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Message from State Superintendent

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A Message from Superintendent Truitt

August 25, 2023

I know many of you, like me, are amid back-to-school preparations. As we approach fall, we also head into respiratory viral season, which is when we expect to see increases in COVID-19, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other illnesses. I wanted to share a few updates on what we know about these illnesses and the tools available to protect ourselves and our families.

Many of you have been hearing about additional new variants of COVID-19 and COVID-19 transmission increasing again. We have seen increases in COVID-19 recently as we did during the past two summers and we expect COVID-19 transmission to continue to go up in the coming weeks and likely again in fall or winter. We continue to provide a weekly update on the North Carolina Respiratory Virus Summary Dashboard. There are several new variants currently circulating globally, including one called BA 2.86. Based on what we know now, existing tests used to detect and medications used to treat COVID-19 appear to be effective with this variant. BA.2.86 may be more capable of causing infection in people who have previously had COVID-19 or who have received COVID-19 vaccines. Scientists are evaluating the effectiveness of the forthcoming, updated COVID-19 vaccine. CDC’s current assessment is that this updated vaccine will be effective at reducing severe disease and hospitalization. At this point, there is no evidence that this variant is causing more severe illness. This information may change as we learn more.

Influenza and RSV are two other seasonal viruses that cause respiratory infections and can also cause severe illness or even death, particularly in older adults, young children and those with underlying medical issues. Flu and RSV infections typically peak between December and February, but the timing has been less predictable since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fortunately, we have tools to protect ourselves and each other, including access to vaccines, testing and treatment to help manage respiratory diseases. We can all prepare for the fall respiratory virus season by taking the following actions:

First, stay up to date with current vaccine recommendations:

  • Ensure you are up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines. An updated COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be available this fall.
  • Get your seasonal flu vaccine. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every year, especially people at higher risk for severe illness.
  • new tool to protect against RSV will also be available this fall for infants under 8 months and some older babies at increased risk of severe illness caused by RSV.
  • People 60 years and older should talk to their doctors about whether an RSV vaccine might also be good for them.

Second, as COVID-19 and flu increase, be prepared to test and seek treatment:

  • Have a ready supply of COVID-19 tests. Visit Testing & Treatment | NC COVID-19 ( for information on how to get free at-home COVID-19 tests and access treatment if you test positive.
  • There are treatments available for both COVID-19 and flu that can reduce risk of severe disease. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or flu and are in a higher-risk group, or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider.

Third, take other actions to stay healthy:

  • Practice basic protective measures, like washing your hands, covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, cleaning surfaces often and staying home when sick.
  • Consider an extra layer of protection of masks in higher risk indoor settings and/or if you are at high risk of severe illness.
  • Check the North Carolina Respiratory Virus Summary Dashboard for up-to-date information on respiratory virus activity, including COVID-19, influenza and RSV.

We will continue to monitor the latest data and evolve as needed. As always, thanks for all you do to serve our communities and the people of North Carolina.



Catherine Truitt


NC Department of Public Instruction