4/22/20: HAPPY EARTH DAY. PLUS NEWS FROM THE GOVERNOR ABOUT EASING RESTRICTIONS IN NORTH CAROLINA, INSIGHT FROM A JOHNS HOPKINS INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT ON THE COVID-19 FRONT LINES, AND A LOOK AT THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO.

Happy Earth Day. Carpe diem.

Today is the 50th anniversary of one of the most successful national demonstrations in the history of the United States.

Soon after millions of people took to the streets April 22, 1970, to protest in behalf of cleaning up our natural environment, the federal government took action to do just that. It created the Environmental Protection Agency and enacted new laws to protect our waters and our air and to stop the spewing and dumping of toxic substances.

Earth Day also brought national attention to the problem of increasing waste and the importance of recycling.

When we heard two members of the Southern Shores Town Council seriously suggest yesterday that the Town jettison its curbside recycling program, instead of investing the time and money it would take to make it work efficiently, we wondered what calendar year it is.

Earth Day may have been the best thing to come out of the 1960s countercultural movement. Certainly, it had—and continues to have—an impact on the daily lives and health of all people living in this country. We believe it would be a mistake to roll back the progress that has been achieved, especially on a local level, simply because the tasks at hand are too hard for some to figure out or manage, and/or environmental protection and recycling are not the personal priorities of an elected official.

Please see The Beacon’s post yesterday about the SSCA’s “Earth Week” beach cleanup.

The SSCA is seeking volunteers’ help with clearing the beaches near its crossovers and on the crossovers themselves of storm debris. The beach areas that have “more significant debris” than others, according to the SSCA Board of Directors, are from Sandpiper Lane to Mockingbird Lane (access via Purple Martin Lane); from Hickory Trail to Second Avenue; and from Ninth Avenue to the Hillcrest Beach.

UPDATE ON EASING COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS IN NORTH CAROLINA

Governor Roy Cooper announced yesterday that he likely will make announcements by week’s end about the statewide stay-at-home order, which is in effect until April 29, and the reopening of K-12 public schools. These decisions will be part of the Governor’s plan of moving forward and gradually easing COVID-19-related restrictions in North Carolina.

Whatever the Governor decides about extending his executive stay-at-home order, those of us in Dare County will continue to be subject to the County’s Stay Home-Stay Healthy order, which the Dare County Control Group extended yesterday to May 22. (See The Beacon, 4/21/20.)

The Control Group also ordered all people in Dare County to wear a mask or other face covering when they are in public settings, such as a grocery store or pharmacy, where they cannot maintain the six-foot social or physical distancing requirement.

Such coverings, public-health experts say, reduce the secretions emitted into the air by the person wearing the covering. They protect others from being infected by airborne droplets; they do not protect the masked person.

The Governor expressed interest yesterday in reopening North Carolina’s K-12 public schools this school year, but said he has to be confident first that students will be safe before he makes that decision. N.C. public schools have been closed since March 16 and will remain closed until at least May 15.

The Governor’s Office also announced yesterday that self-employed workers in North Carolina who did not qualify for state unemployment benefits will be able to apply for federal unemployment benefits starting Friday.

The N.C. Division of Employment Security is administering three federal unemployment-assistance programs created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law March 27.

People who are self-employed, who work as independent contractors or as freelancers, or who work in the “gig economy” and do not qualify for state benefits can apply for federal benefits starting Friday through the federal “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” program. See the website of the Division of Employment Security for more information at http://des.nc.gov.

Unemployed workers who qualify for state benefits may be eligible for federal benefits through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which has already been implemented.

The third federal unemployment program created by the CARES Act extends benefits up to 13 weeks for individuals who have exhausted their state benefits. No timeline for this program has been set yet.

So far the State has paid more than $580 million in unemployment to more than 257,000 people since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to The Raleigh News and Observer.

