Once again, there's some good news and some bad news on the pandemic. The good news, of course, includes that more people are getting vaccinated every day and that the number of new cases is generally going down as is the number of people hospitalized with the virus. Schools are already making plans for full in-person instruction after the Governor and General Assembly unanimously agreed on returning to full in-person schooling.
On Friday, the Lincoln County Health Dept. reported just 46 active COVID-19 cases, the lowest number in several months. In Gaston County, which had seen over 15% positive tests for the disease in December, the rate was just 5.8%. Only 17 Gaston County residents were hospitalized with the virus, and none of those was on a ventilator. Catawba County had just 18 new cases on Friday and hospitalizations there were down to 24. Cleveland County reported 156 active cases, but hospitalizations were down to just nine.
Statewide, the number of people hospitalized with the virus was 1,037; the rate of positive tests was down to 3.7%.
So with all that good news, what's the bad news? Some are certain to say we're fear-mongering, but we report the truth--both positive and negative. The truth is: we're almost certain to see an increase in new cases over the next two months--despite the vaccinations. Why? Because people have decided that the pandemic is over and are behaving accordingly. Wearing of masks has declined in the last few weeks even though health experts say it's too early. Bars, now officially able to serve alcoholic beverages until 11 PM and to accomodate up to 30% of their fire code occupancy, have essentially ignored the 30% limit. Even on the Wednesday (Feb. 24th) before the latest reduction in restrictions went into effect on Friday, one local tavern had a packed house--easily over a hundred people--and based on observation, almost none of them were wearing a mask or social distancing.
Some school systems have announced that they won't be allowing school-sponsored proms this year: among them Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Iredell County schools, but all five high schools in Lincoln County WILL be having a prom. While health experts have warned about overdoing it with socializing during Spring Break, most appear to be planning to ignore that advice.
Over 10% of North Carolina's adult population has now been fully vaccinated, and since the elderly, who are the most vulnerable to complications from the virus, were first to be vaccinated, perhaps the level of immunity will help to reduce the severity of any spike in new cases.
President Biden has asked all states to make any adult eligible for the vaccines by May 1st. Alaska already opened vaccinations to all adults. Michigan plans to begin vaccinating anyone over 18 by April 1st.
Getting vaccinated is also easier than it was since the supply of vaccines has increased.
CVS stores in North Carolina were supposed to start doing COVID vaccinations this weekend, but when we checked their website, they showed no appointments available. Walgreens has been doing COVID shots for several weeks.
The Lincoln County Health Department will offer open scheduling for first dose COVID‐19 vaccines to individuals in Groups 1‐3 (Priority Groups) next week. Appointments will be on Thursday, March 18th and Friday, March 19th. As vaccine supply continues to remain low, there will be a limited number of appointments made available. The health department will use an online appointment system for the Thursday and Friday slots for appointments next week. Anyone with an appointment will be asked to bring in a print out of their appointment confirmation or proper identification. For people in the eligible priority group that do not have the means for online scheduling, the health department will reserve an allocation that can be made by phone at 704‐736‐2206. The appointment slots will be made available online Tuesday, March 16th at 9 AM. The vaccine appointment link can be found at http://www.lincolncounty.org/2355/COVID‐19‐Vaccination‐ Information under “Schedule an Appointment‐Health Department‐Lincolnton.” The health department will provide additional opportunities for open scheduling of appointments as vaccine supply allows.
Kintegra Health has a vaccination clinic scheduled for 1 - 3 PM Wednesday (March 17th) at Covenant Church on the Gastonia Highway in Lincolnton and one at the Alexis Fire Dept. on NC 27 in Alexis from 9 AM - 3 PM Friday March 26th. CLICK HERE for information about other Kintegra Health COVID vaccination clinics or to register for one of these events.
Atrium Health Lincoln is continuing to hold drive-thru vaccination clinics every day behind the local hospital. CLICK HERE to register for an appointment and to learn about other Atrium Health vaccination events.
Gaston County residents can register with Gaston County Public Health for appointments for vaccinations there at GastonSaves.com/covid19vaccine.
Cleveland County residents can schedule an appointment with Cleveland County Public Health by calling the COVID Vaccine Appointment Line at 980-484-6019 Monday – Friday from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm.
With the addition to those eligible of frontline workers, Catawba County updated its appointment registration process. If you are a frontline essential worker in Catawba County, talk to your employer about getting set up for a vaccine appointment. Public Health is working directly with employers to coordinate group scheduling. Learn more at https://www.catawbacountync.gov/.../publi.../coronavirus-19/.
Testing for virus infections is continuing. The Lincoln County Health Dept. has partnered with OPTUMServe and NCDHHS to conduct FREE testing for the virus at the old Health Dept. location on Sigmon Road just off N. Generals Blvd. You can get tested there any day Tuesday - Saturday through April 3rd from 9 AM - 4 PM. To schedule an appointment for a test, visit lhi.care/covidtesting.
Kintegra Health is also conducting FREE testing. Most of their testing is done in Gastonia, but they do also do testing in Lincolnton, Kings Mtn. and other locations from time to time. CLICK HERE for a schedule.