Teresa Osborne, a certified public accountant with the accounting firm of Dowdy & Osborne of Nags Head, will present her fiscal year 2019-20 audit of the Town of Southern Shores’ finances at the Oct. 6 Town Council meeting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center.
Also of interest on the meeting agenda, which was released yesterday, are a proposed resolution authorizing acquisition of oceanfront easements for the Town’s 2022 beach nourishment project and a budget amendment financing the acquisitions.
Dare County reported eight new COVID-19 cases yesterday, the highest single-day total since Aug. 25, when it reported 12. Five of the eight new cases are Dare County residents, according to the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services (DCDHHS) dashboard.
Yesterday’s DCDHHS dashboard also recorded that one of the two Dare County residents who had been hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19 has been upgraded to home isolation. Sixteen locals reportedly have active COVID-19 cases.
On the state level, Phase 2.5 of North Carolina’s reopening will expire at 5 p.m. Friday. Governor Roy Cooper has said that he will announce this week, most likely tomorrow, whether the State will continue relaxing COVID-19-related restrictions.
Last week the Governor announced that, effective Friday, large outdoor venues with a seating capacity of more than 10,000 people, including football stadiums, will be permitted to accommodate 7 percent capacity. (See The Beacon, 9/22/20.)
Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, also announced yesterday that, effective immediately, indoor visitations at long-term care facilities will be permitted, provided the facility has not had a COVID-19 outbreak in at least 14 days and it is located in a county with a positive COVID-19 test rate below 10 percent, which Dare County’s is.
Visitors must be screened for coronavirus symptoms and wear a face covering, according to Dr. Cohen’s requirements. They also must use hand sanitizer before and after each visit.
Dr. Sheila Davies, director of the DCDHHS, is expected to give an update later today about the 12 new COVID-19 cases that have been reported locally since last Friday.
Yesterday’s five new Dare County cases are three residents between the ages of 25 and 49 (two women, one man); one woman between the ages of 18 and 24, whose case was belatedly reported by the State; and one man between ages 50 and 64.
The three nonresidents are two women between the ages of 50 and 64 and a boy age 17 or younger.
On Saturday, the DCDHHS dashboard reported one Dare County woman, between ages 25 and 49, and three female nonresidents, two of them between ages 25-49 and one age 17 or younger, as having tested positive locally for COVID-19.
Eleven of the 12 reported new cases are in home isolation. The Dare County woman whose positive test result was reported by the State has already recovered.
The autumn bulk-waste collection will occur on Friday, Oct. 16, the Town of Southern Shores announced yesterday.
All acceptable items may be placed in the road right-of-way no earlier than Friday, Oct. 9, and must be out by 5 a.m. on Oct. 16, the Town said in a newsletter article that specified the type of bulk waste that has been approved for pickup.
The following commonly disposed of items are acceptable:
*Mattresses, sofas, chairs, and other furniture
*Hot tub covers, but not hot tubs
*Refrigerators, freezers, and any other appliances that may contain refrigerant, PROVIDED they are tagged that Freon has been removed; also all doors must be removed. (If these items are not tagged, they will not be picked up.)
*Yard waste and vegetative debris bagged in clear or brown paper bags
The following items are not acceptable and will be rejected with a visible X printed on them:
*Televisions (TVs may be taken to the Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center or Dare County C&D [Construction and Demolition] Landfill, at no charge)
*Hot tubs, water heaters (Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center or Dare County C&D Landfill, no charge)
*Basketball goal posts (requires $50 permit from the Town to be taken to the Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center; no charge at the landfill)
*Untagged refrigerators or any appliances containing refrigerant (may be taken to the Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center or the landfill, no charge)
*Hazardous materials, such as paints, chemicals (Dare County offers an annual collection, see below)
*Building materials, lumber, scrap lumber, roofing, doors, screens, windows, stairs, carpets, cabinets, toilets, pallets, demolition debris (requires $50 permit to be taken to the Kitty Hawk Recycling Center; landfill, no charge)
*Soil, rocks, concrete, stumps (Kitty Hawk Recycling Center and landfill, no charge)
*Tires, any items containing gasoline; tires must be removed from their rims (Kitty Hawk Recycling Center, maximum of four tires, no charge; or Dare County Public Works Compound in Manteo)
The Dare County Public Works Compound, Main Recycling Center, where you may take used tires and batteries, is located at 1018 Driftwood Drive, Manteo. It is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday. Closed Sunday.
