1/6/21: POLICE SEEK LEADS ON CHICAHAUK DEER SLAYER; Plus Vaccination Delays, An Upcoming COVID-19 Briefing, and An Inaudible Livestream of Town Council Meeting.

The deer blend into the landscape along Holly Trail on a recent Sunday morning.

The Southern Shores police are seeking the public’s help with identifying the person(s) who illegally killed a deer with an arrow in Chicahauk last weekend.

In a release to local media, the police said that the deer was found dead about 9:30 a.m. Saturday near the turtle pond between 62 Spindrift Trail in Chicahauk and 61 Ocean Blvd. It did not report any further details of what was described on Nextdoor.com two days ago by a Chicahauk homeowner as an apparent poaching.

The news of the deer’s slaying first appeared on Nextdoor when a Chicahauk homeowner reported that a buck had been killed with an arrow and decapitated, presumably for his antlers. The homeowner said that a child discovered the buck’s remains.

This same homeowner reported hearing what she thought was gunfire in the area during the preceding days.

Hunting is not permitted in Southern Shores, and the “shooting or discharging” of arrows in town is specifically prohibited by Town Code sec. 22-5. The offense is a Class 3 misdemeanor.

If you have any information about the misguided and potentially dangerous person or persons who committed this soulless act, please contact the Southern Shores Police Dept. at (252) 261-331.

DELAY, AS EXPECTED; VACCINE REGISTRATION UPDATE: We have heard from another Southern Shores homeowner that when she went through the online vaccination registration last night, she received the following response upon submission of her form:

“Due to an overwhelming response, it will take time for our staff to call you back. It will likely be mid to late February before we are able to accommodate everyone in this phase, as vaccine supply is very limited. Please be patient as we work to provide you an appointment for your vaccine.”

The Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services reported yesterday afternoon that it did not anticipate registering people in Group 2 of Phase 1B—the next group of vaccine recipients prioritized in Phase 1B after people age 75 or older—until the “beginning of February.” It would now appear that this was an optimistic assessment.

As we have previously reported, the holdup with vaccinations is the amount of vaccine that the State of North Carolina receives from the U.S. government each week. The problem of limited supply does not originate with the State; it originates in Washington.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, said at the last COVID-19 briefing in Raleigh that the State can count on receiving 60,000 doses of each vaccine weekly “going forward.” Needless to say, this is a grossly inadequate supply for a state as populous as North Carolina.

Governor Roy Cooper and Secretary Cohen are scheduled to hold another COVID-19 briefing today at 2 p.m., which may be viewed on UNC-TV channel 3 or via livestream at https://www.unctv.org/watch/live-stream/eoc/.

Secretary Cohen receives word from the federal government of the State’s weekly supply of vaccine each Tuesday. Perhaps she will have encouraging news.

INAUDIBLE LIVESTREAM OF TOWN COUNCIL MEETING: We would like to report to you today what Dare County Manager/Attorney Bobby Outten said at last evening’s Town Council meeting about County funding for the Town’s 2022 beach nourishment project, but we were unable to hear him well enough on the meeting livestream to do so. A persistent hum drowned his voice. We can say only that Mr. Outten spoke at some length.

None of the speakers at the meeting, which lasted about an hour and 20 minutes, were clearly audible on the livestream we accessed. We checked the videotape this morning and encountered the same problems. If anyone has better success with the Town’s You Tube video of the meeting, please let us know. 

We will try to catch up with Town Council news by speaking with Town Manager Cliff Ogburn as soon as possible. Please check back on Friday or Saturday.

Because of the COVID-19 vaccination reporting we did yesterday, we were unable to attend the meeting in person, but we will endeavor to do so in the future. The next Town Council session will be Jan. 19 at 9 a.m. in the Pitts Center.  

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 1/6/21

1/5/21: DARE ‘FRONTLINE ESSENTIAL WORKERS’ AGE 50 OR OLDER NOT EXPECTED TO BE ABLE TO REGISTER FOR VACCINE UNTIL EARLY FEBRUARY, DCDHHS SAYS IN UPDATE.

Frontline essential workers in Group 2 of Phase 1B of North Carolina’s vaccine rollout should not expect to be able to register for vaccine appointments until “the beginning of February,” the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services said today in its Tuesday COVID-19 update.

The DCDHHS calculated that based on Dare County’s anticipated supply of vaccine and the number of people age 75 or older who will register for vaccine appointments, vaccinations of Group 1 of Phase 1B will take about a month.