COVID-19 AND DARE COUNTY’S GRADUAL ‘REOPENING’

The Beacon advisory board would like to congratulate the Dare County Control Group on preparing and initiating a “reopening” plan that is based on “science, trends, data, epidemiology, and resource availability,” as it states in yesterday’s bulletin about the staged re-entry of non-resident property owners that starts May 4.

In The Beacon’s last blog posting yesterday, we enumerated some of the facts and factors that the Control Group weighed in deliberating upon a plan. We refer you again to Bulletin no. 48, which detailed them:

https://www.darenc.com/Home/Components/News/News/6172/1483

In today’s bulletin, Dare County advises non-resident Currituck County property owners, that their “travel in Dare County should be used only as necessary to reach the Currituck Outer Banks or for essential needs such as health care. Plan to travel directly to your destination once passing through the checkpoint at the bridge.”

The Currituck County Board of Commissioners approved re-entry of non-resident property owners starting tomorrow at 9 a.m. The Dare County Control Group reminds the new arrivals that they must respect Dare County’s Stay Home-Stay Healthy order when they are in our county.

See Bulletin no. 49 at https://www.darenc.com/Home/Components/News/News/6176/1483

‘THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO’

Yesterday during the Southern Shores Town Council budget workshop, Councilman Matt Neal spoke of planning for “the worst-case scenario” with the COVID-19 pandemic, and even a “worse worst-case scenario.”

Mr. Neal emerged yesterday as the most reasonable, practical, and prepared member of our Town government—a leader if he chooses to be one—and The Beacon will give him his due when we have a chance to actually hear him on the videotape.

While other members had their moments—we especially appreciate Councilman Leo Holland’s repeated admonition that “It is easier to give back than to take away.”—Mr. Neal was consistently on the front lines of each discussion.

Today, another front-liner, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, who is director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is in the news for predicting that the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic will be more devastating than the first.

(You will recall that the CDC horribly bungled the first COVID-19 test, which it developed and distributed nationwide, with the inclusion of a contaminated reagent. The contamination was found to have occurred in the manufacturing process, not in the design.)

Dr. Redfield, who is a virologist, is warning that next winter the seasonal influenza epidemic will overlap with a second coronavirus epidemic and possibly overwhelm the nation’s health-care system, whose shortcomings have been exposed during the current COVID-19 wave.

Dr. Redfield is not the first physician-scientist to raise this warning. Of more concern to The Beacon is the message that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci has tried repeatedly to deliver and that Dr. Lisa L. Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., Senior Director of Infection Prevention for the Johns Hopkins Health System, echoed in a webinar broadcast last night:

Judging by its “characteristics,” Dr. Maragakis said, “The virus is likely to remain with us” through the summer.

It may have “seasonality in the future,” the epidemiologist and infectious disease expert said, such that it would be less prevalent in warmer weather, but it does not yet. It is, therefore, important that people stay focused on “the basics of infection control,” she stressed, and not assume that when case counts plateau and start to decrease we are out of the woods.

Dr. Maragakis also confirmed an earlier report by The Beacon that the antiviral drug, remdesivir, shows promise in treating COVID-patients in clinical trials that are being conducted at Johns Hopkins, but so far there is no evidence of efficacy in trials with hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug touted by PresidentTrump.

Remdesivir is administered by IV. Dr. Maragakis also mentioned a nebulizer medication (it is inhaled) called DAS181, which works by interfering with the virus’s ability to bind with receptors on cells in the lungs. This is now the virus invades the body and why pneumonia develops. Unlike the common cold, COVID-19 is not upper-respiratory.

For the record, the Johns Hopkins professor said a vaccine is “still many months away” and the mortality rate of COVID-19, which she estimated at 0.7 to 1.5 percent of all patients, is 10 times higher than the mortality rate for seasonal influenza.

Dr. Maragakis also identified obesity as a risk factor for COVID-infected patients, along with comorbidities, such as diabetes and heart disease, which are associated with obesity.

The Beacon supports planning for the worst-case scenario by focusing on infection controls, and not relaxing, like the Dare County Control Group seems committed to do.

Happy Earth Day.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 4/22/20

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