3 out of 10 COVID tests in N.C. coming back positive; Dare reports 513 new cases in past week

Almost 30 percent of COVID-19 tests in North Carolina are coming back positive, according to data released Tuesday. And the number of patients in hospitals across the state moved above 3,000.

The recent explosion in new cases across the country and around the world is also reflected in the latest numbers from Dare County Health and Human Services.

Newly appointed N.C. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kody Kinsley said more than 80 percent of recent cases were the omicron variant of the coronvirus. And he expects that almost all new cases will be omicron sooner rather than later.

During a news conference Tuesday, Governor Roy Cooper and Kinsley called on all North Carolinians to get vaccinated and get a booster as soon as they are eligible to protect themselves from severe illness from the highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19.

“For people who have been vaccinated and especially for those who have gotten boosters, the new Omicron variant has been less severe than previous surges,” Cooper said. “With these vaccines and boosters we have an amazing tool to save people’s lives and beat this pandemic – and we’ll keep our foot on the gas when it comes to getting more shots and more boosters administered.”

Cooper and Kinsley also urged the use of well-fitting, multi-layer masks as another layer of protection against spread of the virus.

If possible, wear a surgical or procedure mask, a KN95, or an N95. NCDHHS is making some higher-grade masks available for adults at no cost in more places that need them, such as long-term care facilities and federally qualified health centers, and for schools staff and populations like migrant farm workers which at higher risk of exposure or severe illness.

“Testing and wearing a mask are essential tools in slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Kinsley said. “But the bottom line is that vaccines and boosters are the number one thing you can do to protect your health.”

Governor Cooper also announced plans to extend Executive Order 224, which aims to curb COVID-19 by requiring vaccines or testing of state employees in cabinet agencies.

That order defined fully vaccinated as having two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and directed the Office of State Human Resources to issue the policy to enforce this requirement.

Under the new Order, OSHR will be given the authority to include boosters in the definition of fully vaccinated when appropriate.

Dare County Health and Human Services weekly COVID-19 report

The number of new COVID-19 laboratory confirmed cases reported to Dare County DHHS and the percent of positive tests to total tests both increased significantly this past week.

The total number of new positive cases reported in Dare County for the past week was 513. The majority of new cases were acquired by direct contact with friends or family members who were positive or symptomatic.  Of the 513 new cases last week:

  • 420 (82%) reported being symptomatic
  • 446 (87%) reported acquiring the virus by direct contact with someone who was positive for 257 COVID-19.
  • 257 (50%) were not vaccinated. 83 (16%) of the reported positive cases were boosted.

Currently, there are 156 active COVID-19 cases among residents of Dare County. There are 16 residents hospitalized due to complications from COVID-19.

The reported positive cases only include laboratory confirmed cases reported by medical providers, urgent care centers, the hospital, or the state, which includes tests performed at area pharmacies. Self-reported, over the counter, home tests are not counted in the reported count totals, however contact tracing is conducted for the positive self reported cases.

Dare County remains in the red category on the CDC’s Level of Community Transmission map, which indicates a high level of community transmission of the virus. All 100 counties in NC are in the red category.  While Dare County remains an area of widespread community transmission, all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, ages 5 and over should wear a mask when indoors in public settings. All individuals should consider wearing a mask when outside if gathering in large crowds. Individuals ages 5 and over should get vaccinated for COVID-19 to help prevent serious illness, hospitalizations and death.

CDC and NC DHHS Updated Isolation and Quarantine Guidance 

CDC has updated and shortened the recommended isolation and quarantine periods for COVID-19 in the general population to 5 days. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/s1227-isolation-quarantine-guidance.html

NC DHHS has adopted the CDC guidance as of 12/28/2021.  Please see the preceding link for details of guidance.

  • The updated guidance is effective immediately and persons currently in isolation or quarantine should adhere to the new guidance for length of quarantine, isolation and mask-wearing periods as applicable.
  • Note continued wearing of a well-fitting mask (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/effective-masks.html) for 5 days after the isolation or quarantine period ends. This applies regardless of local decisions such as mask-mandatory or mask-optional school districts.
  • Vaccination and boosters remain critical to protecting the public’s health.
    • Note the quarantine guidance differs based on whether exposed person is up to date on COVID-19 vaccination
      • Persons who have been boosted, have completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna during the last 6 months, or completed the primary series of J&J vaccine within the last 2 months are considered up to date on COVID-19 vaccination and are not required to stay home for 5 days but should wear a mask for 10 days.
      • Persons who completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna over 6 months ago and are not boosted, who completed the primary series of J&J over 2 months ago and are not boosted, or who are unvaccinated are considered not up to date on COVID-19 vaccination and should quarantine for 5 days followed by 5 days of mask use.
      • Persons with prior infection but no vaccinations are considered unvaccinated for the purposes of quarantine.
  • NCDHHS will continue to consider the isolation period to begin at onset of symptoms for symptomatic cases, even with a positive COVID-19 test prior to the symptom onset.  For persons who remain asymptomatic, the isolation period begins on the date of specimen collection for the positive test.

