Positive tests for COVID nearing 20 percent in Dare, while still rating second in N.C. for vaccinations

More than 3,300 people were in North Carolina hospitals with COVID-19 on Tuesday, and the statewide positive virus test rate was nearing 15 percent.

According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly one of every five coronavirus infections reported in North Carolina during the first half of August were in people already fully vaccinated.

Dare County continues to rank second in North Carolina for vaccinations, while Gates County ranks the lowest in the region and 97th in the state.

Dare, Hyde, Beaufort and Bertie are the only local counties that have more than 50 percent of the populations vaccinated.

More from Dare County Health and Human Services’ coronavirus report issued Tuesday:

Dare County is continuing to experience widespread community transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Dare County is in the red category on the CDC’s Level of Community Transmission map. Red indicates a high level of community transmission of the virus. The percentage of positive COVID-19 tests to total COVID-19 tests in Dare County last week was 19.6%.

All individuals, regardless of vaccination status, ages 5 and over should wear a mask when indoors in public settings. All individuals should consider wearing a mask when outside if gathering in large crowds. Individuals ages 12 and over should get vaccinated for COVID-19 to help prevent serious illness, hospitalizations and death.

The total number of new positive cases reported in Dare County for the past week was 257, which marks the 3rd highest week of new positive cases since the pandemic began. During the same week last summer, there were a total of 21 new positive cases reported in Dare County and a 2.34% positivity rate. Of the 257 new cases last week:

  • 216 (84%) are symptomatic

  • 195 (76%) acquired the virus by direct contact with someone who was positive for COVID-19.

  • 43 were breakthrough cases (15 had J&J vaccine; 15 had Moderna, 13 had Pfizer).

Currently, there are 151 active COVID-19 cases among residents of Dare County. There are 12 individuals hospitalized due to complications from COVID-19 (7 residents and 5 non-residents).

The reported positive cases only include laboratory confirmed cases reported by medical providers, urgent care centers, the hospital, or the state, which includes tests performed at area pharmacies. Self-reported over the counter home tests are not counted in the reported count totals, however contact tracing is conducted for the positive self reported cases.

Delta Variant

According to the CDC and NC DHHS,  the Delta variant causes more infections and spreads faster than early forms of SARS-CoV-2. Preliminary data indicates:

  • The Delta variant is more contagious

  • The Delta variant might cause more severe illness than previous strains in unvaccinated persons.

  • Unvaccinated people remain the greatest concern

  • Fully vaccinated people with Delta variant breakthrough infections can spread the virus to others. However, vaccinated people appear to be infectious for a shorter period

Currently, a random sample of positive COVID-10 specimens are being sequenced by the Vidant Medical laboratory and the state laboratory to assess for variants. County specific data is not available, however Dare County’s specimens are included in the regional data released by Vidant Medical. In the COVID-19 weekly released today by Vidant Medical, the Delta variant was present in 92 of the 92 (100%) specimens sequenced.

Breakthrough Cases

When an individual tests positive for COVID-19 more than two weeks after receiving the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine that is considered a breakthrough case. Vaccine breakthrough cases are expected. COVID-19 vaccines are effective and are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control. However, no vaccines are 100% effective at preventing illness in vaccinated people. There will be a small percentage of fully vaccinated people who still get sick, are hospitalized, or die from COVID-19. According to the CDC, there is evidence that vaccination may make illness less severe for those who are vaccinated and still get sick.

Since the week of April 12th when the first breakthrough case was reported, there have been 1,346 positive cases of COVID-19 reported in Dare County with 250 of those cases being identified as breakthrough cases. Of the 207 breakthrough cases:

  • 152 residents and 98 non-residents

  • 136 reported mild symptoms and 10 reported moderate symptoms

  • 1 was hospitalized

  • 57 had the J&J vaccine

  • 95 had the Moderna vaccine

  • 96 had the Pfizer vaccine

  • 2 had Astrazeneca

The whole numbers provided above are for informational purposes and not an indication of effectiveness of one vaccine compared to the others. Of note, the Moderna vaccine has been the predominant vaccine administered by Dare DHHS. The breakdown of the COVID 19 vaccines administered by Dare DHHS are: 5% J&J, 24% Pfizer and 71% Moderna.

