12/31/20: ADVANCED AGE GIVEN PRIORITY IN STATE’S REVISED VACCINE RECIPIENT GUIDELINES. Plus Stark Warnings About the Coronavirus’s Prevalence and New Year’s Gatherings.

Not this December 31st.

The big news out of Governor Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 update briefing yesterday is that the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services has revised its prioritization groups for vaccine recipients so that advanced age alone is a qualifier, regardless of a person’s underlying medical conditions.

If you are age 75 or older, you can anticipate being eligible for vaccination in early January, NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said yesterday, regardless of your general health, thanks to the revisions her department just implemented.

The North Carolina vaccine program, which was initially formulated in October, prioritizes recipients in four groups, the first of which is broken down into two sections.

Members of NCDHHS’s prioritization Group 1A, which consists of healthcare personnel who have a high risk of COVID-19 exposure and long-term care facility staff and residents, are currently being vaccinated. North Carolina received a supply of vaccine less than two weeks ago, and local health departments received their supplies just last week, Dr. Cohen said.

Vaccinations of staff and residents in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, are being handled by the federal government through an arrangement with CVS and Walgreens. All other vaccinations will be administered through local health departments.

You will not be able to go to your local pharmacy to be vaccinated against COVID-19.  

As a result of NCDHHS’s revisions, Group 1B, which is next, now prioritizes recipients age 75 and older, regardless of their health status. They will be taken first among the Group 1B population, Dr. Cohen said, when this group’s vaccinations are initiated.

As the Secretary explained, within each prioritization group, there are subgroups that are also ranked by prioritization. Each subgroup “will be taken one at a time,” Dr. Cohen said.

Previously, Group 1B included more at-risk people (incarcerated people, migrant workers, etc.) and “other adults with 2 or more chronic conditions,” as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The State has eliminated the medical qualifier, to conform with recommendations made by the federal government.   

Similarly, Group 2 prioritization has been revised to include people ages 65 to 74, regardless of their health status or living situation. Previously, this group specified “individuals age 65 or older with one or no chronic conditions,” to complement Group 1A’s prioritization.

Group 2 also has a subgroup, second in ranking, that includes “anyone aged 16 to 64 years with one or more high-risk medical conditions as defined by the CDC.”

For a list of those conditions, see Certain Medical Conditions and Risk for Severe COVID-19 Illness | CDC.

Group 3 still consists of essential personnel not included in the earlier prioritization groups and students who are age 16 or older; and Group 4 encompasses “the remainder of the population.”

Dr. Cohen said again yesterday that it will be “well into the spring” before anyone “in the remainder of the population” who would like a vaccination will be able to get one.

She also said that vaccine supplies “are limited and will continue to be limited for the next few months.” We would not hold our breath.

For details about the N.C. vaccine program, see NC DHHS COVID-19: Vaccines.


Stressing the omnipresence of the coronavirus, Governor Cooper asked North Carolinians yesterday to stay home tonight and this weekend with the people in their household and to observe the COVID-19-infection control measures of wearing a mask, maintaining six-foot distancing, and frequently washing hands.

He reminded people that the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. modified stay-at-home order—which has been referred to as a curfew—is still in effect.

The Governor also cautioned people age 65 or older to avoid ANY indoor space where they might encounter others who are not wearing masks (or, we would add, are wearing them improperly), such as in a grocery store. He said the latest recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force “offer stark warnings” to people age 65 or older and to people with “an underlying health condition” to avoid potential exposure.

The task force recommends, he said, that these at-risk people have their groceries, medications, and other needed supplies delivered. 

We would suggest that you skip all gatherings with people outside of your safe circle and celebrate New Year’s Eve by ordering a carry-out dinner. When you go to pick it up, wear a mask—and pull it above your nose. It is not a chin strap. 

There will be other years for New Year’s Eve parties—we hope—and you can skip one Dec. 31 of reckless abandon. Show some self-control, respect, and basic good sense and stay home.

You also can skip the New Year’s Day open house.

The Beacon is still on holiday break, planning to write our next substantive blog on Jan. 2, but news of the revised vaccine guidelines and shock over recent statewide COVID-19 metrics and the number of cases reported by the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services disturbed our vacation mindset so much that we had to write something.

The NCDHHS reported yesterday a record-high number of cases in one day and a record-high number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19: 8,551 and 3,339, respectively. The daily positivity rate of 14.8 percent was a record, too.

One hundred fifty-five people died of COVID-19 in North Carolina in the 24-hour period between Tuesday’s report and yesterday’s, bringing the total number of deaths since March to 6,729.

Today’s NCDHHS report shows 6,715 new COVID-19 cases; 3,493 hospitalizations, an increase of 54, for a new record high; and 6,748 deaths, an increase of 19. The positivity rate is 13.3 percent.

The DCDHHS reported a staggering 50 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, besting the previous single-day high number of cases by 15. Thirty-four residents and 16 nonresidents contributed to that grim total.

Among the residents, seven were reportedly children age 17 and younger, whose parents are responsible for their health and well-being; 14 were between the ages of 25 and 49; and eight were between the ages of 50 and 64.

You do not have to know a single one of the people who have died of this viral scourge to have empathy for them and the people who love them and to recognize a human connection with all of them.

You do not have to know a single one of them to behave like a responsible citizen of our constitutional republic, and the world, and respect public-health protocols.

We may live on an island, but none of us is an island. In the immortal words of John Donne:

“Each [person’s] death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.”

Here’s to a happier and healthier 2021.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 12/31/20; revised slightly 1/1/21


Two Dare County residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, according to a late report today on the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services dashboard.

The man and woman, who are age 65 or older, are among 17 new COVID-19 cases reported by the DCDHHS. Of the 17, 12 are Dare County residents. Five of the other 10 are between the ages of 25 to 49, and five are age 50-to-64.

