Forty-five people—39 residents and six staff workers—have been infected with COVID-19 in an outbreak at the Peak Resources nursing and rehabilitation facility in Nags Head, The Outer Banks Voice reported yesterday, saying it had confirmed the cases with the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services.

The Beacon has not seen a public accounting of this outbreak—or of any other possible nursing-home outbreak—on the DCDHHS website. But on Jan. 21 already, we observed “an unusual trend upward” in the number of COVID-19 cases reported by DCDHHS among people age 65 or older. (See The Beacon, 1/21/21.)

In her Jan. 19 COVID-19 update, Dr. Sheila Davies reported only that the recent rapid increase in Dare County-reported COVID-19 cases was being driven by “viral spread in the workplace from prolonged exposure between co-workers.”

She cited “meetings, lunch gatherings and shared working space” as places where workplace viral spread was occurring. She made no mention of COVID-19 cases in either of the two skilled nursing facilities in Dare County: Peak Resources and Spring Arbor in Kill Devil Hills.

Dr. Davies’s update a week later focused on Dare County’s reduced vaccine allocation from the State and was conspicuously absent of any individualized details about the new COVID-19 cases. She did not discuss COVID-19 transmission at all.

The DCDHHS Director also has conspicuously dropped her Friday COVID-19 updates. Surely these short reports can be prepared without much difficulty even when vaccination clinics are being conducted. The number of new cases daily has slowed since the holiday surge, but it is still too high.

On Jan. 21, The Beacon remarked upon the unusually high number of COVID-19 cases reported Jan. 18-21 by the DCDHHS among people 65 or older and quoted case percentages of the total.

On Jan. 20, for example, the DCDHHS reported 30 new COVID-19 cases, of which 13, or 43 percent, were in the 65-or-older age group, and 11 of them were Dare County residents.

This upward trend of COVID-19 infections occurring among the highest-risk age group has not abated, and now we know why.

As Dare County’s public-health director, Dr. Davies owes county residents an explanation about how the Peak Resources viral outbreak occurred and spread, as well as an assessment of its current containment, or lack thereof.

In light of the statewide problem with nursing home staff refusing to be vaccinated, we have a right to know if noncompliant staff may have caused or in any way contributed to the outbreak. What percentage of the total local skilled nursing facility work force has refused to be vaccinated?

In just the past four days, Dare County has reported 27 people age 65 or older as having tested positive for COVID-19, and 22 of them are locals. One of them, a man, was hospitalized. (A woman age 65 or older was reported hospitalized on Jan. 25.)

Yesterday nine people age 65 or older—43 percent of the total new cases for the day—were reported to have tested positive for COVID-19, and all of them are Dare County residents. 

We demand to know from Dr. Davies, who has never held a media briefing about COVID-19, what is going on in the county’s two congregate living facilities that supposedly care for our most vulnerable population.

We are a year into the coronavirus pandemic. How can an outbreak happen now?

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 1/30/21

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