Tonight’s full moon is the first full moon to fall on Halloween in 19 years. It is also a full blue moon because it is the second full moon of October, the first one occurring on Oct. 1.
The Halloween full moon reportedly rose at 10:49 a.m. ET today.
A blue moon, we have learned in research this morning, is also known as a blue hunter’s moon because hunters once used the moonlight to hunt and prepare for the winter. The moon does not actually appear blue.
As far as we can discern from our research, there have been times when the moon appeared blue in regions worldwide because of dust and smoke particles from nearby erupting volcanoes or forest fires. But the adjective blue now refers in this context to a rarity, an unlikely occurrence.
The first recorded appearance of the phrase “blue moon,” according to a Canadian folklorist/professor we met online, was in 16th century writings by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey—one of King Henry VIII’s closest advisers until he fell into disfavor—who wrote that his enemies “would have you believe the moon is blue.” Hence, a blue moon was considered an absurdity.
By the 1700s, the prof says, the phrase had evolved to mean “never.”
Hundreds of years later, however, James Hugh Pruett, a journalist, educator, and amateur astronomer from Oregon, mucked up the definition.
In a 1946 article in “Sky and Telescope Magazine” titled “Once in a Blue Moon,” Mr. Pruett incorrectly stated that a blue moon is the second full moon in any given calendar month, and his confused definition stuck.
Historically, a full moon was considered blue when it was the third of four full moons in a season, a season being defined as the time between an equinox and a solstice. (Some sources say the blue moon was the fourth in four seasonal moons.) This definition still has relevance as an alternate one.
There are 12 lunar cycles in a calendar year, hence 12 full moons, but “once in a blue moon,” there are 13.
A blue moon reportedly occurs once every 2.7 years.
The full moon on Oct. 1 was a harvest moon, which is the full moon that occurs nearest to the autumnal equinox on Sept. 22, which we observe as the first day of autumn. The last time a harvest moon happened in October was 2009.
Just what effects does the increased light during a full moon have on animals and human beings, alike? We leave that to you to research and conjecture. (If you have not seen the fabulous horror film, “An American Werewolf in London” (1981), we highly recommend viewing it on Halloween.)
Today is also the last day of Daylight Saving Time in 2020, so remember to give yourself an extra hour by “falling back” at 2 a.m. tomorrow. Chances are, your technology will beat you to it.
May your Halloween be safe and over the moon. We hear the howling in the distance.
Dare County reported eight new COVID-19 cases today, seven of them local residents, of whom three are women age 65-or-older.
The other four Dare County residents who tested positive for the coronavirus disease are two women and one man between the ages of 25 and 49 and one woman between the ages of 18 and 23. The sole nonresident is a woman between the ages of 50 and 64.
Women outnumber men in the total number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Dare County, 361 to 332, according to the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services dashboard.
All eight newly diagnosed individuals are in home isolation.
One of the three Dare residents who has been hospitalized with complications of COVID-19 has been upgraded to home isolation, according to the dashboard update today.
The Beacon reported this afternoon that North Carolina hit a record high today in single-day COVID-19 cases of 2,885. See that report for comments from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, about the rash of COVID-19 outbreaks nationwide.
N.C. TOPS 4 MILLION IN VOTES CAST: 55 PERCENT OF ELECTORATE
On a more encouraging note, North Carolinians passed the 4-million-vote mark today, according to CNN, which reported that as of 5:30 p.m., state data show 4,022,865 ballots have been cast in the 2020 general election.
The total is roughly 55 percent of all currently registered voters in North Carolina and about 85 percent of the number of N.C. voters who cast ballots in the 2016 election.
North Carolina, the tenth most populous state, has 15 electoral votes. (As you know, there are 538 total electoral votes among the 50 states—hence, the magic number of 270 for an election victory. California and Texas have the most votes, at 55 and 38, respectively.)
