10/21/20: 13 COVID-19 CASES REPORTED IN DARE IN ONE DAY—AGAIN. ONE LOCAL WOMAN HOSPITALIZED. Plus, the Governor to Speak at 2 p.m. Today.

Take your pick: facial covering or face shield.

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 BRIEFING TODAY: 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.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/21/20   

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