The Beacon stopped blogging about the weekend cut-through traffic two weeks ago, even though it continues unabated, albeit at a lower volume.
We have observed a Post-Labor Day weekend cut-through “rush-hour” on both Saturday and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., times that are related to the 5 p.m. check-in time adopted for this year’s pandemic vacation season on the Outer Banks.
Please feel free to comment on The Beacon about the traffic, even though we are not. Thank you.
Since Wednesday, two female Dare County residents age 65 or older have been hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services dashboard, and a third local woman of similar age has tested positive and is in isolation.
People diagnosed locally with COVID-19 who require hospitalization seek in-patient medical care outside of Dare County.
One woman’s hospitalization was reported Wednesday by the DCDHHS along with three other COVID-19-positive tests of Dare County residents, whose ages ranged widely. (We will probe the others after Dr. Sheila Davies posts her Friday update.)
The DCDHHS’s report yesterday of the second local woman age 65+ having tested positive and being hospitalized for COVID-19 also included the report of a third local woman 65+ testing positive for the coronavirus. She is in home isolation.
These three women may be unrelated, but the unusual occurrence of their cases raises in our mind the possibility of a relationship among them, such as a shared residency.
On Sept. 17, the DCDHHS reported having received confirmation from Peak Resources of a COVID-19 outbreak at the Nags Head skilled nursing facility. The DCDHHS has said nothing more about these four cases since.
Peak Resources is what was once called in now-outdated parlance a nursing home; it is also a rehabilitation center. It has 126 beds, which were occupied two weeks ago, according to the DCDHHS, by only 72 residents.
The DCDHHS said that it was during the 14-day quarantine of a new resident to the long-term care facility—a quarantine that is required by N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services rules—that two residents and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
If you check Peak Resources’ COVID-19 update, as the DCDHHS advised the public to do for “further information,” you will find it singularly unhelpful. Peak Resources proposes to notify people of the “occurrences of:
*“Resident/Staff confirmed positive with COVID-19; OR
*“Resident/Staff—3 or more who have developed a new onset of respiratory symptoms within 72 hours of each other,”
and to update this information weekly. We do not understand what is meant by the “three or more” qualification, but we do know that in the chart it provides, Peak Resources does not give a cumulative total of COVID-19-positive cases at its Nags Head location, nor does it indicate the status or outcome of all of the cases among its residents and staff.
When we checked the Peak Resources’ “update” earlier this week, there were three COVID-19-positive cases among residents and staff at the Nags Head facility; yesterday and today there are only two.
Does this mean that one has recovered or that five have occurred in the past week?
When we checked on Sept. 17, there were also three COVID-19-positive cases, not four.
Such confusion should not exist. There is no excuse for obfuscation in a public-health crisis.
We hope Peak Resources management has honestly advised the residents and their families about the number of COVID-19 cases at the Nags Head facility and has been conscientious about testing both residents and staff and taking other safety precautions.
We look forward to learning some details from the DCDHHS later today about the three new cases involving age 65+ local women, two of whom needed to be hospitalized.
Earlier today the DCDHHS reported two more COVID-19 cases among Dare County residents, both of them men, one between the ages of 25 and 49 and the other between the ages of 50 and 64.
Since March, Dare County has experienced 286 positive-COVID-19 tests among residents and 243 among nonresidents, for a total of 529. There are currently 11 active cases among residents.
(UPDATE: According to the Friday update, none of the Dare County residents newly diagnosed with COVID-19 appears to be related to each other.
(Dr. Sheila Davies, director of the DCDHHS, reports that of the eight local residents who tested positive for COVID-19 since Tuesday, two of them separately acquired the virus by direct contact with a person whose positive test result was previously reported on the dashboard; one acquired the virus by direct contact with a person who tested positive outside of Dare County; and five are not connected. The source of the latter’s coronavirus infection is “unclear.”
