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Covid19
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CDC releases new guidelines for fully vaccinated people, allows for more socialization

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines March 8 for Americans who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 giving people more flexibility to gather in group settings and do more activities the CDC suggested stop during the pandemic.

CDC guidelines state that people who have been fully vaccinated can gather indoors with others who are also fully vaccinated without wearing a mask or physical distancing. Fully vaccinated people should still wear a mask in public.

People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of a two-dose vaccine like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and two weeks after a single dose vaccine such as Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, according to the CDC.

People can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other households — such as visiting with relatives who all live together — without masks unless any of those people or those they live with have an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the guidelines.

Those who are at an increased risk include adults at any age with cancer, COPD, Down syndrome, heart conditions, pregnancy and more. The full list can be found at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html.

If a person who has been fully vaccinated is around someone who has COVID-19, they do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless they have symptoms. However, the guidelines state that if someone lives in a group setting, and is around someone who has COVID-19, they should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested even if they don’t have symptoms.

“This updated guidance from the CDC reinforces the fact that COVID-19 vaccines will play a very important role in how we all get back to some normal activities,” said Jennifer Greene, AppHealthCare health director. “It is important to understand how this updated guidance plays out in our everyday lives for those who are fully vaccinated and precautions like wearing a mask, waiting 6 feet from others and washing your hands remain critical and helpful tools to slow the spread of this virus.”

Greene said the vaccines are safe and effective at preventing illness, hospitalization and death and that AppHealthCare encourages people to get their shot when their time comes.

The CDC stated it is still learning about some aspects of how well the vaccines protect against new COVID-19 variants, how well they stop people from spreading COVID-19 and how long the vaccine protects against COVID-19.

People who are fully vaccinated take steps to protect themselves and others by still wearing a mask, staying at least six feet apart from others and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. The CDC suggests those precautions should be used whenever a person is:

• In public Gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one other household

• Visiting with an vaccinated person who is at increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 or who lives with a person at increased risk.

The CDC stated it will continue to update its recommendations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people as the agency learns more about the vaccines.

More issues on the new guidliens can be found at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html.


Community
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K9s and officers receive bulletproof vests from donation

ASHE COUNTY — Ashe County Sheriff’s Office K9s “Rhino” and “William” have received bullet and stab protective vests thanks to a charitable donation from nonprofit organization Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. on March 4.

K9 “Rhino’s” vest was embroidered with the sentiment “Honoring those who served and sacrificed.” K9 “William’s” vest was embroidered with the sentiment “Born to Love-Trained to Serve-Loyal Always.”

Public Information Officer for the ASCO Brian Blanco commented on what the donation meant for the K9s and their handlers.

“Our dogs work hard and, just like their human handlers, they put their lives at risk every time they come to work,” said Blanco. “These dogs are part of our sheriff’s office family and deserve the highest protection they can get.

“I was there when both K9 Rhino and K9 William put on their vests for the first time and, if I’m not mistaken, they seemed proud. They were strutting around ready to go to work.”

Vested Interest in K9s, Inc., established in 2009, is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide bullet and stab protective vests and other assistance to dogs of law enforcement and related agencies throughout the United States. This potentially lifesaving body armor for four-legged K9 officers is U.S. made, custom fitted, and NIJ certified.

Since its inception, Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. has provided more than 4,183 vests to K9s in all 50 states at a value of $6.9 million, made possible by both private and corporate donations.

The program is open to U.S. dogs that are at least 20 months old and actively employed and certified with law enforcement or related agencies. K9s with expired vests are also eligible to participate. There are an estimated 30,000 law enforcement K9s throughout the United States.

Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. accepts tax-deductible contributions in any amount, while a single donation of $960 will sponsor one vest. Each vest has a value of $1,744-$2,283, weighs an average of 4-5 lb., and comes with a five-year warranty.

For more information, or to learn about volunteer or donor opportunities, call (508) 824-6978 or visit www.vik9s.org.


Covid19
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Cooper: Some COVID-19 restrictions eased beginning Feb. 26, curfew lifted: Mandatory mask mandate stays in effect

RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new executive order that eases restrictions and lifts the Stay-at-Home order curfew that began Feb. 26.

“When it comes to easing some restrictions, we’re depending on people to be responsible,” Cooper said.

The new order allows gyms, museums, aquariums, barbers, pools, outdoor amusement parks, retail establishments, restaurants, breweries and wineries to now open at 50 percent capacity with health and safety protocols. Alcohol can now be sold until 11 p.m.

{div class=”css-1dbjc4n”}{div class=”css-1dbjc4n r-156q2ks”}{div id=”tweet-text” class=”css-901oao r-18jsvk2 r-1qd0xha r-1blvdjr r-16dba41 r-ad9z0x r-bcqeeo r-bnwqim r-qvutc0” lang=”en” xml:lang=”en” dir=”auto”}Some businesses that operate outdoors will still have to limit the capacity to 30 percent, but will no longer have a 100-person cap. Cooper said that includes sports fields and venues, stadiums, outdoor bars, outdoor amusement parks and other outdoor businesses.

