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.

STAY HOME. CARRY OUT. GIVE EVERYONE A HAPPY NEW YEAR.

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

2 thoughts on “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.

  1. “You will not be able to go to your local pharmacy to be vaccinated against COVID-19.”
    Then where do you go to get it? The Outer Banks Hospital? Some other place? Do you just show up or do you make an appointment? Specific facts don’t seem to be available.

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    1. My understanding from the NCDHHS is that the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services will distribute the vaccine and it will be administered at to-be-determined locations, such as healthcare clinics and vaccination events. The specifics have not been published, but they will be once the time arrives for Group 1B to be vaccinated. If the vaccine turns out to be available through pharmacies, I will notify people immediately.

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