Dare County’s new COVID case count, positive test percentage up over the past week

The number of new COVID-19 cases and the percent of positive tests to total tests both increased this past week in Dare County, which 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.

“We are hopeful with continued practice of mitigation measures, including getting vaccinated, masking, physical distancing and good hand hygiene, we will continue to see numbers decrease and the county move into a moderate to low level of community transmission,” according to the weekly update from Dare County Health and Human Services.

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.

The total number of new positive cases reported in Dare County for the past week was 91. The  majority of new cases were acquired by direct contact with friends or family members who were positive or symptomatic. Of the 91 new cases last week:

  • 80 (88%) are symptomatic

  • 75 (82%) acquired the virus by direct contact with someone who was positive for COVID-19.

  • 75 (82%) were not vaccinated. Of the 16 vaccinated cases: 2 had J&J vaccine; 7 had Moderna, and 7 had Pfizer).

Currently, there are 72 active COVID-19 cases among residents of Dare County. There are 4 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. If an individual tests positive more than once (i.e. retests and still positive) it is only counted as one case.

Omicron SARS-CoV-2 Variant

Many people heard about the new SARS-CoV-2 variant, B.1.1.529 or Omicron, over the holiday weekend. Summarized below is information from NC DHHS on what we know, what we don’t know, and what can be expected in the coming weeks with regards to Omicron.

What we know:

  • A new variant (B.1.1.529) was recently identified with many mutations, including >30 in the spike protein.

  • On November 26, the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529 was designated “omicron” and declared a variant of concern by WHO.

  • Omicron has rapidly replaced the delta variant across South Africa, suggesting it is more transmissible.

  • Omicron has been detected in a growing list of countries, including in some people with no travel to southern Africa.

  • As of the writing of this email, Omicron has not yet been detected in the US. However, it is highly likely that this variant is already here.

    • As of the most recent sequencing data, over 99% of sequenced specimens in North Carolina and the US are Delta variant

  • Omicron has a number of mutations in the spike protein that could result in decreased protection following vaccination or past infection.

    • To date, there are no laboratory or epidemiologic studies showing whether and to what degree omicron can evade immunity from vaccination or past infection.

    • It is expected that vaccines currently authorized or approved in the US will remain effective against severe outcomes.

  • The FDA continues to evaluate the performance of diagnostic tests for SARS-CoV-2. Evidence so far suggests that all diagnostic tests for SARS-CoV-2 with an emergency use authorization (EUA) should successfully detect omicron.

  • The Biden Administration has imposed new travel restrictions for immigrant and noncitizens travelers into the US from the countries of the  Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Republic of South Africa, and the Republic of Zimbabwe.

 What we don’t know:

  • No actual data yet on immune escape, vaccine effectiveness, transmissibility, or illness severity.

  • While some of the mutations have been associated with changes in these factors in other variants, there is minimal to no data on the actual behavior of this viral variant.

 What to anticipate:

  • We anticipate that Omicron will be identified in the US and in North Carolina in the coming days and weeks.

  • New guidance from CDC on testing and self-quarantine of air travelers prior to and returning from international travel is anticipated by the end of the week.

  • Laboratory and epidemiologic data on vaccine induced and post-infection immunity, disease severity, and transmissibility will be increasing in the coming weeks.

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. There will be a small percentage of fully vaccinated people who still get sick, are hospitalized, or die from COVID-19. 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 3,257 positive cases of COVID-19 reported in Dare County. 2,596 (80%) of those cases were not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated. Of the 661 breakthrough cases:

  • 396 residents and 265 non-residents

  • 251 were asymptomatic; 273 reported mild symptoms and 48 reported moderate symptoms

  • 3 were hospitalized

  • 0 deaths

  • 132 had the J&J vaccine

  • 271 had the Moderna vaccine

  • 255 had the Pfizer vaccine

  • 3 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.

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 26,845 (73%) of eligible Dare County residents have received an initial dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 25,562 (69%) 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 adults 18 and older to help strengthen and extend protections against COVID-19.

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 or Second 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).

Booster Dose of Moderna
Call your area pharmacy or call 252.475.5003 to receive your vaccine through Dare County Department of Health & Human Services.

First Dose or Booster Dose of J&J
Call your area pharmacy.

First, Second or Booster Dose of Pfizer
Call 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 684 COVID-19 diagnostic tests reported in Dare County. This brings the total number of tests performed since early March of last year to 59,701.  There were 91 positive cases between November 22 and November 28. The percentage of positive tests to overall tests in Dare County since we started testing in March 2020 has been relatively stable for the past six weeks. This past week was 10.66%. The percentage of positive tests to total tests for the past week increased from the previous week to 13.30%. Syndromic surveillance of individuals presenting with COVID like symptoms to the emergency department and urgent care centers shows low levels of activity. 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.