Mixing up a to-go Margarita at Ocracoke Oyster Company. Photo: C. Leinbach

By Connie Leinbach

Hyde County has leapt to “critical” community spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, up from “significant” spread two weeks ago, according to a report issued Tuesday by the N.C. Department of Health & Human Services

“Viral spread here in our state is extremely high and we need to take care of ourselves this holiday season,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the DHHS, during a press briefing Tuesday in Raleigh.

Nearly two thirds of the 100 counties are red, she said–65 red, 27 orange (substantial community spread) and 8 yellow (significant community spread). This is an increase from the Dec. 8 report which showed 48 red counties, 34 orange and 18 yellow.

According to the latest report, Hyde has 931.7 case rate per 100,000 people within the last 14 days.

By comparison, Hyde had 183.2 cases per 100,000 people as of the Dec. 8 report. Dare County has remained in the “orange” category with 386.4 cases per 100,000.

As of 3 p.m. today, Hyde County Health Department reported 263 total COVID-19 cases in the county with 42 of those active cases. There have been 216 recoveries and 5 deaths since tracking began.

While Luana Gibbs, Hyde County health director, was unavailable for comment, the zip code tracker on the state’s dashboard has Ocracoke at 32 cases.

Numbers on the two sites differ, Gibbs has said, because the state updates theirs at 11 a.m. daily and Hyde County updates theirs at 3 p.m.

As for the impending holidays, the Centers for Disease Control has recommended people don’t travel.

“That’ our top recommendation,” Cohen said, adding that people getting together with others not in their households are urged to wear face coverings “even if it’s with close family members and those not part of your household.”

Cohen stressed that all of these measures are so that COVID-19 cases do not overwhelm hospitals.

Gov. Roy Cooper noted that the state did see an increase in cases from Thanksgiving get-togethers.

Gov. Roy Cooper from 2018. Photo: Peter Vankevich

“We hope we won’t see a surge after Christmas,” he said, “but with family get togethers we expect to see a surge.”

During the briefing, Cooper announced that he signed an executive order authorizing the North Carolina ABC Commission to permit the delivery or carry-out of mixed beverages as an alternative to on-site consumption.

This order was effective at 5 p.m. Wednesday through Jan. 31.

“This order will help people avoid settings that can contribute to increased viral spread while giving restaurants and bars a financial boost that they need right now,” Cooper said about the action. “With cases and hospitalizations high around the country, let’s all do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 while supporting local, small businesses safely.”

Under this order, establishments holding certain permits from the ABC Commission, including restaurants, hotels, private clubs, private bars and some distilleries, are allowed to sell mixed beverages to-go or for delivery.

The Modified Stay at Home Order, requiring people to stay at home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. with certain businesses required to be closed during those hours, remains in effect until Jan. 11 and the sale of alcohol for on-site consumption must still cease at 9 p.m.

On Ocracoke, the Ocracoke Oyster Company is the only restaurant open now that sells mixed drinks. 1718 Brewing Ocracoke and Jason’s Restaurant sell beer and wine.

As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, the state’s COVID-19 dashboard reports the following:

6,508,956 completed tests; 5,609 new positives; 494,511 total positive cases; 3,043 hospitalized; and 6,360 deaths.

The dashboard won’t be updated Dec. 24 or 25. The next update will be Saturday, Dec. 26.

Also today, Cooper announced that he plans to extend the state’s evictions moratorium on residential evictions for non-payment of rent through at least Jan. 31.

The above graphic shows the increase in COVID-19 cases since Nov. 23.
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