10/14/20: EARLY VOTING BEGINS TOMORROW; COVID-19 TRENDS STATEWIDE WORSEN.

The Duck Road split is a popular place for the display of political signs, as this photo illustrates. There are 34 national, state, and local offices included on the N.C. ballot for the general election.

Early voting in Dare County for the Nov. 3 general election begins tomorrow at 8 a.m. at three locations and runs through Oct. 31, with COVID-19 safeguards in place at each site.

The closest early voting site for Southern Shores voters is the commissioners’ meeting room at Kill Devil Hills Town Hall, 102 Town Hall Drive, in KDH.

The other two Dare early voting sites are the Dare County Administration Building, 954 Marshall C. Collins Drive, in Manteo, and the Cape Hatteras Secondary School auditorium, 48576 N.C. Hwy. 12, in Buxton

The three sites will be open weekdays, from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, Oct. 17 and 24, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sat., Oct. 31, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

You can anticipate long lines at the voting sites if for no other reason than that the two-sided paper ballot—which lists candidates for national, state, and local offices, including eight N.C. appellate judgeships—will take time for voters to complete.

Each voter will be given a single-use pen to mark the ovals next to his or her choices on the ballot. 

See a sample ballot here: https://www.darenc.com/home/showdocument?id=7999.

By our count, there are 34 offices at stake, only five of which have candidates running unopposed.

COVID-19 safeguards being implemented onsite also will consume time, but are necessary for both voters’ and community safety.

Like the State of North Carolina, Dare County has been experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases. (See the next section, below.)

Six-foot social distancing will be enforced at each voting site, and poll workers, attired in personal protective equipment and working behind protective Lucite barriers, will frequently clean surfaces and voting equipment.

Neither the State nor the County, thus far, is requiring voters to wear protective facial coverings, but both are encouraging their use.

Hand sanitizer and free masks for voters who do not bring their own and would like to wear one will be provided at the voting sites.

In a press conference yesterday, Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, said that “local officials, looking at their own [COVID-19] data . . . [can] think about what else they can do” at their voting sites “to try to slow the spread of this virus.”

The polls on Election Day, Nov. 3, will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. with the same COVID-19 safeguards in effect.

PLEASE NOTE: Southern Shores voters will be voting at the Kitty Hawk Elementary School for the first time, not at the Kern Pitts Center next to Town Hall. The Beacon will remind you of this polling place change again.

N.C. COVID-19 METRICS WORSEN

North Carolina’s COVID-19 trends have worsened this month, with hospitalizations since Oct. 6 topping 1,000, and daily cases reaching levels not seen since a peak in July.

The new case reports on Oct. 9 and Oct. 10, for example, totaled 2,034 and 2,321, respectively.

The positivity rate, on a daily basis, has ranged in October between 5 and 8 percent.

“This worsening of our trends is concerning,” Dr. Cohen said at yesterday’s briefing, “and we need to do all we can to turn those trends around. We do not want to have to go backwards.”

These increases have occurred since Governor Roy Cooper reduced restrictions Oct. 2 on amusement parks, movie theaters, and other indoor and outdoor venues—including outdoor bars—allowing them to operate at limited capacity and with other precautions, such as social distancing, in effect.

But Dr. Cohen said yesterday that no particular setting, such as a bar or restaurant, is responsible for the increased cases and hospitalizations and for the virus’s spread.

Instead, she referred, as she did two weeks ago, to people “letting down their guard” and not taking the obvious measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

“Where before I could pinpoint maybe a certain thing here or there,” Dr. Cohen said, “what we’re seeing now is this virus is everywhere. There’s no single place, no single age, no single location, which means we have to make sure we’re being vigilant across the board.”

The Secretary did note, however, as she and the Governor have at many other briefings, that indoor activities, including indoor restaurant dining, are considered more high-risk for the virus’s spread than outdoor activities. Outdoors, the airborne particles emitted in the breath of infected people disperse more readily.

(You also may have heard that the ultraviolet radiation of the sun kills the virus, but it is only the UVC type of radiation, which has the shortest wavelength and the highest energy, that can act as a disinfectant, according to scientific reports. Nearly all of the UV radiation that reaches Earth is type UVA; most UVB and all of UVC are absorbed by the ozone lawyer, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

“We want to encourage restaurants to do the right thing so we don’t have to roll backwards,” said Lynn Minges, director of the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Assn.

“We’d encourage customers who’ve been exposed to COVID-19 not to come into restaurants, for everyone to wear face coverings and practice social distancing. If we don’t, I’m concerned we may see a regression.”

As of yesterday, according to the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ dashboard, 1,103 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, and 3,816 people had died.

Out of 3,437,598 COVID-19 diagnostic tests done, 234,481 (or 6.8 percent) have been positive.

[UPDATE: The NCDHHS dashboard today displays two new figures: 1. newly reported cases, so you no longer have to subtract yesterday’s reported cases from today’s cases to figure out the 24-hour increase; and 2. the daily percent positive, so you no longer have to divide today’s new-case total by the number of tests performed, which you can only derive by subtracting today’s total tests from yesterday’s total tests. But we like math and do not trust other people’s calculations, so we will continue to do our own subtraction and division. Today, for example, we find the daily positive rate to be 8.6 percent, not 6.6 percent, as the NCDHHS reports.]

Locally, the DCDHHS dashboard reported yesterday that a total of 599 people have tested positive for COVID-19, 327 Dare County residents and 272 nonresidents.

Dr. Sheila Davies said in her Tuesday COVID-19 update that there are 19 active cases, including one person who has been hospitalized for weeks with “complications” associated with the virus.

Dr. Davies’s analysis yesterday continued to show that direct contact with infected family members or other close contacts is the predominant means by which COVID-19 is being acquired in Dare County.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/14/20    

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