By Connie Leinbach

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Hyde County, officials are keeping up as much as they can with testing and vaccine administration.

Luana Gibbs, Hyde County Health director, said in an interview on Friday that as of that afternoon, Hyde has 90 active cases, 501 recovered cases and seven deaths.

She could not say how many of the active cases are on Ocracoke Island, but the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services Department COVID-19 dashboard indicates that 87 cases are on Ocracoke.

Gibbs said that all reportable, communicable disease data is inputted into the North Carolina Electronic Disease Surveillance System and only county health departments use the system.

“We put (data) in the NCED system as we get notified of results,” she said. “So, you’ll never get our numbers and those on the dashboard to match.”

The state updates their numbers by about 11 a.m. each day and Gibbs, who recently decided that they will update the numbers only once a week, on Facebook on Friday afternoons.

For several months, Hyde Health posted the county’s cases daily but in a recent press release said they were reducing that to once a week.

That’s because the health department is overwhelmed.

“We have three offices set up with people answering the phone and registering them into the system,” she said. “And the EMS is helping us give shots.”

Gibbs participates in the Tuesday conference calls the state holds with county health departments.

“We contacted them early on,” she said about asking the state for help. “We were already understaffed. They quickly deployed people to help—one to answer phones and a nurse.”

The nurse just left from her week’s tour in Hyde, Gibbs said.

Next week someone from Hyde County Emergency Services will help give shots in the office.

County employees from other departments also are helping out in the health department, Gibbs said.

As for vaccines, Gibbs said the numbers that Hyde receives varies. Most of the time it’s been 100 doses and sometimes 200 doses. Now, she said, second doses are arriving.

Hyde schedules 50 shots per day, she said. While right now the priority is for healthcare workers and people aged 65 and over in the Phase 1B group, the county will call people in subsequent groups to come in so that none of the vaccines are wasted.

That’s because each vial of the precious vaccine lasts only six hours after opening and the department does not want to have to throw vaccines away.

“Those vaccine supplies are very limited, so it’s going to take a number of months before vaccines are widely available to everyone,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, in a press conference Thursday.

As of Thursday, Cohen said, 569,334 total doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered, a rollout that put North Carolina 10th in the country in the number of inoculations given.

Gibbs said in a press release Friday that of the total 598 cases, 52% are white, led by 24% black or African American; 62% are male, 40% are ages 25-49 years old. Of the total cases, 33% have come from a congregate living setting association; and 31% of cases have comorbidities. 

She suggested that people review these percentages with caution, because several of the case criteria are listed as “unknown.”  

To schedule an appointment at the Hyde County Health Department, please call 252-926-4467.  

Islanders are welcome to schedule appointments at the health department’s Swan Quarter office and can also schedule appointments with the Ocracoke Health Center at 252-489-3622.

At either facility, leave a message if you do not talk to someone. Please be patient while waiting for a return phone call, and do not call back, as this ties up the phone lines.

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