When it comes to new COVID-19 cases per-capita, Moore County is in the top third of all counties in North Carolina, according to state health officials. “That’s not a good position to be in. It is very concerning,” said Chair of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, Frank Quis, at their regular meeting Tuesday evening.
In an earlier conference call with North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen urged Moore County officials to find ways to slow the spread of coronavirus locally. Dr. Cohen spoke of doing more through community efforts to communicate with businesses, faith-based groups and civic organizations, consider a local enforcement order and looking to the community to find ways of going beyond what is being done, according to Quis.
Moore County Health Director Robert Wittmann continued to urge everyone to follow the now-familiar advice of wearing face coverings when in public, frequent hand washing and keeping an appropriate social distance. “That is our only protection against this virus until we get a vaccine,” Wittmann said. Health experts say wearing face masks could save lives by cutting down the chances of both transmitting and catching the coronavirus.
“The virus does not know who is a Democratic, who is a Republican, who is an Independent or what church you belong to, and so public health is what we use to fight this,” said Wittmann.
Case Counts Surging
A surge of new cases and hospitalizations are being reported by health officials.
Across Moore County, there are at least 235 active cases of COVID-19, the most since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the county dashboard. New cases in North Carolina are also on the rise, seeing levels surpass those of previous highs back in late July.
Hospitalizations across the state are also on the rise, after seeing modest declines in early October. According to the latest data, 1,203 people are hospitalized in North Carolina, down slightly from summer. Thirteen people are currently hospitalized in the Moore Regional Hospital system.
Over the past seven days, an average of 20 new infections are reported each day, 48 alone on Monday. Nine percent of the Moore County tests have come back positive, compared to 7.4% across the state. North Carolina has set a goal of under 5%.
“There are six vaccines currently under development here in the U.S. by companies in various stages of trials. Five of six of those candidates are two-dose varieties. Meaning that one dose must be administered, followed by a second four weeks after the first,” according to Moore County Health Department Public Information Officer Matt Garner.
“Right now it is looking like we will have limited doses available in late fall and likely they will need an emergency use authorization. They will be administered in smaller pots, usually targeted towards vulnerable populations and likely frontline healthcare workers.”
The larger-scale vaccinations will likely occur in 2021, according to Garner.
Seasonal Flu Vaccine
At the meeting, Garner recommended people get vaccinated against influenza. “The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months or older get the appropriate vaccine. One of the things to keep in mind and one of the reasons why it’s so important, especially with COVID-19 out there, some of the same at-risk groups that are at risk of complications of flu are also at risk of complications from COVID-19 as well.”
Flu season usually begins around this time of year peaks in January and February. It is possible for someone to become infected with both COVID-19 and influenza, according to Garner.
Board of Health
The Moore County Board of Health has organized three workgroups “to look into ways to improve how we are handling the response to the COVID-19,” Chairman of the Board of Health, Leo Santowasso told the county commissioners. These workgroups are designed “to improve the function of the health department as well as the board of health with respect to trying to get on top of this COVID-19 pandemic,” Santowasso said.
The State of North Carolina recently rolled out a mobile phone application designed to help slow the spread of coronavirus. The app is available through both Google Play and the App Store.
Once downloaded, “it works by using your phone’s Bluetooth capabilities, and you actually exchange anonymous tokens with other users who have reported that they have a confirmed COVID-19 test result. The way it works is the phone reports how long they are near you,” according to Garner.
“It is safe to use and a good warning system for folks to let them know that they may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19,” Garner said.
In other matters, county commissioners unanimously approved a five-lot subdivision in Carthage off Vass-Carthage Road called Leatherwood. The petitioners of the 12-acre plot are David Upchurch and Lee Humphrey of Vass.
“The property has a vacant single-family residential building on the property, however, it will be removed,” said Planning/Transportation Director Debra Ensminger. “Adjacent uses include single-family residential dwellings and undeveloped property.”
No one spoke in opposition to the development.
Feature photo: Chairman of the Moore County Board of Health Leo Santowasso addresses the county commissioners on Oct. 20.
~Article and photo by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter John Patota.