Frontline essential workers prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Group 2 must be age 50 or older. They include first responders, such as firefighters and police officers; corrections officers; food and agricultural workers; U.S. Postal Service workers; manufacturing, grocery store, and public transit workers; and educational and child-care workers, including teachers, support staff, and day-care workers.

Phase 1B also has a third group that consists of healthcare workers not vaccinated during Phase 1A and frontline essential workers of any age.

The DCDHHS also reported 27 new COVID-19 cases today, 20 of whom are Dare County residents.

During the past week, 14.9 percent of the COVID-19 diagnostic tests done locally were positive, according to the update, which gave no further details about the Dare County resident whose death was reported yesterday. 

The Beacon, 1/5/21

1/5/21: AN UPDATE ON VACCINE REGISTRATION FROM SOUTHERN SHORES HOMEOWNERS WHO GOT THROUGH TO CALL CENTER.

Photo provided by BioNTech, the German company that worked with Pfizer to produce the COVID-19 vaccine first approved for emergency use by the FDA. The Dare County health department is administering the Moderna vaccine. Both vaccines require two doses for efficacy.

A Southern Shores homeowner informed us this morning that she and her husband registered today for the last vaccination appointments scheduled tomorrow at the Thomas A Baum Senior Center in Kill Devil Hills.

They just got lucky, placing two 8:30 a.m. calls to the Dare County COVID-19 Call Center, and getting through to a real person on the second call. Their appointment is for 3:45 p.m. tomorrow.

Subsequent to this Southern Shores homeowner’s success, another homeowner in our town called the Call Center and also got through to a real person, who informed her that the Call Center is no longer making vaccination appointments by telephone, only through online registration.

This homeowner reports that the Call Center worker advised her that people who register online will be contacted according to the time that they registered, essentially on a first-come/first-serve basis.

As we reported earlier today, the URL link for vaccination registration is www.darenc.com/register4vaccine.

Only people who are age 75 or older–and, therefore, in Group One of Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout–may register now. People who are in Phase 1B, but in a lower-ranked group, are not eligible for vaccination yet. (See The Beacon, 1/2/21, for the groups in all four prioritization phases of North Carolina’s vaccine rollout.)

After you submit your registration form, you should see a notation at the top of the page informing you that your submission has been successful.

The Beacon has decided not to identify either of these homeowners out of concern for their privacy. The first homeowner, who will be vaccinated tomorrow with her husband, has agreed to be interviewed by The Beacon about the process. Please check back tomorrow to read about their experience.

THE NUMBER OF COVID-19-RELATED HOSPITALIZATIONS AND DEATHS ACROSS THE STATE CONTINUE TO RISE. The N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services reported today 3,781 hospitalizations, a new record, and a total of 6,996 deaths.

In the past three days, the number of new COVID-19 cases statewide has ranged from 5,187 to 6,487. The positivity rate was above 16 percent yesterday and is again today.

The issue of concern with the number of hospitalizations, Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the NCDHHS, has explained, is not the number of hospital beds available, but the number of physicians and nurses available to treat COVID-19 patients. The worry is a shortage of medical staff, not beds.

The Beacon, 1/5/21

1/5/21: DARE OFFERS ONLINE REGISTRATION TO VACCINE RECIPIENTS AGE 75+.

The Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services is now registering North Carolina residents and property owners age 75 or older for COVID-19 vaccination online, rather than requiring people to call the Call Center and repeatedly receive a busy signal.

This is a step in the right direction.

For online registration, go to www.darenc.com/register4vaccine.

After you register, a Call Center employee will call you back with a vaccine appointment date and time “as vaccine is available,” according to the registration form.

As The Beacon has reported previously—including in yesterday’s coverage—Dare County has a limited supply of the Moderna vaccine that it has been administering. The DCDHHS has declined to inform the public about just how many vaccine doses it has or can anticipate having for Phase 1B, Group One, which includes people who are age 75 or older.

We also would note that anyone who is vaccinated must be observed for at least 15 minutes by medical personnel to ensure that he/she does not have an adverse reaction.

Rare instances of anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction, have been reported among COVID-19 vaccine recipients. Anaphylaxis can be successfully treated with an injection of epinephrine (aka adrenaline).   

A reminder: The second dose of the Moderna vaccine must be given 28 days after the first.

The Beacon, 1/5/21

1/4/21: SIXTH DARE COUNTY RESIDENT DIES OF COVID-19.