These two hospitalizations bring the number of Dare County residents hospitalized outside of the area for COVID-19 to 10.

This wraps up our last COVID-19 update of 2020. We wish swift and uneventful recoveries to the 115 local people who currently have active cases.

The Beacon, 12/23/20


One Kill Devil Hills restaurateur found reason to laugh about the Governor’s modified Stay-at-Home order, which ostensibly confines North Carolinians to their homes from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. This is an example of a real hoax.

Of the 113 Dare County residents newly diagnosed with COVID-19 during the past week, 82 of them, or 73 percent, contracted the virus by direct contact in one of the following settings:


*Work conference room or break room

*Dinner party

*Wedding reception


So says Dr. Sheila Davies, Director of the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services, in her COVID-19 update yesterday. And so said Dr. Davies before, in more than one previous update, echoing what Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, has said numerous times in briefings.

The COVID-19 warnings and explanations about transmission and spread from public-health and governmental officials continue, and still the “metrics” increase, both locally and statewide.

Yesterday again Dr. Cohen asked people in a statement to “please avoid traveling and gathering” during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

“If you absolutely must [travel or gather],” she said, “get tested ahead of time, wear a mask all the time, keep it small and keep it outdoors.”

Governor Roy Cooper asked North Carolinians to change their holiday plans, “if you haven’t already.”

“The best and safest option,” he said in a statement, “is to connect virtually or by phone. But if you gather in-person, keep it small and do it outside.” The remainder of his message echoed Dr. Cohen’s about testing and wearing a mask.

Does anyone believe these warnings will be heeded by people who previously have not heeded them?

As of 4:08 p.m. today, 328,139 people had died of COVID-19 in the United States. At least two new variants of Sars-CoV-2 have been identified, and still people hold and attend superspreader events and talk to their work colleagues in close quarters without wearing masks.

See Coronavirus variants and mutations: the science explained – BBC News

Dr. Davies is still professing to educate people, not “shame or blame” them, and Dr. Cohen is still urging people to “get behind the mask.”

Despite their entreaties, 90 percent of North Carolina’s 100 counties are now in the red or orange zones of community spread of the virus, according to an update yesterday of the COVID-19 county alert system.

Dare County is allegedly in the orange tier or “substantial” community spread tier, but it sure looks red to us. Red indicates a “critical” spread of the virus.

Dare reportedly has a 14-day case rate of 386.4 cases per 100,000 people and a 14-day positivity rate of 8.0 percent.

Since the last county update, neighboring Currituck County has gone red, with a reported 14-day case rate of 515.1 per 100,000 people and a 14-day positivity rate of 14.9 percent.

Hyde County, which includes Ocracoke, is also in the red, with 931.7 cases per 100,000 people and a positivity rate of 11.0 percent.

Previously, both counties were in the lowest yellow tier, which signifies “significant” viral spread. Only eight counties are currently in the yellow: Chatham, Graham, Greene, Madison, Northampton, Orange (home county to Chapel Hill, which is a ghost town these days), Polk, and Washington counties.   

As of today, the NCDHHS is reporting 3,043 people hospitalized across the state for COVID-19 and its complications. That’s a record high number for the state.

Hospitalizations topped 3,000 for the first time yesterday, while new COVID-19 cases statewide topped 8,000 for the first time on Dec. 18 and have remained over 4,000 since Dec. 2.

The average number of new COVID-19 cases reported daily by the NCDHHS in December has been 5,652. The positivity rate has been above 10 percent every day this month except Dec. 8 when the NCDHHS reported it was 9.7 percent.

Deaths now total 6,360 people.


During the past week, the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in Dare County has been as follows:

Tues., Dec. 15: 13 cases, 10 residents; three nonresidents; one local woman 65+ hospitalized.

Wed., Dec. 16: 20 cases, 14 residents; six nonresidents.

Thurs., Dec. 17: 14 cases, eight residents; six nonresidents.

Fri., Dec. 18: eight cases; seven residents; one nonresident.

Sat., Dec. 19: 20 cases, 16 residents; four nonresidents.

Sun., Dec. 20: 32 cases, 21 residents; 11 nonresidents.

Mon., Dec. 21: eight cases, seven residents; one nonresident.

Tues., Dec. 22: 35 cases, 28 residents; seven nonresidents.

The average is 19 new cases per day.

The case-report totals on Sunday and yesterday jumped out at us, as did the fact 26 of yesterday’s 35 new cases were people between the ages of 25 and 49. That is nearly three-quarters.

Overall, 37 percent of Dare County’s 1,423 COVID-19 cases are people in the 25-to-49 age group, and 23 percent are people ages 50 through 64.

The college-age group accounts for about 15 percent of the cases; the 65-and-over group accounts for about 13 percent; and the remaining 12 percent are children age 17 and younger.

Dr. Davies observed in her update that yesterday was a “rather extraordinary day” for the county health department because it received its first shipment of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The County started vaccinating front-line health-care workers this week and will continue doing so in the ensuing weeks.

Twenty-one days must elapse between the two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Dare has not yet received its batch of second doses for what is known as Priority Group 1a of vaccine recipients. Vaccines are being administered across North Carolina according to a priority ranking of the recipients.  

For more vaccine information, see COVID-19 Vaccine | Dare County, NC (darenc.com)


We end our last COVID-19 update of 2020 with a special birthday greeting to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the NIH’s Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who turns 80 tomorrow on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve.

Word is he is not planning to travel anywhere.

Dr. Fauci received his first dose of the newly approved-for-emergency-use Moderna vaccine yesterday and reported that he felt fine afterward. He did not even experience injection site pain, which is common with many vaccinations. He will receive his second dose in 28 days.

