It has been eight months since we reported our first confirmed case of COVID-19 in New Hanover County, and for eight months we, as a community, have been navigating the challenges of living through a pandemic. Although Thanksgiving and the holiday season must look different this year, we can’t help but reflect on the resilience of our community, for which we are so grateful.
Over these many months, where there has been illness, there have been frontline workers and family members providing care; where there has been economic strife, there have been community organizations and social services programs providing assistance; where there has been stress, there have been mental health professionals on the other end of the phone line providing comfort. Through each phase of reopening, businesses and citizens have risen to the challenge, changing operations and adding protective measures. Your hard work and perseverance has paid off, and it has saved lives.
In New Hanover County, we have done a great job of keeping the virus at bay as best we can. Our residents, our local businesses, our faith communities and our residential facilities have taken up the call and worked hard to protect one another. And while our county does have significant community spread, with around 821 active COVID-19 cases and a weekly case count trend that is going up, we are in a better position than many other areas around the state (you can see that reflected in the state’s new COVID-19 County Alert System).
We can and should take a moment to celebrate our small victories, but we also have to keep pushing forward. We are entering a period of increased risk. One event with lax precautions can lead to hundreds of infections and even some deaths. So gatherings, travel, shopping and social outings need to look different this holiday season.
We need your continued help and ask that each of you be mindful of what you do and where you go in the coming months. Please limit gatherings to those in your household, and get creative with extended friends and families with virtual events. If you attend or host a gathering, take advantage of our southern mild winters, and stay outside.
We also encourage you to support your local businesses by using online and curbside services. Remember that New Hanover County is a shopping destination for residents in nearby counties, some of which have much higher virus transmission. As activity increases over the holidays, it’s critically important for businesses and customers to do all they can to protect themselves and others by following all protective measures.
If you do travel, research the impact of the virus at your destination, and any extra measures and restrictions in place there. No matter your plans, whether it’s a gathering or travel, get a COVID-19 test for a snapshot view of your health and risk, and continue those protective measures throughout the season by wearing a face covering, waiting six feet from others, and washing your hands.
Your Public Health team, and all of the healthcare workers, first responders and essential workers across the county continue to work hard responding to COVID-19, and planning for upcoming vaccine distribution. It’s important to know that when a vaccine becomes available, it will be a months-long process to distribute it, starting first with the most vulnerable, so safety measures are here for a while yet. As much as we want to go back to “normal,” we need to collectively move forward from where we are now.
We will keep working for you, and we ask that you work with us and each other. We’re in this together and we’ll get through it together. Here’s to a happy and healthy holiday season in New Hanover County.