Breakthrough Cases

When an individual tests positive for COVID-19 two weeks or later from receiving the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine that is considered a breakthrough case. Vaccine breakthrough cases are expected. COVID-19 vaccines are effective and are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control. However, no vaccines are 100% effective at preventing illness in vaccinated people. According to the CDC, there is evidence that vaccination may make illness less severe for those who are vaccinated and still get sick.

Since the week of April 12th when the first breakthrough case was reported, there have been 4,429 positive cases of COVID-19 reported in Dare County. 3,293 (74%) of those cases were not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated. Of the 1,116 breakthrough cases:

  • 656 residents and 460 non-residents
  • 327 reported being asymptomatic; 342 reported mild symptoms and 58 reported moderate symptoms
  • 4 were hospitalized
  • 1 death
  • 192 had the J&J vaccine
  • 489 had the Moderna vaccine
  • 430 had the Pfizer vaccine
  • 5 had Astrazeneca

The whole numbers provided above are for informational purposes and not an indication of effectiveness of one vaccine compared to the others. Of note, the Moderna vaccine has been the predominant vaccine administered by Dare DHHS. The breakdown of the COVID 19 vaccines administered by Dare DHHS are: 5% J&J, 24% Pfizer and 71% Moderna.

Breakthrough cases are not currently differentiated between boosted and non-boosted, however data is showing a stronger immune response in individuals who have received their booster. If you are eligible for a booster please consider getting your booster as soon as possible.

COVID Vaccinations in Dare

All individuals 5 years of age and over are encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccination. COVID-19 vaccinations are readily available at numerous locations throughout the county including the health department and many area pharmacies like: Walgreens, CVS, Sunshine Family Pharmacy, Island Pharmacy, Bear Drugs, and Beach Pharmacy.

Individuals ages 5 and over should get vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19. That’s because experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. Even if you have already recovered from COVID-19, it is possible that you could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 again. Studies have shown that vaccination provides a strong boost in protection in people who have recovered from COVID-19. If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Since late December 2020, a total of 27,346 (74%) of eligible Dare County residents have received an initial dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 26,101 (71%) are fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 Booster Dose Information

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended booster vaccine shots for all individuals ages 16 and older to help strengthen and extend protections against COVID-19.

The FDA announced yesterday that it has recommended booster vaccines for individuals ages 12 – 15 who received their second dose at least 5 months prior, however these booster doses are not able to be provided until the CDC and NC DHHS authorizes the booster. That authorization may come later this week.

If you received the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, you can get your booster dose six months after your second shot. If you received the J&J vaccine you can get your booster two months after your shot.

Dare County Department of Health & Human Services offers Moderna booster vaccines. Below you will find a breakdown of where Dare County residents can receive first, second and booster doses.

First, Second or Booster Dose of Moderna

You may call your area pharmacy or call our Clinical Services team at 252.475.5003 (select option #2, leave a message if you reach voicemail).

First Dose or Booster Dose of J&J 

Call your area pharmacy.

First, Second or Booster Dose of PfizerCall your area pharmacy.

For more information or questions about COVID-19 vaccine and booster doses, please visit www.darenc.com.COVID/vaccine

Key Metrics

Each week we review the 4 key metrics associated with disease investigation and surveillance. The metrics are:

  • Number of Tests
  • Confirmed Cases
  • Positive Tests as a Percent of Total Tests
  • COVID Like Illness Surveillance

This past week there were 1,652 COVID-19 diagnostic tests reported in Dare County. This brings the total number of tests reported since early March of last year to 64,826.  There were 513 positive cases between December 27 and January 2. The percentage of positive tests to overall tests in Dare County since we started testing in March 2020 has been increasing over the past few weeks. This past week was 11.63%. The percentage of positive tests to total tests for the past week increased from the previous week to 31.05%. Syndromic surveillance of individuals presenting with COVID like symptoms to the emergency department and urgent care have increased. These graphs can be found on the Dare County website at www.darenc.com/covid19.

Communications and Information Sharing

Dare County DHHS has an established schedule of communication to share information regarding COVID-19. Every Tuesday, a written update which includes the previous week’s COVID-19 key metrics is issued. Additional updates will be released as needed. All released videos and written updates can be found on our website, DHHS facebook page, Dare County Twitter page, and Dare Emergency Management Twitter page. If you would like to receive these updates directly to your email, please sign up to receive our enotifications.

New positive cases this week will be updated on the dashboard and on our website and shared on the DHHS facebook page Monday- Friday. To find the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 cases in Dare County visit www.darenc.com/covid19. State COVID-19 data is available at https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard.

Contact Us

We encourage you to stay informed by visiting www.darenc.com/covid19 or by visiting the CDC or NC DHHS websites. If you have specific needs or questions you may also call the Dare County COVID-19 call center open Monday-Friday from 8:30 to 5:00 at 252-475-5008.