COVID-19 is becoming ‘rampant’ on Ocracoke and Hyde County. Photo: C. Leinbach

By Connie Leinbach

Noting that “community spread is rampant,” the Hyde County Health Department today said it expects the increase in COVID-19 cases to continue.

As of 4:30 today, the health department announced that the active case count for positive COVID-19 cases in Hyde County is 82. There are 318 total cases with 231 recovered and five deaths.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services COVID-19 dashboard, Hyde County has 302 cases and 43 of those are on Ocracoke.

Luana Gibbs, Hyde County Health Director, confirmed in an interview today that a 61-year-old man from Engelhard died of COVID on Christmas Day.

“I mean, (the virus) is just in the community very, very strong now,” she said.

The difference in the state and county numbers reflect a reporting lag time.

While this is a significant rise in Hyde County cases, today’s count includes activity since Dec. 23, Gibbs said. The Health Department did not report activity while the office was closed Dec. 24 to 28. However, they did contact people who had positive lab results during this time so that they could isolate.

Gibbs said the Health Department has received Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and health care workers began to be inoculated today.

She said health care workers, EMS personnel and long-term care facilities are in the first phase to receive vaccines.

The next phase will go to people aged 75 plus, regardless of health conditions, and frontline essential workers, according NC DHHS guidance on who to vaccinate and when.

“We’re rolling it out in phases and people just need to stay tuned for that so that they can find out when they’re up,” she said.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines each need a second dose about three weeks apart to be effective and Gibbs said the federal government is controlling when the second doses roll out.

She said her staff is coordinating getting vaccines to Ocracoke.

Rapid tests are available on both the mainland and Ocracoke, Gibbs said.

“The tests are free, and the vaccines are free,” she said.

Gibbs urged the Latino community, regardless of immigration status, not to be afraid of being tested and getting vaccines.

“They are just as entitled to get tested, and to get vaccinated, as anybody else,” she said. “And they will not be deported. That’s not what we’re about. We’re about preventing the spread of the virus in preventing death.”

Gail Covington, a family nurse practitioner on Ocracoke, noted in an interview on Monday that the official numbers may differ because there are different ways of reporting. She reports her activity through the Dare County Health Department, but those numbers still accrue to Hyde County.

“Every test performed in North Carolina has to be reported within 24 hours,” she said.

She has rapid tests but since she does not take health insurance, patients have to pay for the test and an office visit.

She added that the rapid test is more accurate if a patient has symptoms.

“Five to seven days post exposure is the optimal testing time,” she said.

The control of viral spread is dependent upon public action, Gibbs said in the press release. “The very best protection is to stay home, but if you must be out, socially distance from people, wear facial coverings, and wash your hands frequently,” it said. “Get your vaccine as soon as possible and continue to practice the 3 Ws. The prevention of people getting sick and dying is related to our actions. We must all, as a society, do our part.”

Hyde County Health Department continues to test those who have been exposed to the virus or develop symptoms.

An appointment is required, but they can be reached at 252-926-4399 Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The Ocracoke Health Center has 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.

For 24/7 on-call services, call the Coronavirus Hotline at 1-866-462-3821.

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