Dare County Reports 180 New COVID-19 Cases Christmas Week
The Dare County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reports that the number of new cases of COVID-19 in Dare County continues to climb, as this past week saw a record 180 new cases reported. The total number of positive COVID-19 tests in Dare County is 1,508, of which there are 126 active cases among residents of the county. Of the 1,508 cases, 994 are residents and 514 are non-residents.
On Monday, Dec. 21, the department received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccinations. Starting this week and continuing over the next couple of weeks they will be vaccinating front line healthcare workers whose duties put them at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 or who are vital to the initial COVID-19 vaccine response (priority Group 1a). The DHHS has been working hard to prepare for this and are excited to add this new tool to their COVID-19 defense toolbox. In time, everyone who wishes to receive a vaccine will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccinations at no cost. The DHHS asks for your patience as they work through the Prioritization groups that we are required to follow according to NC DHHS. Please visit the DHHS website to follow the latest news on the COVID-19 vaccination efforts in Dare County, which includes which Priority Group they are currently vaccinating.
While the COVID-19 vaccination will be a powerful tool, in time, to help stem the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that everyone continues to use the other tools of protection as this virus remains highly contagious and debilitating to many. Please follow the 3ws (wear, wait, and wash) to protect yourself and others.
Dare County DHHS Director Dr. Sheila Davies released the following statement this week: “I have heard concerns that some people don’t think these measures work. The claims are that if these tools were working then we wouldn’t be seeing the rise in cases we are seeing, not only in Dare but across the state and nation. Many have stated they see great compliance with masks and social distancing when they go to the stores or restaurants, which is wonderful and which may explain why we are not seeing any significant spread linked to those settings. But if you look at the predominant way this virus is spreading, you will find that in settings like homes, work conference rooms and break rooms, dinner parties, and wedding receptions and funerals, we are not seeing good adherence to wearing masks and social distancing.
“Just this past week, out of our 113 new cases, 82 (or 73%) contracted the virus by direct contact in one of the above mentioned settings. Please understand, this message is intended to educate, not shame or blame. It is human nature to want to gather with others, but what is not natural for us is wearing a mask or social distancing when we gather with our close friends, co-workers, and family members. These are typically the people we feel most comfortable and safe with but unfortunately the data is showing us these gatherings are the major drivers of the increase in new COVID-19 infections. So, if you are gathering with individuals outside of your immediate household, whether at work or at home, please practice the 3Ws.”
From Saturday, Dec. 19 through Tuesday, Dec. 22, there were 95 new positive cases reported. Of those 95 new cases, 70 are residents and 25 are non-residents.
Of the 70 resident cases reported Dec. 19-22:
9 of the cases are connected. All are symptomatic and acquired the virus by direct contact with individuals who positive test results were reported on 12/15 and 12/18.
3 of the cases are connected. Two are symptomatic and one is asymptomatic. All acquired the virus by direct contact with an individual who tested positive on 12/15.
2 of the cases are connected. Both are symptomatic and acquired the virus by direct contact with an individual who tested positive outside of Dare County.
5 of the cases are not connected. 3 are symptomatic and 2 are asymptomatic. All acquired the virus by direct contact with individuals who tested positive outside of Dare County.
38 cases are not connected. 33 are symptomatic and 5 are asymptomatic. All acquired the virus by direct contact with individuals whose positive test results were reported between 12/8 – 12/19.
13 of the cases are not connected. 10 are symptomatic and 3 are asymptomatic. It is unclear how these individuals acquired the virus.
Of the 25 non-resident cases reported Dec. 19-22:
17 of the cases are not connected. 14 are symptomatic and 3 are asymptomatic. All acquired the virus by direct contact with individuals who tested positive outside of Dare County.
8 of the cases are not connected. 6 are symptomatic and 2 are asymptomatic. It is unclear how these individuals acquired the virus.
From Wednesday, Dec. 23 through Saturday, Dec. 26, there were 85 new positive cases reported.
UPDATE: From Sunday, Dec. 27 through Tuesday, Dec. 29, there were 52 new positive cases reported.
The DHHS has seen a marked increase in the percent positivity rate. For the past week alone the percent of positive tests to total tests for COVID-19 was 13.6%. The DHHS has also seen an increase in co-worker to co-worker spread of the virus linked to staff gatherings and meetings.
Controlling the Spread
The vast majority of new cases of COVID-19 in Dare County are linked to direct contact between close friends, co-workers, and families. You can protect yourself and others and help reduce the spread of this virus by practicing the 3Ws – wear a mask, wait six feet apart from others, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitizer. Even though our close family, co-workers, and friends are the people we often feel most comfortable with and “safest” around, contact tracing is showing that the virus is spreading most between these individuals and not from the brief interactions at the grocery store or in retail or commercial settings. Whether visiting a neighbor or friend, or at work, please be sure to wear a mask and maintain at least six feet of physical distance from individuals who you do not share a household with.
The department is continuing to vaccinate front line healthcare workers whose duties put them at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 or who are vital to the initial COVID-19 vaccine response (priority Group 1a). The DHHS expects to remain in this Prioritization Group for approximately two more weeks.
Information on the vaccination plan is rapidly evolving. The CDC has recently made changes to their published vaccine prioritization groups, however, Dare County is required to follow the direction of NC DHHS on the prioritization groups. If the state changes the prioritization groups for NC, Dare County will follow those changes. Dare County is not permitted to locally change the prioritization groups.
When registration opens for the general public, according to the required Prioritization Groups, the DHHS will post that information on the local Vaccine webpage which can be found at www.darenc.com/covidvaccine. Please visit this site for the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccine or visit the NC DHHS website at www.covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines.
This past week there were 1,118 COVID-19 diagnostic tests performed in Dare County. This brings the total number of tests performed since early March to 25,346. There were 152 positive cases between December 21 and December 27. The percent of positive tests to overall tests in Dare County since we started testing in early March increased to 6.04%. The percent of positive tests to total tests for the past week alone was 13.6%. Syndromic surveillance of the emergency department and urgent care centers showed an increase in individuals presenting with COVID like symptoms in the early part of the week. These graphs can be found on the dare county website at www.darenc.com/covid19.
The DHHS strongly encourages anyone who is experiencing symptoms to be tested, as well as anyone who may have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19. Testing is widely available in Dare County. Please visit www.darenc.com/covidtesting for details on testing locations.
“Non-resident” cases are those who do not have a Dare County address listed on their identification card, including visitors, non-resident property owners, individuals living and working in Dare County for the summer, and those who may have recently moved to the area and have not yet been able to update their identification card.
Cloth face masks or coverings are mandatory to be worn in any public spaces where social distancing can’t be maintained in Dare County and throughout North Carolina.
Local and state health officials continue to strongly encourage everyone to follow the 3 Ws – wear a cloth face covering if you will be with other people, wait at least six feet apart and avoid close contact with other people, and wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer.
In addition, there is currently a statewide executive order for everyone to stay at home from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. each night, unless they are at work during those hours, which will remain in effect at least through Jan. 8. 2021.