1/11/21: TOWN COUNCIL SETS JAN. 19 MORNING WORKSHOP FOR IMPORTANT UPDATE ON BEACH NOURISHMENT PROJECT DESIGN AND COST, MSD BOUNDARIES. Plus a Report on COVID-19 Super Strains.

The Southern Shores oceanfront in the wintertime.

Consultant Ken Willson of Coastal Protection Engineering of North Carolina (CPE-NC) will discuss the results of his firm’s recent Southern Shores beach survey/monitoring and give a briefing on the design and cost of the Town’s planned 2022 beach nourishment project at a Town Council workshop meeting Jan. 19 at 9 a.m. in the Pitts Center.

The meeting agenda also shows that the Town Council will discuss the boundaries of proposed municipal service districts that would be drawn for the purpose of imposing a higher tax burden on some Southern Shores property owners than on others for beach nourishment.

For the agenda, see Town of Southern Shores (southernshores-nc.gov)

For a report about Dare County’s financial contribution to the Southern Shores project, as well as to other towns’ projects, and proactive suggestions by the Nags Head Board of Commissioners for identifying other sources of beach nourishment funding than just the County and local property taxpayers, see The Beacon, 1/10/21.

The Beacon is taking a week off and will resume publication on Monday, Jan. 18, at which time we will report on information in the Council’s Jan. 19 meeting packet.

Jan. 18 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday.

The following two town meetings are also scheduled to be held in the Pitts Center next week:

Tues., Jan. 19, TOWN PLANNING BOARD MEETING, 5:30 p.m.

The Planning Board, which has not met for months, will begin its final review of consultant CodeWright’s rewrite/update of the Southern Shores Town Code. According to the Town’s meeting notice, the five-member Board will review the following revised Town Code chapters: ch. 4, definitions; ch. 22, zoning; ch. 26, subdivisions; and ch. 28, flood damage prevention.

Thurs., Jan. 21, TOWN STREETS COMMITTEE, 2 p.m.

The Streets Committee, formerly known as the Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning (CIIP) Committee, has not released a meeting agenda. The committee is co-chaired by Town Councilmen Matt Neal and Jim Conners.

All three of the meetings next week are open to the public, subject to COVID-19 safety protocols, but only the Town Council meeting will be live-streamed on You Tube.

See https://www.youtube.com/user/TownofSouthernShores.

The Town Council will hear public comments, which may be presented in person or submitted by email in advance to info@southernshores-nc.gov. Please indicate “public comments” in your subject line.

The Planning Board and Streets Committee also may hear public comments, but neither is required by formal rule or policy to do so.

COVID-19 ROUNDUP: SUPER STRAINS AT THE U.S. GATES

We promised a roundup on COVID-19 today before our break, but we have little local and state news to report.

Both the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services and the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services reported lower numbers of new COVID-19 today than in the past week—which is in line with Monday trends.

The results of COVID-19 tests are ready within 24 hours, and Monday dashboard reports are usually the lowest of the week.

After reporting a record-high 75 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, the Dare County DHHS reported just 11 cases today, 10 residents and one nonresident.

The NCDHHS reported 5,936 new COVID-19 cases today—two days after reporting a record-high 11,581 cases—and 3,843 hospitalizations, an increase of 69 over yesterday.

Eleven more people in North Carolina died of COVID-19 during the most recent 24-hour period, bringing total fatalities to 7,578. 

Because the coronavirus has infected so many millions of people around the world, it has had more opportunity to mutate, and it is adapting to become better at infecting people. It has seized a competitive advantage, you might say.

No doubt you have read about the new “super strains” that are reportedly 50 percent more infectious than the first variant of the Sars-CoV-2 virus.

According to www.webmd.com and other news sources, the super strain from the United Kingdom is already in the United States, and the highly contagious strain from South Africa could be on its way.

The so-called U.K. variant has been detected in Colorado, California, Georgia, New York, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health projected last week that as the new strains “take hold in the United States,” according to WebMD, “they could cause an additional 10 million new infections by the end of February and as many as 150,000 more deaths.”

See New COVID ‘Super Strains’ Could Disrupt Life Again (webmd.com)

Viruses mutate all of the time, but that does not necessarily mean that they become more harmful. Because of its pervasiveness, however, experts believe the first SARS-CoV-2 virus variant mutated in order to outperform other viruses around it.

Both the U.K. strain and the South Africa super strain have the same mutation on their spike proteins, but each strain developed the mutation independently, according to scientific reports.

The spike proteins on the virus attach to ACE2 receptors on human cells in order to cause infection. This receptor is the virus’s portal or door, if you will, into the body.

ACE2 stands for angiotensin-converting enzyme, and the receptors are essentially proteins on the surfaces of many cell types, including those in the lungs and heart.

The coronavirus’s increased potency is a good reason for stricter measures to control its spread, such as those cited in NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen’s recent Secretarial Directive, which stresses staying at home except for essential activities, limiting contact with people outside of one’s household, and always wearing a mask indoors when in the presence of people outside of one’s household.

From what we read, experts believe that the approved COVID-19 vaccines will work against the super strains, but pharmaceutical companies are running clinical tests now to make sure. Preliminary results are encouraging.

The vaccines will not help, however, if they are not made more widely available, more quickly.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control COVID Data Tracker, North Carolina had received as of Jan. 11 820,825 doses of vaccine, but only 211,572 first doses had been administered to people. See CDC COVID Data Tracker

The NCDHHS vaccine dashboard shows 151,902 first doses having been administered to people as of Jan. 8, with 9,115 people having received both doses. The dashboard reports 946 first doses having been given in Dare County. The DCDHHS held another vaccination event yesterday in Kill Devil Hills whose numbers would not be included in this accounting.

We also remain interested in the health status of people infected with COVID-19 who are “long haulers,” i.e., people who experience symptoms weeks or months after they have “recovered.”

The most common long-COVID symptoms are reportedly extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, and cognitive confusion (“brain fog”).

Some major institutions nationwide, including Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Massachusetts General Hospital, have established COVID-19 survivors clinics to study long haulers and to treat them.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 1/11/21; updated, 1/12/21  

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