TRIAD — Starting Wednesday across North Carolina, more arms can get shots.

Anyone older than 16 now is eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, meaning you no longer have to figure out which vaccine group you are in to make an appointment.

Gov. Roy Cooper highlighted the milestone moment during his latest coronavirus pandemic briefing Tuesday afternoon.

“We remain focused on getting people vaccinated as quickly and as equitably as possible and continuing to slow the spread of the virus,” Cooper said. “The more people we vaccinate, the more we can safely do.”

The optimistic assessment from the governor and state public health officials during the briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh contrasted with the atmosphere a year ago at this time, when a grim-faced Cooper was setting out strict emergency orders to counter the pandemic.

A major reason for the turnaround in their demeanor is the advance of vaccinations.

As of Tuesday, the state had administered more than 5.2 million doses. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 39% of those 18 and older are at least partially vaccinated, and 26% have been fully vaccinated.

State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said health officials continue to monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 and its more contagious variants in North Carolina, though medical researchers say vaccines are effective against the spinoff forms of the virus.

Cohen said COVID-19 metrics have improved or remained the same recently in North Carolina, though there have been surges in other states. North Carolina’s trend for COVID-like illness has decreased during the past two weeks, while the state’s trajectory of cases, percentage rate of positive tests and patient hospitalizations have remained level, Cohen said.

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