More North Carolinians came in for a COVID-19 vaccine last week than on any given week over the past two months, according to data state health officials released Tuesday.
More than 74,000 people were vaccinated for the first time, an encouraging sign that residents are increasingly taking seriously threats posed by the more contagious delta variant and understanding the benefits of the vaccines, which are free, safe, highly effective and widely available. A push to get young adults vaccinated before the upcoming school year and an increase in the number of employers who are requiring their workers to get the shot are likely also fueling the rise in doses administered.
Vaccine providers at dozens of sites across North Carolina are currently providing $25 to unvaccinated residents who come in for a shot and drivers who bring people in for their initial dose. At a Tuesday news conference, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said his administration will raise that amount to $100 for people who get the shot this month starting on Wednesday, as President Joe Biden recommended. Drivers will still qualify for the $25.
"We are using every tool in the toolbox to get more people to get their shots," Cooper said.
COVID-related hospitalizations have nearly quadrupled in North Carolina over the past month.
Last week, Cooper announced that about 50,000 state employees who work for Cabinet agencies will have to show proof they are fully vaccinated. If they do not, they will be forced to wear a mask in many situations and get tested for COVID-19 every week. The executive order is set to take effect Sept. 1.
Major hospital systems across the state, including WakeMed Health & Hospitals, are requiring workers to get the shot. North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services confirmed last month that 14 state-run health care facilities will require workers and volunteers to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Sept. 30 unless they qualify for a medical or religious exemption.
Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows major transmission of the virus throughout North Carolina. In all but seven of the state's 100 counties, the CDC is recommending people wear masks in indoor public settings, even if they're already vaccinated.