(The Beacon continues to find the DCDHHS’s scant details about both the people who test positive in Dare County and how they presumably acquired the virus unsatisfactory public information.)
STATE HEALTH DEPT. NOW TRACKING ANTIGEN-POSITIVE CASES
Also today, the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services started reporting COVID-19 antigen-positive tests and deaths in the state population. According to the NCDHHS so far, antigen-positive cases make up 2 percent of all COVID-19 cases and antigen-positive deaths make up 0.7 percent of all COVID-19-associated deaths in North Carolina.
These new test and death figures are being incorporated into the NCDHHS dashboard.
Most COVID-19 tests are molecular (PCR) tests that, according to the NCCHHS, “look for the virus’s genetic material.” An antigen test, in contrast, “is a rapid test that looks for specific proteins on the surface of the virus.”
Molecular tests are processed in a laboratory, whereas antigen tests are often “processed at the point of care, such as in a health care provider’s office,” the NCDHHS explains.
We need to do more research on why North Carolina is joining 31 other states that already report antigen-positive cases in addition to cases identified through positive molecular test results. We will get back to you after we have studied up.
As of yesterday, 971,631 registered North Carolina voters—almost 14 percent of all registered voters in the state —had requested absentee ballots for the 2020 general election, according to the N.C. State Board of Elections, which updates online the number of requests daily.
With North Carolina being the first state in the nation to mail out absentee ballots—they started going out Sept. 4—the Nov. 3 election is well under way here, even though early voting does not begin until Oct. 15. (It runs through Oct. 31.)
Election analysts believe that at least half of the U.S. electorate will vote by mail or early in person because of voters’ reluctance to show up at crowded polling places in November and risk exposure to COVID-19.
There are 7,153,476 registered voters in North Carolina, according to the State Board of Elections, which is fulfilling requests for absentee ballots on a rolling basis—essentially, in the order in which they are received.
I returned my ballot on Monday and was able to ascertain on the “Ballot Trax” website that the U.S. Postal Service has sent it to the Dare County Board of Elections office. I will check back to ensure that the BOE has received and registered it.
Yesterday we reported that a Dare County resident, who had been hospitalized outside of the area, had died as a result of COVID-19 complications. We based our report on an update by the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services and indicated that it had provided scant information about this person.
Today, the DCDHHS reports that the individual was a man age 65 or older.
If this information was available yesterday, and we simply missed it, we apologize. Sometimes multi-tasking gets the better of us.
This gentleman is the third Dare County resident whose death has been attributed to COVID-19. A fourth resident who was hospitalized with COVID-19 was determined to have died from a non-coronavirus-related cause.
All of the people who have died have been men in the older age group.
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Late Wednesday, the DCDHHS updated its dashboard to show that four more Dare County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, including a woman age 65+ who has been hospitalized. The Beacon is always concerned when a person is ill enough with the coronavirus to be hospitalized, but this uptick also concerns us because, frankly, it should not be happening if people are observing safe practices. The four people may be members of the same family: They are a woman between the ages of 18 and 24; a woman ages 25-49; and a man, ages 50-64; as well as the older woman who has been hospitalized. We will report further on this uptick after Dr. Sheila Davies posts her Friday update.
A new $40 million relief fund announced yesterday by Governor Roy Cooper enables some small businesses that were closed from April through August because of COVID-19 to apply for assistance with fixed costs that they paid, such as rent and utilities.
The new N.C. Mortgage, Utility, and Rent Relief (MURR) program unveiled by the Governor offers eligible businesses up to $20,000 per business location for rent or mortgage interest and utility costs that they paid when they were closed between April 1, 2020 and Aug. 31, 2020.
Businesses must have paid these costs, and have evidence that they did, in order to receive relief payments, according to a description of the MURR program on the N.C. Dept. of Commerce website. Applications for MURR assistance, which is being administered by the N.C. DOC, may be submitted starting next week and will be evaluated on a first come, first serve basis.
Applicants will be limited to relief for two business locations, or a maximum of $40,000, according to the DOC website. To apply, a business must have fewer than 50 employees at a business location.
The following businesses are eligible to apply for MURR funds:
*Banquet halls with catering staff
*Bars, taverns, night clubs, cocktail lounges
*Indoor fitness and recreation centers
*Indoor movie theaters
Nonprofits are not eligible for assistance.
