11/18/20: DARE COUNTY MOVES FROM RED TO ORANGE LEVEL OF RISK IN STATE’S NEW COVID-19 COUNTY ALERT SYSTEM; Governor Looking to Local Leaders and Public to Step Up Voluntarily.

Faced with rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations statewide and a positivity rate fast approaching 10 percent, Governor Roy Cooper introduced yesterday a “county alert system” that shows on a map where the “viral hot spots” are in North Carolina and offers “specific recommendations” to local government officials, business owners, county organizations, and the public about what they can to “help prevent the spread of the virus.”

This new tool, which employs a map for dramatic visual effect and suggests what the Governor called “strong” recommendations for action by local leaders and the public is as tough as the Governor is willing to be now. He remains very mindful of not going “backward” and re-imposing restrictions, such as a statewide stay-at-home order.

Nonetheless, he alluded yesterday to the possibility of having to impose stricter measures if improvement in COVID-19 metrics does not occur.

“If our metrics keep moving in the wrong direction,” Mr. Cooper said, “the State could impose additional orders, either at the local or statewide level.” He declined to specify what those orders might be, but he did say they would “force” changes in hot-spot areas.   

The Governor remains hopeful that county and town officials, businesspeople, and other community leaders who have neither stepped up previously to enforce the COVID-19 restrictions that he has ordered nor taken tougher measures on their own to stop the virus’s spread will step up now as their counties and towns experience COVID-19 outbreaks.

He is giving people at the local level every opportunity to safeguard their communities by working with the State to bring about change. He is looking to “bridge the gap and stop the spread” until vaccines are available on a widespread basis.

You may access the COVID-19 County Alert System here: https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/dashboard/COVID-19-County-Alert-System-Report.pdf

There is nothing in the recommendations that the Governor has not advised before at earlier press briefings. What has changed are the COVID-19 metrics statewide.

Today, the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services reported 3,367 new cases; a record-high 1,537 COVID-related hospitalizations; an additional 46 COVID-19 deaths for a total of 4,898; and a positivity rate of 9.2 percent. (The positivity rate is the percentage of COVID-19-positive tests among the total tests performed.)

***

Like the Harvard Global Institute’s mapping of COVID-19 risk by state and county, which The Beacon reported yesterday put Dare County in the “red zone,” the North Carolina county alert system is color-coded. It is not nearly as exacting as its Harvard counterpart, however. It employs three tiers denoting the threat of transmission of COVID-19, rather than four zones of risk, and has higher cases-per-100,000-population thresholds.

Also, the Harvard mapping system calculates an average number of new cases per day per 100,000 people in a county.

According to the N.C. system, Dare County is in the middle orange tier for the Nov. 1-14, 2020 period, which means it is experiencing “substantial” transmission of COVID-19, defined as 100 to 200 new cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days, 8 percent to 10 percent positivity, and a moderate impact on the county hospital(s).

The Harvard researchers define the red zone, its top “tier,” as 25 or more new cases per day per 100,000 people within the past seven days, and they say unequivocally that counties in this zone should have stay-at-home orders in effect.

Counties do not hit the top red tier in the N.C. system, meaning the transmission of COVID-19 is “critical,” until they have more than 200 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in 14 days, a positivity rate higher than 10 percent, and a “high” impact on the county hospitals.

The map shows 10 N.C. counties in the red tier, including Alexander, Avery, Columbus, Davie, Gaston, Hoke, Mitchell, Sampson, Wilkes, and Wilson counties. They are in the western and south-central regions of North Carolina. 

The lowest tier in the N.C. system is yellow, denoting a “significant” transmission of COVID-19. All of the counties in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill and the Greensboro-Winston-Salem areas, as well as Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located, are in the yellow tier.  

We leave to you the task of reading the recommendations for stop-the-spread action, all of which have been reported by The Beacon before as part of our coverage of the Governor’s briefings.

If we sound skeptical that these recommendations will get more than a passing nod from the people to whom they are directed, it is because we are.

Since September, the Governor has said repeatedly, as he did yesterday, that “We cannot let weariness win,” and “We have to treat the virus like the deadly threat it is,” without producing an effect. Behavior does not change, and the cases keep climbing.

“Letting the virus win now with vaccines coming so soon,” the Governor said in his most passionate moment yesterday, “is like punting at the 10-yard line. That’s foolish. We need to reach this goal line together.”