May the eminent, compassionate, and extremely hard-working Dr. Fauci enjoy doing whatever he darn well pleases on his birthday. He has not had a day off in nearly a year. Maybe he can enjoy some down time tomorrow.

We wish him many happy returns of the day and many more birthdays.


Today I visited the Kitty Hawk Post Office to ensure that the packages I dropped off there for mailing (I do click-and-ship) and for which I have not received any tracking information are not stacked up in a backroom reserved for oblivion.

I was assured that all packages received at the post office are loaded onto cargo trucks and transported the heck out of there as soon as possible. I was also told that I should not expect to receive any tracking information until my packages reach their destination.

So, there is still hope.   

Merry Christmas and happy other holidays, everyone. Here’s to a bright and healthy new year.

And don’t forget. If you get cabin fever and decide you would like to violate the 10 p.m. “curfew,” just call up your favorite watering hole and order a “to-go” mixed drink. The Governor says it’s OK. See yesterday’s Beacon for details.

But bring your mask!

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 12/23/20

12/22/20: SOUTHERN SHORES RANKED AMONG TOP 20 SAFEST TOWNS & CITIES IN NORTH CAROLINA. Plus Governor Says You Can Violate Curfew to Buy a ‘To Go’ Mixed Drink.

Southern Shores is the 18th safest city in North Carolina for 2020, according to a home security and safety advocacy website that we had never heard of until a publicist sent The Beacon an email about the town’s distinction. We thought we would share this news with you and let you assess its value, if any.

According to Safety.com, which claims to be an “independent review site,” Southern Shores ranked 22nd among the N.C. cities it surveyed for public safety and fourth overall for financial safety. These results, combined with the town’s rankings on natural-disaster safety and health safety, gave Southern Shores the 18th best score, it claims.

Carolina Beach is the only other N.C. beach town to break Safety.com’s top 20, although New Bern and Wilmington show up at No. 9 and No. 17, respectively.

Southern Shores also tied with No. 3 Huntersville, which is a town of lakefront homes and recreational opportunities on Lake Norman, for the second lowest poverty rate among the cities on Safety.com’s list, not all of which are not identified in its report.

See Safest Cities in North Carolina | Safety.com

Safety.com purportedly analyzed data provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Census Bureau, The Insurance Journal, and The Gun Violence Archive, which is a non-profit research group that catalogs every incident of gun violence in the United States, as well as U.S. “health rankings” to derive its municipal “best-of” list. 

The criteria it assessed for a public-safety analysis, it says, included population-based data on property crime, violent crime, aggravated assaults, and hate crime, provided by the FBI, and officer-related shootings and mass shootings, as reported by The Gun Violence Archive.

Safety.com analyzed financial safety by calculating a town’s or city’s annualized median rent, unemployment rate, cost of living, and poverty rate, and the percentages of its employed and unemployed residents who reported not having health insurance.   

The top 10 safest cities in North Carolina, according to Safety.com’s analysis, are: 1) Cary; 2) Apex; 3) Huntersville; 4) Carolina Beach; 5) Mooresville; 6) Mocksville; 7) Pittsboro; 8) Fayetteville; 9) New Bern; and 10) Hickory.

In a press release datelined San Juan, Puerto Rico, the home security/safety advocate said it “offers reviews, recommendations and insights across multiple safety industries.” Its goal is “to make safety simple with trustworthy and accurate information, unique data, and easy-to-use tools.”

If you click on one of its advertising partners’ links on its website, Safety.com may receive a referral fee. It is fair to speculate that if you have “financial safety,” you may be more inclined to purchase a home-security system to protect it.

AS YOU MAY RECALL, JUST TWO MONTHS AGO, SOUTHERN SHORES POLICE CHIEF DAVID KOLE argued at the Town Council’s Oct. 20 budgetary and planning workshop that the Town needed to hire a new police officer during fiscal year 2020-21. (See The Beacon, 10/23/20, 11/1/20.)

Southern Shores “is not Mayberry” and needs two police officers on duty “with supervision” 24/7, Chief Kole maintained.

The additional officer, whose hiring was given a green light Oct. 20 by Mayor Tom Bennett’s pronouncement that a “consensus” existed on the Council for it, will bring the Southern Shores police complement to 13 officers, according to the Chief, who alluded during his workshop presentation to a study supporting the addition of two officers, not just one.

“It’s not Mayberry,” the Chief said then. “. . . Bad things can happen to police, and things have gotten worse over the last two to three years.”

Only not, as far as we can tell, in Southern Shores.

There are “a lot of arrests, a lot of drug work,” he explained, without offering any evidence of physical threats being made to, or violence committed upon, Southern Shores police officers.

Although the Chief emphasized the safety of police officers, he presented data at the workshop to suggest that the number of service calls the police handle justify two new hires. We would have liked to have seen a more detailed breakdown of the nature of those calls and their disposition. (See The Beacon, 11/1/20, for our critique.)

With 14 officers on the payroll, there would be 24/7 coverage of the town by two duty officers and a third person supervising, Chief Kole said, a goal he has had since he first started working for Southern Shores 14 years ago.

That is one police officer for every 208 residents, if you use Safety.com’s population figure for Southern Shores of 2,907.

Despite there being no critical discussion about the need for police force expansion and no formal vote, Mayor Bennett told Chief Kole at the workshop that a “consensus” exists among Town Council members “that we need another police officer.”

The Town Council made the hiring official when it unanimously approved at its Nov. 4 meeting a budget amendment for the position, which was part of its consent agenda.

Funding a new police officer for the remaining six months of the fiscal year will cost $43,521—money that will come from the Town’s Unassigned Fund Balance.

On a number of public occasions, Chief Kole has referenced the dangers that his officers confront, especially in their drug work, and has said, “It’s a different world out there right now” than the one he started in nearly 40 years ago.

