9/26/20: FRIDAY, OCT. 16 IS BULK TRASH COLLECTION DAY. Plus What You Can and Cannot Dispose of Roadside.

Plastic deck chairs and chaise lounges often end up roadside for one of the town’s semi-annual bulk-waste collections. All types of furniture are acceptable for disposal.

The autumn bulk-waste collection will occur on Friday, Oct. 16, the Town of Southern Shores announced yesterday.

All acceptable items may be placed in the road right-of-way no earlier than Friday, Oct. 9, and must be out by 5 a.m. on Oct. 16, the Town said in a newsletter article that specified the type of bulk waste that has been approved for pickup.

The following commonly disposed of items are acceptable:

*Mattresses, sofas, chairs, and other furniture

*Exercise equipment

*Hot tub covers, but not hot tubs

*Refrigerators, freezers, and any other appliances that may contain refrigerant, PROVIDED they are tagged that Freon has been removed; also all doors must be removed. (If these items are not tagged, they will not be picked up.)

*Yard waste and vegetative debris bagged in clear or brown paper bags

The following items are not acceptable and will be rejected with a visible X printed on them:

*Televisions (TVs may be taken to the Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center or Dare County C&D [Construction and Demolition] Landfill, at no charge)

*Hot tubs, water heaters (Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center or Dare County C&D Landfill, no charge)

*Basketball goal posts (requires $50 permit from the Town to be taken to the Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center; no charge at the landfill)

*Untagged refrigerators or any appliances containing refrigerant (may be taken to the Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center or the landfill, no charge)

*Hazardous materials, such as paints, chemicals (Dare County offers an annual collection, see below)

*Building materials, lumber, scrap lumber, roofing, doors, screens, windows, stairs, carpets, cabinets, toilets, pallets, demolition debris (requires $50 permit to be taken to the Kitty Hawk Recycling Center; landfill, no charge)

*Soil, rocks, concrete, stumps (Kitty Hawk Recycling Center and landfill, no charge)

*Tires, any items containing gasoline; tires must be removed from their rims (Kitty Hawk Recycling Center, maximum of four tires, no charge; or Dare County Public Works Compound in Manteo)

The Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center is located at 4190 Bob Perry Road, Kitty Hawk; telephone is (252) 261-1367. It operates from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon. Closed Wednesday and Sunday. See https://www.kittyhawknc.gov/departments-and-services/public-works/recycling/

Dare County C&D Landfill is located at 1603 Cub Road, Manns Harbor; telephone is (252) 473-2059. It operates from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. Closed Sunday. The first 500 pounds of residential trash are free; the rest is prorated at $65/ton. See https://www.darenc.com/departments/public-works/c-d-landfill-rubble-transfer-station

The Dare County Public Works Compound, Main Recycling Center, where you may take used tires and batteries, is located at 1018 Driftwood Drive, Manteo. It is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday. Closed Sunday.

The Dare County Dept. of Public Works sponsors a household hazardous waste collection annually at three locations. This year’s collections occurred in late May. See https://www.darenc.com/Home/Components/News/News/6278/17

For more information about Southern Shores’ Oct. 16 collection, see https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/semi-annual-bulk-waste-collection/

CUT-THROUGH TRAFFIC

The Beacon stopped blogging about the weekend cut-through traffic two weeks ago, even though it continues unabated, albeit at a lower volume.

We have observed a Post-Labor Day weekend cut-through “rush-hour” on both Saturday and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., times that are related to the 5 p.m. check-in time adopted for this year’s pandemic vacation season on the Outer Banks.

Please feel free to comment on The Beacon about the traffic, even though we are not. Thank you.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/26/20

9/25/20: TWO LOCAL WOMEN AGE 65+ HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID-19; A THIRD ALSO DIAGNOSED. STATE NOW REPORTING ANTIGEN-POSITIVE TESTS AND DEATHS.

Since Wednesday, two female Dare County residents age 65 or older have been hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services dashboard, and a third local woman of similar age has tested positive and is in isolation.

People diagnosed locally with COVID-19 who require hospitalization seek in-patient medical care outside of Dare County.

One woman’s hospitalization was reported Wednesday by the DCDHHS along with three other COVID-19-positive tests of Dare County residents, whose ages ranged widely. (We will probe the others after Dr. Sheila Davies posts her Friday update.)