Following endorsement from the FDA and ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) the CDC and NC DHHS has now endorsed the use of an additional dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine to people with moderate to severely compromised immune systems after an initial two-dose vaccine series. Dare County DHHS is now accepting registrations for an additional COVID-19 Vaccine dose for individuals with  moderate and severe immune compromise. Register online at www.darenc.com/Register4Vaccine. It is anticipated that by the third week of September, anyone who was fully vaccinated with an mRNA COVID vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) at least 8 months ago will be eligible for a booster vaccine. We will provide more information as it becomes available.

COVID Vaccinations in Dare

All individuals 12 years of age and over are encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccination. COVID-19 vaccinations are readily available at numerous locations throughout the county including the health department and many area pharmacies like: Walgreens, CVS, Sunshine Family Pharmacy, Island Pharmacy, Bear Drugs, and Beach Pharmacy.

Individuals ages 12 and over should get vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19. That’s because experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. Even if you have already recovered from COVID-19, it is possible that you could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 again. Studies have shown that vaccination provides a strong boost in protection in people who have recovered from COVID-19. If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Since late December 2020, a total of 24,861 (67%) of eligible Dare County residents have received an initial dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 23,240 (63%) are fully vaccinated.

Protect Yourself and Your Family

NC DHHS epidemiological data indicates the state and Dare County are in the middle of another surge of COVID-19 infections. The Delta variant is believed to be the most prevalent variant in Dare County at this time. The CDC and NC DHHS indicate it is a significantly more contagious variant. For every one person infected by the Delta variant it is estimated they may spread the virus to 6 other individuals. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself against COVID-19. People who are vaccinated are far less likely to get infected with COVID-19 than those who are not vaccinated. Based on self-reports during contact tracing interviews, in the low percentage of breakthrough cases, individuals who are vaccinated are experiencing mild to no symptoms.

In addition to getting vaccinated, other ways you can protect yourself and your family include limiting prolonged direct contact with unvaccinated individuals who do not live in your household, and washing your hands frequently with soap and water or using hand sanitizer. It is also recommended that all individuals in Dare County wear a mask indoors, as Dare County is currently considered an area of high community transmission.

Key Metrics

Each week we review the 4 key metrics associated with disease investigation and surveillance. The metrics are:

  • Number of Tests

  • Confirmed Cases

  • Positive Tests as a Percent of Total Tests

  • COVID Like Illness Surveillance

This past week there were 1,309 COVID-19 diagnostic tests reported in Dare County. This brings the total number of tests performed since early March of last year to 47,252.  There were 257 positive cases between August 16 and August 22. The percentage of positive tests to overall tests in Dare County since we started testing in March 2020 increased to 9.24%. The percent of positive tests to total tests for the past week increased to 19.6%. Syndromic surveillance of individuals presenting with COVID like symptoms to the emergency department and urgent care centers showed similar activity to the previous week. These graphs can be found on the Dare County website at www.darenc.com/covid19.

Communications and Information Sharing

Dare County DHHS has an established schedule of communication to share information regarding COVID-19. Every Tuesday, a written update which includes the previous week’s COVID-19 key metrics is issued. Additional updates will be released as needed. All released videos and written updates can be found on our website, DHHS facebook page, Dare County Twitter page, and Dare Emergency Management Twitter page. If you would like to receive these updates directly to your email, please sign up to receive our enotifications.

New positive cases are updated on the dashboard and on our website and shared on the DHHS facebook page Monday- Friday. To find the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 cases in Dare County visit www.darenc.com/covid19. State COVID-19 data is available at https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard.

Contact Us

We encourage you to stay informed by visiting www.darenc.com/covid19 or by visiting the CDC or NC DHHS websites. If you have specific needs or questions you may also call the Dare County COVID-19 call center open Monday-Friday from 8:30 to 5:00 at 252-475-5008.

About Sam Walker 1512 Articles
Sam Walker was news director for OBXToday.com, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, Big 94.5 WCMS and Z 92.3 from August 2011 to March 2022.