According to data from the N.C. State Board of Elections, CNN reported, roughly 852,500 of the 1.36 million North Carolina voters who requested mail-in ballots had successfully returned them, and 233,000 others had decided to vote in-person during the early voting period instead. Roughly 273,000 voters who requested absentee ballots have yet to vote.
Early voting continues tomorrow from 8 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., at the Kill Devil Hills Town Hall. Polls will be closed Sunday and Monday.
North Carolina hit a single-day record high today in COVID-19 case reports of 2,885, a number that well eclipses the previous single-day record of 2,716 cases, set just six days ago. Nationwide, daily new cases reportedly are averaging about 70,000.
The COVID-19 death toll in North Carolina has reached 4,283, and 1,181 people are currently hospitalized with the disease, according to the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services dashboard.
Small indoor gatherings with family and friends are driving COVID-19 outbreaks throughout the country, Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday in a live-stream interview with Dr. Howard Bauchner, the editor of “The Journal of the American Medical Assn.”
Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the NCDHHS, and Dr. Sheila Davies, director of the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services, also have implicated social gatherings as a significant cause of rising cases statewide and locally, respectively, but neither has been as forthcoming as Dr. Fauci.
“You get one person who’s asymptomatic and infected, and then all of a sudden, four or five people in that gathering are infected,” the Director of the National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases explained, a “precarious” scenario that is likely to occur, he said, during upcoming Thanksgiving get-togethers, if people do not exercise caution.
The combination of indoor holiday festivities and people of various age groups from different households socializing in close proximity to each other, he said, is “a bad recipe for a tough time ahead.”
The infectious diseases expert suggested protecting those people who are most vulnerable to severe illness from a coronavirus infection, such as older adults and people with underlying health conditions, by keeping them safe at home.
You “want to take a couple of steps back,” he said, “and say, ‘Is it worth it [this year] to bring those people together when you don’t know what the status of everybody [in the newly created holiday pod] is?”
Dr. Fauci has given other interviews recently—for example, to CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell—in which he has suggested canceling Thanksgiving gatherings, concerned that they could provoke spikes in COVID-19 cases.
“[Y]ou may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering unless you’re pretty certain that the people you are dealing with are not infected,” he told Ms. O’Donnell.
The 79-year-old Fauci said he and his wife are not gathering for Thanksgiving with their three children, who live in three separate states, because of the infection risks associated with air travel and other public transportation and their own vulnerability because of age-related immune deficiency.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidelines for Thanksgiving and other holiday celebrations, identifying activities that are lower-risk, moderate-risk, and higher-risk.
Mingling among a crowd in a pumpkin patch, for example—even when people are using hand sanitizer, wearing masks, and keeping socially distant—is rated as a moderate-risk activity. Shopping in a crowded department store for holiday gifts, needless to say, is among the higher-risk activities.
Dr. Fauci also expressed support in an interview yesterday with CNBC for a national mask mandate, as well as state and local mask mandates, if a national one is not imposed—which he is not anticipating from the Trump White House.
Face coverings are currently the best option available for slowing the spread of the virus, he said.
The NIAID Director used the same language in describing current U.S. trends in coronavirus infections as Dr. Davies and Dr. Cohen have recently in describing the local and state situations: U.S. trends, he said, are “moving in the wrong direction.”
TOWN COUNCIL MEETING, NOV. 4, 5:30 p.m., IN THE PITTS CENTER
New COVID-19 cases in Dare County have been “trending in the wrong direction for the past few weeks,” Dr. Sheila Davies said today in an update in which she implicated for the first time the means by which some people likely became infected with the virus.
While cases caused by direct contact with a known COVID-19-positive person continue to predominate, the director of the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services said that other recently infected people “most likely acquired the virus by either traveling or attending” a wedding or other social gathering.
At least four people who tested positive recently for COVID-19 had traveled by air, she said, and nine others had attended a wedding or other social gathering. All thirteen believed that they contracted the virus through their participation in either the air travel or the social gathering, ruling out for themselves other situational possibilities.