Every officer on the Southern Shores police force now wears a body camera.

We would like to be enlightened some time by the Chief about this world, especially about the drug crimes occurring in Southern Shores and the risks posed to residents by this criminal activity.

Looking just at FBI statistics and The Gun Violence Archive’s records, Safety.com ranked Southern Shores among the safest places to live in North Carolina. What reason is there to believe otherwise?

COVID-19 UPDATE: Buying Mixed Drink Now a Legitimate Reason for Violating Curfew

The Beacon will be back tomorrow with a complete COVID-19 wrapup before we take an extended holiday break. For now we will write just a few words about the Governor’s latest brainstorm, which we are still trying to fathom.

You may have heard that Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order yesterday that authorizes ABC Commission-permitted sellers to sell “to-go orders” of mixed alcoholic beverages to purchasers for their off-premises consumption for as long as alcoholic beverages are permitted to be sold, which is 2 a.m. locally.

Sales of alcoholic beverages for on-premise consumption must still cease at 9 p.m., but restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels, certain distilleries—any Alcohol Beverage Control Commission permittee—now may sell one “to-go” mixed drink in a sealed container to a purchaser for his or her own off-premise consumption, either by pick-up or delivery service.

Executive Order 183 actually authorizes travel during the modified Stay at Home period for the purpose of buying a mixed drink! You can break curfew if you want to “take out” a Margarita or a vodka tonic. Can you imagine anything more ridiculous?

The EO takes effect at 5 p.m. today and continues through Jan. 31.

See EO183-Mixed-Beverages.pdf (nc.gov)

FAQs about the new executive order: EO 183 FAQ (nc.gov)

“This order,” the Governor said in a statement, “will help people avoid settings that can contribute to increased viral spread while giving restaurants and bars a financial boost that they need right now.”

The EO limits the number of mixed drinks that a purchaser may buy to one, but it specifies that this limit does not “prevent multiple people at the same address or multiple people in the same group from each being a purchaser and each ordering one mixed beverage.”

Good luck on enforcing this one.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 12/22/20


Dear Beacon Readers:

The Beacon will be off the grid for the next four days. We will next publish on Tuesday.

Your response to yesterday’s serial dog-poop offender article was gratifying. We are delighted to report that the offender has been identified, and a remedy is in the works.

It would seem that un-scooped dog poop, bags of poop left on the roadside, the dumping of trash on vacant lots, and just plain littering are problems throughout Southern Shores. None of these problems is beyond solving with coordinated and concentrated effort.

The Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services reported today that another Dare County resident age 65 or older has been hospitalized with COVID-19, bringing the total number of current hospitalizations to eight. The local woman is one of 20 new COVID-19 cases reported on the DCDHHS dashboard, although the data only identified 19 by sex and age.

Of the 20 people who tested positive for COVID-19, 14 are purportedly Dare County residents and six are nonresidents. The dashboard listed only 13 residents: two who are age 17 or younger; six, age 25 to 49; and five, age 65 or older.

Stay well, everyone.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 12/16/20

12/15/20: FOUR MORE DARE RESIDENTS ARE HOSPITALIZED FOR COVID-19, AS NEW CASES AVERAGE 15 PER DAY IN PAST WEEK. Plus the ‘Staggering’ COVID-19 Metrics at the State Level and the Pfizer Vaccine Rollout.

Four Dare County residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19 “complications” since last Thursday—three in the past three days alone—according to the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services dashboard and Dr. Sheila Davies’s coronavirus update today.

All four are in the high-risk age 65-or-older group. Two are men, and two are women.

In the past week, the DCDHHS dashboard has reported the following new COVID-19 case numbers:

Tuesday, Dec. 8: 20 cases, 16 residents and four nonresidents;

Wednesday, Dec. 9: 19 cases, 15 residents and four nonresidents;

Thursday, Dec. 10: 24 cases, 18 residents and six nonresidents;

Friday, Dec. 11: seven cases, four residents and three nonresidents;

Saturday, Dec. 12: 24 cases, 13 residents and 11 nonresidents;

Sunday, Dec. 13: seven cases, four residents and three nonresidents;

Monday, Dec. 14: six cases, all residents;

Today, Dec. 15: 13 cases, 10 residents and three nonresidents

The numbers average 15 new COVID-19 cases per day. Roughly 72 percent of the cases are locals.

The “vast majority” of new cases, Dr. Davies reports today, “are linked to direct contact between close friends and families.” This has been true throughout the pandemic.

Seven Dare County residents are currently hospitalized, according to the DCDHHS dashboard.

We have discovered in our daily monitoring of the dashboard that the recovery and/or transfer into isolation of hospitalized residents are not always reported.


Last Friday the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services reported what NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen called in a statement a “staggering” number of new COVID-19 cases: 7,540—with 2,514 hospitalizations, and a positivity rate of 10.4 percent.

At a briefing today with Governor Roy Cooper, Secretary Cohen again spoke about “staggering increases in our pandemic trends,” the most worrisome being the number of hospitalizations.

The NCDHHS reported today that 2,735 people are hospitalized statewide because of COVID-19.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have nearly doubled in the past month, the Secretary said, as have the number of people in intensive care units statewide.

Today, 643 people are in an ICU being treated for COVID-19, Dr. Cohen said, whereas a month ago, 350 people were.

“Too many North Carolinians are getting seriously ill,” she said, “. . . and too many are dying.”

According to the NCDHHS dashboard today, 5,881 people have died of COVID-19 in North Carolina since mid-March.

The concern with hospitalizations, Dr. Cohen explained, is not that hospitals are running out of physical space for COVID-19 patients, but that they have a limited number of physicians and nurses available to treat them. Nurses, in particular, are in demand.

