Out-of-state residents can get COVID vaccine in N. Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Residents of neighboring states are able to come into North Carolina to get a coronavirus vaccine, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Demand has greatly outpaced supply during North Carolina’s sluggish start to administering doses to hospital workers and people 75 years or older.

The lack of strict residency requirements makes it possible for somebody from South Carolina or other neighboring states in that profession or age group to get doses that the federal government has allocated for North Carolina residents.

“A provider cannot refuse to vaccinate someone that presents for vaccination if they fall into the open prioritization phase and do not have a vaccine contradiction, so a resident of another state could be vaccinated here if they fall into the appropriate open prioritization phase,” the department said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this week ranked North Carolina as the sixth slowest in the country per capita in administering doses it has received from the federal government. The state is still working to vaccinate some remaining hospital workers and started vaccinating people at least 75 years old in several counties this week.

North Carolina officials reported on Friday that nearly 152,000 people have been given their first doses, while more than 9,000 have also gotten their second dose. Nearly 650,000 have been distributed to the state, according to the CDC.

Mandy Cohen, the state’s top public health official, said at a Friday news conference that North Carolina residents do not need to get vaccinated in their county of residence, though they are encouraged to contact their local health department.

Cohen warned that a variant of the coronavirus that circulated in Britain is “likely” already in North Carolina, though the mutation of the virus has not yet been detected.

“It is possible that that variant is here,” Cohen said. “In fact, it is likely. We are operating as if it was here. Now, it has not been identified here. ... We need to realize that this virus was contagious before, and now is even more contagious as we go forward.”

That and the variant seen in South Africa are causing global concern because they appear to spread more easily, though the extent of the increased spread is not yet known. A Pfizer study suggests the vaccine works against the two more-contagious variants of the coronavirus.

For the second day in a row, North Carolina on Friday reported a single-day increase of over 10,000 cases and 100 deaths. The state had not previously eclipsed the 10,000 daily case mark or seen back-to-back days of triple-digit deaths.

Nearly 4,000 people are currently hospitalized due to the virus, which has stretched staffing and intensive care unit capacity thin.

Cooper on Wednesday extended the state’s 10 p.m. curfew by three weeks but did not impose additional restrictions on businesses or individuals. In November, Cooper added stronger enforcement language to his statewide mask mandate. He also reduced indoor gatherings from a maximum of 25 people to 10 people before Thanksgiving.

With few exceptions, Cooper shown strong reluctance to adding new restrictions in recent months. At a time of widespread refusal to wear masks, selective enforcement of executive orders and worsening COVID-19 metrics, health care workers are increasingly frustrated.

In a letter to Cooper on Friday, the North Carolina Nurses Association warned of severe consequences if the governor continues to maintain the status quo.

“Coronavirus numbers are already breaking gruesome records, and the trends point toward worse news in the coming weeks,” the group wrote. “At the same time, hospitals and other healthcare facilities are facing dire staffing shortages. If North Carolina does not take drastic action, we will face a crisis that none of us want to consider, including being overworked, understaffed and unable to properly care for our fellow citizens.”


Follow Anderson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BryanRAnderson. Anderson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.


Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.