“We know interacting with others outside of your household increases your risk of exposure,” Dr. Davies said. “That is why it is so critically important that if you are going to engage in activities with people outside of your immediate household that you strictly follow the 3 Ws.” (And you know what they are.)
Can we, therefore, safely assume that these newly infected people came into contact with people who were not wearing protective face coverings and/or maintaining a safe distance? If so, then she should flatly state this, instead of encouraging people to “strictly follow the 3 Ws.” People are not doing that.
Nonetheless, The Beacon is delighted that Dr. Davies is adding more details about virus transmission to her updates, however belatedly. She notably did not cite restaurant dining, shopping in retail establishments, or participating in other publicly conducted activities in which strangers encounter each other as activities where “unconnected” cases—those not known to have had direct contact with a COVID-19-positive person—likely acquired the virus.
Since March, 680 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Dare County, 387 residents and 292 nonresidents. Currently, three Dare County residents are hospitalized with COVID-19 “complications,” and 29 others are in home isolation. Four residents have died, one of them from a non-COVID-19 cause after testing positive for the disease.
Since last Friday, 13 new COVID-19 cases have been reported, including six today.
Traditional Halloween activities, including going trick-or-treating door-to-door, “can be high risk for spreading viruses,” Dr. Davies also said in her update, encouraging people to “consider safer, alternative ways to participate” in the holiday.
She suggested distributing candy in individually wrapped “goodie bags . . . lined up for families to grab and go.”
“The key,” she said, “is to maintain at least six feet from non-household members.” People should wear face coverings and frequently wash their hands, too.
[UPDATE 10/29/20: Small indoor gatherings with family and friends are currently driving COVID-19 outbreaks throughout the country, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday in a live-stream interview with the editor of “The Journal of the American Medical Assn.” The Director of the National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases expressed concern about upcoming Thanksgiving and other holiday get-togethers
[Dr. Fauci also supported a national mask mandate, as well as state and local mask mandates, in the absence of a national mandate. Face coverings are currently the best option to slow the spread of the virus, he said.
[Like Dr. Davies and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, Dr. Fauci described U.S. trends in coronavirus infections as “moving in the wrong direction.”]
Much of the business listed on the agenda, such as amendments to the FY 2020-21 budget for newly approved expenses, follows up decisions made by the Council at its budget and planning workshop last week. In addition to budget amendments, the Council will formally vote on a policy change that will increase the minimum balance that must be maintained in the Town’s Unassigned Fund Balance from $1.75 million to $3 million. As of June 30, the UFB had nearly $6 million in it.
*SAT., OCT. 31: Early voting ends at 3 p.m. From tomorrow through Friday, you may vote at the Kill Devil Hills Town Hall from 8 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. The polling place will open at 8 a.m. on the 31st, but close early.
Sat., Oct. 31, is also HALLOWEEN, of course. N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen recommends that everyone wear a face mask during their celebrations, even if they’re wearing a costume mask, and social distance.
*SUN., NOV. 1: Daylight Saving Time ends and Eastern Standard Time returns at 2 a.m., as we “fall back” and gain an hour on the clock. Halloween night owls should appreciate the extra hour of sleep.
*TUES., NOV. 3: General Election Day. Southern Shores voters may cast their ballots at the new Kitty Hawk Elementary School polling place from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Please tell your neighbors not to go to the Pitts Center, especially if they’re running late. The word has been out about the new polling place for a while, but there will still be people who have not heard.
*WED., NOV. 4: The Town Council will hold its regular monthly meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center. The Beacon will publish the agenda when it is available.
*THURS., NOV. 5: The DCDHHS is partnering with Mako Medical Laboratories to offer drive-thru COVID-19 diagnostic testing at the Soundside Event Site, 6800 S. Croatan Hwy., in Nags Head. The starting time has not yet been announced. The testing is open to individuals age 5 and older. For more details, see The Beacon, 10/23/20, or www.darenc.com/covidtesting or call the county’s COVID-19 call center at (252) 475-5008, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday.