Vaccine Update

The Governor reported that 11 N.C. hospitals have received doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine this week, and 42 more hospitals will receive doses on Thursday. These 53 hospitals will receive all of the state’s initial allotment of 85,000 doses.

The first three “early ship sites” were Atrium Health in Charlotte, Duke University Hospital, and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

The federal government determines state-by-state distribution of the vaccine according to a state’s population and how much vaccine is being manufactured, Dr. Cohen explained.

The Secretary finally confirmed today, as we had surmised, that the 85,000 doses are FIRST doses, only. The 85,000 second doses will be shipped in two weeks.

(Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines are administered in two doses: the former, 21 days apart, and the latter, 28 days apart.)

More Pfizer vaccine will be shipped next week, Dr. Cohen and the Governor explained, but they will not know until Friday morning, when U.S. officials inform them, just how much they will receive.

This timing puts pressure on state officials, the Governor said, to “get back with them [the feds] in only a few hours to tell them where we want the shipments to go” on Monday. The arrangement is hardly ideal.

The federal government is exclusively responsible for distributing vaccine doses to long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, through CVS and Walgreens. These facilities are likely to receive the Moderna vaccine, assuming it is approved, Dr. Cohen said, because it is packaged in smaller units and is more portable.  

Both vaccines have been reported to be 90 to 95 percent effective in clinical trials.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may approve an Emergency Use Authorization for the Moderna vaccine this week. If it does, Dr. Cohen said, North Carolina will receive 175,000 (first) doses of that vaccine next week, half of which will go to long-term care facilities.

The priority for vaccine recipients is 1) health-care workers who come in contact with COVID-19 patients; 2) staff and residents in long-term care facilities; and 3) all adults with two or more chronic conditions. The FDA’s emergency use order excludes anyone under age 16, and people who get severe reactions from any of the ingredients in the vaccine, from receiving it.

Dr. Cohen said her “best estimate” is that it will be “well into the spring” before any vaccine is “widely available” to anyone who wants it.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 12/15/20    

12/15/20: WHEN NOT SCOOPING DOG POOP BECOMES A SERIAL OFFENSE, AS WELL AS A HAZARD. Neighbors on Next Door Respond to a Chicahauk Homeowner’s Problem.

A Chicahauk dog walker and his charges caught “in the act” this morning.

Southern Shores’ local social network Next Door has gone to the dogs lately.

More specifically, residents have been chewing over the problem of what to do about scofflaw dog owners who do not pick up what their four-legged companions deposit while out on their walks.

In modern-day vernacular, these scofflaws are not scooping the poop.

The latest thread of comments about un-scooped poop—or poop that is scooped and left in bags by dog owners on the side of the road or in other people’s yards—started with a Chicahauk homeowner’s complaint about a serial un-scooper whose dogs regularly deposit their feces on his front yard.

The homeowner, who lives on a dead-end street off of Trinitie Trail, photographed the serial offender this morning and shared the photo above on Next Door, in the hope of identifying the man and resolving the circumstances.

Other tactics, such as posting the Town of Southern Shores ordinance about the mandatory removal of dog feces (sec. 4-27, see below), have not worked for him.

The homeowner reported that he has even caught “several offenders. [But] they carry bags with them just in case someone is watching.”

“Every other day,” the homeowner writes, he removes “doggie bombs” from his property. Such bombs are not only a hygiene problem, they are a public-health hazard.

After weighing our concern about “outing” this neighbor, we decided that publishing the photo would be a public service.

The days of dogs ranging freely and people stepping in dog “doo” and taking it in stride are long gone. Old dogs who act otherwise have to learn new tricks.

We ask anyone who recognizes the offending dog owner above to email us at ssbeaconeditor@gmail.com.

According to the Chicahauk homeowner, the man walks a Rottweiler, who was off-leash this morning (another infraction), and another large dog that looks from the photo like a Labrador. 

Frankly, we think this man is giving dogs and their owners a bad name. Many of us are conscientious and responsible and would never dream of not cleaning up after our dogs.

On my street—Hickory Trail near East Dogwood Trail—dog-walking behavior is monitored by a neighbor I affectionately started calling the Poop Nazi (like Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi), after he paid two unsolicited visits to me after I got my pup, Augie: Once, to give me a roll of poop bags, and the second time, to instruct me on the proper use of them.

I wasn’t keen on his presumptuousness, but I was even more taken aback to learn that neighbors had informed him that my dainty method of collecting Augie’s stools was wrong. I was being watched!

Curbing my defensiveness, I graciously accepted the bags and the advice. If we had a problem like the Chicahauk homeowner has, I know the Poop Nazi would intervene and informally resolve it.

But there are many other dog owners, as the neighbors who responded to the Chicahauk homeowner’s Next Door post attested, who are irresponsible, lazy, slack, unhygienic, and just plain annoying and thoughtless.

One woman wrote that dog feces are an “issue up and down [the] OBX,” even in the four-wheel drive area north of Corolla. She said she has stepped in feces twice on the Corolla beach.

More than one neighbor wrote about dog owners who scoop the poop, but then cannot be bothered with disposing of it properly, leaving bags in the street or on someone’s front yard for another person to remove. We have encountered this bizarre (pathological?) behavior, too.

Some weeks ago, another Next Door correspondent who lives on Ocean Boulevard near the East Dogwood Trail beach access complained about the dog waste there. The SSCA provides both scoop bags and a trash can, but dog owners are not availing themselves of either, the homeowner said.

On a personal note, I have friends who stayed on the Southern Shores oceanfront in April 2019 and said they would never return because the beach was “a toilet.”

On streets, but especially on the beach, where people are walking bare-footed and children are playing in the sand, dog feces are more than a messy inconvenience. Like all fecal material, dog poop contains potentially disease-causing bacteria, such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli, pathogens for human intestinal-tract disorders.