Another Dare County resident has died of COVID-19, according to today’s Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services dashboard update, bringing the total number of local deaths attributable to the coronavirus to six.

The DCDHHS’s report does not provided any particular details about the person who died. One could surmise that he/she had been hospitalized because the number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations of Dare County residents reported on the dashboard has declined by two since yesterday.

The DCDHHS is inconsistent in its updating of hospitalizations, however. Yesterday, the dashboard showed 12 Dare County residents hospitalized, and today, it shows only 10.

Today’s update also includes the report of a male Dare County resident between the ages of 25 and 49 who has been hospitalized for COVID-19. The man is one of only six new cases—five of them residents—reported by the DCDHHS today.

In contrast, the DCDHHS reported 37 new COVID-19 cases yesterday; 73 new cases on Saturday; and 52 new cases on New Year’s Day.

The Beacon is saddened by the loss of another person’s life. We wish his/her loved ones comfort and kindness from others during their grief.

The Beacon, 1/4/21

1/4/21: DARE OPENS VACCINE REGISTRATION TO PEOPLE AGE 75 AND OLDER; ONLY THREE CLINICS SCHEDULED IN NEXT 2 WEEKS. DCDHHS Info Is Lacking.

North Carolina residents and property owners age 75 or older may register now to receive a first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at one of three Dare County vaccination clinics in the next two weeks, according to a news bulletin posted this afternoon on the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services’ website.

To be effective, a second dose of Moderna vaccine must be administered 28 days after the first. The State of North Carolina has not yet received second doses of the vaccine, according to Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, who spoke at a briefing in Raleigh last week. (Vaccine shipments arrive on Tuesdays, she said. Distributions are made on Fridays.)

See the DCDHHS bulletin at DCDHHS COVID-19 Update #73 | Monday, January 4, 2020 | COVID-19 Bulletins & News | Dare County, NC (darenc.com).

The vaccination clinics will be held Wed., Jan. 6, at the Thomas A. Baum Senior Center, 300 S. Mustian St., in Kill Devil Hills; Mon., Jan. 11, at the Dare County Parks and Recreation Center, 602 S. Mustian St., in Kill Devil Hills; and Sat., Jan. 16, at the Fessenden Center, N.C. Hwy. 12, in Buxton.  

“Vaccine clinics will be offered on an ongoing basis,” the DCDHHS bulletin states, “based on our weekly allocation of the vaccine from the state.

“We are currently only receiving a very limited number of doses each week. Please be patient and understand that it will take time to provide everyone the vaccine who wishes to receive it.”

As The Beacon recently reported, Dr. Cohen said at the briefing that the State is currently receiving weekly 60,000 doses each of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

That means that Dare County will be receiving its “limited” weekly allocation from just 60,000 doses. According to Dr. Cohen, there are 2 million people age 75 or older residing in North Carolina.

To register for a clinic appointment, you must call the COVID-19 Call Center at (252) 475-5008, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be no walk-in appointments.

You will need to produce documentary proof of North Carolina residency or property ownership, which may include your driver’s license, your copy of a current lease or mortgage, your current vehicle registration, or your current tax record, according to the bulletin.

The DCDHHS’s bulletin does not restrict registration to Dare County residents and property owners, referring instead to N.C. residents and property owners. Why?

To be eligible for registration, you also cannot have been vaccinated for any other reason within 14 days before your scheduled COVID-19 vaccine and cannot have been in direct contact with anyone who has had the virus in the past 14 days or have been infected yourself in the past 14 days.

We do not know how many people age 75+ live in Dare County and nearby counties, but we would suspect you will encounter a major problem with getting through to the Call Center to register for the free vaccine. The bulletin says only that the DCDHHS is “expecting a high call volume, so please keep trying if you do not get an answer right away.”

The Beacon finds both the DCDHHS’s bulletin and its plan of action grossly lacking.

First, we would like to be told how many vaccine doses the DCDHHS is currently receiving from the State and can expect to receive in Phase 1B. This seems to us to be a matter of fundamental public information that public-health officials—if not the Dare County Board of Commissioners—should provide.

The DCDHHS also should have explained in its bulletin the steps in the vaccination process, not just the registration process.

Exactly how will people age 75 or older–many of whom may be frail or non-ambulatory–be vaccinated? Will they be able to wait in their vehicles for a nurse to come to them to administer their injections? Precisely what physical demands will be made upon them?