Perhaps a football analogy will bring the urgency closer to home.

“Now is not the time to give up and to let more people get sick and die,” he implored. “Now is the time to recommit to taking this virus seriously and that means changing our holiday plans to be smaller and safer.

“Let’s stick with what we know works.”

We have heard this plea, which starts with the three Ws, at every COVID-19 briefing given by the Governor for months now. We have heard the same, albeit in a videotaped, rather than live, message from Dare County’s Dr. Sheila Davies for months, too. We will be curious to see how North Carolinians respond to their latest calls for action, especially at Thanksgiving.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 11/18/20

11/17/20: DARE COVID-19 FATALITY WAS MIDDLE-AGED; 10 NEW CASES REPORTED, SEVEN OF THEM LOCAL.

Dare County Health Director Dr. Sheila Davies urges all residents to “get behind the mask.” A face shield is added protection.

The local person whose death from COVID-19 was reported last weekend by the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services was in his 40s, according to an update today by DCDHHS Director Dr. Sheila Davies.

Dr. Davies gave no further details about the deceased person, but The Beacon believes he is quite likely the man said to be between ages 25 and 49 who the DCDHHS reported last Thursday was hospitalized.

We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends who lost a loved one.

Dr. Davies’s analysis today of the latest 39 cases, as described in The Beacon’s COVID-19 post this morning, continued to show that 78 percent of the cases are Dare County residents; 85 percent are symptomatic; and 73 percent are transmissions by direct contact. 

She also said that the positivity rate this past week of 9.44 percent was “the highest we have seen in Dare County thus far during the pandemic.”

As she has in recent reports, Dr. Davies again attributed “the recent spread” of COVID-19 locally “to gatherings of friends, co-workers, and family members at birthday parties, dinner parties, church services, youth group meetings, weddings, and in office break areas.”

In other news, the DCDHHS reported 10 new COVID-19 cases today, 70 percent of them Dare County residents. For the first time in a week, none of the people who tested positive was a child. All 10 are in isolation.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 11/17/20

11/17/20: TWO MORE LOCALS HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID-19; DARE COUNTY IS IN THE ‘RED ZONE’ BECAUSE OF CASE SURGE; N.C. Continues to Post Alarming Metrics.

Two Dare County residents in the highest-risk age group were reported yesterday to be hospitalized with COVID-19 by the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services, which has added 39 new COVID-19-positive cases to its dashboard during the past three days.

Also yesterday, Dare County reported a seven-day moving average of 30.5 new COVID-19 cases per day per 100,000 people, according to today’s The Raleigh News & Observer, a figure that puts it in the “red zone” of risk defined by the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Dare joins 41 other N.C. counties in the red zone, The N&O reports, which means they have reached a “tipping point” with 25 or more cases per day per 100,000 people. According to the Harvard researchers, stay-at-home orders are necessary in red-zone areas. Dare is reportedly among the top 20 counties on the red-zone list.

The other lesser zones of risk defined by Harvard and its public-health expert consultants are orange (10 to 24 cases per day per 100,000); yellow (one to nine cases); and green (less than one case). The orange zone shows an “accelerated spread” of COVID-19, a situation that prompts the researchers to advise imposing stay-at-home orders.

When the Harvard tool for mapping the COVID-19 risk by state and county was first released in July, only four of North Carolina’s 100 counties were in the red zone. 

See https://globalepidemics.org/key-metrics-for-covid-suppression/.

The two newly hospitalized Dare County residents are among 10 new COVID-19 cases reported yesterday by the DCDHHS, 80 percent of whom are locals.

They are identified on the dashboard only as a man and a woman age 65 or older. The other eight people who tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus range in age from 17 and under to 65 or older.

The cases reported in Dare County on Sunday reflect similar demographics: Of 10 new COVID-19 cases, seven, or 70 percent, were locals. Most noteworthy in this group of 10 is that three of the COVID-19-positive people are age 17 or younger, and three are age 65 or older. All are in isolation.

The Beacon previously reported that the DCDHHS added 19 cases to its dashboard on Saturday, 17, or 85 percent, of whom are Dare County residents. We announced in the same post that another Dare County resident had died of COVID-19. (See The Beacon, 11/14/20.)  