The DCDHHS’s report yesterday of the second local woman age 65+ having tested positive and being hospitalized for COVID-19 also included the report of a third local woman 65+ testing positive for the coronavirus. She is in home isolation.

These three women may be unrelated, but the unusual occurrence of their cases raises in our mind the possibility of a relationship among them, such as a shared residency.

On Sept. 17, the DCDHHS reported having received confirmation from Peak Resources of a COVID-19 outbreak at the Nags Head skilled nursing facility. The DCDHHS has said nothing more about these four cases since.

Peak Resources is what was once called in now-outdated parlance a nursing home; it is also a rehabilitation center. It has 126 beds, which were occupied two weeks ago, according to the DCDHHS, by only 72 residents.

The DCDHHS said that it was during the 14-day quarantine of a new resident to the long-term care facility—a quarantine that is required by N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services rules—that two residents and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

If you check Peak Resources’ COVID-19 update, as the DCDHHS advised the public to do for “further information,” you will find it singularly unhelpful. Peak Resources proposes to notify people of the “occurrences of:

*“Resident/Staff confirmed positive with COVID-19; OR

*“Resident/Staff—3 or more who have developed a new onset of respiratory symptoms within 72 hours of each other,”

and to update this information weekly. We do not understand what is meant by the “three or more” qualification, but we do know that in the chart it provides, Peak Resources does not give a cumulative total of COVID-19-positive cases at its Nags Head location, nor does it indicate the status or outcome of all of the cases among its residents and staff.

See https://peakresourcesinc.com/home-2/covid/

When we checked the Peak Resources’ “update” earlier this week, there were three COVID-19-positive cases among residents and staff at the Nags Head facility; yesterday and today there are only two.

Does this mean that one has recovered or that five have occurred in the past week?

When we checked on Sept. 17, there were also three COVID-19-positive cases, not four.

Such confusion should not exist. There is no excuse for obfuscation in a public-health crisis.

We hope Peak Resources management has honestly advised the residents and their families about the number of COVID-19 cases at the Nags Head facility and has been conscientious about testing both residents and staff and taking other safety precautions.

We look forward to learning some details from the DCDHHS later today about the three new cases involving age 65+ local women, two of whom needed to be hospitalized.

Earlier today the DCDHHS reported two more COVID-19 cases among Dare County residents, both of them men, one between the ages of 25 and 49 and the other between the ages of 50 and 64.

Since March, Dare County has experienced 286 positive-COVID-19 tests among residents and 243 among nonresidents, for a total of 529. There are currently 11 active cases among residents.

(UPDATE: According to the Friday update, none of the Dare County residents newly diagnosed with COVID-19 appears to be related to each other.

(Dr. Sheila Davies, director of the DCDHHS, reports that of the eight local residents who tested positive for COVID-19 since Tuesday, two of them separately acquired the virus by direct contact with a person whose positive test result was previously reported on the dashboard; one acquired the virus by direct contact with a person who tested positive outside of Dare County; and five are not connected. The source of the latter’s coronavirus infection is “unclear.”

(The Beacon continues to find the DCDHHS’s scant details about both the people who test positive in Dare County and how they presumably acquired the virus unsatisfactory public information.)

STATE HEALTH DEPT. NOW TRACKING ANTIGEN-POSITIVE CASES

Also today, the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services started reporting COVID-19 antigen-positive tests and deaths in the state population. According to the NCDHHS so far, antigen-positive cases make up 2 percent of all COVID-19 cases and antigen-positive deaths make up 0.7 percent of all COVID-19-associated deaths in North Carolina.

These new test and death figures are being incorporated into the NCDHHS dashboard.

See https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/dashboard/Antigen-Testing-Frequently-Asked-Questions.pdf

Most COVID-19 tests are molecular (PCR) tests that, according to the NCCHHS, “look for the virus’s genetic material.” An antigen test, in contrast, “is a rapid test that looks for specific proteins on the surface of the virus.”

Molecular tests are processed in a laboratory, whereas antigen tests are often “processed at the point of care, such as in a health care provider’s office,” the NCDHHS explains.

