Health director worries about increase in COVID-19 cases as holidays approach

County Health Department clinic nurse Erica Johnson processes COVID-19 tests during a drive-thru testing clinic in August. Health Director Stephanie Cannon reported Monday the percent of positive cases has increased in the county. (Cheryl Burke photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — With Thanksgiving approaching, County Health Department Director Stephanie Cannon is urging people to follow safety measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“It’s really important for us to continue putting into practice the prevention measures we know can help slow the spread of this virus: Wearing a mask, waiting 6 feet from others and washing our hands. As we enter the holiday season, we should double down on these efforts to ensure we keep our loved ones safe when we gather,” she said during the Consolidated Human Services Board meeting, held Monday via Zoom.

Ms. Cannon said she continues to be concerned about the rise in cases in the county, pointing out that for the last week of October, 8.6% of residents tested were positive for COVID-19.

“This is the highest positivity rate we’ve had during the entire pandemic,” Ms. Cannon said. “Five percent or lower positivity is our goal.”

As of Monday evening, county health officials reported 243 active cases in the county and 16 COVID-19 deaths. The county has reported 1,506 total confirmed cases, with 1,231 reportedly recovered.

Ms. Cannon encouraged residents to get tested if they have COVID-like symptoms, have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 or feel they may have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19.

Ms. Cannon said over the next couple of weeks, her staff will finalize a COVID-19 vaccine plan.

“What we know so far is doses will be limited initially, with health care workers, critical infrastructure and long-term care facilities (staff and residents) getting the vaccine first,” she said.

She added she doesn’t know what vaccines will be approved by the federal government or when they will arrive. She pointed out that Pfizer announced Monday its vaccine could be up to 90% effective in preventing COVID-19, but clinical trials continue.

“Ultimately, any vaccine will need to have the FDA’s (Food and Drug Administration) approval before it becomes available to the public,” she said. “In the coming weeks, we should learn more, but the fact that we are talking about having a vaccine in the coming months is encouraging.”

Ms. Cannon said those who want to see N.C. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines regarding Thanksgiving gatherings can go to

Some safety tips on the site include:

·     Be careful if gatherings include individuals at higher risk for severe illness, such as those over 65, those with underlying health conditions and those living in communities where there is an increasing or high number of cases.

·     Those who have recently been diagnosed with COVID-19, have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been around a person with COVID-19 should not host or participate in any in-person gatherings until they complete their isolation or quarantine period.

·     Limit travel during the holidays and limit physical contact with people who do not live in your household.

·     Practice the 3 W’s and wear a face covering, keep 6 feet of social distancing and wash hands well.

·     If you are traveling and/or planning to be with family members you do not live with during the holidays, consider having a screening COVID-19 test prior to travel or attending family gatherings.

·     If you are planning in-person holiday gatherings with people outside of your household, consider asking all guests to strictly avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.

·     Remind invited guests to stay home if they have been exposed to COVID-19 in the last 14 days or are showing COVID-19 symptoms.

·     Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces.

·     Keep the guest list small. When deciding how many people to invite to your gathering, consider the amount of space you have and the ability to maintain social distancing during the event.

·     Higher risk guests should consider attending events virtually, so they can remain safely at home.

·     If higher risk individuals do attend gatherings in person, ensure the 3 W’s are practiced by all guests and limit the number of other guests in attendance as much as possible.

·     The day before the event, all guests should screen for symptoms and stay home if they are not feeling well.

·     Host your gathering outdoors, when possible. If this is not feasible, make sure the room or space is well-ventilated by opening windows and doors to the extent that is safe and feasible based on the weather.

·     Arrange tables and chairs to allow for social distancing between guests. People from the same household can be in groups together and do not need to be 6 feet apart — just 6 feet away from other groups or families.

·     When guests need to remove a face covering to eat or drink, it is recommended they maintain 6 feet distance from people outside their household and put their face coverings back on after they are done eating or drinking.