*TUES., NOV. 17: The Southern Shores Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning Committee will meet at 2 p.m. in the Pitts Center. Please see The Beacon, 10/23/20, for its proposed agenda. There is no indication from the Town yet that this meeting will be live-streamed. People who attend in person must wear masks and observe social distancing.
COVID-19: N.C. SETS NEW RECORD FOR SINGLE-DAY CASE REPORTS
North Carolina set a new single-day record high of 2,716 COVID-19 case reports on Friday, 32 more than the previous record of 2,684 cases set just the previous Friday, Oct. 16. Yesterday’s new case count statewide was also high at 2,584.
October is turning out to be a more worrisome month for COVID-19 in North Carolina than July, which was once thought to be the calendar peak for infections.
Locally, the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services reported three new COVID-19 cases yesterday, two residents and one nonresident, all of whom are in home isolation.
The total number of cases reported in Dare County since March is now 670, 381 residents and 289 nonresidents.
Previously advised that it had received a grant from the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for its 2022 beach nourishment project, the Town of Southern Shores announced in its newsletter today that it has been notified the grant is for $1,408,247.19.
The towns of Kitty Hawk and Nags Head each received a grant in the same amount as Southern Shores, while the towns of Duck and Kill Devil Hills each received a grant of $1,450,921.35, according to a press release from N.C. DEQ, included with the Town’s newsletter article.
The grants were awarded by N.C. DEQ’s Division of Water Resources, which gave $11.5 million to eight communities in coastal North Carolina from its Coastal Storm Damage Mitigation Fund. An individual grant could have been as high as $2.5 million.
According to the press release and a statement by N.C. DEQ Secretary Michael S. Regan, the grants are to “restore our coastal areas damaged by Hurricane Florence.”
While The Beacon is pleased by the grant, we were not aware that the Southern Shores beaches experienced any long-term adverse effects from Hurricane Florence, which the National Weather Service describes as “a large and slow-moving Category One hurricane” that made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, considerably south of the Outer Banks, on Sept. 14, 2018, and caused flooding inland because of “record-breaking rainfalls.”
We well recall the devastation that flooding from Hurricane Florence caused New Bern, N.C. and other towns to the west of the Outer Banks.
The Beacon also was not aware that the grant application filed by the Town of Southern Shores had anything to do with damage remediation associated with Florence. The Town Council approved a grant application for funding to support Option 4 of the beach nourishment plans recommended by the Town’s coastal engineering consultant, not to mitigate damage caused by Florence.
Three Dare County residents are currently hospitalized with COVID-19-related “complications,” according to the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services, which reported today that a diagnostic testing event will be held in Nags Head Nov. 5 in response to the steady increase locally of positive cases.
Since Tuesday, 30 new COVID-19-positive cases have been reported in Dare County, 80 percent of them among local residents.
In addition to Tuesday’s 13 cases—a number that recalls case spikes in July—six COVID-19 cases were reported by the DCDHHS on Wednesday, four yesterday, and seven so far today, bringing the total number of cases reported since March to 667, 379 of them among Dare County residents.
The predominant means of viral transmission continues to be direct contact among family and close contacts, the DCDHHS also reported today, although “cases of unknown origin,” it said, are also on the rise.
Two of the three people hospitalized with COVID-19 are known to be in the higher-risk 65-and-over age group. The third was originally reported to be in home isolation, but experienced a decline and had to be hospitalized.
The latter’s “status change” was reported on the DCDHHS dashboard yesterday, without an indication of the person’s age. All three are hospitalized outside of the Outer Banks.
The DCDHHS is partnering with Mako Medical Laboratories to offer drive-thru testing Nov. 5 at the Soundside Event Site, 6800 S. Croatan Hwy., in Nags Head. The starting time has not yet been announced. The testing is open to individuals age 5 and older.
You must have an appointment and be free of COVID-19 symptoms to be tested. Please call the COVID-19 call center at (252) 475-5008, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday, to register. You will be asked to email photocopies of your government-issued ID card and your insurance card before the event. For further information, please see www.darenc.com/covidtesting or contact the call center.