We need to do more research on why North Carolina is joining 31 other states that already report antigen-positive cases in addition to cases identified through positive molecular test results. We will get back to you after we have studied up.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/25/20

9/23/20: ALMOST 14 % OF N.C. REGISTERED VOTERS HAVE REQUESTED ABSENTEE MAIL-IN BALLOTS, STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS REPORTS.

Southern Shores has a homeowner in the race: Democrat Tommy Fulcher, of Ginguite Trail, is running for the District 6 seat in the N.C. House of Representatives, which includes Dare, Currituck, Hyde, and Pamlico counties. (The Beacon makes no endorsements in partisan elections. In the past 30 years, we are not aware of any Southern Shores residents having run for state office.)

As of yesterday, 971,631 registered North Carolina voters—almost 14 percent of all registered voters in the state —had requested absentee ballots for the 2020 general election, according to the N.C. State Board of Elections, which updates online the number of requests daily.

With North Carolina being the first state in the nation to mail out absentee ballots—they started going out Sept. 4—the Nov. 3 election is well under way here, even though early voting does not begin until Oct. 15. (It runs through Oct. 31.)

As of Sept. 11, according to the N.C. Policy Watch, 23,443 ballots had already been returned. See http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2020/09/14/requests-for-absentee-ballots-up-1400-from-2016/

Election analysts believe that at least half of the U.S. electorate will vote by mail or early in person because of voters’ reluctance to show up at crowded polling places in November and risk exposure to COVID-19.

There are 7,153,476 registered voters in North Carolina, according to the State Board of Elections, which is fulfilling requests for absentee ballots on a rolling basis—essentially, in the order in which they are received.

See the State Board’s website for any election information you may need: https://www.ncsbe.gov/.

To request an absentee ballot, see https://votebymail.ncsbe.gov/app/home.

To check the status of your mail-in ballot, see https://northcarolina.ballottrax.net/voter/.

I returned my ballot on Monday and was able to ascertain on the “Ballot Trax” website that the U.S. Postal Service has sent it to the Dare County Board of Elections office. I will check back to ensure that the BOE has received and registered it.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/23/20

9/23/20: UPDATE ON COVID-19 FATALITY: DARE RESIDENT WAS MALE, AGE 65+.

Yesterday we reported that a Dare County resident, who had been hospitalized outside of the area, had died as a result of COVID-19 complications. We based our report on an update by the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services and indicated that it had provided scant information about this person.

Today, the DCDHHS reports that the individual was a man age 65 or older.

If this information was available yesterday, and we simply missed it, we apologize. Sometimes multi-tasking gets the better of us.

This gentleman is the third Dare County resident whose death has been attributed to COVID-19. A fourth resident who was hospitalized with COVID-19 was determined to have died from a non-coronavirus-related cause.

All of the people who have died have been men in the older age group.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Late Wednesday, the DCDHHS updated its dashboard to show that four more Dare County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, including a woman age 65+ who has been hospitalized. The Beacon is always concerned when a person is ill enough with the coronavirus to be hospitalized, but this uptick also concerns us because, frankly, it should not be happening if people are observing safe practices. The four people may be members of the same family: They are a woman between the ages of 18 and 24; a woman ages 25-49; and a man, ages 50-64; as well as the older woman who has been hospitalized. We will report further on this uptick after Dr. Sheila Davies posts her Friday update.

THE BEACON, 9/23/20

9/23/20: NEW $40 MILLION STATE FUND OFFERS RELIEF FOR SMALL BUSINESSES CLOSED BECAUSE OF COVID-19.

Governor Roy Cooper plans to announce early next week the easing of some restrictions in place under Phase 2.5, which expires Oct. 2 at 5 p.m. See yesterday’s Beacon for news about a change in permitted capacity at outdoor venues, including sports stadiums.

A new $40 million relief fund announced yesterday by Governor Roy Cooper enables some small businesses that were closed from April through August because of COVID-19 to apply for assistance with fixed costs that they paid, such as rent and utilities.

The new N.C. Mortgage, Utility, and Rent Relief (MURR) program unveiled by the Governor offers eligible businesses up to $20,000 per business location for rent or mortgage interest and utility costs that they paid when they were closed between April 1, 2020 and Aug. 31, 2020.

Businesses must have paid these costs, and have evidence that they did, in order to receive relief payments, according to a description of the MURR program on the N.C. Dept. of Commerce website. Applications for MURR assistance, which is being administered by the N.C. DOC, may be submitted starting next week and will be evaluated on a first come, first serve basis.

