Vaccinations underway prioritizing older adults health care workers

Vaccines are being given to Moore County residents and staff of long term care facilities, health care workers and others considered at high risk for being hospitalized or dying, and those at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, according to Health Director Robert Wittmann in his presentation to the Moore County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

Moore County is following the vaccination plan announced last week by North Carolina officials. The 4-phase plan prioritizes those age 75 and older and health care workers. 

Phase 1A, 1B, 2, 3 and 4

Moore County is currently in Phase 1A of phased prioritization for vaccine distribution. The phased plan has been set out by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The 4 phase plan will continue, according to priority, until it is administered to everyone that wants the vaccine.

Phase 1B includes adults older than age 75, regardless of health status or living situation. This phase will also include frontline essential workers. The Center for Disease Control defines frontline essential workers as first responders like firefighters and police officers, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, postal service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the education sector (teachers and support staff members) as well as child care workers.

People in Phase 1B are being notified by their employer about when and where to receive the vaccine. The Moore County Health Department will announce how private citizens in Phase 1B can register for the vaccine. 

Anyone between age 65 and 74 is included in Phase 2 as well as people 16-64 years old with high-risk medical conditions. For example, those with an increased risk of severe disease from COVID, such as cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease and Type 2 diabetes.

In Phase 2, anyone that wants to be vaccinated will be asked to register beforehand. The registration system is now being developed.

College and university students, those in Kindergarten through 12th grade and anyone else who wants to get vaccinated are included in Phase 3 and 4. 

Vaccine Supplies

“As vaccine supplies increase, and North Carolina progresses through the priority phases for vaccination groups, persons who are eligible will be notified by way of announcements through state and local media outlets,” said Wittmann.

“How quickly North Carolina moves through each phase will depend on the availability of the vaccine,” said Wittmann. “So far, that has not been a serious problem.” The Health Department has received two initial shipments of COVID-19 vaccine totaling nearly 1,200 doses to date.

The percent of positive test cases in Moore County continue to rise. It currently stands at 15.5%, well above the goal of 5% or lower. At the same time, the daily case average has reached a high of 77.3, as measured over the past seven days.

Active Cases, Hospitalizations and Deaths

“We have 764 active cases, and that is notable because that is a lot,” said Matt Garner, Moore County Public Information Officer. “The highest number we have seen.” Since Garner spoke just Tuesday, the number of active cases in Moore County has risen to 832. 

The number of Moore County residents currently hospitalized stands at 38. For the fourth day in a row, North Carolina set records for coronavirus related hospitalizations. 

Garner also reported three additional deaths that occurred during the last week of December. In speaking to the delay in reporting, Garner said, “we are making every effort to get these reported as soon as possible. Sometimes it is not as simple as just having the death certificate. We don’t report the deaths until we first report them to the state.”

After prompting from Commissioner Gregory, Garner mentioned four additional deaths that occurred in December but that have not been officially reported. “We are trying as best as we can to report those (deaths) as we are able,” said Garner. He further cited his department’s increasing workload under the growing cases counts.  

“My primary concern is that if we are trying to produce a document that says we have these many deaths, and yet these deaths do not accurately account for other deaths, then it is confusing to the public, and it is not an accurate report,” said Gregory. “What I would like to see is when we advise the public of our concerns that the public trust us to be as accurate as possible.”

“It takes time from when the death is reported to the time we can report it,” said Garner. “They will be reported. It may take a couple days or a week to get it into the report.”

The total number of deaths in Moore County due to COVID-19 stands at 83. According to state health officials, 6,996 have died across North Carolina. An estimated 4,333 Moore County residents have recovered from the virus.

File photo: Robert Wittmann, Moore County Health Director, makes a presentation at the Moore County Board of Commissioners in 2020.

Sandhills_Sentinel~Article and photo by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter John Patota.

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