For the first time since she started posting details about how people who test positive for COVID-19 in Dare County acquired the virus, Dr. Sheila Davies did not describe an “unclear” transmission in her update yesterday as an indication of community spread. She simply stated that “it is unclear how this individual acquired the virus.”
This omission by the Director of the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services follows a statement she made in her Tuesday update that “Close contact continues to be the predominant way we are seeing the virus spread.”
In our COVID-19 report Tuesday, we drew attention to Dr. Davies’s emphasis on direct- contract transmission because we had not seen it before. For months now, whenever a person was deemed to have acquired the virus by “unclear”—or, perhaps more precisely, unrecognized or unknown—means, Dr. Davies has said he/she may have acquired it by community spread. In some of her updates, more than 50 percent of new cases were deemed to be possibly attributable to community spread.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, community spread occurs when a virus spreads through an area, and cases occur in which people (and health officials) cannot identify the initial source of their infection.
The Beacon has long been skeptical of people’s ability to identify or even recognize when they have had direct contact with infected people, especially asymptomatic people who may transmit the virus. Self-reporting—i.e., simply asking someone if he/she has had contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 and then accepting that report as accurate—is inherently unreliable.
We have already rejected the assumption that an acquisition of the virus by “unclear” means indicates community spread, and we further question whether community spread of COVID-19 is even occurring in Dare County.
In her update yesterday, Dr. Davies reported on nine new COVID-19 cases since her Tuesday update. Six of them are nonresidents, and four of the six are college students. Of the three nonresidents, one is college-age.
This morning’s DCDHHS dashboard records 445 total COVID-19 positive cases in Dare County: 240 residents and 205 nonresidents.
For a sobering comparison, check out the COVID-19 dashboard of my alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:
This morning the Carolina dashboard shows a total of 1,025 positive COVID-19 cases since February: 971 students and 54 employees. Eighty-five percent of the student cases—a total of 822—have been reported since Aug. 12.
ANN G. SJOERDSMA, 8/29/20