{/div}{div class=”css-901oao r-18jsvk2 r-1qd0xha r-1blvdjr r-16dba41 r-ad9z0x r-bcqeeo r-bnwqim r-qvutc0” lang=”en” xml:lang=”en” dir=”auto”} {/div}{div class=”css-901oao r-18jsvk2 r-1qd0xha r-1blvdjr r-16dba41 r-ad9z0x r-bcqeeo r-bnwqim r-qvutc0” lang=”en” xml:lang=”en” dir=”auto”}Larger indoor arenas with a capacity of more than 5,000 people will be able to have a 15 percent capacity. Most college and professional indoor sports such as basketball and hockey can have fans at 15 percent capacity with certain protocols. {/div}{div class=”css-901oao r-18jsvk2 r-1qd0xha r-1blvdjr r-16dba41 r-ad9z0x r-bcqeeo r-bnwqim r-qvutc0” lang=”en” xml:lang=”en” dir=”auto”} {/div}{div class=”css-901oao r-18jsvk2 r-1qd0xha r-1blvdjr r-16dba41 r-ad9z0x r-bcqeeo r-bnwqim r-qvutc0” lang=”en” xml:lang=”en” dir=”auto”}Cooper also said bars and taverns will be allowed to open indoors for the first time since near the beginning of the pandemic a year ago at 30 percent capacity.

{/div}{div class=”css-901oao r-18jsvk2 r-1qd0xha r-1blvdjr r-16dba41 r-ad9z0x r-bcqeeo r-bnwqim r-qvutc0” lang=”en” xml:lang=”en” dir=”auto”} {/div}{div class=”css-901oao r-18jsvk2 r-1qd0xha r-1blvdjr r-16dba41 r-ad9z0x r-bcqeeo r-bnwqim r-qvutc0” lang=”en” xml:lang=”en” dir=”auto”}”Today’s action is a show of confidence and trust, but we must remain cautious,” Cooper said. “People are losing their loved ones each day. We must keep up our guard. Many of us are weary, but we cannot let the weariness when. Now is the time to put our strength and resilience to work, so that we continue to turn the corner and get through this pandemic.”

{/div}{div class=”css-901oao r-18jsvk2 r-1qd0xha r-1blvdjr r-16dba41 r-ad9z0x r-bcqeeo r-bnwqim r-qvutc0” lang=”en” xml:lang=”en” dir=”auto”} {/div}{div class=”css-901oao r-18jsvk2 r-1qd0xha r-1blvdjr r-16dba41 r-ad9z0x r-bcqeeo r-bnwqim r-qvutc0” lang=”en” xml:lang=”en” dir=”auto”}The mandatory mask mandate is still required. {/div}{div class=”css-901oao r-18jsvk2 r-1qd0xha r-1blvdjr r-16dba41 r-ad9z0x r-bcqeeo r-bnwqim r-qvutc0” lang=”en” xml:lang=”en” dir=”auto”} {/div}{div class=”css-901oao r-18jsvk2 r-1qd0xha r-1blvdjr r-16dba41 r-ad9z0x r-bcqeeo r-bnwqim r-qvutc0” lang=”en” xml:lang=”en” dir=”auto”}”We are serious about slowing the spread of this virus, and I think that people have pulled together,” Cooper said. “I think there has been a positive effect and people deserve a pat on the back. We said all along that if our data indicates that, we will ease these restrictions.” {/div}{/div}{/div}

Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human services, said the number of people who are going to the emergency department for COVID-19 like symptoms is decreasing. Cases have started to decline since the COVID-19 cases peaked in North Carolina on Jan. 10. Hospitalizations are also “significantly” better than when they were a month ago, Cohen said.

“North Carolina’s trajectory of cases is decreasing, however cases remain elevated and with those new COVID-19 variants in the state we need to keep our guard up,” Cohen said. “While we’re improving since our peak in January, we still have more work to do.”


COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Guide

Below is a comprehensive list compiled by the Watauga Democrat to help readers find when and where they can sign up for a vaccine as well as common questions about the COVDI-19 vaccine. This guide will be updated as more information and guidance is released from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Who can currently get a COVID-19 vaccine?Per guidelines from NCDHHS, North Carolina is currently in the first three phases of those who can receive vaccines. Phase 3 started in full on March 3. Here are the people eligible for vaccines in each phase currently open:

Phase 1:

Health care workers with in-person patient contact

Long-term care staff and residents — people in skilled nursing facilities, adult care homes and continuing care retirement communities

Phase 2:

Anyone 65 years or older, regardless of health status or living situation

Phase 3:

Teachers, teacher assistants, student and substitute teachers, special education teachers and therapists, school and district administrators, school transportation drivers, food service workers, school support staff (e.g., guidance counselors, social workers, speech language pathologists), custodial and maintenance staff, media & IT specialists, school safety personnel, librarians, school administrative staff, instructional support staff, school nurses, and frontline essential workers who work in-person in critical manufacturing, education, essential goods, food and agriculture, government and community services, health care and public health, public safety, transportation.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced March 2 that certain members in Phase 4 will be eligible to receive their vaccine on March 24 beginning with people with high-risk medical conditions including intellectual and developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, and neurologic conditions such as dementia. It also includes people experiencing homelessness and incarcerated people who have not been vaccinated.

