Columbus County has reached another grim milestone in the pandemic, with the county health department announcing Thursday that a total of 103 county residents have died due to COVID-19 complications.
At least a dozen people died in the last five days, with one death Thursday morning, according to health department spokesperson Daniel Buck.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported only 90 deaths on Wednesday. These numbers, however, are not accurate as of Thursday morning. “That’s lagging behind a day or two,” said Buck.
In addition, the county saw 22 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and 81 on Wednesday, according to NCDHHS. The number of cases on Thursday was not available by presstime. The total number of cases as of Wednesday was 4,359.
NCDHHS continued to show stagnant outbreak numbers at Liberty Commons with 58 cases and three deaths, Premier Living with two cases and Shoreland with 11 cases.
Potential change to vaccine distribution
Gov. Roy Cooper in his press conference Tuesday noted that North Carolina might change its vaccine distribution plan for the third time.
Currently, Columbus County is in Phase 1B Group 1, which comprises individuals aged 75 and older. Under the current distribution plan, the next group would be for healthcare and frontline essential workers over the age of 50, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Now, NCDHHS is considering switching Phase 1B Group 2 to include individuals aged 65-74 and those with underlying health conditions, under new guidance from the White House Task Force.
“This recommendation was based upon the fact that the virus is so widespread across the country that we know that older people get hit with this,” Cooper said.
NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen promised to review the new guidance and make a decision soon. “Getting this kind of advice in the middle of all this is obviously very challenging,” she said. “We will examine those and see how it will fit.”
On Wednesday, Buck had not received any official guidance from NCDHHS about this potential distribution change. “We haven’t had concrete words sent down,” he said. “If that happens, we’ll roll with the punches and transition to whatever we’re told to do.”
Mass vaccination sites
Cooper on Tuesday also announced that the state was establishing 10 mass vaccination sites to help local hospitals and health departments administer the COVID-19 vaccine to North Carolinians. While none are in Columbus County, residents 75 and older can still get their vaccine at one of the sites.
“While people are encouraged to look for vaccine availability first in their area as allocations are based in part on population, people are not required to be vaccinated in their county of residence,” said NCDHHS spokesperson Sarah Lewis Peel. “Vaccines are a federal resource, and, as we know, this virus does not recognize county or even state lines.”
These sites will add more than 45,000 vaccinations each week, according to Cohen.