Further: What hours will the clinics be held? How much in advance will people have to arrive for their appointments? How many people can be vaccinated at each clinic in a given hour?

We could go on.

The scheduling of a clinic this Wednesday (!) in what is essentially “downtown” Outer Banks virtually guarantees a telephone logjam. We wonder if the DCDHHS thought to prioritize the administration of these vaccinations, starting with the “oldest old” and progressing from there?

Surely, there is a more efficient, rational, and less frustrating way of administering vaccinations to the members of Group One of Phase 1B than as a first-come/first-serve free-for-all. A lottery system strikes us as more fair and equitable than the system implemented. 

Good luck, everyone. The Beacon is not going to be calling the DCDHHS any time soon. We would appreciate hearing from anyone who is able to register for an appointment about the directions they receive from the Call Center. We would love to learn that our skepticism is not warranted.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 1/4/21

1/4/20: DARE MANAGER BOBBY OUTTEN EXPECTED (FINALLY) TO QUOTE A FIGURE FOR COUNTY’S FUNDING CONTRIBUTION TO TOWN’S BEACH NOURISHMENT PROJECT.

Dare County Manager/Attorney Bobby Outten is expected to inform the Town Council at its meeting tomorrow how much of a financial contribution the Town will receive from the County’s Beach Nourishment Occupancy Tax Fund for its 2022 beach nourishment project.

The Town Council will meet tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center. Anyone wishing to attend the meeting in person must observe infection-control protocols, including wearing a facial covering. The meeting will be live-streamed at Southern Shores – YouTube.

Dare County sets aside one-third of the 6-percent occupancy taxes that it collects from rentals of all local lodging accommodations for its Beach Nourishment Fund (BNF).

All of the Dare County towns that have performed beach nourishment thus far have received monies from the BNF.

Town Manager Cliff Ogburn estimated in an email to The Beacon last week that the County will allocate to Southern Shores about “$7 million upfront with a yearly contribution to the debt service [of] around $750,000 a year.” 

Mr. Outten, a Chicahauk resident who is expected to appear at the meeting in person, will “share with the Council how the money in the County [BNF] is going to be allocated for each [Dare County beach] town,” Mr. Ogburn said.

In addition to Southern Shores, the unincorporated community of Avon on Hatteras Island has submitted a first-time beach nourishment proposal to Dare County. The towns of Duck, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, and Nags Head also are seeking funds for their upcoming re-nourishment projects.

“It looks like the [County’s] plan is to reduce [its] contribution to each town’s project by the amounts of . . . recent grant awards” by the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality, Mr. Ogburn explained.

Southern Shores, Nags Head, and Kitty Hawk each received $1,408,247.19 from the State, while Duck and Kill Devil Hills received $1,450,921.35.

Mr. Ogburn confirmed that Southern Shores does not yet know how much its 2022 project will cost because engineers with Coastal Protection Engineering of North Carolina (CPE) have not told the Town “the amount of cubic yards of sand we need.”

He is anticipating a $14 million to $16 million project.

CPE, formerly known as APTIM Coastal Planning and Engineering of North Carolina, is the Wilmington-based engineering firm that the Town has hired to handle all aspects of its 2022 project.

“Right now,” Mr. Ogburn said, “I’m still figuring on the MSD [municipal service district] and townwide revenue needing to generate about $1,250,000 per year.”

In addition to the usual Town staff reports, tomorrow’s meeting agenda features the appointment of a new member to the Historic Landmarks Commission to replace founding member Lorelei Costa, who will be honored for her contribution; direction to the Town Planning Board to conduct its final review of the Town Code update/revision by CodeWright Planners, a project that is 5½ years in the making; and consideration of the Town’s participation in the formulation of the North Carolina League of Municipalities’ legislative goals.

Mr. Ogburn is advising the Town Council to “review, discuss, and determine” which 10 of the NCLM’s 17 espoused advocacy and policy goals it supports and to designate a voting delegate to cast a ballot with these chosen goals by a Jan. 15 deadline.

The NCLM is a membership organization that represents the interests of towns and cities in North Carolina. See Home- North Carolina League of Municipalities (nclm.org).

We refer you to the meeting packet for an enumeration of the NCLM’s goals.

You may access the Town Council’s agenda and meeting packet at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2021-01-05.pdf.

You may present public comments in person at the meeting or submit them in advance in an email, with “public comment” in the subject line, to info@southernshores-nc.gov.