If you would like to apply, you will need to produce a recent federal tax return with the page showing your NAICS code assignment; your lease or mortgage agreement; and evidence of your payment of rent or of mortgage interest and your payment of utility (electricity, natural gas, water, sewer, telephone and internet service) expenses.
A third Dare County resident has died from complications associated with COVID-19, according to the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services, which reported today that it had received “notification” that a local person hospitalized outside of the area had died.
It is unclear if the DCDHHS dashboard ever recorded this person’s hospitalization: The last time the dashboard reported the hospitalization of a Dare County resident was Sept. 18, when a man who had been hospitalized for COVID-19 outside of the area allegedly died from other causes. (See The Beacon, 9/19/20.)
The only other details the DCDHHS made public today about the death were that the person was symptomatic and he or she “acquired the virus” by unclear means.
Since DCDHHS’s COVID-19 update Friday, 10 new cases have been reported, seven of whom are residents, including the person who died. Of the remaining six:
*One pair of family members acquired the virus by direct contact with an infected person outside of Dare County;
*Another pair of family members acquired the virus while traveling outside of Dare County;
*One person acquired the virus by unclear means; and
*The sixth was a late report of an individual who tested positive outside of Dare County and has fully recovered .
The three non-resident cases are unrelated, but all reportedly are symptomatic and acquired the virus by direct contact with individuals who tested positive outside of Dare County.
FOOTBALL PARENTS, FANS GAIN ENTRY TO GAMES
Governor Roy Cooper announced today that, effective Oct. 2, when Safer at Home Phase 2.5 is scheduled to expire, he will allow a 7 percent-capacity crowd for large outdoor venues with a seating capacity of more than 10,000 people, including football stadiums.
The limited capacity will apply to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, concert and theater arenas, ballparks, and any other outdoor venue that holds 10,000+ spectators, provided it has seats. It will not apply to public parks.
Under the current executive order, outdoor mass gatherings are limited to 50 people, and indoor mass gatherings to 25. Prevailing scientific opinion is that outdoor events are safer than indoor activities.
“We share this news today,” the Governor said in a news conference, “so those outdoor venues with seating capacity of more than 10,000 can begin preparations that are key to safely reopening their doors,” including ensuring that spectators are socially distanced.
Mr. Cooper also spoke about arenas having “separate entrances” and managing spectators so that they congregate and sit only with others in their own households.
More changes to the public-health restrictions in place could be announced early next week, the Governor said.
Last week Governor Cooper permitted elementary school children to return to full-time, in-person instruction in October, if their school districts choose to do so.
The Governor has been under pressure this month from parents of college football players who would like to be allowed inside stadiums to watch their sons play. Until last weekend’s games, Cooper had denied all such requests; but on Sept. 18 the Governor’s Office permitted 450 tickets to be given out at the N.C. State home game against Wake Forest.
Every N.C. State player received two tickets, and the Wake Forest team received 100. State came out on top of an offensive battle, 45-42.
The number of new COVID-19 cases daily across North Carolina remains stable around 1,000 to 1,400, and daily hospitalizations continue to be between roughly 800 and 900. The positivity rate is reportedly hovering around 5 percent, which is the target goal.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, said today that she would like to see a decline in new cases.
“We have to keep working . . . ,” she said, “to make further progress.”
Today’s NCDHHS dashboard reports a total of 195,549 positive results for COVID-19 since March out of 2,824,929 tests completed; 905 hospitalizations, and 3,286 deaths.
Today’s Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services’ dashboard reports 520 total COVID-19 positive cases, of which 278 are Dare County residents and 242 are nonresidents. There currently are eight active cases of COVID-19 in Dare County, all of whom are in home isolation.
The number of new COVID-19 cases in Dare County has trended downward this month, compared with cases reported in July and August. The virus is being transmitted predominantly by direct or close contact with an infected individual.
A local man recently hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19 has died, according to a report yesterday by the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services, which has classified the fatality as a non-COVID death.
Although the DCDHHS report gives no identifying details about the person who died, other than that he was hospitalized, it is clear from data posted online that he was a Dare County resident who was age 65 or older.