Applicants will be limited to relief for two business locations, or a maximum of $40,000, according to the DOC website. To apply, a business must have fewer than 50 employees at a business location.     

For all of the important details, see: https://www.nccommerce.com/grants-incentives/disaster-recovery/mortgage-utility-and-rent-relief-murr-program

The following businesses are eligible to apply for MURR funds:

*Amusement parks

*Banquet halls with catering staff

*Bars, taverns, night clubs, cocktail lounges

*Bingo parlors

*Bowling alleys

*Dance halls

*Indoor fitness and recreation centers

*Indoor movie theaters

*Museums

Nonprofits are not eligible for assistance.

If you would like to apply, you will need to produce a recent federal tax return with the page showing your NAICS code assignment; your lease or mortgage agreement; and evidence of your payment of rent or of mortgage interest and your payment of utility (electricity, natural gas, water, sewer, telephone and internet service) expenses.

You also will need an Employer Identification Number and an N.C. Secretary of State ID Number, also known as an SOS ID. You may look up your SOS ID here: https://www.sosnc.gov/online_services/search/by_title/_Business_Registration

The Dept. of Commerce will host three educational webinars about the MURR program:

Thursday, Sept. 24, at 2 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 1 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 2, at 11 a.m.

You must register online at the MURR program website page above to participate in a webinar.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/23/20

9/22/20: THIRD LOCAL COVID-19 DEATH REPORTED; GOVERNOR TO OPEN LARGE OUTDOOR VENUES, STADIUMS TO 7% CAPACITY.

A third Dare County resident has died from complications associated with COVID-19, according to the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services, which reported today that it had received “notification” that a local person hospitalized outside of the area had died.

It is unclear if the DCDHHS dashboard ever recorded this person’s hospitalization: The last time the dashboard reported the hospitalization of a Dare County resident was Sept. 18, when a man who had been hospitalized for COVID-19 outside of the area allegedly died from other causes. (See The Beacon, 9/19/20.)   

The only other details the DCDHHS made public today about the death were that the person was symptomatic and he or she “acquired the virus” by unclear means.

Since DCDHHS’s COVID-19 update Friday, 10 new cases have been reported, seven of whom are residents, including the person who died. Of the remaining six:

*One pair of family members acquired the virus by direct contact with an infected person outside of Dare County;

*Another pair of family members acquired the virus while traveling outside of Dare County;

*One person acquired the virus by unclear means; and

*The sixth was a late report of an individual who tested positive outside of Dare County and has fully recovered .

The three non-resident cases are unrelated, but all reportedly are symptomatic and acquired the virus by direct contact with individuals who tested positive outside of Dare County.

FOOTBALL PARENTS, FANS GAIN ENTRY TO GAMES

Governor Roy Cooper announced today that, effective Oct. 2, when Safer at Home Phase 2.5 is scheduled to expire, he will allow a 7 percent-capacity crowd for large outdoor venues with a seating capacity of more than 10,000 people, including football stadiums.

The limited capacity will apply to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, concert and theater arenas, ballparks, and any other outdoor venue that holds 10,000+ spectators, provided it has seats. It will not apply to public parks.

Under the current executive order, outdoor mass gatherings are limited to 50 people, and indoor mass gatherings to 25. Prevailing scientific opinion is that outdoor events are safer than indoor activities.

“We share this news today,” the Governor said in a news conference, “so those outdoor venues with seating capacity of more than 10,000 can begin preparations that are key to safely reopening their doors,” including ensuring that spectators are socially distanced.

Mr. Cooper also spoke about arenas having “separate entrances” and managing spectators so that they congregate and sit only with others in their own households.

More changes to the public-health restrictions in place could be announced early next week, the Governor said.

Last week Governor Cooper permitted elementary school children to return to full-time, in-person instruction in October, if their school districts choose to do so.

The Governor has been under pressure this month from parents of college football players who would like to be allowed inside stadiums to watch their sons play. Until last weekend’s games, Cooper had denied all such requests; but on Sept. 18 the Governor’s Office permitted 450 tickets to be given out at the N.C. State home game against Wake Forest.