UPDATE ON VACCINE ROLLOUT: We have learned that the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services expects to provide details about vaccinations for local people who are age 75 or older and, therefore, are in the first group of Phase 1B, today at 2 p.m. We will report on the DCDHHS release as soon as practicably possible.

We will be very interested to see how Dare County plans to ration out the limited number of vaccine doses that it will receive.   

COVID-19 metrics posted today on the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ dashboard show a record-high 3,635 hospitalizations statewide and a record-high positivity rate of 16.5 percent. Deaths statewide now total 6,941 people.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 1/4/21  

1/2/21: DARE REPORTS 73 NEW COVID-19 CASES TODAY, ANOTHER RECORD.

Dare County reported 73 new COVID-19 cases today, setting a new single-day case record high—the day after reporting the previous record high of 52 COVID-19 cases.

Of the 73 new cases, 49 are Dare County residents and 24 are nonresidents, according to a 6 p.m. report on the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services’ dashboard.

The age breakdown of the 73 people who tested positive for COVID-19 is:

Age 17 and younger: nine

Ages 18 to 24: 10

Ages 25-49: 28

Ages 50-64: 20

Age 65 and older: six

We no longer are surprised by single-day case reports. We now wonder only when the December-January surge in cases will subside.

The Beacon, 1/2/21

1/2/21: DARE EXPECTS TO GIVE VACCINE DETAILS FOR AGE 75-AND-OVER GROUP ON MONDAY. Plus a Roundup on the Vaccine Rollout, New Cases.

Dare County will release on Monday details about how people age 75 or older will be vaccinated locally for COVID-19, according to a bulletin posted yesterday on the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services’ website that referred to the “how, when, where” of vaccine registration.

The DCDHHS “is still wrapping up the vaccinations for [people in] Priority Phase 1A,”  yesterday’s bulletin stated, and expects “to move immediately” into vaccinations for the next prioritization phase, which includes the age 75-and-over population.

At last Wednesday’s COVID-19 update briefing in Raleigh, however, Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, said that she did not expect most local health departments to start administering vaccines to this age group until the week of Jan. 11.

North Carolina has both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which are administered in two doses weeks apart.

According to the bulletin, the DCDHHS anticipates finishing its Prioritization Phase 1A vaccinations on Tuesday, Jan. 5.

Priority Phase 1A includes healthcare workers who are at a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 and staff and residents of long-term care facilities.

The vaccinations of the latter are being administered by CVS and Walgreens through a partnership with the U.S. Government. These facilities include skilled nursing facilities, such as nursing homes, as well as adult, family, and group homes.

(The Beacon has previously referred to the prioritization phases as groups, a term the DCDHHS also has used. We will henceforth call them phases.)

As The Beacon reported Thursday, the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services dramatically changed the prioritization order of vaccine recipients on Wednesday when it updated its guidelines to conform with recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (“ACIP”). (See The Beacon, 12/31/20, slightly revised 1/1/21.)

Previously, the NCDHHS had not assigned any prioritization to potential vaccine recipients on the basis of advanced age alone. Instead it emphasized recipients’ living situations and health status. The revised prioritization phases reflect a reordering of recipients’ “place in line” according to age.

Because of a limited supply of vaccine delivered to North Carolina, “each group [in a phase] will be taken one at a time,” Dr. Cohen said at the briefing. The phases and the groups within them are as follows:

Phase 1A: Healthcare workers who are at high risk for COVID-19 exposure or who are “vital to the initial vaccine response”; and long-term care facility staff and residents.

Phase 1B:

*First Group: Anyone 75 years old or older, regardless of health status or living situation.

*Second Group: Healthcare workers not vaccinated with Group 1A and frontline essential workers who are 50 or older.

Frontline essential workers include first responders, such as firefighters and police officers; corrections officers; food and agricultural workers; U.S. Postal Service workers; manufacturing, grocery store, and public transit workers; and educational and child-care workers, including teachers, support staff, and day care workers.

*Third Group: Healthcare workers not vaccinated with Group 1A and frontline essential workers of any age.

Phase 2:

*First Group: Anyone 65 to 75 years old, regardless of health status or living situation.

*Second Group: Anyone 16 to 64 years old, regardless of living situation, who has one or more “high-risk” medical conditions that the CDC has said increase the risk of severe disease from COVID-19.

The CDC lists the following such conditions: cancer; chronic kidney disease; COPD; Down Syndrome; heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies; immunocompromised state from a solid organ transplant; obesity (a BMI of 30 to 40) and severe obesity (a BMI greater than 40); pregnancy; sickle cell disease; smoking; and type 2 diabetes mellitus.

