COVID-19 cases rising locally

Published 12:04 pm Thursday, December 30, 2021

Newly reported cases of COVID-19 are increasing locally, statewide, and across the nation.

All four counties in the Roanoke-Chowan area are seeing a rise in new cases.

The biggest local increase is in Hertford County where 12 new cases were diagnosed last week. The county reported a total of 26 active cases during that time period, compared to 14 the previous week.

Gates County also experienced a double-digit increase of cases last week, going from 16 to 26.

Northampton County had 25 active cases last week, up from 17 the previous week.

The number of active cases increased from 36 to 39 in Bertie County.

There was one local death last week attributed to COVID-19. Albemarle Regional Health Services reported a death in Hertford County. This individual was in the 65 and older age group. This death is not associated with a facility outbreak.

The death toll in the Roanoke-Chowan area now stands at 222 since the pandemic began in March of 2020. Northampton County and Hertford County each have lost 74 of their citizens to the virus followed by Bertie County (55), and Gates County (19).

Meanwhile, Vidant Health is reporting a 191% increase in the weekly average of COVID cases in the region.

In a press release sent Dec. 30, Vidant said the number of completed tests (685) on Nov. 28 yielded 44 positive cases.

Exactly one month later (Dec. 28), Vidant said it had completed 2,619 tests with 706 positive cases. Those figures work out to be a 27 percent daily positive rate.

Health officials are seeing an increase in the number of the highly contagious Omicron variant. That surge is coming on the heels of the holiday travel period.

Data suggests that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 may cause less severe illness for people who are vaccinated. However, those who are unvaccinated or who have underlying medical conditions are at highest risk of severe illness and hospitalization. 89% of people in intensive care are unvaccinated. Hospitalizations are likely to increase as the trend typically lags four to five days after an increase in cases.

“We are concerned that even a very small proportion of these cases ending up in the hospital could overwhelm our hospital system and increase the loss of lives of those most vulnerable,” said incoming NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “Everyone can help save lives and protect hospital capacity by getting vaccinated if you haven’t already and getting boosted if you are eligible.”

Across the state, there were 1,041 COVID cases reported on Nov. 28. As of the latest information available from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), there were 18,571 cases reported on Dec. 29. That marks the highest number of newly diagnosed cases in a single day in the state.

“Now is the time to get your booster shot,” said Kinsley. “We have plenty of vaccine in the state, and getting a booster shot, or getting vaccinated if you aren’t already, dramatically decreases the risk of severe illness and hospitalization from the Omicron variant.”

NCDHHS has also adopted updated guidance from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which outlines what individuals should do if they contract or are exposed to COVID-19 to help slow the spread to others:

If you have symptoms, regardless of vaccination status – get tested and isolate from others while you wait for a result. If you are not able to be tested, follow the guidance below as if you are positive.

If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are

not vaccinated – stay away from others for 5 days, get tested on day 5 after exposure, and if you test negative, return to normal activities while wearing a mask for 5 additional days.

Vaccinated and eligible for a booster, but have not yet been boosted – stay away from others for 5 days, get tested on day 5 after exposure, and if you test negative, return to normal activities while wearing a mask for 5 additional days.

Vaccinated, and have either received your booster or are not yet eligible for a booster – you do not need to stay away from others, but you should wear a mask for 10 days.

If you test positive, regardless of vaccination status, and

Do not have symptoms – isolate yourself from others for 5 days, then wear a mask for 5 additional days when you return to normal activities.

Have symptoms – isolate yourself from others until you are fever-free and your symptoms are improving. You should isolate for at least 5 days since your symptoms began. Once you stop isolating, you should wear a mask for 5 additional days.

People who have received two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines are eligible for a booster shot after six months. Those who got a Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine initially should receive a booster after two months. According to the CDC, those who are eligible for boosters and have not received them should follow the stricter guidance for quarantine and masks.

The CDC guidance differentiates between those who are boosted and those who are eligible but not boosted. It cites initial data from South Africa showing that two mRNA doses provide 35% protection against infection. With a booster shot, that increases to 75%.

In all cases, a well-fitting mask (CDC guidance) is recommended. If possible, wear a surgical or procedure mask, a KN95 or an N95 respirator. In general, the CDC recommends all unvaccinated people 2 years old or older wear a mask indoors. To find a no-cost community testing event or a testing site near you, visit ncdhhs.gov/gettested. Please do not visit the emergency room to get tested.

Vaccines are available for everyone 5 years and older. To find a vaccine or booster vaccine near you visit MySpot.nc.gov.

More than a year after the vaccine was rolled out, new cases of COVID-19 across the United States have soared to their highest level on record at over 265,000 per day on average, a surge driven largely by the Omicron variant.

New cases per day have more than doubled over the past two weeks, eclipsing the old mark of 250,000, set in mid-January, according to data kept by Johns Hopkins University.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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