Every N.C. State player received two tickets, and the Wake Forest team received 100. State came out on top of an offensive battle, 45-42. 

The number of new COVID-19 cases daily across North Carolina remains stable around 1,000 to 1,400, and daily hospitalizations continue to be between roughly 800 and 900. The positivity rate is reportedly hovering around 5 percent, which is the target goal.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, said today that she would like to see a decline in new cases.

“We have to keep working . . . ,” she said, “to make further progress.”

Today’s NCDHHS dashboard reports a total of 195,549 positive results for COVID-19 since March out of 2,824,929 tests completed; 905 hospitalizations, and 3,286 deaths.

Today’s Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services’ dashboard reports 520 total COVID-19 positive cases, of which 278 are Dare County residents and 242 are nonresidents. There currently are eight active cases of COVID-19 in Dare County, all of whom are in home isolation.

The number of new COVID-19 cases in Dare County has trended downward this month, compared with cases reported in July and August. The virus is being transmitted predominantly by direct or close contact with an infected individual.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/22/20

9/19/20: DARE COUNTY MAN HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID-19 DIES; DCDHHS SAYS VIRUS DID NOT CAUSE DEATH. Plus Facial Coverings, Distancing Protect Against Flu, Too.

A local man recently hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19 has died, according to a report yesterday by the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services, which has classified the fatality as a non-COVID death.

Although the DCDHHS report gives no identifying details about the person who died, other than that he was hospitalized, it is clear from data posted online that he was a Dare County resident who was age 65 or older.

Based on the skimpy public-health data provided by DCDHHS, we surmise that the deceased person was a resident of Peak Resources, the long-term care facility in Nags Head that recently confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19. (See The Beacon, 9/17/20.)

In its announcement of the man’s death, the DCDHHS cited the State of North Carolina’s COVID-19 “Associated Death Case Definition” to the effect that a COVID-19-associated death, for surveillance purposes, is one “resulting from a clinically compatible illness that was confirmed to be COVID-19 by an appropriate laboratory test.”

There must be “no period of complete recovery between the date of COVID-19 diagnosis and the date of death,” it states.

Further quoting the associated death case definition, the report says that a death should not be reported as a COVID-19 death if any of the following are true:

  1. “There is no laboratory or other diagnostic confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 virus infection.
  2. “Novel coronavirus illness is followed by full recovery to baseline health status prior to death.
  3. “After review and consultation there is an alternative agreed upon cause of death.

It is often the case that people who die from COVID-19 have co-morbidities, which are pre-existing pathological or disease processes unrelated to COVID-19, such as diabetes and heart or lung disease. 

It seems to us that if the deceased man would not have been hospitalized BUT FOR his COVID-19 infection and would not have died last week BUT FOR that infection that his death was COVID-19-associated. But we know law better than we know pathology.

In any case, we find the language of the third exception about an “alternative agreed upon cause of death” to be so vague, imprecise, and discretionary as to be easily subject to abuse.  

There currently are eight active COVID-19 cases among Dare County residents, all of whom are in isolation.

SOME GOOD NEWS . . . MASKS THWART FLU TRANSMISSION, TOO.

Southern Hemisphere countries, which experience the annual influenza season earlier than Northern Hemisphere countries, such as the United States, have reported a mild 2020 flu season, which is just wrapping up now.

The flu season starts in the Southern Hemisphere in May and peaks in July and August, when countries there experience the height of their winter. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Southern Hemisphere public-health authorities this year have reported the least number of flu cases in “recent memory.”

“They almost . . . call it an absent flu season,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said Thursday. “They’re not sure why this is the case, but the evidence strongly suggests that all the precautions they were taking to avoid COVID during their winter—namely masks, physical separation, avoiding crowds, washing hands—very well may have averted a flu season.”

The experience of Southern Hemisphere countries has long served as a preview of the influenza season that Northern Hemisphere countries can expect. Among other benefits, it enables vaccine manufacturers to target prevalent strains of influenza.

Dr. Fauci has warned previously of a “double whammy” in the United States of flu on top of COVID-19—but this may not turn out to be the case.