REPORT ON TOWN COUNCIL’S BUDGET/PLANNING WORKSHOP
The Town Council approved at its Tuesday workshop raising the minimum balance required to be maintained in the Town’s unassigned fund balance, which is used for emergency purposes, such as hurricane relief, from $1.75 million to $3 million; and hiring another police officer, redesigning the Town website, and establishing a “beach fund” for beach nourishment efforts, as well as other expenses during the current 2020-21 fiscal year.
Actually, the Council took no formal votes on any of these items. We will explain in an upcoming report how its directives–which Mayor Tom Bennett repeatedly referred to as a “consensus”–were communicated.
The Council also considered a draft Capital Improvement Plan proposed by Town Manager Cliff Ogburn and showed interest, per Mr. Ogburn’s recommendation, in updating the Town’s Land Use Plan, which, although it is copyrighted 2012, is based on data compiled in 2005.
The N.C. Division of Coastal Management sent the Town’s Land Use Plan back to it with questions and concerns after it was submitted, a process that resulted in a multiyear delay.
The Beacon will do a thorough report of the Council’s workshop as soon as our time permits. As some of you may recall, the Town Council approved updating the Land Use Plan in a previous fiscal year, but a three-person majority upended that decision. The Beacon will refresh everyone’s memories in our report.
Generally speaking, the live-stream of the workshop was successful, except for those times when Council members–we mean you, Councilman Matt Neal–leaned back in their chairs and did not speak into their microphones.
We congratulate our new Town Manager on his superb preparation and presentation of the business on the workshop agenda.
CIIP COMMITTEE MEETING NOV. 17: The Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning Committee will meet at 2 p.m. Nov. 17 in the Pitts Center to carry out tasks assigned to it by the Town Council in the budget/planning workshop. The committee is to “redefine” its charge so as to focus strictly on street improvements and to consider a 10-year plan for prioritized street improvements and their associated expenses.
The Council also discussed changing the name of the Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning Committee—which is a mouthful that former Councilman Chris Naston created for the purpose of having the committee take up the Dogwood Trails sidewalks—to the Streets Committee, or something similar.
In other words, the committee is being defined for the first time by Council decision, instead of operating according to Mayor Tom Bennett’s wishes.
NEXT TOWN COUNCIL MEETING ON A WEDNESDAY: The next Town Council meeting will be 5:30 p.m., on Wed., Nov. 4, in the Pitts Center. The Council is observing Election Day, but, remember, the Pitts Center will not be your polling place. All Southern Shores voters must go to the Kitty Hawk Elementary School on Nov. 3 to cast their ballots.
“North Carolina will remain paused in Phase Three for the next three weeks,” Governor Roy Cooper announced at a coronavirus briefing today held in anticipation of the expiration at 5 p.m. Friday of his latest executive order that initiated the phase on Oct. 2.
His new executive order extending Phase Three without any further easing of restrictions will expire at 5 p.m. on Nov. 13, when the COVID-19 political landscape, nationally and on a state basis, may look quite different.
The Governor also spoke strongly today in support of enhancing “prevention efforts” by local officials and said that a letter from two secretaries in his administration had gone out recently to some counties statewide, encouraging them to take steps to enforce statewide COVID-19 safeguards and to toughen those safeguards, if necessary.
Local officials “could use restrictions that are greater than the State floor,” Governor Cooper said, “. . . to attack the virus specifically in their communities.”
This is a position that the Governor has long held–encouraging municipalities to act independently–but he has never been so direct in advocating for local action.
In the face of COVID-19 data that show all of the four key metrics trending upward—especially daily case reports and hospitalizations—the Governor emphasized enforcement and “working hard to bring community leaders together to take action.”
Both the Governor and Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, who analyzed the latest data, attributed this month’s spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations to increased “informal social gatherings” and “religious settings” in which people do not wear masks or social distance.
As they did last week, they stressed that people cannot let their guards down in get-togethers with close friends and family members with whom they do not live. Even at home, in small parties, they said, people need to wear masks.