A quick search this morning of the risks to public health that dog feces present left us impressed by the number of potential diseases they may transmit. Fecal material, regardless of who produced it, is never a good thing to have lying about.  

For the record, Southern Shores’ ordinance, titled “Mandatory removal of feces,” states:

“Each and every person, owner, keeper or custodian of any dog shall immediately remove all feces deposited by the dog they are accompanying. The removal of feces shall be accomplished by depositing such feces in a sanitary container. Burying feces in the sand or depositing in any body of water is prohibited and constitutes a violation of this section.”

Dogs that are “off the premises” of their owner or custodian in Southern Shores must be “restrained by a leash, cord, or chain not exceeding ten feet in length [and] held by a person who is physically able to control the animal.” That’s Town Code sec. 4-25(a)(1).

Like the Chicahauk homeowner said on Next Door: “Our street is not a receptacle for pet waste.”

Let’s help him and other neighbors keep Southern Shores safe and clean. We should not have to enlist the police to ensure enforcement of the town ordinances. We should be able to secure cooperation without police involvement.

Like the sign in the Poop Nazi’s yard says: “There is no poop fairy.”

We dog owners have to take the high road when we walk our best friends and take care of their business. That’s part of our job.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 12/15/20


We are fond of this tall Christmas figure on South Dogwood Trail, but he didn’t enter the contest.

The SSCA’s Southern Shores outdoor holiday decorations contest and driving tour opens today and continues through Dec. 28, the association announced today. Thirty-eight residential Christmas displays of lights and decorations have been entered in the contest.

The SSCA has prepared maps of the 38 homes, 18 of which are in what it is calling the “Northern Loop” of town, from 12th Avenue south to the dunes and woods of Southern Shores; and 20 of which are in the “Southern Loop,” which includes Chicahauk, part of South Dogwood Trail, and Duck Woods Drive.

See: SSCA HOLIDAY LIGHTS TOUR 2020 Map .pdf (sscaobx.org)

Voting on the decorations will open tomorrow and continue through Dec. 29. First-, second-, and third-place winners will be determined solely by the “People’s Choice,” the SSCA says, no other criteria. There is no word on whether any prizes will be awarded.

You may vote on the SSCA website, www.sscaobx.org, by clicking on the address of your favorite home Christmas display and pressing submit. The SSCA trusts that you will cast only one vote.

The tour is strictly drive-by, not get-out-of-the-car-and-walk-around, unless, we suppose, contest participants invite you to walk on their property.

Viewing is also being publicized by the SSCA as being available from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., but as long as you are not breaking curfew, we figure you can look at other times.

The contest and tour are “meant to be fun and bring holiday spirit to our neighborhoods,” according to organizer Emily Gould, who is SSCA Volunteer/Social Coordinator, “so we hope you enjoy every aspect of this event!”

The Beacon, 12/14/20


North-bound traffic backs up on East Dogwood Trail on June 13, 2020–a day of unprecedented congestion in Southern Shores.

The data analysis report that the Town’s traffic engineering consultant gave via Zoom last Thursday at its update meeting with the citizens’ cut-through traffic committee confirmed what we already know:

  1. N.C. Hwy. 12 is operating over-capacity—what technicians with J.M. Teague Engineering and Planning of Waynesville, N.C. called “forced saturated flow”—during the peak-season weekends.
  2. Because N.C. 12 is operating over-capacity, traffic “cascades” on to alternating routes that impact Southern Shores neighborhoods, the techs observed in a slide presentation titled, “Southern Shores Traffic Data Analysis.”
  3. South Dogwood Trail, East Dogwood Trail, Hickory Trail, Hillcrest Drive, and Sea Oats Trail all experience “significant” cut-through traffic on peak-season weekends.
  4. Congestion on N.C. 12 stems from the Town of Duck, where the traffic backup begins.

The Duck bottleneck, caused by that town’s 25-mph speed limit and pedestrian crosswalks, is “the common denominator of all congestion that is formed in Southern Shores,” said Engineering Technician Forrest Lundgren, who conducted the slide presentation remotely with Teague Engineering Director Will Thompsen.

Mr. Lundgren further observed a fact that we also know quite well: “Southern Shores is not the destination of most of this traffic.”

Curiously, neither analyst spoke about traffic count data from the no-left-turn weekends conducted this past summer. The impact of this mitigation effort was not included in Teague’s analysis nor was it discussed until Town Manager Cliff Ogburn asked about how and whether the consultant can “model” the traffic flow when changes, such as a left-turn prohibition at South Dogwood Trail, are introduced.

Mr. Ogburn has previously explained that Teague will run all of the data through its computer “models,” which use specialized software and enable the technicians to propose “multiple mitigation measures.”

Both Mr. Ogburn, who served the meeting well as both a moderator and an advocate for town residents, and Mr. Lundgren described the “wealth of traffic data” and other reports, including minutes from cut-through committee meetings and media accounts, that the consultants had to process and analyze.

They analyzed traffic-count data submitted by the Southern Shores Police Dept. and the N.C. Dept. of Transportation, which has assessed the traffic volume and flow on N.C. 12 during the tourist summer season for years.

Mr. Lundgren also made a field visit to Southern Shores on Oct. 9 and took photographs of street signage, road conditions, traffic patterns, etc., as well as videotapes.

(We are unsure from what the Teague analysts said whether or not most of the data they relied upon came from traffic conditions documented in 2020, which, with the changes made to the spring and summer rental seasons during the COVID-19 pandemic, was an aberrant year.)

Mr. Thompsen is described on Teague’s website as a transportation specialist with 33 years of planning experience. Mr. Lundgren is not profiled. (See Traffic Management Planning & Engineering Firm: Serving Southeast US. (jmteagueengineering.com).)