Naturally, the infectious disease specialist cautioned Americans not to let the encouraging news from the Southern Hemisphere lull them into complacency. He urged people to get a flu vaccine and to continue wearing their facial coverings, practicing physical distancing, and washing their hands.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/19/20

9/17/20: DARE BUSINESS OWNERS URGED TO RESPOND TO UNC SURVEY ABOUT EMPLOYEES’ HOUSING NEEDS FOR DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE.

Business owners and other employers in Dare County were urged today by County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard to respond to a survey about their employees’ housing needs as part of a joint venture with the Development Finance Initiative (DFI) at the University of North Carolina’s School of Government.

Dare County has “engaged a development finance initiative” at UNC-CH’s SOG, Mr. Woodard said in a videotaped message that also addressed COVID-19 and other local issues, “to identify opportunities for new housing development.”

This action was taken, the Chairman said, in response to concerns expressed “for years” by local business owners and employers that their workers cannot find “suitable housing” on the Dare Outer Banks.

“More diverse residential opportunities are needed to support business,” he said.

The Development Finance Initiative at the SOG assists local governments with attracting private investment to communities that have struggled on their own to realize their economic development potential. These governments are often in small towns or rural areas that are considered economically distressed—which Dare County is not—according to DFI’s website. See https://dfi.sog.unc.edu/

As part of the development initiative process, DFI must gather “information about the specific housing needs of our workforce,” Mr. Woodard said.

The housing survey is available online at darenc.com/employerhousingsurvey. It has about 20 questions and is estimated to take about 10 minutes.

In other news, Mr. Woodard announced that work has begun “to make way for the new COA campus” on U.S. 64 in Manteo. The campus will be located on the site of the former Manteo middle and high school buildings and grounds.

THE BEACON, 9/17/20

9/17/20: NAGS HEAD NURSING FACILITY CONFIRMS COVID-19 OUTBREAK; DCDHHS REPORTS BREACH IN QUARANTINE.

Peak Resources of Nags Head has confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 involving two residents and two staff members of the skilled nursing facility, according to a special report today by the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services.

An outbreak of COVID-19 in a long-term care facility is defined by the State of North Carolina as two or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 within 28 days, according to the DCDHHS, which said it received notification of the first positive-COVID-19 test result by a Peak Resources resident on Sunday, Sept. 13. 

That day, the DCDHHS dashboard reported that two Dare County residents age 65 or older had been diagnosed with COVID-19, a man who had been hospitalized and a woman who was in home isolation.

The DCDHHS reported seven new COVID-19 cases on Sunday—during a weekend that The Beacon characterized as experiencing a spike in cases. (See The Beacon, 9/14/20.) The other five cases involved three local residents and two nonresidents, four of them under the age of 50.

New residents to N.C. long-term care facilities are required to be in quarantine for 14 days from the date of their admission, pursuant to N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services requirements, according to the DCDHHS’s report. It was during the recent quarantine of a new resident that two Peak Resources residents and two staff members “tested positive for the virus,” the report states.

Despite this breach of quarantine, the DCDHHS says that “Peak Resources has been strictly following all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and N.C. DHSS guidelines, which [have] included biweekly testing of all staff members since early August. As part of the biweekly testing plan, all Peak Resources staff members were tested on Sept. 8, 2020, and all were negative.”

After Sunday’s positive-test result, all Peak Resources residents and staff were tested on Monday and Tuesday, according to the DCDHHS, with the result being that, so far, two staff members have tested positive and all 72 residents have tested negative. Results of 11 of the 70 staff members’ tests for COVID-19 are still outstanding.

The two staff members who tested positive are likely to be the two Dare County COVID-19 cases reported by the DCDHHS dashboard yesterday: They are a woman age 25 to 49 and a woman age 50 to 64.  

On Tuesday, the dashboard reported that a Dare County man between the ages of 25 and 49 had tested positive for COVID-19; and on Monday, the dashboard reported positive test results for a local man between the ages of 25 and 49 and a resident male youth age 17 or younger.

“Positive COVID-19 cases in a long-term care facility understandably create concern for residents, staff, and family members,” said Dr. Sheila Davies, director of the DCDHHS, in a statement.

“We are working very close[ly] with the leadership at Peak Resources to support their efforts in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.”

According to the DCDHHS’s report, Melissa Harrison, the local administrator at Peak Resources, said that the facility has been “closely following the guidelines established by the CDC, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, and the Division of Public Health” since late January.