“Ignoring the virus does not make it go away,” Dr. Cohen said, “just the opposite.”
In response to a reporter’s question about the role that Phase Three may have played in the rising data trends, Dr. Cohen replied first that people “are frustrated and not doing the three Ws.”
But she also acknowledged that the easing of restrictions in Phase Three is a “piece” of the current declining situation.
The letter sent to the counties came from Dr. Cohen and Erik A. Hooks, secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Public Safety, the Governor said. It suggests that local officials consider taking further prevention steps, such as using civil penalties or fines for violations of State mandates, as well as expanding upon the State’s safeguards.
Mr. Cooper advised, for example, that a municipality could lower the number of people who may gather in mass gatherings, down from the State’s currently allowed 50 outdoors and 25 indoors, or end local alcohol sales earlier than the State’s 11 p.m. curfew.
A municipality also could impose its own mask mandate, subjecting people who are in noncompliance to the risk of criminal penalty, which the State mask mandate does not do.
(UPDATE: The Raleigh News & Observer reported today that the letter went to 36 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Included among them is certainly Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located, which is a hotspot for COVID-19.)
N.C. MASK MANDATE
The State’s so-called mask mandate was ordered by the Governor in Executive Order 147, which was issued June 24. It requires people to wear face coverings when they are or may be within six feet of another person in specific settings, including all retail establishments, restaurants, personal care businesses, child-care facilities, and other close-contact space, but it does not make the failure to do so a misdemeanor offense.
(In long-term care facilities and other health-care settings, the wearing of a face covering is mandatory in North Carolina—unless one of the EO’s exceptions applies—without regard to social distancing.)
The Beacon has never liked the Governor’s means of enforcement of the mask mandate because it does not make noncompliance a crime and, therefore, it compromises law-enforcement officers’ authority and restricts their options.
It was clear today from the Governor’s answers to reporters’ questions about the mask mandate’s enforcement that law-enforcement officers statewide have not actively intervened to reduce noncompliance. They generally have tolerated people’s refusal to wear masks.
It is little wonder. Under EO 147, law-enforcement officers may charge a business owner with violating the mask mandate if the owner does not ensure that his or her employees and customers wear face coverings, but officers have little recourse for dealing with a maskless customer.
EO 147 authorizes police officers to step in only after a customer is first asked to wear a face covering and refuses to do so, and then is asked to leave the premises and will not. Then the police may charge the recalcitrant customer with trespassing or another appropriate criminal violation, but not with violating the mask mandate.
The executive order specifically states: “Law enforcement personnel are not authorized to enforce the Face Covering requirements of this Executive Order against individual workers, customers, or patrons.”
Before Governor Cooper declared EO 147, Dare County had in effect a mask mandate with more teeth to it.
Dare provided in its emergency mandate for criminally charging and prosecuting individuals who did not wear face coverings. After the State imposed its mask mandate, however, the County declared the State’s order preemptive, effectively rescinding its own order.
The County chose to do take this action; it did not have to do it. Now Governor Cooper is asking those counties with COVID-19 outbreaks and deteriorating metrics to consider putting teeth into their own mask mandates and have local law enforcement enforce them.
The Governor also pointed out that “local health departments have authority to enforce safety precautions,” too.
More effort must be made, he said, “to stem the tide that we see coming at us” with colder temperatures and more people gathering indoors.
“The virus is everywhere here in North Carolina,” said Dr. Cohen.
(UPDATE: DARE COUNTY REPORTED SIX NEW COVID-19 CASES YESTERDAY, FIVE OF THEM RESIDENTS.)
Thirteen more people, including 11 Dare County residents, have tested positive for COVID-19, according to an unusual 7:30 p.m. update yesterday on the Dare County health department dashboard.
One of the new cases is a local woman age 65 or older who has been hospitalized.
Last night’s report was the second time in the past week that the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services has reported 13 new COVID-19 cases in a single day—evoking daily-case numbers from July. The DCDHHS also reported 13 new COVID-19 cases last Friday. (See The Beacon, 10/16/20.)
