The Ocracoke Health Center is not taking walk-ins, but patients may call for appointments (phone or virtual) at 252-928-1511. Photo: C. Leinbach

The Ocracoke Health Center has just gotten a new phone number especially for COVID-19 testing requests and prescription refill requests.

Please call 252-489-3622 for COVID testing or prescription refill requests only.

Cheryl Ballance, R.N., who is the health center’s CEO, said in an interview Tuesday that all medical services are being held virtually except for COVID-19 testing.

“We’re being very cautious,” she said. “We don’t want to jeopardize our staff or the general public.”

And for that, it’s single file with waiting periods outside the building before patients and staff can enter.

Staff working in the building are being rotated, Ballance said.

Dr. Erin Baker, the island physician, is working from home and talking to patients virtually.

Though she couldn’t talk about specifics, Ballance confirmed an uptick in COVID-19 cases on the island.

As of 11 a.m. today, the zip code tracker on the NC Department of Health & Human Services COVID-19 dashboard has Hyde at 217 cases, with Engelhard at 37, Fairfield at 43, Scranton at 10, Swan Quarter at 103 and Ocracoke at 18.

Although the graphic posted by Hyde County Health on their Facebook page each day at 3 p.m. shows different numbers.

“Our numbers are going to be the most current numbers except for the cases where an individual might get tested elsewhere and we don’t have those results back yet, but they’ve been notified already,” Gibbs said about what Hyde posts versus the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.

At a Tuesday briefing, North Carolina officials expressed both hope and concern on the COVID-19 situation in the state. Referring to the ever-increasing COVID death toll, now nearing 6,000, Gov. Roy Cooper said, “There’s real hope we can stop these painful losses. Vaccinations are underway in North Carolina.”

“It was a historical and emotional day for many,” added North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, referring to the high-risk health care workers who received the first doses of vaccine. She then quickly cautioned that, “We will continue to have very limited vaccine supplies at first.”

At the same time, on a day when the state set a record with 2,735 COVID hospitalizations, Cohen pointed out that one month earlier, that number was 1,395. She also noted that the number of ICU patients has also almost doubled in the past month—from 350 on Nov. 15 to 643 on Dec. 15. 

“Too many North Carolinians are getting seriously ill,” she said, and “too many are dying.”