In her COVID-19 update Tuesday, Dr. Davies stressed the importance of quarantining as an infection-prevention measure and urged people to respect a quarantine for the full 14-day period. (See The Beacon, 9/15/20.)

Dr. Davies’s update cautioned that violating a quarantine order can result in a misdemeanor charge, the conviction of which carries a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment.

While enforcement of such a misdemeanor can be difficult, she noted then, it becomes less so when the violation occurs in a skilled nursing facility where the residents and staff are supervised.

For more information about COVID-19 at Peak Resources, the DCDHHS refers you to  www.peakresourcesinc.com and advises that you may obtain current information by selecting “COVID” in the black menu bar at the top of the page. When we did this today, we found no disclosures by Peak Resources of the outbreak.

There currently are 13 active COVID-19 cases among Dare County residents, according to the DCDHHS dashboard: 10 of them are in home isolation; two are in isolation outside of Dare; and one is hospitalized outside of the area.

ON THE STATE LEVEL

Daily new COVID-19 case reports at the state level continue to fluctuate this month—with a high of 2,111 being recorded Sept. 1 and a low of 716 on Sept. 8—according to NCDHHS dashboard numbers. Today’s 1,552 new cases are the most reported since Sept. 5. Total new cases yesterday were 1,137.

The number of daily hospitalizations statewide have tended to stabilize, generally ranging between 800 and 950. The NCDHHS dashboard reported 894 hospitalizations today.

As of today, 3,180 people in North Carolina have died because of COVID-19.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/17/20

9/15/20: DARE REPORTS ANOTHER SPIKE IN COVID-19 CASES, CONFIRMS DIRECT CONTACT AS PRIMARY MEANS OF VIRUS TRANSMISSION, AND URGES PEOPLE TO RESPECT QUARANTINING.

Dare County reported today another spike in COVID-19 cases locally, with five more cases being announced by health officials, one of them a non-resident woman age 65 or older who has been hospitalized.

The county health department also confirmed today that direct contact, often with an infected family member or an intimate, is the predominant means by which COVID-19 has been transmitted to people recently diagnosed locally with the disease.

Of the five new cases reported today, only one is a Dare County resident: a man between the ages of 25 and 49 who is in home isolation. Besides the 65+ nonresident, who is hospitalized outside of the area, the other nonresidents are all between the ages of 25 to 49 and are in isolation. Two men are isolating in their home counties, while a woman is isolating in Dare County.

In its update today of new COVID-19 cases reported since last Friday, the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services stated that 80 percent of the 20 cases—13 on the weekend, two yesterday, and five today—definitely acquired the virus from a family member, a close contact, or through direct contact with someone who was not an intimate, but was known to have tested positive for COVID-19, either in Dare County or outside of the area.

The DCDHHS could not determine through contact tracing how four of the 20 cases, or 20 percent—all of whom are nonresidents—acquired the virus. Of these four, the DCDHHS said only that it is “unclear” how they contracted COVID-19.

RESPECTING QUARANTINES

The DCDHHS also stressed in today’s update the importance of quarantining as a preventive measure.

“We continue to see the predominant way COVID-19 is spreading in our community is through direct contact,” it stated. “[Quarantining is a powerful public health tool to help reduce the spread of infectious diseases.] We use quarantining to separate individuals who have been exposed to a person who has a laboratory-confirmed positive test for COVID-19. The quarantine period is for 14 days from the date of last exposure to the positive individual.”

DCDHHS said that it is “critical” for people who have been notified by the county health department that they are direct contacts of confirmed positive cases to “stay in quarantine for the entire 14-day period, even if you have a negative test.”

Just this week, according to the DCDHHS, several new positive COVID-19 cases arose because the individuals had contact with someone in quarantine. The quarantined person tested negative for COVID-19 on Day 3, but became symptomatic by Day 10 and then tested positive.

If you are unaware that a negative COVID-19 test can be a false negative, just as a positive COVID-19 test can be a false positive, you have not done your homework.

The DCDHHS cautioned that violating a quarantine order can result in a misdemeanor charge, the conviction of which carries a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment, but it also acknowledged that enforcement is difficult. The health department does not monitor people in quarantine.

“Individuals must do the right thing,” the DCDHHS urged, “by being responsible and showing concern for others.”

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/15/20