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 https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/guidance/NCDHHS-Interim-Guidance-for-Thanksgiving.pdf.
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 Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.