With the exception of Aug. 25, when the DCDHHS dashboard recorded 12 new COVID-19 cases, you have to go back to July to find daily case updates in the double-digits in Dare County.
On July 27, the last double-digit day in July, the DCDHHS reported 16 new COVID-19 cases—the highest single-day case total in Dare.
Just like the Oct. 16 case total, yesterday’s 13-case total was made up predominantly of Dare County residents. The recent surge in cases cannot be attributed to vacationers “bringing the virus with them.” People are clearly not abiding by the safeguards imposed by the State of North Carolina, as Governor Roy Cooper has pointed out.
The 11 residents who tested positive represent a cross section of age groups: They include three who are age 17 or younger; one, ages 18 to 24; two, ages 25 to 49; three ages 50 to 64; and two age 65 or older. Five are female, and six are male.
The two nonresidents who tested positive are men, one between the ages of 25 and 49 and the other age 65 or older.
With the exception of the woman who has been hospitalized outside of the area and the local man, ages 18 to 24, whose case was belatedly reported by the State, all of the newly diagnosed cases are in home isolation.
To quote Secretary Mandy Cohen of the Dept. of Health and Human Services: “We are moving in the wrong direction.”
STATE CORONAVIRUS BRIEFINGTODAY: Governor Cooper will hold a coronavirus briefing today at 2 p.m., which you may live-stream on the UNC-TV website or watch on UNC-TV channel 3. The Governor will address the 5 p.m. Friday expiration and possible extension of Phase 3 of North Carolina’s reopening, which started Oct. 2.
At the Governor’s coronavirus briefing last week, Secretary Cohen emphasized the role that municipalities can play in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and in reversing deteriorating metrics in their communities.
Dr. Cohen stressed local leadership, saying, “I want to encourage our local municipalities and others to look at their own metrics and see what is driving rates of infection in their areas and work with the community, talk to the community, be leaders in your community about how we can make sure to stop and slow the spread of this virus further.”
The Governor said he has called on retailers, law enforcement officials, public-health officials, and municipal officials to work on “how we can do more to get people to abide by the safeguards that we all have in place.”
The Beacon is dismayed that not once since the coronavirus pandemic began has Bob Woodard, chairman of the Dare County Commission, or Dr. Sheila Davies, director of DCDHHS, held a briefing with local media. Similarly, the Southern Shores Town Council has not reached out to inform Town residents, many of whom are in the older at-risk age group, about the safety of the Outer Banks community.
How safe was last weekend’s Throwdown Surf Classic on the beach in Chicahauk that was attended by crowds of maskless people who did not social distance?
The event violated the Governor’s order against holding outdoor mass gatherings with more than 50 people. The Town is responsible for this noncompliance.
Another problem with holding an event like the throwdown is that it falsely signals a return to normalcy.
Videotaped and written updates on the DCDHHS website, which give the public scant information about COVID-19 cases locally, are a poor substitute for a press conference in which local government and public-health officials respond to questions from media representatives. The leadership that Dr. Cohen extolled last week is lacking in Dare County.
Young people age 17 and under living in Dare County accounted for six of the 14 COVID-19 cases reported locally during the past three days. Among the Dare County resident cases, they accounted for more than 50 percent.
Just as the 13 COVID-19 cases reported last Friday by the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services skewed older, the latest cases skew younger, with none in the higher-risk 65 and older age group and only two in the 25-49 age group.
Eleven of the 13 COVID-19 cases reported from Saturday through yesterday were Dare County residents. Since March, the DCDHHS has reported 637 COVID-19 cases, 355 in Dare County residents and 282 in nonresidents.
N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen has emphasized at recent press briefings that the risk of contracting COVID-19 is greatest in indoor locations where people gather closely together and do not take safety precautions, such as wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.
People are “letting their guard down,” said Governor Roy Cooper in support of her message at last week’s briefing. They are coming into close unprotected contact with friends and extended family members who do not live in their households, he said.
