Lincoln County had three more deaths due to the coronavirus since Tuesday (March 2nd), bringing the total to 80. The number of known active cases of COVID-19 in the county declined from 140 to 90, just six higher than was reported a week ago. 8,694 people in Lincoln County are said to have recovered from the virus.
Because of the weather in late February, the Lincoln County Health Department's shipments of COVID vaccine were delayed. As a result, appointments were rescheduled from previous weeks, so currently the Health Dept. isn't scheduling any new appointments due to their limited vaccine supply. While recent changes have made more people eligible to receive vaccinations, the Health Dept. announced last week it will priortize those who have recently been added to the list of eligible recipients, scheduling appointments for those who are 50 and older first.
When the supply of vaccine increases, open scheduling will be announced with a press release indicating the number of appointments available and when the link will be made available for scheduling. We'll post that on the Lincoln Herald and it will also be on the Lincoln County Health Department's Facebook page.
Catawba County reported 42 new cases of the virus on Friday but only 8 on Saturday. Hospitalizations were down to 20. One more person died from the virus since Tuesday bringing the total to 288.
Catawba County Public Health announced some changes in their vaccination program because of the newly eligible being added to those wanting vaccinations. They, along with Catawba Valley Health System and Frye Regional Medical Center will be coordinating group scheduling for eligible workers with employers. Employers should log on to CatawbaVaccine.org and click on the Business portal, where they will find more information about the process. They will be asked to submit a brief information form, and a member of the scheduling team will contact them within two weeks with next steps.
"Frontline essential workers for companies located in Catawba County should first talk with their employer before requesting an individual appointment," the news release said. "Scheduling appointments through employers will be the quickest way for frontline essential workers in Catawba County get an appointment. Independent contractors or people who are self-employed and believe they are eligible may request an appointment online at CatawbaVaccine.org, where an eligibility determination will be made. Appointment requests will be handled online only through www.CatawbaVaccine.org. No appointments will be made by phone.
"Individuals seeking appointments online will be required to indicate their eligibility category, and frontline essential workers will also be required to enter the name of their employer. Individuals without internet access may call the new COVID-19 Referral Line at 828-282-2002. Referral specialists will not be able to schedule an appointment but they will assist individuals with completing the online appointment request form at www.CatawbaVaccine.org."
Gaston County reported its number of deaths from the virus had reached 399 by Friday, with three more reported since Wednesday. The number of county residents hospitalized with the virus was down 24, with only one on a ventilator. The county's percentage of tests that were positive had declined to 6.6%.
Statewide, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 was down to less than 1200 for the first time in weeks. 1,179 was the number on Saturday. The positive test rate has also declined; it was 4.2% on Saturday. Since the pandemic began hitting our state a year ago, 11,502 North Carolinians have died with the virus.
The big news nationally this week included the passage by the US Senate of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill. $1400 checks will be sent out to those making less than $75,000/year.
The other big news was that several states have further relaxed restrictions imposed in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said his state is reopening 100%. Come Wednesday (March 10th) people in the Lone Star State won't be required to wear a face covering. Mississippi, North Dakota, Iowa and Montana are also lifting mask mandates. In Texas and Mississippi, all capacity restrictions on businesses are also being lifted. In California, where theme parks, sports and concert venues have been shuttered for nearly a year, the public will be allowed to return next month--but with capacity and other restrictions.
Health experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci have called the decisions foolhardy. While most states have seen the number of new cases and deaths decline, the reduction appears to have reached a plateau, and Fauci and others are warning that a fourth wave of increased infections is possible, especially if restrictions are lifted and people stop wearing face coverings and exercising other suggested precautions. 14 states actually saw an increase in their number of new cases last week.
An epidemiologist told us last week, "those states will serve as a petrie dish. We'll know in 7-9 weeks if they were right or wrong--perhaps a couple of weeks sooner." That same virologist had told us earlier that he feared that Spring Break gatherings could produce another spike in cases.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses to be fully effective; the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is one dose. Statewide, 9% of the adult population has now received two doses. Catawba County is slightly ahead of the state average; Lincoln, Gaston & Cleveland are slightly behind.
While some health departments are having difficulty keeping up with the demand for vaccinations, Atrium Health Lincoln and Kintegra Health (with locations in Lincoln, Gaston, and several other counties) are continuing vaccinations. Walgreens is also doing vaccinations. We've posted links before, but you can schedule vaccinations with them at https://atriumhealth.org/about-us/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccine
Both Dr. Fauci and the virologist who has been one of our primary sources of information, and public health officials including the NCDHHS and every county health department in the state say that you should continue to observe the 3Ws even if you've had your vaccinations. The masks and other measures have had one significant benefit beyond helping to slow the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus; they've also helped prevent any significant flu outbreak. So far, since the 2020-2021 flu season count began September 27th, North Carolina has had only six flu deaths.