One in four COVID-19 tests in Dare County came back positive this past week


Nearly one out of every four COVID-19 tests administered in Dare County came back positive this week, mirroring the similar spike in cases around the country and the omicron variant is now estimated to be the dominant variant on the Outer Banks.

Dare County Health and Human Services weekly coronavirus report issued on Tuesday said the positive test rate jumped from around 11.1 percent the previous week to 24.6 percent for the week ending December 26.

The percentage of positive tests statewide reported Tuesday was 21.9 percent, the highest since the pandemic began and more than double the rate compared to last Wednesday.

Hospitalizations in North Carolina were also up 18 percent from a week ago to 1,922, with one of every four patients in intensive care units.

14 residents from Dare County are currently hospitalized, while the death toll remained at 26 in Tuesday’s report.

More from Dare DHHS:

The number of new COVID-19 cases and the percent of positive tests to total tests both increased again this past week. Random testing of positive covid specimens conducted by Vidant Health for the eastern North Carolina region indicated approximately 30% of the sequenced specimens for the week ending 12/19 were the Omicron variant. It is estimated that percentage is much higher now.

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.

The total number of new positive cases reported in Dare County for the past week was 228. The  majority of new cases were acquired by direct contact with friends or family members who were positive or symptomatic.  Of the 228 new cases last week:

  • 189 (83%) are symptomatic

  • 198 (87%) acquired the virus by direct contact with someone who was positive for COVID-19.

  • 131 (57%) were not vaccinated. Of the 91 vaccinated cases: 13 had J&J vaccine; 49 had Moderna, and 35 had Pfizer.

  • Of the 91 vaccinated cases, only 17 had received a booster or additional dose.

Currently, there are 187 active COVID-19 cases among residents of Dare County. There are 14 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.

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. 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 3,916 positive cases of COVID-19 reported in Dare County. 3,036 (78%) of those cases were not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated. Of the 860 breakthrough cases:

  • 533 residents and 327 non-residents

  • 299 were asymptomatic; 332 reported mild symptoms and 56 reported moderate symptoms

  • 4 were hospitalized

  • 1 death

  • 168 had the J&J vaccine

  • 369 had the Moderna vaccine

  • 320 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 27,268 (74%) of eligible Dare County residents have received an initial dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 25,039 (70%) 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.

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 Pfizer
Call your area pharmacy.

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

Flu and COVID-19

Unlike COVID-19, influenza, seasonal flu, is not classified as a required reportable disease, however health departments, area medical providers and hospitals monitor flu activity through syndromic surveillance. Reports from the Outer Banks Hospital and area medical providers, as well as data from the NC DHHS, indicates that while influenza circulation remains low overall, increased numbers of influenza A (H2N2) have been detected locally and across the state in recent weeks. Additionally, there have been a handful of locally reported cases of co-occurring influenza A and COVID-19 infections.  Historically, influenza A(H3N2) predominant seasons have often been associated with more severe flu seasons, especially among older adults and young children. While the intensity of the 2021-22 influenza season is uncertain, given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic there is risk for stressing the healthcare system with both viruses circulating.

Individuals ages 6 months and older are encouraged to get vaccinated for  influenza. You may contact the health department, pharmacy or area healthcare provider to get your vaccine. Vaccination is the best way to reduce the spread of influenza and can lower the risk of severe illness resulting in hospitalizations and deaths. Flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be administered at the same visit. While it is unknown what the vaccine effectiveness of this year’s influenza vaccine will be, the A(H3N2) component was recently updated and is genetically similar to A(H3N2) viruses currently circulating.

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 921 COVID-19 diagnostic tests reported in Dare County. This brings the total number of tests reported since early March of last year to 63,174.  There were 228 positive cases between December 20 and December 26. The percentage of positive tests to overall tests in Dare County since we started testing in March 2020 has been gradually increasing over the past few weeks. This past week was 11.12%. The percentage of positive tests to total tests for the past week increased from the previous week to 24.76%. 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.

This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.