3/17/21: DARE COUNTY EXCEEDS 20 NEW COVID-19 CASES FOR FIRST TIME IN SIX WEEKS; GOVERNOR WARNS OF ‘MORE CONTAGIOUS VARIANTS’ IN N.C. THAT CAN ‘MAKE US SICKER,’ WHILE FOCUSING ON VACCINES.

The Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services reported 22 new COVID-19 cases today, the first time since Feb. 2 that the county’s single-day new-case total has exceeded 20. Local residents accounted for 15 of the new cases.

At a COVID-19 update briefing today, Governor Roy Cooper described North Carolina’s COVID-19 metrics, including single-day case reports, as “low and stable” and “improving,” but he warned that “While our trends look good, we’re keeping a watchful and concerned eye on the more contagious COVID-19 variants we are seeing increasing in our state.

“Health experts tell us,” the Governor said, “that these variants spread more easily and can even make us sicker.”

Although the DCDHHS announced yesterday that it is moving into Group 5 in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout—accepting registrations from anyone age 16 or older who would like to be vaccinated—the Governor did not announce today an acceleration of vaccine eligibility statewide.

North Carolina is still in Phase or Group 4, which the Governor divided into two groups last week when he announced that people ages 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions and those of the same age who are in close congregate living settings, such as prisons, are eligible for vaccination as of today. All others in Group 4 will become eligible as of April 7. See The Beacon, 3/12/21.

The breakdown of today’s 22 new cases on the DCDHHS dashboard shows that three are people age 17 or younger; four are between the ages of 18 and 24; six are ages 25 to 49; and nine are ages 50-64. All are in home isolation. The seven nonresidents have been transferred into isolation outside of Dare County. 

Currently, there are no Dare County residents hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the dashboard.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, said at today’s briefing that fewer people are getting tested now for COVID-19, which may account in part for a current “plateauing” of case reports in the state. Dr. Cohen urged people to get tested if they have COVID-19 symptoms—even if they are fully vaccinated.

Both Dr. Cohen and Governor Cooper stressed keeping up virus-transmission prevention efforts, such as wearing a mask and observing six-foot distancing.

“We’ll continue emphasizing prevention,” the Governor said, “even as we focus our priority on distributing vaccines in a way that’s fast and fair.”

Statewide, according to the Governor, 3.4 million people age 18 or older—or 25.7 percent of North Carolina’s adult population—have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 1.2 million people, or 16.5 percent of the adult population, are fully vaccinated.

“That’s fast,” he said of these vaccination numbers.   

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/17/21

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