What vaccines are currently available in North Carolina?

North Carolina currently has three available vaccines for people to take, according to NCDHHS. The newest one — the Johnson and Johnson vaccine — started to arrive in the state on March 3 after the Food and Drug Administration issued emergency use authorization on Feb. 27.

Pfizer Vaccine

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was developed by Pfizer, Inc., and BioNTech. The vaccine is administered in two shots with 21 days in between.

According to the FDA, the vaccine was granted emergency use authorization on Dec. 11 after an analysis of 36,523 participants in a clinic trial that was made up of mostly United States residents. Among those who participated in the trial, 18,198 received the vaccine and 18,325 received saline placebo

The vaccine was 95 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 among those in the clinical trial. There were eight COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group and 162 COVID-19 cases in the placebo group during the clinical. Of these 170 COVID-19 cases, one in the vaccine group and three in the placebo group were classified as severe, according to the FDA.

Some of the most common side effects, which typically lasted several days, include pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever. The FDA reports that most people who reported side effects did so after the second dose.

Moderna Vaccine

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was created by ModernaTX, Inc. The vaccine is administered in two shots with 28 days in between.

According to the FDA, the vaccine was granted emergency use authorization on Dec. 18 after an analysis of 28,207 participants in a clinical trial. Among those in the clinical trial, 14,134 received the vaccine and 14,073 received placebo. The Moderna vaccine was 94.1 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 disease among these clinical trial participants.

In the trial, 11 cases of COVID-19 were in the vaccine group and 185 cases in the placebo group. Of the 196 covid-19 cases, the FDA reports 0 in the vaccine group and 30 in the placebo group were classified as severe. One severe case was identified in the vaccine group after the analysis (and not included among the 196 cases) and was awaiting confirmation at the time the FDA review was conducted, according to the FDA.

The FDA reported that the most common side effects, which typically last several days, are pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes in the same arm as the injection, nausea and vomiting, and fever. The FDA reports that most people who reported side effects did so after the second dose.

Johnson and Johnson (Janssen)

The Johnson and Johnson — or Janssen — COVID-19 vaccine was created by Janssen Biotech Inc., a Janssen Pharmaceutical Company of Johnson & Johnson. The vaccine is administered with only one shot, according to the FDA.

According to the FDA, the vaccine was granted emergency use authorization on Feb. 27 after an analysis of 39,321 participants in a clinical trial conducted in South Africa, certain countries in South America, Mexico and the United States. Among these participants, 19,630 received the vaccine and 19,691 received placebo.

The FDA reports the vaccine was approximately 67 percent effective in preventing moderate to severe/critical COVID-19 disease occurring at least 14 days after vaccination and 66 percent effective in preventing moderate to severe/critical disease at least 28 days after vaccination. The vaccine was approximately 77 percent effective in preventing severe or critical COVID-19 occurring at least 14 days after vaccination and 85 percent effective in preventing severe or critical COVID-19 occurring at least 28 days after vaccination.

There were 116 COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group and 348 COVID-19 cases in the placebo group that occurred at least 14 days after vaccination. Sixty-six cases occurred in the vaccine group and 193 cases occurred in the placebo group at least 28 days after vaccination.

The FDA reports the most common side effects are pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and nausea. Most of those side effects occurred within one to two days following vaccination and were mild to moderate in severity and lasted one to two days.

Can you receive one shot of the Moderna vaccine and one shot of the Pfizer vaccine?The FDA reports there is no data available on the interchangeability of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine with other COVID-19 vaccines, including the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. According to the FDA, if you receive a dose of the Pfizer vaccine, you should receive a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine as well, and the same with the Moderna vaccine.

Where can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?Currently Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, AppHealthCare, High Country Community Health, Boone Drugs and Appalachian State University provide vaccines in Watauga County, and Walgreens is also providing COVID-19 vaccines through the federal government.

Once AppHealthCare has the information from its COIVD-19 interest form, the agency will reach out by email or phone to schedule an appointment when it is your turn. Each form submission is time stamped so AppHealthCare can go in chronological order of when someone completed the form and reach out to them to schedule their appointment based on who is eligible for a vaccine.

Boone Drugs held its first vaccination clinic on March 4.

Appalachian State University is hosting its first vaccine clinic on March 11. The university stated it will email faculty and staff when it is time to schedule their appointment. The university will use the information provided by Human Resources, employees and all divisions to determine who currently falls into each phase of the rollout.

Find more information at https://tinyurl.com/vte5ucax.


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