Based on the skimpy public-health data provided by DCDHHS, we surmise that the deceased person was a resident of Peak Resources, the long-term care facility in Nags Head that recently confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19. (See The Beacon, 9/17/20.)
In its announcement of the man’s death, the DCDHHS cited the State of North Carolina’s COVID-19 “Associated Death Case Definition” to the effect that a COVID-19-associated death, for surveillance purposes, is one “resulting from a clinically compatible illness that was confirmed to be COVID-19 by an appropriate laboratory test.”
There must be “no period of complete recovery between the date of COVID-19 diagnosis and the date of death,” it states.
Further quoting the associated death case definition, the report says that a death should not be reported as a COVID-19 death if any of the following are true:
“There is no laboratory or other diagnostic confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 virus infection.
“Novel coronavirus illness is followed by full recovery to baseline health status prior to death.
“After review and consultation there is an alternative agreed upon cause of death.”
It is often the case that people who die from COVID-19 have co-morbidities, which are pre-existing pathological or disease processes unrelated to COVID-19, such as diabetes and heart or lung disease.
It seems to us that if the deceased man would not have been hospitalized BUT FOR his COVID-19 infection and would not have died last week BUT FOR that infection that his death was COVID-19-associated. But we know law better than we know pathology.
In any case, we find the language of the third exception about an “alternative agreed upon cause of death” to be so vague, imprecise, and discretionary as to be easily subject to abuse.
There currently are eight active COVID-19 cases among Dare County residents, all of whom are in isolation.
SOME GOOD NEWS . . . MASKS THWART FLU TRANSMISSION, TOO.
Southern Hemisphere countries, which experience the annual influenza season earlier than Northern Hemisphere countries, such as the United States, have reported a mild 2020 flu season, which is just wrapping up now.
The flu season starts in the Southern Hemisphere in May and peaks in July and August, when countries there experience the height of their winter. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Southern Hemisphere public-health authorities this year have reported the least number of flu cases in “recent memory.”
“They almost . . . call it an absent flu season,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said Thursday. “They’re not sure why this is the case, but the evidence strongly suggests that all the precautions they were taking to avoid COVID during their winter—namely masks, physical separation, avoiding crowds, washing hands—very well may have averted a flu season.”
The experience of Southern Hemisphere countries has long served as a preview of the influenza season that Northern Hemisphere countries can expect. Among other benefits, it enables vaccine manufacturers to target prevalent strains of influenza.
Dr. Fauci has warned previously of a “double whammy” in the United States of flu on top of COVID-19—but this may not turn out to be the case.
Naturally, the infectious disease specialist cautioned Americans not to let the encouraging news from the Southern Hemisphere lull them into complacency. He urged people to get a flu vaccine and to continue wearing their facial coverings, practicing physical distancing, and washing their hands.
Business owners and other employers in Dare County were urged today by County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard to respond to a survey about their employees’ housing needs as part of a joint venture with the Development Finance Initiative (DFI) at the University of North Carolina’s School of Government.
Dare County has “engaged a development finance initiative” at UNC-CH’s SOG, Mr. Woodard said in a videotaped message that also addressed COVID-19 and other local issues, “to identify opportunities for new housing development.”
This action was taken, the Chairman said, in response to concerns expressed “for years” by local business owners and employers that their workers cannot find “suitable housing” on the Dare Outer Banks.
“More diverse residential opportunities are needed to support business,” he said.
The Development Finance Initiative at the SOG assists local governments with attracting private investment to communities that have struggled on their own to realize their economic development potential. These governments are often in small towns or rural areas that are considered economically distressed—which Dare County is not—according to DFI’s website. See https://dfi.sog.unc.edu/
As part of the development initiative process, DFI must gather “information about the specific housing needs of our workforce,” Mr. Woodard said.
The housing survey is available online at darenc.com/employerhousingsurvey. It has about 20 questions and is estimated to take about 10 minutes.
In other news, Mr. Woodard announced that work has begun “to make way for the new COA campus” on U.S. 64 in Manteo. The campus will be located on the site of the former Manteo middle and high school buildings and grounds.