We expect Dr. Sheila Davies, Director of the DCDHHS, to post her Tuesday update, analyzing the 39 COVID-19 cases reported since Friday, later this afternoon. We will report only the cases added to the dashboard today and any information that Dr. Davies may provide about the recent fatality. We do not imagine that the Dare Public-Health Director will have anything new to add to the “call to action” videotaped message that she issued on Friday.

***    

THE N.C. DEPT. OF HEALTH AND HUMAN RESOURCES is reporting today 3,288 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours and 1,501 COVID-related hospitalizations, as the surge continues statewide. The positivity rate has risen to 8.6 percent, a figure reminiscent of rates in the springtime. These are alarming numbers that may compel Governor Cooper to impose further restrictive measures on businesses and community and social gatherings. 

New COVID-19 cases statewide have increased from a seven-day average of roughly 1,200 in mid-September to 2,700 as of Sunday, according to the NCDHHS. Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the NCDHHS, has said that case counts in rural counties, which were largely spared earlier in the year, are driving the surge.

EVENT RISK ASSESSMENT: How Safe Is Your Thanksgiving Dinner?

Not to be outdone by Harvard, the Georgia Institute of Technology has released a map that enables people to determine what the risk is in their locality of at least one guest at their Thanksgiving gathering being COVID-19-positive.

See GIT’s COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool at: https://covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu/.

Our manipulations of the map show that if you host a Thanksgiving gathering of 50 people in Dare County, you run a 49 percent risk that at least one COVID-19-positive person will attend. If you have just 10 people at your dinner, the risk falls to 12 percent. You can roughly calculate what GIT believes your risk would be for Thanksgiving parties with differing numbers of people.

The bottom line is you cannot assume you are safe from the virus if you invite people to dine with you who are not in your everyday household bubble.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 11/17/20

11/16/20: RARE PIEBALD DEER HAS DIED.

The piebald deer often seen in the Southern Shores woods near Hickory Trail was reported dead yesterday by a couple who saw the animal’s remains on the side of a canal while they were out boating.

The Beacon received word of the rare animal’s death from Rod McCaughey, president of the Southern Shores Civic Assn., who was notified by the couple.

Mr. McCaughey sent us a photograph of the deer lying in shallow water on the side of a canal reportedly near the Dick White Bridge that crosses East Dogwood Trail. Visible in the photograph next to her remains is a broken wooden walkway.

We have chosen not to publish this photograph. Instead, we share a photo that we took in September 2019 of a piebald fawn and her (or his) mother in front of a house on East Dogwood Trail.

Since this sighting, we have believed that Southern Shores may have two piebald deer residents, but we have been unable to confirm that fact. Because of their genetic makeup, piebald deer have difficulty surviving until adulthood.

Piebaldism—which is characterized by white patches or spots on the animal’s coat—is a genetic abnormality that is present in less than 2 percent of the whitetail deer population. The skin underneath the patches lacks pigmentation or coloration, but the animal has pigmentation wherever the brown hair appears.

The word piebald combines “pie,” which is short for magpie, a black-and-white bird, with “bald,” which can mean marked with white, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Besides an adjective for coloring, piebald can be used to describe a composition of incongruous parts.

Piebaldism is often confused with albinism, which is the congenital absence of any pigmentation. Albino deer, which are exclusively white, have pink eyes, pink noses, and pink-hued hooves, whereas piebald deer have brown eyes, brown noses, and black hooves.

Unfortunately, the gene that causes piebaldism also regulates other traits and is associated with skeletal or internal deformities. Piebald deer are likely to have bowed snouts, curved spines (scoliosis), short legs, overbites, and short lower mandibles, as well as what online wildlife resources call “internal organ deformities.”

We are very saddened by the loss of our neighborhood unicorn, who charmed everyone who came upon her and often stopped traffic. She grazed in our yard–but we had not seen her in some time.

We hope the deer’s death was natural and that homeowners who have seen her remains—which we could not locate yesterday—have called Town Hall, the SSVFD, or a wildlife organization to inquire about their removal.  

See https://www.lifeinthefingerlakes.com/what-is-a-piebald-deer/ for just one description of a piebald deer.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 11/16/20

11/15/20: ANOTHER DARE COUNTY RESIDENT DIES OF COVID-19.

Another Dare County resident has died from COVID-19, according to yesterday’s Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services dashboard, which gave no details about the deceased person.

