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The essentials...

Actionable + hyperlocal news to know:

COVID-19 case rates in Wake County dropped nearly half this week, the third week-over-week decrease.

It’s also noteworthy that the percentage of tests that are positive decreased for the first time. While the numbers are still high in Wake County, it gives greater confidence that Omicron variant has peaked locally, a trend seen in other communities across the U.S.

The CDC’s community transmission risk decreased to about 740 cases per 100,000 people. This 7-day rate was 1,371 cases/100,000 people last week. This case rate is similar to local community spread around the new year, toward the beginning of Omicron’s surge.

The state numbers for Wake County’s 14-day case rate decreased, is now at 1,855 cases per 100,000 people. Last week the case rate was 3,208 cases per 100,000 people.
The percentage of tests that are positive in Wake County decreased to 19% this week from 25% the last two weeks, a 14-day metric.

Congregate living facility outbreaks stayed high at 57 outbreaks in Wake County, but did not increase in total this week. These outbreak sites include nursing homes and assisted living facilities. This is considered a lagging, or later, indicator of community spread.

Childcare and K-12 clusters increased to 11 clusters from 5 last week.

📊 More numbers, links + analysis: []

Raleigh Convergence has analyzed local-level data for Wake County for the last 92 weeks. [become a member to support hyperlocal journalism like this!]

More essential news:

😷 Raleigh's mask mandate will stay in place for now, but Wake County and Raleigh officials will meet again in two weeks. [News & Observer]

🍎K-12 schools: New updated guidance from the state means students exposed to COVID-19 who don't have symptoms will be allowed to stay in person for school beginning Feb. 21. Guidance on masks in schools is being reviewed now. The state's toolkit has informed decision making for school systems including Wake County Public School System. [WRAL]
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Locally made:
Geluna Gelato's first pop-up
Downtown Cary’s new gelato shop will offer a taste of its locally-made gelato 12-4 p.m. Saturday during its first pop-up.

Geluna Gelato is a locally-owned gelato shop creating house-made recipes from fresh Homestead Creamery and NC State dairy milk. The owners studied at Carpigiana Gelato University in Italy before studying with a master gelato maker.

Gelato differs from ice cream because of its lower fat content, which enhances the flavors of the frozen treat.

The pop-up Saturday will include three fresh flavors for sale: Sea salt caramel, strawberry and ruby milk chocolate.

What’s next: To-go boxes, named Geluna & Chill, will be launching soon. The $30 box will include three pints of gelato, four house-made cookies and fresh cones.

Our early peek at the box included sea salt caramel, strawberry and cream and ruby stracciatella (a classic Italian flavor) pints; four soft chocolate chip and sugar cookies (two each); along with four cones. [more about Geluna Gelato]

Future plans: Watch for occasional pop-ups until its official opening, with a target of late March or early April.

The big picture: Geluna Gelato, 111 E. Chatham Street, Unit C, in Cary, is one part of rapidly transforming Downtown Cary.

Geluna Gelato is located in the renovated 1970s retail strip The Center. Since its renovation, it's added new locally-owned spots in the last year, including Hank's Downtown Dive, Di Fara Pizza and gym Wyatt's World, joining longer standing restaurant Taipei 101.

Down Academy Street, seven acres will be the new Downtown Cary Park, while construction is ongoing down Chatham Street for other projects. 
Raleigh jobs: 

Post a job for $30 on our jobs board + for inclusion in this section. [post]

Submissions must be received by 8 a.m. Monday to run the following Thursday. 
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This is a maternity leave edition, publishing weekly on Thursdays. Read more in a previous column: []
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