For illustrative purposes only. We sincerely hope that college students who are noncompliant about facial coverings and social distancing are not gathering together en masse like the scene above.

Dare County reported 12 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed locally today, 10 of them nonresidents ranging in age from 17 and under to ages 50 to 64. One nonresident man, reportedly between the ages of 50 and 64, has been hospitalized with the disease outside of the area.

Dr. Sheila Davies, director of the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services (DCDHHS), also confirmed in her COVID-19 update today that seven of the nine new cases among Dare County residents reported since last Friday are college students.

Yesterday, the DCDHHS reported seven new cases, six of them Dare County residents, and all of them age 24 or younger.

If you are following the news about COVID-19 “clusters” breaking out among returning college students this month in the state, then you know that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, N.C. State University, and East Carolina University all have reported clusters of positive test results among students living in certain dormitories, off-campus housing, and fraternity and sorority houses.

A cluster is five or more COVID-19 cases in close proximity, according to the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

The positive test result of a college student from Dare County counts here, not in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, or Greenville. Some college students who reside permanently in Dare County may have returned home for remote learning and been tested locally. But at least four appear to have been tested outside of the area and to be isolating away from home, according to the DCDHHS dashboard.

Dare County has reported 21 new COVID-19 cases since Dr. Davies updated the numbers Friday. Of those 21, the Health Department director said today, only three did not have known direct contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

In an emphasis that we have not seen in her earlier updates, Dr. Davies stated today that “Close contact continues to be the predominant way we are seeing the virus spread.”

The Beacon has tended to believe this, despite Dr. Davies’s reports of many COVID-19-positive people having acquired the virus by “unclear” means, which she has interpreted to suggest community spread. We are skeptical of people’s ability to remember or recognize when they have had direct contact with infected people.

To summarize the 21 cases reported since Friday:

Nine are Dare County residents (seven of them college students); and 12 are nonresidents.

Of the 12 nonresidents, six are isolating in Dare County, and one is hospitalized outside of the county.

The age breakdown of the 21 people is as follows:

Age 17 or younger: Three

Ages 18 to 24: 11

Ages 25 to 49: Five

Ages 50 to 64: Two

Age 65 or older: None

There are currently 21 active COVID-19 cases among Dare County residents, only 13 of whom are in home isolation here.

The total number of cases in Dare County is now 436, 234 among local residents and 202 among nonresidents.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 8/25/20

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