It appears from the dashboard, which also records COVID-19-related hospitalizations, that the person had been hospitalized.

The DCDHHS reported 19 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, 16 of them Dare County residents. The 19 people fall in all age groups, from children age 17 and under to elders age 65 and older.

Four Dare County residents have now died from COVID-19, and four remain hospitalized with the disease.

THE BEACON, 11/15/20

11/14/20: DR. DAVIES’S COVID-19 ‘CALL TO ACTION’: ‘MASK UP’ IN SOCIAL SETTINGS, EXERCISE ‘SELF-DISCIPLINE’ TO STOP SPREAD. Dare Schools Return to Virtual-Only Learning.

In a videotaped “call to action” issued yesterday morning, Dr. Sheila Davies focused on the recent “exponential” growth in the number of COVID-19 cases in Dare County and pleaded with people “to get behind the mask and encourage your friends and family to do the same.”

In less than two weeks, the Director of the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services said, 162 new, positive COVID-19 cases have been reported locally, of which 77 percent are Dare County residents, and 86 percent are symptomatic.

Last Thursday, according to the DCDHHS dashboard, a local man between the ages of 25 and 49 was hospitalized, bringing the total number of Dare County residents currently hospitalized for COVID-19 to five, among 84 active cases. The other four have been hospitalized for weeks.

Dr. Davies further noted yesterday that 75 percent of the 162 new cases acquired the virus by direct contact with a known infected person, acknowledging for the first time that community spread did not turn out to be “the greatest threat” as she thought it would.

(The Beacon has long disputed this contention, declining to view COVID-19-positive people’s inability to identify direct contact with an infected person as a sign of community spread.)

Faced with 17 reported COVID-19 cases and nearly 450 quarantines among students and staff at Dare County’s schools, the Board of Education voted 6-1 yesterday, after Dr. Davies’s message, to return to virtual learning, exclusively, starting next week and continuing until Jan. 15, when the current semester ends. School sports and after-school clubs, however, will remain active.  

School board member Harvey Hess Jr., who represents district two, which includes Nags Head, Colington, and Kill Devil Hills, cast the sole dissenting vote, reportedly viewing the move as extreme.

Dr. Davies was very specific in her four-minute call to action about why COVID-19 cases are rising so dramatically in Dare County. Besides discounting community spread and implicating direct contact as “our greatest threat,” the public-health director dispelled the notion that the case increase is “linked” to contact in grocery stores or service stations.

“The rise in cases,” she said, “is linked to friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors, gathering with one another in social settings, in backyards, and driveways, in living rooms, in churches, youth groups, in work break rooms, and at sleepovers.”

Dr. Davies referred to the venues for virus transmission as “common places” where “people are gathering [and] not wearing masks nor social distancing.”

Significantly, her list cited outdoor gathering spots, as well as indoor ones.

In general, the DCDHHS Director said, “People are overly comfortable and casual in these settings,” which they cannot afford to be.

In accord with Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Dr. Davies cited “Covid fatigue” as being a factor in people “letting down their guard,” and also said it is “natural” and “therapeutic” for people to desire “human interaction.”

Expressing understanding about the letdown, she said she did not mean “to vilify or shame those who are getting together” and contributing to the spread of COVID-19. But she would like them to change their behavior.

Last week Governor Roy Cooper announced in a briefing with Dr. Cohen that he was lowering the allowable number of people in an indoor “mass gathering” from 25 to 10, effective Thursday, but he made no adjustment to outdoor gatherings, leaving the allowable maximum at 50.

The Governor also extended the “pause” in Phase Three for another three weeks, until 5 p.m. on Dec. 4. (See The Beacon, 11/10/20.)

Dr. Davies said that COVID-19 is increasingly spreading locally because “friends, family members, co-workers and children” are exposing other people to the disease caused by the coronavirus when they are “presymptomatic”—about a “day or two before feeling sick.”

By the time people show symptoms, she said, they have already infected a number of social contacts while “hanging out.”

To break the “chain of transmission,” Dr. Davies said, requires “hard work and self-discipline.”

That is when the Dare County public-health director issued her “plea to mask up if you will be with others,” and to observe physical distancing and good hand hygiene.

Absent concerted effort directed toward stopping the spread of COVID-19, Dr. Davies said she is concerned “the worst of the pandemic still lies ahead.”

