By Connie Leinbach

With a massive fourth wave, this week the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 hit 675,000, surpassing that of the 1918 influenza outbreak which was the worst pandemic to hit the country in the 20th century, according to estimates by tracking sources.

While the COVID-19 cases across the state appear to be leveling, as Gov. Roy Cooper said in a press briefing Tuesday, the numbers are still too high and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services today reported 6,288 new COVID-19 cases, up from 4,381 the day before.

N.C. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen on Tuesday said there were 4,381 newly reported cases, which is down from a recent high on Sept. 11 of 11,337 new cases reported.

The average has been about 6,000 new cases per day. At least 1,356,985 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, and at least 15,941 have died since March 2020, according to the NCDHHS.

Both Cooper and Cohen stressed the need for the unvaccinated to get their shots in order to control the pandemic, with Cohen addressing fears about vaccine safety.

“More than one 181 million Americans have been safely vaccinated,” she said. “It is COVID that is making people critically ill.”

Cooper said 90% of North Carolinians aged 65 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

To date, North Carolina has administered over 11 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 63 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated. Sixty-eight percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

As for Hyde County, the Hyde County Health Department said in a press release Tuesday that as of Sept.17, there were 32 active cases in Hyde County. 

Of the total 770 cases the county has had since the pandemic began in early 2020, seven of those were breakthrough cases, which are cases experienced by people post-vaccination, said Luana Gibbs, Hyde County Health director. Of the total, there have been 11 deaths, all on the mainland. 

According to the NC Department of Health & Human Services COVID-19 dashboard on its website, Ocracoke has had 110 cases.

In Hyde County, 56% of the population is fully vaccinated and 64% have received one dose, Gibbs said.

She said COVID-19 cases spiked during mid to late August but have waned somewhat as of mid-September. 

Gibbs said additional shots are available for residents whose immune systems are compromised, and more information will come later about booster doses.  

Free vaccines against this virus are available in clinics for people aged 12 and over every Tuesday and Thursday and the health department administers COVID-19 tests daily.

For an appointment at Hyde Health, call 252-926-4399.  

The Ocracoke Health Center gives first, second and third doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesdays, said Mandy Cochran, R.N.

She added that the health center will hold another Pfizer vaccine clinic on Oct. 8 for children aged 12 to 17 or for adults who want this vaccine specifically.

Monoclonal antibodies are available for treatment to those infected with COVID-19 who are at high risk of severe outcomes or death, if provided the treatment within the first 10 days of the COVID-19 sickness, Gibbs said.  To get monoclonal antibodies, talk to your health care provider or find a treatment center.

Influenza season, from fall to spring, is upon us, Gibbs said, and she noted that flu shots are available now at the Hyde County Health Department. Cochran said flu shots also are available at the health center as patients come in or if they make an appointment.

The health center will have a flu shot clinic when they receive their allocation of shots, which could happen in early October.

For appointments on Ocracoke, call 252-928-1511.

To reduce your chances of contracting or spreading many of the respiratory driven viruses (common cold, RSV, COVID-19, Flu) wash your hands frequently especially after touching commonly touched items like door handles, shopping carts, etc.; cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze; avoid close contact with people who are sick; stay home if you are sick; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Doing these protocols and getting vaccinated is the way we’ll beat this virus, Cochran said.

“This isn’t going to go away without vaccines and the protocols,” she said. “That is how this ends.”

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