6/13/20: DARE REPORTS 33RD COVID-19 CASE: A FEMALE RESIDENT BETWEEN AGES 25-49. Statewide, Cases Continue to Increase, Hitting New Single-Day Highs.

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Another Dare County resident has tested positive for COVID-19, according to today’s Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services’ dashboard, which updated after The Beacon posted the story about the County Control Group’s refusal to require people to wear face coverings under any circumstances.

The new case is a woman between the ages of 25 and 49 who is in home isolation, the dashboard reports. She represents the 23rd COVID-19 case among Dare County residents; 10 other cases have been recorded of non-residents.

One-third (11) of Dare County’s 33 positive test results have occurred since May 16, when visitors were permitted entry to the Outer Banks.

Phase Two of Governor Roy Cooper’s plan to reopen businesses while still controlling spread of the coronavirus started May 22 and is scheduled to expire June 26, unless the Governor extends it.

There have been N.C. and national press reports that the State’s move into Phase Three could be delayed. A suggested worst-case scenario has the State reverting to Phase One, which would be devastating for many small businesses.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services,  told NPR on Thursday that if cases and hospitalizations statewide keep rising, North Carolina could return to a stay-at-home order. The order only lifted with Phase Two.

“The way the numbers look now, I would be surprised if we move fully into Phase Three,” Alma (“Gibbie”) Harris, the public health director for Mecklenburg County, N.C., where Charlotte is located, told reporters yesterday.

“We all prefer not to move backward. We would like to move forward,” said Ms. Harris, who is a registered nurse with a master’s degree in public health.

RECORD-HIGH METRICS

Mecklenburg County, a former virus “hot spot” in the state, hit a new record high yesterday in single-day increases of COVID-19 cases, according to The Charlotte Observer, adding 398 cases to its cumulative total of 6,538.

The State of North Carolina also marked its largest single-day increase yesterday in newly reported COVID-19 cases, adding 1,768.

Today’s statewide single-day total is 1,427, according to the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ dashboard. Nearly 9 percent of the new single-day completed tests were positive.

The total number of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases reported statewide since the pandemic began is 42,676.

As of today, 823 people are hospitalized in North Carolina for the virus, and 1,104 people have died.

“I grow more concerned every day,” UNC-Chapel Hill epidemiologist and infectious modeling expert Kimberly Powers, Ph.D., told The Observer. “This reopening is looking like a failed experiment, where if things don’t miraculously somehow change really soon, it becomes increasingly frightening.”

THE BIGGER PICTURE

North Carolina is among nine states nationwide that have experienced an upsurge in new COVID-19 cases since Memorial Day, according to The Washington Post.

The others are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.

“Our metrics have moved in the wrong direction,” Dr. Cohen told The Washington Post last week. Unlike states such as New York and California, North Carolina never hit a peak. It is still experiencing a first wave of viral infections.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Carolina have tripled during the past month, and hospitalizations are close to doubling.

Dr. Cohen stressed hygiene, mask wearing, and social distancing as means by which people can prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Ms. Harris told The Charlotte Observer that within a few weeks, social-distancing metrics could return in Mecklenburg County to where they were in March, before the local stay-at-home order took effect.

Other N.C. counties that have been hard hit since the reopening, according to Dr. Cohen, are Alamance, Duplin, Durham, Forsyth, Johnston, Lee, and Wake.

Duplin County is in southeastern North Carolina near Jacksonville. Johnston County abuts Wake, and Lee County is nearby. The seat of Forsyth County is Winston-Salem.

Orange County, which is next to Durham and Alamance counties and near Wake County, initiated a face-mask mandate yesterday. Durham County residents have been required to wear masks since late April.

Orange County is home to Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina; Durham is home to Duke University. Both counties are densely populated as are Wake, Mecklenburg, and Forsyth counties.

A statewide face covering/mask requirement would send one unified, consistent message to North Carolinians about personal protection from the COVID-19 pandemic during the reopening process.

Because COVID-19 can be transmitted by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people, those who choose not to wear a face covering or a mask are posing a risk to others, not assuming one for themselves.

The Beacon will update cases reported on the DCDHHS dashboard as they occur.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/13/20

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