe illness due to COVID-19, local infectious disease experts have repeatedly warned.

        • Data show there’ve been no adverse effects related to the vaccine for women who are pregnant or for women who are trying to become pregnant.
        • The vast majority of pregnant women who require hospitalization because of COVID-19 are unvaccinated, experts say.

        Less than one-third of pregnant women in North Carolina are vaccinated against COVID, estimates Ohl, the infectious disease expert with Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. “Breastfeeding and pregnant women really need to get vaccinated,” Ohl said during a briefing Thursday.

        • One recent study found pregnant women who contract the coronavirus have a 60% higher chance of having a premature baby. That risk skyrockets if the mother has a preexisting condition like diabetes or obesity.

        “If they’re not vaccinated they’re really putting themselves at far greater risk for a myriad of consequences, some of which will be impactful to their unborn children,” Novant’s Dr. Navin Bhojwani said recently.

        • Additionally, the FDA recently authorized a third COVID-19 shot for individuals with compromised immune systems.

        Here are the latest vaccine mandates, mask mandates, and other news regarding the response to the new surge:

        Local government

        Mecklenburg County: Starting Sept. 1, county government employees were required to show proof of vaccination or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

        Charlotte recently started verifying the vaccine status of about 8,000 city government employees starting, per the Observer. But the city did not say it would require regular testing if employees don’t get vaccinated by a certain date.

        Entertainment

        A growing number of live music and entertainment venues in Charlotte are starting to enact tighter safety measures — including requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination, in light of the current coronavirus surge.

        • Live Nation has updated its event policy: Effective Oct. 4, all attendees were required provide either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of a show, per Rolling Stone. Live Nation operates several major music venues in Charlotte, including PNC Music Pavilion, The Fillmore and Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre.
        • The Neighborhood Theatre in NoDa also requires proof of a COVID-19 vaccine or a negative test result within 48 hours of a concert.
        • The Evening Muse is requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

        Other entertainment: The Duke’s Mayo Classic games at Bank of America Stadium in early September, one of the biggest weekends in live sports in Charlotte history, doesn’t appear to have resulted in COVID-19 outbreaks, the county’s top health official tells Axios.

        • The ECU/App game had 36,752 fans; the Clemson/Georgia game 74,187.

        “Currently there is no evidence of COVID-19 cases directly linked to the football games at the Bank of America stadium over the holiday weekend. It is difficult to link cases to specific events now because of the amount of activity individuals have in the community,” Mecklenburg County health director Gibbie Harris said through a spokesperson.

        Healthcare

        • Atrium Health: Requiring all employees to be fully vaccinated (or have a medical or religious exemption) by Oct. 31
        • Novant Health: Requiring all employees to be at least partically vaccinated (or have a medical or religious exemption) by Oct. 15. Novant fired 175 people for not being vaccinated, a move that made national headlines.
        • Seven independent medical practices required all employees to be vaccinated by October 31. They include Tryon Medical Partners, OrthoCarolina, Surgical Specialists of Charlotte, Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat, Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates, Charlotte Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center.

        Schools

        North Carolina doesn’t have a statewide mask requirement for schools, so individual school districts are making their own decisions on the matter. State health officials are still urging school systems to require masks for students.

        • CMS: Requiring all students of all grade levels to wear masks.
        • Cabarrus County Schools: Masks optional.
        • Gaston County Schools: Masks required.
        • Kannapolis City Schools: Masks required.
        • Iredell Statesville Schools: Masks Required.
        • Union Academy, a K-12 charter school in Monroe, will now have a mask mandate after one week of classes with unmasked students brought 14 COVID-19 cases and led to 150 students and staffers being quarantined (WFAE).
        • Union County Public Schools: Masks optional.
        • Rowan-Salisbury Schools: Masks optional.

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