ON THE STATE LEVEL: Yesterday, the NCDHHS dashboard twice reported COVID-19 cases, tests, hospitalizations, and deaths in order to bring the numbers up to date. Combined, the two reports showed 5,664 new COVID-19 cases, 1,425 COVID-19-related hospitalizations, and 4,756 COVID-19-related deaths. The positivity rate was calculated at 7.9-8.0 percent. (A recalculation of hospitalizations to reflect new CDC reporting criteria and a correction of the time when data are pulled accounted for the double update, according to the NCDHHS.)

THE BEACON is planning to report on Monday the COVID-19 cases announced in Dare County this weekend. We will make an exception to that plan if the case numbers compel us to do so.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 11/14/20

11/12/20: FOUR DARE COUNTY SCHOOLS CLOSED TODAY BECAUSE OF COVID-19.

Kitty Hawk Elementary School will be closed today for deep cleaning after the report of a confirmed COVID-19-positive case there, along with First Flight Elementary, Manteo Elementary, and First Flight Middle schools, which also have COVID-19 cases among their students or staff, according to local media reports.

First Flight Middle School will be closed tomorrow, as well, because the quarantining of staff members there reportedly leaves it without sufficient personnel to conduct classes.

The Beacon is not on the Dare County Schools notification list and is learning this morning from local media reports that in addition to the one COVID-19 case at KHES, the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services has reported one case at FFES, three at Manteo Elementary, and two at FFMS. Two hundred people are reportedly in quarantine. 

Yesterday The Beacon reported that of the latest 45 COVID-19 cases in Dare County–announced by the DCDHHS in just the past two days–10 are local children age 17 or younger.

THE BEACON, 11/12/20

11/11/20: DARE REPORTS 24 NEW COVID-19 CASES, AS N.C. TOPS 3,000 COVID-19 CASES IN A SINGLE DAY.

After posting a ghastly 21 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services reported a ghastlier 24 new cases today, tying the single-day record high set just eight days ago.

Not to be outdone, N.C. health departments, combined, reported a record high 3,119 COVID-19 cases today, a day after Governor Roy Cooper imposed a modest change in current statewide restrictions on mass gatherings and extended Phase Three of the State’s reopening another three weeks—until 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4.

See Executive Order 176 at https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/EO176-Phase-3-ext.pdf.

Yesterday we promised a more detailed breakdown of the new cases in Dare County and more thorough coverage of Dr. Sheila Davies’s Tuesday update. Today we think: What’s the point?

After nearly nine months of living with this pandemic, you are either observing infection-control precautions and doing your part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or you’re not.

You know the “three Ws.” You know that outdoors is better than indoors. And you know to avoid crowds. What more is there to say?

What we will say is that of the 24 new cases today, 21 are Dare County residents, and six of them are age 17 or younger.

Of the 18 Dare County residents who tested positive for COVID-19 and were included in the 21 cases reported yesterday, four were age 17 or younger.

That adds up to 10 children, 10 unemancipated minors whose parents are responsible for their health and well-being. Local media reported yesterday that a Manteo Elementary School student was among this count.

Dr. Davies zeroed in yesterday on common infection-spreading occasions locally, citing “Halloween parties, sleepovers, weddings, [gatherings with] coworkers, and gatherings of friends.”

The Governor and Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, did the same at their briefing yesterday, implicating indoor “social, community, and family gatherings.” (See The Beacon, 11/10/20.)

They worried about upcoming Thanksgiving get-togethers involving family members who do not share a household. They went so far as to make suggestions for how to space out dining tables and guests for holiday meal eating and deciding whom to invite.

“If they don’t live with you,” Dr. Cohen said, “get behind the mask.”

In her update, Dr. Davies said yet again that COVID-19-infected respiratory droplets infect others, and that is how you contract the disease. You breathe in those droplets, and your immune system reacts to the invaders, fighting them off.

She also said that a sizeable 73 percent of all Dare County cases in the past week were acquired by direct contact with an infected person’s droplets. Only 17 percent of the recent cases were potentially caused by community spread.

“Since the virus can be spread before you know you have it,” the DCDHHS Director said, “wearing a mask helps contain your respiratory droplets which in turn minimizes the risk those droplets will infect others.”

Today the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that mask wearing protects the wearer from COVID-19 infection, as well as those near him or her. It is not just a safeguard for others.

