LUMBERTON — Cases of the novel coronavirus dropped in Robeson County for the second straight week, and after a deadly week to end April, deaths declined to begin May.
The Robeson County Health Department reported 126 new cases between May 1 and Friday, down from 148 reported from April 24 to April 30. This brings the pandemic total to 16,765.
There were two virus-related deaths reported in the county from May 1 through Friday, down from the five deaths for the period of April 24-30. There have been 235 virus-related deaths in Robeson County during the pandemic.
One statistic did take a bad turn over the past week. The county’s testing positivity rate rose to 5.8%. This is the first time since early March Robeson County has not been below the goal of 5%. This could be indicative of the rise in variant strains seen across the state, county Health Department Director Bill Smith said.
The Pfizer vaccination is expected to have approval for emergency use for children ages 12 and up by next week, according to Smith. Pfizer also has officially requested full approval from the FDA, which would allow them to develop and market a booster without “going through all the hoops,” Smith said.
Both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines remain readily available throughout the county, Smith said. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services posts all participating vaccination sites on its website.
There have been 26,392 first doses of the vaccine administered in Robeson County, according to NCDHHS statistics as of noon Friday, and 23,033 second doses.
Appointment schedules at vaccination clinics around the county are no longer full, Smith said. The NCDHHS statistics suggest just 383 first doses of the vaccine were administered in Robeson County between May 1 and Friday.
Efforts are being made to go to group settings to vaccinate the population.
“There is a growing effort by promoters of various events that attendance limitations should be modified to take into account that vaccinated individuals do not need the same protections of unvaccinated,” Smith said. “As such, more vaccinated people should be allowed to attend sporting events, concerts, etc. than was originally thought. This could be a takeoff of the old no shirt, no shoes, no attendance rule. This would be a great time to get vaccinated. Summer events are coming and having the majority vaccinated makes it safer for all.”
To reach the goal of two-thirds of the population vaccinated, about 89,780 would need to be vaccinated in Robeson County, Smith said. Two-thirds is the threshold for the relaxation of most, if not all, of the pandemic-related restrictions.
UNC Health Southeastern reported eight virus-positive patients in isolation at its medical center, with no additional potential positives under investigation. This is down from 13 virus-positive patients on April 30. Two employees are quarantined because of possible exposure to the virus, down from four on April 30.
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke reported 13 active cases among its student body as of late Friday, with three among faculty and staff, and none among subcontractors. Seven student cases and two faculty/staff cases were newly reported since April 30.
There have been 67 student cases during the spring semester, 27 among faculty and staff, and eight among subcontractors.
Statewide, there were 10,746 new cases reported between May 1 and Friday, down from 12,820 for the period April 24-30. The state’s pandemic total is 980,498 cases.
There were 129 virus-related deaths reported in North Carolina between May 1 and Friday, up marginally from the 128 between April 24 and April 30. The pandemic death toll in the state now stands at 12,780.
There were 1,006 virus-related hospitalizations across the state as of Friday, down from the 1,101 reported on April 30.
There have been 3,122,841 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered statewide and 2,724,929 second doses as of noon Friday.
In other virus-related news, NCDHHS announced Friday it is kicking off its Bring Summer Back campaign on Sunday with more than 140 partner organizations statewide registered to rally together to promote vaccination efforts in their communities.
The campaign was announced April 22 and organizations across the state have registered to participate by hosting vaccine education events, doing door-to-door to help community members schedule their appointments and sharing vaccine information across their communication channels, according to NCDHHS.
There are participating organizations in 55 counties, including more than 3,100 volunteers. The campaign is estimated to reach more than 1.2 million people. This includes several statewide organizations, including some with chapters in Robeson County.
“We are excited that thousands of people from all corners of the state have joined the Bringing Summer Back campaign to encourage their neighbors to get vaccinated,” NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said. “While our state continues to make great strides in vaccinating as many people as possible, we still have more work to do to get more people vaccinated, reduce the spread of COVID-19 and bring summer back to North Carolina.”
The campaign will run Sunday through May 21 and again from June 6 to June 12 and June 20-26.
The more than 140 organizations registered vary and include the business sector, medical organizations, health departments, faith-based organizations, community-based groups and various charitable organizations.
Organizations that want to get involved can register, download the partner toolkit and access ideas for how to participate at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/BringSummerBack (Spanish: covid19.ncdhhs.gov/DevueltaAlVerano) or by sending an email to [email protected]
For more information about COVID-19 vaccines in North Carolina, visit YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov or call the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Help Center at 888-675-4567. Appointments can be made by visiting MySpot.nc.gov.