As the winter holidays approach, North Carolina is experiencing a new peak in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and our state is under a new, modified stay at home order.

The Order will require people to stay at home between 10 pm and 5 am in order to limit gatherings and to ensure that people stay home, especially during the holidays. This new order will remain in place until at least January 8, 2021. This order also serves as a reminder that we must continue to be vigilant, to wear a face mask when we are with people we don’t live with, to stay at least six feet apart from people who do not live in our household, and to wash our hands frequently to avoid spreading this virus.

The Order also requires restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, personal care businesses, and more to close at 10 pm. Travel to and from work; to obtain food, medical care, fuel, or social services; or to take care of a family member is exempted.
The COVID-19 virus is deadly and has been linked to negative long-term health effects in individuals who have recovered (Heart EffectsLung EffectsKidney EffectsNeurological Effects). I urge you and your family to review the most recent stay at home order and to recommit yourselves to staying at home when at all possible and to wearing a mask whenever you are around individuals who do not live within your household.

Last week, Dr. Mandy Cohen, the Secretary of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, updated North Carolina’s COVID-19 County Alert System map again due to our state's continued rapid rise in cases and hospitalizations. The COVID-19 County Alert System uses metrics informed by the White House Coronavirus Task Force and North Carolina’s key metrics to categorize counties into three tiers:

  • Yellow: Significant Community Spread
  • Orange: Substantial Community Spread
  • Red: Critical Community Spread

The number of red counties has more than doubled from the November 23 County Alert, up to 48 from 20 counties.
This virus is spreading rapidly across our state and is showing no signs of slowing. We all must find ways of staying connected with each other during the holidays, but we must not put ourselves at risk when doing so. If you and your loved ones are planning to gather for the winter holidays, please do so virtually or for a brief period of time, outdoors.

Yesterday, doses of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived in North Carolina and were made available to many front-line healthcare workers. We are approaching a turning point in this pandemic, but we cannot lose our resolve. We must continue to be vigilant and to keep ourselves safe as we wait until the vaccine is available for the general public.
Notice: My office will be closed for the holidays from December 21st through January 1st, and we will resume our newsletter on January 15th.

Reminder: the General Assembly will reconvene on January 13th, 2021. Although my office is closed for the holidays, you can still leave a message by emailing [email protected] or by calling 919-715-0795.

Please contact me at any time. I am here to serve you.

Representative Julie von Haefen
Climate Change Virtual Town Hall
On Thursday, January 7th at 7 PM, I will host a virtual town hall on Climate Change. We will discuss the impact of pollution and global warming on our local ecosystems and the different policies our state legislature can use to combat climate change. 

Our guest speakers will be Kathy Dow, Climate Reality Leader with the Climate Reality Corps, and Cassie Gavin, the Senior Director of Government Relations for the NC Sierra Club.

To join this virtual event, all individuals must register and submit questions beforehand. Please send any questions or comments about the registration process to [email protected].
COVID-19 Update
WakeMed Update on Hospital Capacity
Our nation and North Carolina are facing a dangerous surge in COVID-19 cases. The situation is straining all medical institutions, including hospitals, and community social support services.
The WakeMed system is busy and has been running at or above 100% capacity for at least the past two weeks. The percentage of COVID patients needing an ICU bed varies between WakeMed hospital campuses. For example, last week at the WakeMed Cary Hospital around 50% of the ICU beds were occupied with COVID patients and in contrast, 27% of the WakeMed Raleigh Hospital ICU beds were occupied with COVID patients. 

The current overall length of stay for COVID patients within the WakeMed system is approximately 8 days. Because of the advanced treatment therapies and research initiatives, WakeMed has engaged in over the past nine months, the WakeMed system has thankfully seen a mortality rate for COVID patients within the WakeMed system well below many of the national statistics being reported.
In response to increasing capacity challenges, WakeMed has added in-patient and ICU bed capacity as needed and when doctors, nurses, and technicians are available. WakeMed’s operations team is working hourly with its clinical leaders to deploy additional staff to areas of the hospital that need extra support. These areas often include emergency and trauma departments, ICUs, and other in-patient areas.
WakeMed is also looking at ways to better utilize its nursing residents and technicians by bringing them on earlier as full-time staff and allowing them to pick up extra shifts earlier in their residency. These residents are experienced and have met their onboarding requirements. 

