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.”]

AGENDA FOR TOWN COUNCIL MEETING, NOV. 4: The Town posted today the agenda for the Town Council’s regular meeting on Nov. 4, at 5:30 p.m., in the Pitts Center. You may access it here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Agendas_2020-11-04.pdf.

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.

The meeting will be live-streamed at https://www.youtube.com/user/TownofSouthernShores.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/27/20

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