Such contact is most likely to occur in restaurants and bars and in private residences. Any reception, party, shower, or other indoor event gathering, in which public-health protocols are not observed, is cause for concern, Dr. Cohen said.
The Governor is expected to address the extension of North Carolina’s Phase 3 in its reopening, which is set to expire at 5 p.m. Friday, at a briefing tomorrow.
With State COVID-19 data metrics, such as the number of daily case reports and hospitalizations, trending upward in October, it is unlikely that the Governor will loosen any of the current restrictions in place.
EVENTUAL COVID-19 VACCINES WILL NOT BE PANACEA
With so much loose talk politically about a COVID-19 vaccine and the time of its availability, we thought we would pass along some facts. Regardless of the nature of the vaccines that are eventually licensed, they will not be panaceas, much like seasonal influenza vaccines do not prevent all recipients from getting the flu.
There currently are four COVID-19 vaccine candidates in Phase 3 studies now. If the studies yield positive results, one of more vaccines “may become available within a few months,” write two physicians and a scientist in the article, “Answering Key Questions About COVID-19 Vaccines,” published last week by the Journal of the American Medical Assn. (JAMA).
The authors explain that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which licenses vaccines, “set as an expectation for licensure” of a COVID-19 vaccine that it would prevent disease or decrease the severity of the disease in at least 50 percent of the people who are vaccinated.
Because of the margin of error in estimating the percentage of cases or complications prevented, they explain, a study that shows a 50 percent reduction in illness may have efficacy (effectiveness) as low as 30 percent or as high as 80 percent.
Further, it is important to understand that individuals who are more likely to experience more severe cases of COVID-19, such as older people and people with chronic illnesses, are underrepresented in vaccine trials because of the obvious risks posed to them.
It will not be possible to extrapolate the experience of subjects in the clinical trials to all people, at large. Not only will at-risk individuals not be included in most trials, but untested individuals will not necessarily have the same responses to the vaccine as individuals who were tested.
We are just scratching the scientific surface here, and we are doing so only because politicians are touting an imminent vaccine, as if it will be 100 percent effective and guaranteed safe for all people. This simply is not so.
Pfizer, which has a two-dose vaccine in Phase 3 trials, is considering applying to the FDA for “Emergency Use Authorization” of its product. “EUA” is the only way that a vaccine would be available this year—on an expedited basis in an emergency situation.
If Pfizer’s as-yet-unapproved vaccine were made available through an EUA, the FDA would be representing only that the vaccine may be effective, and its benefits are likely to outweigh its risks. There would be no proven safety and effectiveness required for this authorization, as there would be for licensure.
The other pharmaceutical companies with vaccines in Phase 3 trials are Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson. The latter two have paused their trials for safety reasons related to participants’ health. Pfizer is definitely the frontrunner.
Someone asked me not long ago if I would be willing to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
I am comfortable with mask wearing, social distancing, eating only outdoors at restaurants, restricting my time in public space, and otherwise minimizing my risk of exposure to the disease by observing well-known public-health protocols. I can work at home and have always been introverted, so I enjoy solitude. I am not now inclined to view a vaccine as a desirable add-on to my regimen.
Before I would consent to a vaccine, however, I would research the clinical trial results thoroughly for evidence of both safety and efficacy. Even then, I would be inclined to wait and see how millions of people respond to a vaccine after it is distributed widely, knowing that the responses of subjects in trials do not predict all of the responses in a vastly larger and more heterogeneous population. Wider use means a wider response. The same is true of a new drug.
The JAMA article authors conclude: “Many individuals are hesitant about receiving COVID-19 vaccines. Reasons include the novelty and rapid development of the vaccines, as well as the politicization of the pandemic and inconsistent messages from scientists and government leaders.
“It is critical that clinicians [your primary care doctor] stay well informed about emerging data so that they can help patients make sound decisions about the vaccines needed to help end the pandemic.”
The key word here is “emerging.” Emerging data require time to emerge, something that all political candidates run out of.