7/28/20: DARE COUNTY SHOULD DO MORE TO EXPLAIN, EXPOSE COVID-19 THREAT LOCALLY. Governor Imposes 11 p.m. Limit on On-Site Alcoholic Beverage Sales, Starting Friday.


Of the 17 non-resident cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Dare County since last Friday, nine clearly acquired the virus by direct contact with an infected person outside of Dare County, while the other eight became infected by an “unclear” mode of transmission, according to the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services’ case update yesterday.

What do these numbers mean in terms of the threat of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus to Outer Bankers? We do not really know.

Of the 13 resident cases of COVID-19 diagnosed since DCDHHS’s Friday update, five acquired it by direct contact with an infected Dare County resident, and eight became infected by an “unclear” mode of transmission.

How thoroughly does the DCDHHS probe the recent actions of people who test positive with COVID-19? How does it decide that the mode of transmission could not have been by direct contact and is, therefore, “unclear”? We do not know.

Although DCDHHS Director Dr. Sheila Davies’s update yesterday says, as her many other updates have, that the inability to identify a direct source of virus transmission “indicates” a case acquired the virus by community spread, it does not confirm community spread.

Are there any common elements to these “unclear” cases other than a failure to identify known direct contacts? If so, the DCDHHS is not telling the public.

If the DCDHHS is relying solely on a patient’s self-reporting of possible direct contacts—reporting that depends upon the person’s memory, perceptiveness, and even truthfulness—then its conclusions about community spread are inherently biased and faulty. That is the nature of self-reporting.

It is also of little use to Dare County residents to be told that infected nonresidents likely acquired the virus by community spread, if the community in which the spread occurred is not identified. The DCDHHS never specifies in its updates if the presumed community spread that infected a nonresident is spread to which he/she was exposed outside or inside Dare County.

It may not always be possible to determine this, but in some cases, it should be. For example, a nonresident diagnosed with COVID-19 a day or two after arriving in Dare County certainly was infected outside of the area.

The incubation period for COVID-19–the time period between exposure to the virus and the appearance of symptoms–varies from person to person, but it is no less than two days. The average incubation time, according to medical experts, is five days.

Over the past week, according to Dr. Davies, about half of the 54 COVID-19 cases reported locally “acquired the virus by direct contact with known positive cases.” In the other half, she observes, “the individuals were not able to identify how they acquired the virus.” They, too, may have acquired the virus by direct contact of which they were unaware or which they were unwilling to disclose.

Fifty-three percent of the nonresidents who tested positive for COVID-19 in Dare County since Friday are known to have acquired the virus by direct contact before they arrived, and the other 47 percent may have done the same because the means of transmission is “unclear.” The DCDHHS’s public- information update says no more than that.

Likewise, 38 percent of the Dare County residents who tested positive for COVID-19 since Friday acquired the virus by a direct contact locally, and the other 62 percent may have done the same, without knowing it.

The Beacon believes it is long past time for the DCDHHS to do more to determine where and how COVID-19 is being transmitted—or, at least, to explain to the public the extent of its efforts—and then to communicate its findings.

We believe the DCDHHS’s lack of specificity in reporting details about diagnosed cases contributes to the public’s noncompliance with basic infection-control measures such as wearing a face covering, washing hands frequently, and social distancing.

For too many people, the public-health threat of COVID-19 is not real because it has not been brought home by public-health officials, on both the local and state level. To do so would not violate the privacy of people who have been diagnosed–they are mere case numbers–and do much to inform people about the safety of their community.

The number of COVID-19 cases diagnosed in Dare County is now 335. Four new cases—three residents and one nonresident—were added to the DCDHHS dashboard after Dr. Davies’s update. All are in home isolation in their respective home counties.

According to Dr. Davies, among the now-59 active cases in Dare County, three people remain hospitalized in critical condition.

ON THE STATE LEVEL, ALCOHOL SALES CURFEW: Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order yesterday to stop all on-site alcoholic beverage sales statewide in restaurants, breweries, wineries, and distilleries at 11 p.m., starting at 11 p.m. Friday.

Bars statewide are currently closed, so they are not included in Executive Order 153.

The ban applies to alcoholic beverages sold at restaurants and the other target businesses from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m. The Executive Order will expire at 11 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 31, if it is not repealed, replaced, or rescinded earlier.

Executive Order 153 does not apply to grocery stores, convenience stores, or other entities that are permitted to sell alcohol for off-premises consumption. It is focused on discouraging social gatherings among people, especially young people, who do not take adequate precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The number of hospitalizations reported yesterday on the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services dashboard, was 1,244, a new single-day record high, but the State still has hospital capacity, Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the NCDHHS, announced.

Dr. Cohen also said that “glimmers of potential progress” have emerged in the other COVID-19 metrics that the State is following. In particular, the trajectory of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases, although still high, is leveling. Also, the trajectory in the positivity rate of tests is declining, although it is still above 5 percent. The last time the positivity rate was above 10 percent was July 19.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 7/29/20  


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