By Connie Leinbach
Although Hyde County has only one active COVID-19 case out of 176 total cases since the end of April, that apparently makes Hyde the third highest coronavirus hotspot in the state.
That’s according to a letter Hyde County received last week from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services suggesting Hyde, and 35 other counties who received the same letter, do more to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
As of Monday, Hyde’s total case count was 176, with 170 recovered, five deaths and one active case, Hyde County Health Director Luana Gibbs noted in a press release, but as of Tuesday afternoon, that count had risen by one more case to 177 total cases with two active.
“The secretaries are suggesting that counties with rates higher than 50 cases per 10,000 (people) implement stronger mitigation strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-10,” she wrote.
Gibbs said Hyde is No. 3 because of the math.
When you do the math—take 176 cases; divide it by Hyde’s population of 5,198 people; then multiply by 10,000–you get Hyde’s rate of 334.74, which is higher than 50, Gibbs said.
Hyde got a bump in its cases because of outbreaks at two mainland congregate living facilities– the Cross Creek nursing home and the Hyde Correctional Institute.
“Everyone at Cross Creek and the prison has recovered,” Gibbs said in an interview on Tuesday morning. “I’m just thrilled that these two places have recovered.”
The letter, from Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health & Human Services, and Erik A. Hooks, secretary of Public Safety, in addition to asking for more promotion of the “three Ws,” suggested that counties could enact ordinances with supporting fines and penalties.
Cohen and Hooks also suggested counties could impose civil penalties or fines for businesses that do not enforce the mask requirements; establish lower mass gathering limits; curtail the sale of alcohol earlier than 11 pm; close high risk venues such as bars and night spots; and limit restaurant service.
Health directors can also issue Imminent Hazard Abatement orders, which would send violators to court.
Gibbs is continuing to stress that citizens and visitors follow the “three Ws”: Wear a face covering; wait at least six feet apart and wash your hands frequently. She also added to avoid large crowds.
Despite the letter from the state, Gibbs said the Health Department will not do anything more than it’s already doing—educating, case investigation, contact tracing and issuing isolation orders.
It’s up to the county commissioners to further tighten the screws with ordinances, she said.
“If the public wants more, the public needs to go to the commissioners and ask for it,” she said.
The virus is in the community, she said, but mass congregate living settings have housed a large portion of the county’s cases.
“This can change,” she said. “Colder weather will force more people inside and once school re-opens, this increases congregate settings (though science shows that elementary age children do not transmit the virus as easily as adults and adolescents).
“People may be lowering their guard simply because they are tired of dealing with COVID, and some do not believe it is real. Regardless of public perception, the potential exists for our cases to rise in the community setting.”
The Hyde County Health Department remains available to the public to answer questions and provide education.
They can be reached at 252-926-4399 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For 24/7 on-call services, call the Coronavirus Hotline at 1-866-462-3821.