These policy adjustments will provide the WakeMed clinical team with additional flexibility and support as the hospital system works diligently to meet staffing requirements as we navigate the latest peak in the pandemic.
New COVID-19 Treatment Available at WakeMed
While North Carolina hospitals are managing high volumes of COVID-19 and non-COVID 19 patients, WakeMed's clinical teams are working feverishly to collaborate with the country’s best researchers and scientists to develop new tools to treat COVID-19 patients. 
The latest trial WakeMed is participating in is for a therapy called Monoclonal Antibody Infusions or MAb. An infusion of these antibodies can jumpstart your immune response to help fight COVID-19. 
In November, the FDA authorized the emergency use of Eli Lilly’s new MAb called Bamlanivimab (BAM). BAM can be administered to adult and pediatric patients (over 12) who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are experiencing symptoms. 

The treatment is targeted to patients who are considered high-risk for developing more severe COVID-19 symptoms resulting in hospitalization. Patients with a higher BMI, chronic diseases like diabetes, COPD, hypertension, and congenital or other acquired disorders are eligible for the infusion.
For WakeMed patients who chose to use the therapy, it could mean feeling better sooner, potentially avoiding a lengthy hospital stay, and returning to their lives more quickly.
The Children’s Emergency Department, as well as WakeMed Cary and WakeMed North Hospitals, are also ready to provide these infusions to patients. The infusion takes about an hour, but the entire appointment typically takes about 3-4 hours as patients are monitored for any adverse reactions afterward. 
WakeMed patients and thousands of other hospital patients could stand to better fight and recover from COVID-19 as a part of this trial. About 50% of WakeMed patients offered the therapy have chosen to participate. Since receiving the first allocation, WakeMed has administered over 40 successful infusions. 
Office Updates
CARES Act Rural Broadband Funding Approved!
Last week, legislative leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper reached a deal to ensure $30 million is allocated as promised to the GREAT rural broadband program.
In September, the legislature passed, and Gov. Cooper signed, legislation to allocate $30 million in federal CARES Act relief funding to North Carolina's GREAT program, which provides grants to expand rural broadband access.
U.S. Treasury guidance jeopardized the eligibility of the funding because of questions about whether the CARES Act-funded rural broadband projects must be complete before a Dec. 30 deadline.
To avoid potential issues associated with the risk of ineligibility, the legislative and executive branch successfully negotiated a solution. The executive branch will use the flexibility afforded by state law to redirect the $30 million previously allocated to the GREAT program to other eligible expenses for which state General Fund dollars would have been used.
Our legislative body will vote on a bill early next year to appropriate the newly freed up $30 million from the General Fund to the GREAT program.
Until we formally appropriate the $30 million next year, the Office of State Budget and Management will proceed with the administrative process of reviewing grant applications from providers and preparing contracts. That process generally takes several weeks anyway, so the time delay in awarding broadband grant under this new plan will be negligible.
North Carolina Relaunches Program to Help Small Businesses Disproportionately Harmed by COVID-19
The grant program, RETOOLNC, is available once again to help North Carolina Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) firms impacted by COVID-19.

The state’s Office for Historically Underutilized Businesses will offer guidance on business development through the RETOOLNC program and administer funding to assist in the economic recovery of state-certified minority and women-owned businesses. Access to capital remains the number one challenge for small businesses. RETOOLNC will provide eligible HUB and DBE firms an opportunity to receive up to $25,000 in grant funding.

Eligible Businesses must:

  • Have been operating for one year
  • Be certified with NCHUB or NCDOT DBE
  • Be an independent business located within North Carolina
  • Be a business with up to 50 employees or less (including but not limited to, sole proprietorships, home-based businesses, and independent contractors)
  • Not have annual revenues exceeding $1,500,000
  • Not be delinquent on North Carolina State income taxes
  • Not have any active bankruptcies or tax liens

To learn more about the RETOOLNC initiative, visit the NC HUB Office website for details. HUB firms interested in receiving state certification can email [email protected] or call 984-236-0148 for assistance.