5/3/20: OCRACOKE GROUP RECOMMENDS LIFTING VISITOR BAN BEFORE MEMORIAL DAY, COORDINATING WITH DARE, CURRITUCK COUNTIES. PLUS RECAP OF STATE’S REOPENING METRICS.

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The Ocracoke Control Group has recommended lifting visitor restrictions on the island before Memorial Day, according to an announcement released yesterday by Hyde County.

Ocracoke Island’s reopening would occur with “the understanding that County Officials will be working with Dare County, Currituck County and the Governor’s office to coordinate any reopening to include regional and state concerns,” the press release said

The holiday that unofficially marks the start of the summer vacation season falls on May 25 this year.

See Ocracoke press release: https://www.hydecountync.gov/Press%20Release%20-Ocracoke%20Control%20Group%20Recommendation.pdf

The Ocracoke Control Group met last Friday to discuss lifting the visitor ban. It is reported to have weighed “public health concerns on the one hand and the threat to the future of Ocracoke’s business community on the other,” according to the release.

Ocracoke is in the “uniquely challenging position” of dealing with both the shutdown caused by Hurricane Dorian last September and the current COVID-19 crisis shutdown, the release noted.

The announcement of a reopening date will be made by the Hyde County Board of Commissioners, which has already approved a May 11 reentry of non-resident Ocracoke property owners.

See press release about entry of non-resident Ocracoke property owners: http://www.hydecountync.gov/Press%20Release%20-%20SOE%20Admendment%204.pdf

Like Dare and Currituck counties’ orders, Hyde’s stay-at-home order is in effect until May 22.

The Control Group agreed that any lifting of visitor restrictions on Ocracoke “must be coupled with clear guidelines as to personal protective measures that will be in place for all types of businesses and gatherings, including but not limited to social distancing, face masks, and sanitation,” according to yesterday’s release.

Hyde County has reported only one positive test for COVID-19.

NORTH CAROLINA’S REOPENING SCOREBOARD

All Outer Banks county officials have their eye on May 8, which is when Governor Roy Cooper’s statewide stay-at-home order expires.

The Governor and Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen have said that North Carolina will move into Phase One of a three-phase reopening plan on May 9 only if certain “trends” they are following are favorable.

Phase One, which would be in effect a minimum of two weeks, leaves many restrictions in place, including closures of restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, fitness centers, gyms, and all other close-contact businesses. It is designed to encourage more commercial activity and outdoor recreational activity, but on a gradual basis.

See https://governor.nc.gov/news/governor-extends-stay-home-order-through-may-8-plans-three-phase-lifting-restrictions-based

Last Thursday Dr. Cohen explained where North Carolina stands on the telltale trends, also referred to as key “metrics.” The Beacon has reported on them previously, but believes they are worth restating in more detail. Dr. Cohen cited the following, as of April 30:

*On achieving sustained leveling or decreased trajectory in COVID-like illness surveillance over 14 days:

North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend was level over the past 14 days, but had been on an uptick over the past seven days.

*On achieving sustained leveling or decreased trajectory of lab-confirmed cases over 14 days:

North Carolina’s trajectory of lab-confirmed cases over the past 14 days was still increasing.

*On achieving sustained leveling or decreased trajectory in percent of tests returning positive over 14 days:

The trajectory in the percent of tests returning positive over the past 14 days was decreasing. (The percentage of late has been about 8 percent.)

*On achieving leveling or decreased trajectory of hospitalizations over 14 days:

Dr. Cohen regarded the trajectory of hospitalizations over the previous 14 days as largely level. (In recent days, the NCDHHS dashboard has recorded an uptick in hospitalizations.)

The NCDHHS Secretary also discussed the State’s capacity for testing, contact tracing, and protecting health-care workers.

*On increasing laboratory testing:

Dr. Cohen defined a goal in North Carolina of conducting 5,000 to 7,0000 COVID-19 tests per day. As of last Thursday, she said, North Carolina had surpassed 4,000 tests for the past six of nine days with 6,000 tests reported last Wednesday. (In recent days, the number of tests being done has been variable, but larger than 4,000.)

*On increasing tracing capability:

Dr. Cohen announced that the Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative, a new partnership with Community Care of North Carolina and the N.C. Area Health Education Centers, had started recruiting people for tracer positions. North Carolina seeks to double its current contact tracing capabilities, Dr. Cohen said.

Within 24 hours of posting notices for the 250 tracer jobs, the State received 1,000 applications, The Charlotte Observer reported.

*On having available sufficient personal protective equipment:

As of last Thursday, North Carolina had a 30-day supply of most personal protective equipment, except for gowns and N95 masks.

See https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/NCDHHS_043020.pdf.

The Beacon will update this post later today with any breaking state and local COVID-19 news that may occur.

STATISTICS JUST IN FROM NCDHHS: Today’s 11 a.m. update of the NCDHHS dashboard shows an increase of 155 positive COVID-19 tests during the past 24 hours, based on 4,360 more tests. COVID-19-related hospitalizations dropped from 502 to 475.

Ninety-nine of the State’s 100 counties have now reported a positive COVID-19 test. The lone remaining county that has not is Avery, which is in the mountains.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 5/3/20

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