9/25/20: TWO LOCAL WOMEN AGE 65+ HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID-19; A THIRD ALSO DIAGNOSED. STATE NOW REPORTING ANTIGEN-POSITIVE TESTS AND DEATHS.

Since Wednesday, two female Dare County residents age 65 or older have been hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services dashboard, and a third local woman of similar age has tested positive and is in isolation.

People diagnosed locally with COVID-19 who require hospitalization seek in-patient medical care outside of Dare County.

One woman’s hospitalization was reported Wednesday by the DCDHHS along with three other COVID-19-positive tests of Dare County residents, whose ages ranged widely. (We will probe the others after Dr. Sheila Davies posts her Friday update.)

The DCDHHS’s report yesterday of the second local woman age 65+ having tested positive and being hospitalized for COVID-19 also included the report of a third local woman 65+ testing positive for the coronavirus. She is in home isolation.

These three women may be unrelated, but the unusual occurrence of their cases raises in our mind the possibility of a relationship among them, such as a shared residency.

On Sept. 17, the DCDHHS reported having received confirmation from Peak Resources of a COVID-19 outbreak at the Nags Head skilled nursing facility. The DCDHHS has said nothing more about these four cases since.

Peak Resources is what was once called in now-outdated parlance a nursing home; it is also a rehabilitation center. It has 126 beds, which were occupied two weeks ago, according to the DCDHHS, by only 72 residents.

The DCDHHS said that it was during the 14-day quarantine of a new resident to the long-term care facility—a quarantine that is required by N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services rules—that two residents and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

If you check Peak Resources’ COVID-19 update, as the DCDHHS advised the public to do for “further information,” you will find it singularly unhelpful. Peak Resources proposes to notify people of the “occurrences of:

*“Resident/Staff confirmed positive with COVID-19; OR

*“Resident/Staff—3 or more who have developed a new onset of respiratory symptoms within 72 hours of each other,”

and to update this information weekly. We do not understand what is meant by the “three or more” qualification, but we do know that in the chart it provides, Peak Resources does not give a cumulative total of COVID-19-positive cases at its Nags Head location, nor does it indicate the status or outcome of all of the cases among its residents and staff.

See https://peakresourcesinc.com/home-2/covid/

When we checked the Peak Resources’ “update” earlier this week, there were three COVID-19-positive cases among residents and staff at the Nags Head facility; yesterday and today there are only two.

Does this mean that one has recovered or that five have occurred in the past week?

When we checked on Sept. 17, there were also three COVID-19-positive cases, not four.

Such confusion should not exist. There is no excuse for obfuscation in a public-health crisis.

We hope Peak Resources management has honestly advised the residents and their families about the number of COVID-19 cases at the Nags Head facility and has been conscientious about testing both residents and staff and taking other safety precautions.

We look forward to learning some details from the DCDHHS later today about the three new cases involving age 65+ local women, two of whom needed to be hospitalized.

Earlier today the DCDHHS reported two more COVID-19 cases among Dare County residents, both of them men, one between the ages of 25 and 49 and the other between the ages of 50 and 64.

Since March, Dare County has experienced 286 positive-COVID-19 tests among residents and 243 among nonresidents, for a total of 529. There are currently 11 active cases among residents.

(UPDATE: According to the Friday update, none of the Dare County residents newly diagnosed with COVID-19 appears to be related to each other.

(Dr. Sheila Davies, director of the DCDHHS, reports that of the eight local residents who tested positive for COVID-19 since Tuesday, two of them separately acquired the virus by direct contact with a person whose positive test result was previously reported on the dashboard; one acquired the virus by direct contact with a person who tested positive outside of Dare County; and five are not connected. The source of the latter’s coronavirus infection is “unclear.”

(The Beacon continues to find the DCDHHS’s scant details about both the people who test positive in Dare County and how they presumably acquired the virus unsatisfactory public information.)

STATE HEALTH DEPT. NOW TRACKING ANTIGEN-POSITIVE CASES

Also today, the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services started reporting COVID-19 antigen-positive tests and deaths in the state population. According to the NCDHHS so far, antigen-positive cases make up 2 percent of all COVID-19 cases and antigen-positive deaths make up 0.7 percent of all COVID-19-associated deaths in North Carolina.

These new test and death figures are being incorporated into the NCDHHS dashboard.

See https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/dashboard/Antigen-Testing-Frequently-Asked-Questions.pdf

Most COVID-19 tests are molecular (PCR) tests that, according to the NCCHHS, “look for the virus’s genetic material.” An antigen test, in contrast, “is a rapid test that looks for specific proteins on the surface of the virus.”

Molecular tests are processed in a laboratory, whereas antigen tests are often “processed at the point of care, such as in a health care provider’s office,” the NCDHHS explains.

We need to do more research on why North Carolina is joining 31 other states that already report antigen-positive cases in addition to cases identified through positive molecular test results. We will get back to you after we have studied up.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/25/20

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