There was good public health news last week when a mass testing event for COVID-19 in the National Park Service parking lot on Ocracoke on Wednesday yielded no positive cases.

As of 3 p.m. Monday, Hyde County has a total of 62 cases, with 21 active/positive cases and 41 recoveries. Two of the active cases have been hospitalized and there have been no deaths from the novel coronavirus and officially no cases on Ocracoke.

Unlike complaints nationwide that results are taking 10 days or longer, virtually making them meaningless, the results from Mako Laboratories, Raleigh, were conveyed to the clients Friday afternoon. A total of 64 islanders had registered out of a permanent population of about 1,100 and 58 were tested.

But, over the weekend, a visitor commented on our mass-testing story that she had gone to the Ocracoke Health Center and had tested positive.

According to the North Carolina DHHS COVID-19 dashboard Monday, there is one positive case on Ocracoke. However, that case will be removed because the person in question does not reside on Ocracoke, Melissa Sadler, Hyde County Health Department nursing supervisor, said Monday.

So, if this case is removed, Ocracoke still will have no “confirmed cases.”  But health professionals don’t expect us to remain COVID-free.  Back in April, Dr. Erin Baker, the physician at the Ocracoke Health Center, said that we should all act like we have it and adhere to the precautions being reiterated daily.

Inevitably, Ocracoke will have to deal with the spread of COVID-19 just like everywhere else.

This pandemic is a mess–starting with a mysterious and out-of-control pathogen that infects people through no fault of their own.  

People are legitimately confused by the mixed messages from our leaders. While politicians fight among themselves, the coronavirus has been the superpower. It’s stealthy, infecting many who may show no or few symptoms for 14 days while unknowingly infecting others, possibly in geometric proportions. 

For others, symptoms vary from a bad cold to a worse-than-bad flu to a painful death–more than 170,000 nationwide and counting.

We are in for a rough fall. Many knowledgeable sources foresee a convergence of factors that will make it worse than ever.

Yesterday, UNC-Chapel Hill announced it will shut down classroom teaching due to cluster outbreaks. Early-opening schools at all levels, here and in other states, are already dealing with students and school staff testing positive. Parents are greatly stressed as to whether to send their kids to the schools holding in-person classes. 

Reports of large gatherings (some in secret) do little to assure that the spread will be contained, but, in fact, will blossom out of control, getting into communities that, up until now, have been relatively spared—such as Ocracoke.

A vaccine may not be available for many months or longer. In the meantime, we have to cope, and that includes taking self-interested politics out of the mix and relying on science.

Could there have been fewer cases and deaths if better decisions were made sooner and people reacted more responsibly? When looking at how other countries have tamped COVID down, the answer is yes.

When confronted with grave crises in the past–two world wars, the assassination of a president and Sept. 11–the nation united. Not so with this pandemic.  Right now, we are a too-divided society: Pro masks or no masks? red pills or blue pills? play sports or not? Gather in large groups or not? 

Making it worse is the posturing and misinformation on social media and the wildfire spread of conspiracy theories. 

The real heroes are the health providers doing their jobs and scientists who have found ways to treat the virus, which can save lives.

So, what do we do? Unfortunately, for those who do not take it seriously, many of them will change their attitudes only when a family member, a good friend or themselves contracts it and becomes sick.

As a community, we should show compassion for those who contract it. We should thank the health care workers who put their own lives on the line daily.

“Don’t become complacent,” said Luana Gibbs, Hyde County Health director.  “We need to treat this as if everyone is infected.”

At this point, the only weapon we have to stop the spread is to follow the “Three Ws”: Wear a face covering; Wash your hands frequently; and Wait six feet apart from others, and avoid large gatherings.

We agree and ask: Is this so hard to do?

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  1. Words of wisdom in these chaotic times. As always, thank you Connie and Peter for all you do. We are very grateful for all your hard work and dedication!

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