·     Limit people going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen or around the grill, if possible. Have one household approach the food serving area at a time to prevent congregating.

·     Consider identifying one person to serve all food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils.

·     Use single-use options or identify one person to serve sharable items, like salad dressings, food containers and condiments, so that multiple people are not handling the items.


Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

(14) comments

David Collins

Worry about this and that is what health directors are supposed to do . What the people do is what they are going to do . Worrying will seldom change a thing so chill and enjoy the holidays . Just be prepared for what will likely will be a significant spike during and after the expected family gatherings . Quite hard to save people from themselves .


It is obvious that the pandemic has worn people down-but how hard is it to wear a mask? I’m seeing less mask use by restaurant employees now, maybe that’ll be the real nail in the coffin for these businesses. We are beginning to boycott places whose management doesn’t care for their community...


Exactly, David. Health folks will Always err on the side of caution. That's their training plus trying to stay away from lawsuits.

Exactly what irks me about Dr Mandy having Gov. Coops ear. She will never want to move forward except at a turtles pace.

BTW, I hear she is headed to DC to be Biden's health guru.

David Collins

That is what Biden needs . Someone that moves at his pace and follows orders . A Dr. that has never had a practice . Yup , it fits .


I’m guessing Biden smelled Dr. Mandy’s hair and took a liking to it when he was in Raleigh visiting with Coop in late October.

David Collins

Heard that the ICU patient numbers at Vidant in Greenville are actually down as of today . Heard it on the Hinton Show out of Greenville . Once again , conflicting reports . Whatcha gonna believe .


I worry that our country won't be subverted. Others are worried over the flu. There are bigger things to worry about, here.


Lets see: Higher testing rates. More cases identified. Makes sense. What is the true rate of hospitalizations, mortality? The last two are true indicators of "worry". This case number worry is non productive.


Simple mortality rate is 241,000 deaths divided by confirmed cases-10.2 million. So-roughly 2.3%.......


The government telling us how to congregate during the holidays. Yeah, that will work.


Higher testing more cases.. if only we stopped testing there would be less cases. that sounds so familiar but i can't quite place where I heard it. In 1918 there was similar sentiment about masks, my rights/ tyranny, stupid drs/ and scientists taking away my rights. Locally i see everyone masked in lowes foods, 30% not masked in lowes hardware, no one wearing masks in 4 local gas stations, and about 50% in liquor store. I am not going to argue rights/ tyranny/death rates or any of that nonsense. I have no expectation to change hearts and minds with a few paragraphs in the paper. It is simple, smart& cautious people, will wear tight fitting masks, keep their distance, carry and use hand sanitizer constantly after being out in public and touching ANYTHING. That will LESSEN their risk, of covid, regular flu, and allergies. A word of warning, one of my childhood friends visited her mom up in PA, was in a gas station lobby after and exposed to a man coughing who did not even have the good grace to cover his mouth. 4 days later 10/29 she was in intensive care, with Covid-19, home after a week then back in with pneumonia, thankfully she is home again, and weak but recovering.

I shudder to think what her 20% co pay is going to be for 2 weeks in intensive care.


Well, Biden’s coronavirus guru recommends we shut down the entire country for 4 - 6 weeks and let the federal government cover lost income for individuals and governments. Man, the Grinch didn’t steal Christmas.

David Collins

Most folks can not or will not do the math . Quicksand . Rather get the numbers from sources with “ no agenda “ .


Can't place which president said a vaccine was imminent not that long ago but was laughed at by whom? Since we have only one president was it the one that got much more done in less than 4 years than that Ex-VP did in 47 years?

Welcome to the discussion.

As a privately owned web site, we reserve the right to edit or remove comments that contain spam, advertising, vulgarity, threats of violence, racism, anti-Semitism, or personal/abusive/condescending attacks on other users or goading them. The same applies to trolling, the use of multiple aliases, or just generally being a jerk. Enforcement of this policy is at the sole discretion of the site administrators and repeat offenders may be blocked or permanently banned without warning.