At the conclusion of their slide presentation, Mr. Thompsen said, “We’re continuing with examining different strategies to cope with that cut-through traffic, as we were tasked within our scope of services.” He did not offer any now.

See the You Tube videotape of the Dec. 10 meeting at Southern Shores – YouTube. It runs 47 minutes.


As we said in our blog 10/14/20, when we announced the Town’s hiring of J.M. Teague to conduct a $7500 traffic study, we do not intend to be either facetious or skeptical in this article. We support every effort to ameliorate Southern Shores’ traffic nightmare, especially on the residential cut-through roads.

The meeting last Thursday was for the purpose of giving the citizens’ committee and the public a “progress report,” and we thank Mr. Ogburn for being inclusive in this project and affording us the opportunity to hear from the consultants.

The overriding perception that we took away from the meeting was that since Teague’s hiring, its technicians have spent their time getting up to speed on the traffic problems in town—quantifying them, identifying the arterial overloads, and essentially scoping out the who, what, when, where, why of the town’s traffic crisis.

It’s little wonder. Even people who live in Southern Shores—especially those who do not live on a cut-through road—do not “get” the full context of the misery traffic causes. 

Both consultants came across as reasonable, earnest, and competent people. No doubt they are aghast at how deep the hole is that Southern Shores, Duck, Dare County, and Currituck County have dug for themselves by ignoring for years the summertime traffic burden on the inadequate infrastructure that exists.

N.C. 12 is at capacity during the week days in peak season, they informed us. That is Monday through Friday. We imagine that the conditions on peak-season weekends are unfathomable to reasonable people who regularly engage in planning and problem-solving. They certainly are to us.

We found most interesting Mr. Lundgren’s turn-the-tables perspective that since N.C. 12 is grossly over-capacity on summertime weekends, traffic is “almost being forced into the neighborhoods.”

We can appreciate the spin that tourists really have no choice but to cause residents misery.

Mr. Lundgren presented the tourists’ point of view, as a matter of “what tourists are getting on their GPS,” he said.

On a July Saturday, he explained, 20,000 vehicles travel on N.C. 12, a volume that is “beyond capacity” for a two-lane road: It is very congested all day.

Such conditions are a “strong push for a visitor to look for alternative ways” to travel, he said. We certainly would be looking.

“Vacationers almost always use navigation apps to get to their destination as easily and as quickly as possible,” he continued.

Google owns WAZE, Mr. Lundgren explained, and they both use the same algorithms. They only show the fastest routes.

Short of widening N.C. 12, an idea that caused alarm among Southern Shores residents years ago when it was proposed, and persuading/coercing Duck into cooperating with Southern Shores in a manner it has never been inclined to do before, what can be done?

We look forward to hearing the consultants’ recommendations, its “approaches,” as they call them, which should be submitted by Feb. 12, according to Mr. Ogburn.


After the slide presentation, the Town Manager raised some very thoughtful questions about how to ensure that Teague’s recommendations are “not data-centered so much.” He asked about independent factors that are worthy of consideration in the consultant’s modeling, such as driver morale and the use of navigation apps.

Mr. Ogburn brought up adjusting the traffic light signals on N.C. 12; changing the check-in days for the rental companies; and prohibiting turns, such as the left turn on to South Dogwood Trail from U.S. Hwy. 158, asking whether Teague could “model” the effects any of these changes would have on traffic flow.

The consultant responded that assumptions can be made—such as a change in rental property change-over days and times, or traffic light signal times—to adjust the quantifiable data in a given traffic scenario, but it is difficult to introduce into the models non-quantifiable changes.

Mr. Ogburn basically asked whether recommendations could be based on something other than data and received a response of “not really.” 

Cut-through committee member David Watson also posed an intriguing question, asking: What if you eliminate the cut-through traffic, i.e., keep people on N.C. 12? Would the situation be any worse than it is now if drivers were prohibited from entering the residential neighborhoods?

“N.C. 12 can’t really get any worse than it is,” Mr. Thompsen replied.

Regardless of the volume of cut-through traffic, he said, there is “basically just a long queue” of vehicles, stretching from Duck to U.S. Hwy. 158, the Wright Memorial Bridge, and farther west.

Mr. Watson was one of three committee members who attended the meeting. The others were Vicky Green and Chairperson Tommy Karole.

Mayor Tom Bennett and Councilmen Leo Holland and Jim Conners attended the meeting, and Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey joined by Zoom, according to Mr. Ogburn.

Mr. Karole asked if his committee could meet remotely with the two consultants to share with them homeowners’ observations “in the trenches.”

Both Mr. Thompsen and Mr. Lundgren said they would welcome hearing from locals “on the ground.” Mr. Ogburn is expected to coordinate this session, which must be public. 

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 12/14/20

12/8/20: GOVERNOR ORDERS PEOPLE TO STAY HOME, SOME BUSINESSES TO CLOSE, BETWEEN 10 p.m. AND 5 a.m.; ON-SITE ALCOHOL SALES TO END AT 9 p.m. Plus Dare County Deceptively Improves to Yellow Tier of COVID-19 Risk.

“Dig deep and keep tapping into that North Carolina spirit to keep each other safe,” Governor Cooper urged.

Starting 5 p.m. Friday, North Carolinians must stay home and certain businesses and facilities must close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., pursuant to Governor Roy Cooper’s latest COVID-19-related executive order, which imposes “new actions to slow the rapid spread of the virus,” he said today at a briefing

New Executive Order 181 also further restricts alcohol sales for on-site consumption, requiring them to end at 9 p.m., two hours earlier than the current alcohol-sales “curfew” in effect. Resumption of such sales remains at 7 a.m.

The new restrictions, described as a “modified” Stay-at-Home order for citizens and a “night-time public closure period” for businesses and other venues, are being taken in order to curtail social gatherings, the Governor said, which are driving the recent spike in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations statewide.

