NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – New Hanover County Public Health officials were informed of five additional deaths of residents from COVID-19 this week, bringing the total number of county residents who have died from COVID-19 to 67.
Of the individuals who died this week, one was in their 50’s, one was in their 60’s, one was in their 70’s and two were in their 80’s. All were considered to be at increased risk of severe illness because of age or underlying health conditions.
To date, there have been a total 8,034 cases of COVID-19 in New Hanover County, with about 1,352 of those currently infected with the virus. Public Health is currently monitoring eight outbreaks and three clusters of the virus locally. Health officials urge residents to continue protective measures to slow the spread of the virus through the holiday season and vaccine distribution.
“Overall, our community has taken up the call to protect one another, and we see that in our outbreak data and cluster data, especially compared to other nearby communities, but the work is not over,” said Public Health Director Phillip Tarte. “This virus is serious, and we implore everyone to make their holiday plans with safety for others in mind. Celebrate with those in your household, and if gathering with others, do so outdoors, wear your face covering and maintain distance. Vaccines are on the horizon, but we still have many months to go with these protective measures in place to keep everyone safe.”
Work has been underway with state and hospital partners to prepare for an efficient distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine locally over four phases. With emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine currently under consideration, and the Moderna, Inc. vaccine to be reviewed next week, supplies could be seen in New Hanover County in the coming days or weeks. The initial supply will go directly to the hospital for administration to their frontline healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients. Subsequent deliveries of the vaccine in this first phase will be administered to first responders, long term care and congregate living staff and residents, and people with two or more chronic health conditions, indicating high risk of complications from COVID-19.
“The COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed in four phases, prioritizing administration to individuals according to risk of exposure and risk of severe illness,” said Health and Human Services Director Donna Fayko. “Phases two through four staggers administration of the vaccine to other healthcare workers not directly exposed, individuals in historically marginalized communities, older adults, essential workers and the general public. We encourage our residents to learn about the vaccinations and the rigorous process for FDA approval. Hesitancy is understandable, but the trials and approval process are no different than that of other life-saving vaccines we have.”
Vaccination will likely occur in two doses, 21 to 28 days apart depending on the vaccine received. Residents will receive a card with vaccine information and an appointment to return for the second dose. Both doses are necessary to be considered vaccinated from COVID-19 for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. More information on COVID-19 vaccines and the authorization process can be found at FDA.gov and covid19.NCDHHS.gov/vaccine.
Full implementation of the vaccination plan is expected to take up to nine months, so continuing protective measures and the three Ws (wearing a face covering, waiting six feet from others and washing your hands) will remain imperative to safely continue reopening and increasing economic and social activity.
Residents can learn more about COVID-19 vaccination planning and the four phases of distribution locally at Health.NHCgov.com/Coronavirus.
To view the most recent case count data, information, updates and resources in New Hanover County, visit Health.NHCgov.com/Coronavirus, call our Public Health Coronavirus Call Center at 910-798-6800, and follow the county’s trusted social media pages: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Nextdoor.