New Hanover Co. health officials monitor new COVID variant; continue to build Pandemic Operations Team

Photo: CDC

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — As information regarding the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to develop, New Hanover County Health and Human Services is encouraging you to stay vigilant in the fight against COVID-19, potential variants, and the seasonal flu.

“Our local COVID-19 metrics have been much better for several weeks now, and we know it can be easy to become complacent with our preventive measures, especially as we gather and celebrate holidays with friends and family,” Health Director David Howard said. “But COVID is still very much in our community, and we are also seeing an uptick in the seasonal flu – especially among young adults. So it is still extremely important to remain proactive by using preventive actions such as physical distancing, wearing a mask in indoor spaces, and practicing good hygiene to reduce the risk of viral transmission. While each of those is important in slowing the spread of viruses, the best defense we all have, individually and collectively, is getting vaccinated for both COVID-19 and the flu.”

On Wednesday, the first known report of the Omicron variant was documented in the United States as scientists continue to learn more about the latest COVID mutation. New Hanover County Health and Human Services says its continuing to monitor the latest information from the CDC and NCDHHS to keep residents informed.

COVID-19 vaccines are available for anyone ages 5 and older, and can be found at area pharmacies, health care providers and through Health and Human Services at two sites – the Health and Human Services Clinic (1650 Greenfield Street) and Independence Mall clinic (3500 Oleander Drive). The Health and Human Services Clinic is open Monday and Wednesday-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Tuesday from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. The Independence Mall clinic is open Monday and Friday from noon-5 p.m., as well as Tuesday and Thursday from noon-7 p.m.

Appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine (pediatric, adult, and boosters) can be scheduled by visiting TakeMyShot.nc.gov. Walk-ups are accepted at both locations and vaccines will be administered based on availability.

To receive a flu vaccine, visit your healthcare provider, pharmacy or the Health and Human Services Clinic (1650 Greenfield Street) at the hours listed above. No appointment is necessary for the county’s clinic.

New Hanover County is developing a Pandemic Operations Team that will manage the ongoing COVID pandemic and its variants, while also working to understand other novel diseases that are not yet here or known at this time and prepare to keep the community safe.

“As we continue to remain vigilant against COVID-19 and its variants, we know this pandemic is not over and the chance for future pandemics is a reality we must prepare for,” said New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet. “Having the Pandemic Operations Team in place, which is being funded through American Rescue Plan dollars, will be crucial to keep our community safe while allowing our Health and Human Services staff to support the overall health and well-being of our residents.”

This group will be tasked with analyzing the epidemiological spread and containment of diseases as well as managing the operations and outreach plans for the current pandemic and any other public health crisis for New Hanover County.  The team, which is being hired for now, includes an operations manager, planner, epidemiologist, outreach specialist, inventory technician, nurses, contact tracers and data administrators.

The team is expected to be a permanent addition, and serve the county beyond the current pandemic.

“We saw the need to have this surge capacity if you will, and not only in the immediate future to continue and hopefully wrap up the response to COVID-19, but also recover from COVID-19,” said David Howard.

New Hanover County’s percent positivity rate is 4.2 percent (this represents positive COVID-19 tests as a percent of total tests performed countywide).

Over the past 14 days, 332 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the county which is an average of 23.7 cases per day.

Approximately 149,116 New Hanover County residents (about 64 percent) have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and approximately 139,881 residents (about 60 percent) are fully vaccinated and protected from COVID-19.

Categories: Local, New Hanover