A mask, the CDC said in updated guidelines, protects the wearer from inhaling infected droplets that are emitted by COVID-19 infected people by coughing, sneezing, talking, singing, and just breathing. They are filters for emission, as well as inhalation. Perhaps that detail will encourage noncompliant people to wear one.

Hospitalizations reported today on the NCDHHS dashboard also surged with new cases, totaling 1,246, a number that recalls daily hospitalization totals in July.

According to the NCDHHS, today’s COVID-19 test-positive rate was 7.9 percent, a figure that suggests rates derived in June and July and is well above the 5 percent rate that Dr. Cohen considers acceptable.

Since March, 4,698 North Carolinians have died from COVID-19, according to reporting by hospitals statewide.

In lowering the indoor mass-gathering limit from 25 people to 10 people, the Governor distinguished North Carolina from other states as not having “experienced the spikes” in COVID-19 that they have. If it does, he may stiffen the restrictions.

For now, he said he has no plans to impose a travel ban and quarantines on people traveling into or out of North Carolina from/to high-risk COVID-19 states.

High-risk states are generally defined as having a seven-day moving average of daily new COVID-19 cases of 10 or more per 100,000 people. So defined, North Carolina is such a hot spot.Virginia and South Carolina are not.

The Governor also declined to lower the capacity limit for indoor restaurant dining, as some states, such as Maryland, have done recently in response to the October-November surge in COVID-19 cases. Indoor dining capacity remains at 50 percent.

We are trying to read up on Eli Lilly’s monoclonal antibody treatment, bamlanivimab, which the FDA just granted Emergency Use Authorization, and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Both present significant supply, distribution, and administration difficulties.

Bamlanivimab, we have learned, must be delivered by an hour-long intravenous infusion early in the course of a person’s COVID-19 illness. The FDA has authorized its use only in patients with mild or moderate illness who also are at high risk of severe disease or hospitalization.

Some of the factors that convey high risk are being older than 65 years old, having diabetes, being obese according to age-related body-mass indexes, having cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure if you are over 55 years old, and having a suppressed immune system.

The FDA has warned that the drug may cause a worse clinical outcome in a person who requires high-flow oxygen or is already on a ventilator. Bamlanivimab is only helpful in a patient who is diagnosed and treated quickly.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 11/11/20

11/10/20: DARE REPORTS SURGE TODAY OF 21 NEW COVID-19 CASES; GOVERNOR LOWERS INDOOR SOCIAL GATHERING LIMIT TO 10 PEOPLE; SECY. COHEN DODGES QUESTION ABOUT JOINING BIDEN’S CABINET.

Dr. Mandy Cohen is reportedly being considered for an appointment in President-Elect Biden’s Cabinet.

Governor Roy Cooper announced today a lowering of the indoor “mass gathering” limit in North Carolina from 25 people to 10 people and said that the State “will remain paused in Phase Three,” when the current Executive Order expires Friday, in an afternoon COVID-19 briefing that was most noteworthy for how it ended.

After both the Governor and Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, discussed what the former called the “stubbornly high” and “troubling” COVID-19 metrics in North Carolina that compel their “targeting” of social gatherings, two reporters directly asked Dr. Cohen whether she would consider joining President-Elect Joe Biden’s administration.

Neither got the direct yes-or-no answer requested.

IN OTHER COVID-19 NEWS TODAY . . . Dare County announced at 3 p.m. 21 new COVID-19 cases—18 of them residents of all ages—as the local COVID-19 surge continues. Today’s total is second only to the single-day total of 24 new COVID-19 cases reported in Dare on Nov. 3, last Tuesday.

Dr. Sheila Davies, Director of the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services, reported in her Tuesday update that 80 percent of the 77 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week are symptomatic, and that 400 people are now in quarantine because of direct exposure to a positive case, including nearly 175 students or staff members associated with Dare County schools.

In one of her most detailed updates ever, Dr. Davies directly implicated “Halloween parties, sleepovers, weddings, coworkers, and gatherings of friends” for the “recent spread” in Dare County of COVID-19 cases.  We will provide a more thorough update tomorrow about the local COVID-19 scene and will return now to the Governor’s  briefing:

The first reporter interested in the Secretary’s political aspirations asked both the Governor and Dr. Cohen, who was appointed to her NCDHHS position in January 2017, whether they would consider positions in Mr. Biden’s “administration.”