“The later in the evening you go,” Governor Cooper explained in response to a reporter’s question about the rationale for what she called a curfew, “the larger these gatherings can be.” Further, with the drinking of alcohol and late-night socializing, “people get uninhibited,” he said, and less inclined to observe COVID-19 precautions. 

“[We are trying] to chip away at those times” of close and crowded social gatherings, the Governor said, by ordering people to stay home.

Workplace social events and functions, such as office holiday parties, are obvious targets of the night-time public closure period. In fact, the order specifically states that “events or convenings outside the home must end or pause no later than 10 p.m.”

“You should limit going out to just essential activities,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, who shared the podium.

The Governor cited Massachusetts and Ohio as having had “some success” with similar measures.

But he also cautioned that “We have other things that we can do. We have more tools . . . to fight the spread of the virus,” if these actions do not result in a reduction of the key COVID-19 metrics, all of which have “significantly increased,” according to Dr. Cohen.

Businesses that must close during the night-time public closure period include restaurants; bars and lounges; fitness centers; movie theaters; and entertainment venues, among others.

Capacity limits for restaurants, retail establishments, and other businesses, however, remain the same, as do the limits on permissible social gatherings indoors (10 people) and outdoors (50).

The executive order, which has a number of exceptions to the new rules, will expire at 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, unless it is rescinded, modified, or extended.

Chief among the exceptions is one that exempts retail businesses that sell groceries, medications, health-care supplies, and fuel. Restaurants, breweries, distilleries, and wineries also may continue take-out and delivery service after 10 p.m.

We refer you to the FAQs for Executive Order 181 for answers to any questions you may have: EO 181 FAQ (nc.gov)

The exceptions to the modified Stay-at-Home order include leaving during overnight hours to:

*Travel to or from a place of work;

*Perform work at a workplace when the worker’s presence is required by the worker’s employer;

*Travel for work purposes;

*Obtain food, medical care, fuel, or social services;

*Travel from a business that closed at or after 10 p.m.’

*Travel to a business that will open at 5 a.m.’

*Travel to take care of a family member, friend, or pet in another household;

*Travel to or from a religious service;

*Travel necessary for personal safety; and

*Travel into or out of the state.

You may view the entire Executive Order 181 at EO181-Modified-Stay-at-Home-Early-Closure-Order.pdf (nc.gov). It is quite unwieldy because it incorporates many sections from previous executive orders that remain in effect. 


“I am very worried,” Secretary Cohen said again today about COVID-19 conditions statewide, reiterating her comments in a statement issued Saturday and during another a briefing she held alone last week. “This virus is highly contagious and dangerous.”

The number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations statewide on a single day has doubled in a month, she noted, and record highs have been set for both metrics. Not only are COVID-19 hospitalizations at an all-time high, record numbers of people are in the state’s intensive care units for treatment, Dr. Cohen said.

“Hospitals are feeling the strain,” she said, “and this is worrisome.”

According to data cited by a reporter at the briefing, researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have concluded that the state’s “hospitals are six weeks away from being at [full patient] capacity.”

Last Saturday, 6,018 cases were reported in a 24-hour period by the NCDHHS; on Sunday, the number climbed to 6,438.

As of today, 2,373 people are hospitalized for COVID-19, a new record high, and 5,605 people have died as a result of the virus.

According to Dr. Cohen, the metrics are only going to get worse next week.  

“We have yet to see the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings,” she said. So far, the only Thanksgiving-related COVID-19 transmission numbers we are seeing, she said, are of “people who went to Thanksgiving already sick” and then infected others.

The Secretary strongly urged people to “avoid traveling and gathering this holiday season” and to keep their celebrations small and indoors.

“Do not wait until it’s you or your loved one” who is sick, she warned. “Act now. Do those three Ws now.”


Dr. Cohen also presented an updated COVID-19 county alert map of North Carolina, saying it “presents a sobering picture.” Unfortunately, the State’s picture of Dare County, which formerly was in the middle orange tier, is deceptive.

See COVID-19-County-Alert-System-Report.pdf (nc.gov)

Forty-right of the state’s 100 counties are now in the red tier, which signifies “critical” community spread of COVID-19—up from just 20 a month ago—and 34 are in the orange tier, a designation for “substantial” spread.

The remaining 18 counties, which now include Dare County, are in the yellow tier, which signifies “significant” community spread.

Based on COVID-19 data from Nov. 21 to Dec. 4, Dare County has a calculated 14-day case rate of 337.8 per 100,000 people and a 14-day positive rate of 7.5 percent.

COVID-19 continues to have a “low impact” on Dare County’s only hospital because COVID-19 patients in need of hospitalization are transported outside of the area.

The Outer Banks Hospital does not have an intensive care unit.

Any county that has more than 200 new COVID-19 cases in 14 days qualifies as a “red” or “critical” county, provided it also has a positive rate of more than 10 percent OR the impact of COVID-19 on its hospitals is “high.”

COVID-19 will never have an impact on the Outer Banks Hospital other than a low impact.

You cannot be intubated at a hospital that does not have a ventilator.

We also question the positivity rate. 

By our count, the DCDHHS reported 176 new cases from Nov. 21 to Dec. 4. We would like to know what population figure the State used to calculate Dare’s 14-day case rate. Regardless, the rate of 337.8 cases per 100,000 people puts the county in the red, but for its absence of adequate health care.

Since last Friday, the DCDHHS has reported 53 new COVID-19 cases, according to Director Sheila Davies’s update today. That includes 20 new cases reported today, 16 of whom are Dare County residents.

Five locals are currently being hospitalized for COVID-19, according to Dr. Davies—just  not in Dare.   

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 12/8/20