The CDC also lists conditions that “might” subject an individual to an increased risk for severe illness from SARS-CoV-2. Asthma, hypertension, type 1 diabetes, and dementia are among the conditions in this categorization. 

See Certain Medical Conditions and Risk for Severe COVID-19 Illness | CDC

*Third Group: Anyone who is incarcerated or living in another close congregate setting who is not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition, or job function.

*Fourth Group: Essential workers who have not yet been vaccinated.

Phase 3:

*College and university students.

*K-12 students age 16 or older. The vaccines have not been approved for younger children yet.

Phase 4: Anyone else desirous of vaccination.

See NCDHHS vaccine plan at NC DHHS COVID-19: Vaccines

See also Dare County vaccinations at COVID-19 Vaccine | Dare County, NC (darenc.com)

N.C. Senate leader Philip E. Berger reportedly has issued a statement objecting to the decision by Dr. Cohen and Governor Cooper to prioritize for vaccination healthy college students ahead of people in their early 60s.

Because college students are perceived as spreaders of the virus, however, Governor Cooper is so far standing by the plan.

VACCINE DISTRIBUTION: A COMPLEX PROCESS

Both the Governor and Dr. Cohen expressed concern at Wednesday’s briefing, in response to reporters’ questions, about violations of the prioritizations.

They said they are investigating enforcement measures that they would be authorized to invoke to prevent healthcare providers from “jumping the line” for their patients.

Their efforts could involve asking the N.C. Medical Board to propose punishments for physicians’ noncompliance, such as fines and medical license revocations.

Both officials also expressed sensitivity to the possibility of healthcare providers selling vaccinations for profit. Both COVID-19 vaccines are available free.

According to The Washington Post’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker, North Carolina had administered at least 73,423 doses of vaccine as of late afternoon Thursday. We can find no more up-to-date figure. The NCDHHS does not post online the number of the vaccine doses received by the State or the number administered statewide.

North Carolina was to be initially allocated 583,850 doses, and Dr. Cohen declined Wednesday to be specific about how many doses it has received. These are first doses only.

The NCDHHS Secretary estimated that the State is now receiving about 60,000 doses of each vaccine per week. But only the Pfizer vaccine was available in the first week, which was the week of Dec. 14, and the Secretary has consistently said that the dose allocations per week have been lower than anticipated.

Dare County “is receiving very limited allocations of the vaccine each week,” according to yesterday’s DCDHHS bulletin.

Dr. Cohen also said Wednesday that there are about 2 million people in North Carolina who are age 75 or older, and that it will “take some time for us to get vaccine to everyone.”

The Governor stressed that the vaccination process, which includes handling the special vaccine packaging, preparing the vaccine for administration, and training people to administer vaccinations, is “complex” and people need to “be patient” as the “logistics on the ground” are established.

We would advise you to expect delay.

LATEST COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS

The NCDHHS dashboard reported today 9,365 new COVID-19 cases, covering the past two days, with a positivity rate of 15.5 percent; 3,479 current hospitalizations; and 6,892 deaths, 144 more deaths than were reported on Thursday.

Dare County set a new record-high single-day COVID-19 case total yesterday of 52. Thirty-seven of the new cases are Dare County residents, including a man age 65 or older who was hospitalized, and 15 are nonresidents.

People in the 25-to-49 age group continue to dominate the COVID-19-positive test result numbers locally, closely followed by people in the 50-to-64 age group. The age breakdown of yesterday’s reported 52 cases was: four, age 17 or younger; five, ages 18-24; 21, ages 25-49; 15, ages 50-64; and seven, age 65 or older.

In its last COVID-19 update, which was issued on Tuesday, Dec. 29, the DCDHHS reported a weekly positivity rate of 13.8 percent.

“The vast majority of new cases of COVID-19 in Dare County,” the update said, continue to be “linked to direct contact between close friends, co-workers, and families.”  

TOWN COUNCIL MEETING ON TUESDAY

We will preview the Southern Shores Town Council’s agenda for its Tuesday meeting in our next blog post. The Council will meet in the Pitts Center at 5:30 p.m.

Most significant on the agenda is a presentation by Dare County Manager/Attorney Bobby Outten regarding the funding the County will be giving Southern Shores for its 2022 beach nourishment project.

You may access the agenda and meeting packet here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2021-01-05.pdf.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 1/2/21

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