New Hanover County jumps from yellow to orange, first Moderna vaccines administered

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — There’s good and bad news when it comes to COVID-19 in New Hanover County. On the same day the county received its first shipment of the Moderna vaccine, it also jumped from yellow to orange on the state’s county alert system.

Panza McNeill, Clinical Services Supervisor at the New Hanover County Health Department, was the first person in the county to receive the Moderna vaccine.

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“It feels good to be a trailblazer,” McNeill said.

Longtime public health nurse Oliver Grimsley was the second to receive it.

“It was really easy, really simple,” Grimsley said.

For months the county has been forming plans to receive and distribute the vaccine to the community, and now comes time to execute those plans.

“In the coming weeks I will be working with a team of nurses going to long-term care facilities and to other agencies to vaccinate them,” McNeill said.

The county is going with a four phased approach to roll out the vaccine, ensuring those who need it most will get it first.

“We’re looking at risk of exposure, risk of developing severe illness,” said Health and Human Services Consolidated Agency director Donna Fayko.

Several different at-risk groups are included in the first three phases, but the rest of the population won’t be eligible to receive the vaccine until phase four. County Health Director Phillip Tarte says that could take a while.

“The entire rollout of the vaccine could take as long as nine months,” Tarte said.

Meanwhile New Hanover County has shifted from yellow to orange on the state’s county alert system, meaning we are seeing substantial spread and moderate impact on hospitals. Assistant Health Director Carla Turner reacting.

“It is very concerning what we’re seeing, we’re seeing an increased number each day of our positives compared to where we were several months ago,” Turner said. “We do believe that what we’re seeing now is part of a second surge within a surge from Thanksgiving.”

Health leaders are continuing to ask people to follow the Three W’s and to refrain from gathering together for Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Click here for more information on the county’s vaccine plans.

Click here for the latest report on the state’s county alert system.

Click here to view a news release from the county.