Governor Cooper quickly answered “no” for himself and also answered indirectly for Secretary Cohen by singing her praises, and that of her department, and saying, “I want her right here,” while she demurred off-stage.

In response to a second persistent reporter, Dr. Cohen said she was flattered by the attention she is receiving nationally, but she remains “focused here” on getting North Carolinians through the holidays.

“I’m going to keep focused on that,” she said, clearly not ruling out a federal appointment, if she is offered one, that would take effect next year.

Dr. Cohen is reportedly among the President-Elect’s top three candidates for the Cabinet position of Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of HHS.

The others, according to POLITICO and other media outlets, are New Mexico Governor Michelle Lugan Grisham, an attorney, and Dr. Vivek Murthy, who served as U.S. Surgeon General from December 2014 to April 2017 and already has been named to the President-Elect’s coronavirus task force.

Before joining Governor Cooper’s Administration, Dr. Cohen, 41, who trained as an internist, served as Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under the Obama Administration.

She made clear her views on expanding Medicaid in the State in answering a question about the dearth of mental-health services available to many North Carolinians who lack health insurance. After she advocated for expansion, the Governor said, “Amen!”

Both Governor Cooper and Dr. Cohen sought to “send a strong signal” to people about “social, community, and family gatherings,” according to the Governor. (Dr. Davies does the same today in her plea to Dare County residents to stay “vigilant” and “practice the three Ws.”)

It is in such gatherings—not in restaurants, churches, or other venues where people congregate—“where we’ve seen the clusters,” the Governor said, “the outbreaks” of COVID-19.

Indeed, the Governor’s reduction in the number of people who may gather indoors, from 25 to 10, has no effect on restaurants, churches, schools, municipal governments, and other venues that are either exempted from the “mass gathering” provisions of his current Executive Order or treated separately.

While the Governor said that the current “pause” in Phase Three would remain in effect, he did not say now long after Friday’s deadline the extension would last.

“We have not experienced the spikes that a lot of other states have” in COVID-19 case numbers and deaths, Governor Cooper said, “[but] we’re entering a very dangerous and potentially uncertain time.”

Dr. Cohen echoed the Governor, saying North Carolinians are “on shaky ground as we head into Thanksgiving.” She advised people to limit their travel and their get-togethers and to get a COVID-19 screening test about three or four days ahead of any travel that they must make.

“We need everyone focused on how to keep safe this holiday season,” Governor Cooper said, emphasizing, as always, the “three Ws” of mask-wearing, hand-washing, and waiting six feet (social-distancing). “Hope is on the horizon. This pandemic will not last forever.”

Dr. Cohen also announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given Emergency Use Authorization to a new antibody treatment for COVID-19, and she spoke encouragingly about Pfizer’s vaccine, which has reportedly shown a high level of efficacy in clinical trials.

[UPDATE: ABC reported on-air Tuesday night that the new antibody treatment is only for people age 65 or older or those with underlying medical conditions who have mild or moderate symptoms of COVID-19. It is not for use in patients with severe cases of COVID-19.]

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 11/10/20

11/10/20: TOMORROW IS VETERANS DAY, A SOLEMN FEDERAL HOLIDAY. . . YES, RECYCLING WILL BE COLLECTED.

Even though tomorrow is a federal and state holiday, and the Southern Shores Town Hall will be closed, roadside recycling will be collected.

Tomorrow, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day, a federal holiday that is also observed by the State of North Carolina. Post offices, banks, and government offices, including the Southern Shores Town Hall, will be closed, but Bay Disposal will be on its route in the morning, collecting your roadside recycling.

We honor all U.S. military veterans on this day of solemn observance, which was first held in 1919 as Armistice Day, upon the first anniversary of the end of World War I.

World War I formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany took effect. Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

The Beacon thanks all who have served our country in the U.S. armed forces. We appreciate your commitment, your sacrifice, and your patriotism.

COVID-19 UPDATE: Governor Cooper will hold a COVID-19 briefing today at 3 p.m. You may watch it on UNC-TV channel 3 or live-stream it on the UNC-TV website. The Governor is expected to address the 5 p.m. expiration Friday of his latest executive order, which continued the “pause” in Phase Three of the state’s economic reopening.

THE BEACON, 11/10/20