If they continue what they have been doing recently, the Lincoln County Health Dept. will release a weekly update this Wednesday (Aug. 25th) on the current surge of COVID-19. Likewise, Catawba County will release its weekly report on the virus.
In both cases, the figures will show that the 'fourth wave' that has beset all of the United States is continuing.
Nothing we can publish is likely to change anyone's mind about the virus. Those who have labeled it 'political' will still hold that opinion. The anti-vaxxers, whatever their reasons, won't be persuaded by data; they'll continue to believe anecdotal evidence and call statistical information that belies their misinformation 'fake news.'
Nonetheless, from the beginning of the pandemic, this reporter has vowed to provide accurate news about the virus from reliable sources, and despite the naysayers, will continue to do so.
Contrary to some of the arguments we heard during the public comments portion of both the Lincoln Charter School and Catawba County Schools board meetings on Monday (Aug. 23rd), the masks and other efforts undertaken last year to mitigate the spread of the disease DO work.
Because of the masks and the social distancing and the forced closure of some businesses, North Carolina had one of the mildest flu seasons ever. Only seven people were confirmed to have died due to complications brought on by influenza.
Some of the anti-maskers (who perhaps not strangely are also anti-vaxxers) said Monday night that the masks had made little difference--and two (one in each meeting) compared Hawaii, the state that had the most severe restrictions, with states that had few restrictions. Actually, an accurate comparison proves Hawaii's decisions (and those of North Carolina) far better than those of states who didn't impose restrictions and who reopened early.
Since the pandemic began, North Carolina has had 134 deaths per 100 thousand population. South Carolina has had 200 per 100K. Florida has had 198; Georgia 209; Alabama 244; Louisiana 257; Texas 186; Tennessee 193. South Dakota, which had the least restrictions of any state, has had 232 deaths per 100K. Hawaii has had the lowest number of deaths per 100K of any state--39.
Now we're in the era of vaccines--which weren't available until this year; and once again, those states who have followed scientific evidence and got vaccinated are faring better than those who have not.
The 'deep South' has had the lowest percentages of population getting vaccinated--and it shows. Over the last seven days, Louisiana has had 393 COVID deaths--8.5 per 100K population. Arkansas has had 306; 6.8 per 100K. Alabama has the nation's lowest percentage of any state for vaccinations, followed by Mississippi and Louisiana.
North Carolina now has 49% of its total population fully vaccinated. A small number of people, deemed to have severely depressed immune systems because of factors like organ transplants or cancer treatment, have received a third shot.
The figures for our local counties are much less. Catawba County has 43% fully vaccinated; Lincoln County 40%; Gaston and Cleveland counties 38%.
While there have been some who have had reactions to the vaccines, the number is very, very small compared to the total number who have been vaccinated. While most area hospitals have been reluctant to provide this information, Facebook posts appeared the last couple of days that provided some comparative data about hospitalizations. We asked those who posted the data for the source of their information.
One Atrium employee offered, "Atrium info is from facility census data distributed on 8/20/21 via the daily brief to leaders. I simply pulled it from an email and posted it just as did some of my peers who work with Atrium."
The Catawba Valley Medical Center graph was posted on their Facebook page along with the following:
"The pandemic is not over," said Eddie Beard, President and CEO. "In fact, we need the community’s help more than ever to be vigilant in protecting themselves and others.”
As we previously reported, Lincoln Charter School's board voted 5-3 Monday to make masks mandatory for everyone until September 28th unless the board should change that decision in another meeting. Catawba County, on a 4-3 vote, decided to remain 'masks optional.' Newton-Conover Schools are also 'masks optional.' Hickory City Schools are 'masks required.' Lincoln County Schools, Gaston County Schools, and Cleveland County Schools all reversed their policies and now have a mask mandate. Westlake Preparatory Academy is 'masks optional.'
Following the recommendation of public health officials, more and more school districts are enacting mask mandates for students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, but it's important to understand that a mask is just one of many things that can be done for protection against COVID-19.
Most important is vaccinations. Anyone 12 years old or older is now eligible to get vaccinated.
Children under 12 can't get vaccinated yet, which makes other measures more important. One of the most important is making sure your child stays home when ill--with the COVID virus or any other disease.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention's back-to-school guidelines include:
Students ages 12+ should get vaccinated, as should teachers and other school staff.
Universal masking, regardless of vaccination status.
At least three feet of physical distancing when possible.
Health screenings and regular testing.
Perhaps the most knowledgeable epidemiologist in the country is the University of Minnesota's Dr. Michael Osterholm, who has been critical of the CDC's social distancing and masking advice.
"To think that you can stop a virus like this now, being three feet apart from somebody, is beyond pixie dust wishful thinking," Osterholm said last week on his podcast, the Osterholm Update.
Osterholm has called for federal and local authorities to recommend high quality masks, namely the N95 and K95 masks that offer more protection than cloth and paper masks.
Osterholm says schools need to establish better ventilation, extensive testing and to encourage, or better still, provide students with the best masks possible.
The N95 and KN95 provide better protection for the wearer and also help to prevent someone who is infected from spreading the virus to others.
"Whatever kind of mask you may be using, it's important to have the mask fitted well to your face (over your mouth and nose with no gaps) and to wear it consistently," Osterholm said. "Not having it pulled over your nose is like closing windows to keep flies and mosquitoes out of your house and leaving the doors open--totally useless!"
For anyone who doesn't know, it was Dr. Osterholm who published the book "Deadliest Enemy" in 2017, one of many who correctly predicted a pandemic might be coming. although at the time the SARS-CoV-2 virus hadn't yet been discovered.
Osterholm does a weekly podcast you can access on YouTube, Apple and Spotify. He began the podcasts in late March of last year--just as the pandemic was developing in this country. He says he'll be happy when the need for it ends.
You may find one recent podcast (from two weeks ago) most interesting: