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Burke moves to vaccinating general public against COVID-19
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Burke moves to vaccinating general public against COVID-19

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Burke County got the OK to start administering the COVID-19 vaccine to the general public, a week ahead of the state.

North Carolina is expected to start vaccinating the general public on April 7.

But Blue Ridge HealthCare System Blue Ridge got the go-ahead for the county COVID-19 vaccination team to open up to the general public this week, said Rebecca McLeod, director of the Burke County Health Department.

McLeod said the area is starting to see a “softening” for the vaccine, meaning the supply has started to outweigh demand. She said people aren’t clamoring for the vaccine as much as they were initially.

A Wednesday vaccination clinic at Freedom High School still had spots available as of 2 p.m., she said. McLeod said there were 1,800 spots available for Wednesday’s clinic. As of Tuesday night, 800 of those spots had been filled, she said.

The large number of remaining available vaccine spots prompted the health department to send out a notice on Wednesday morning to let the public know slots were still available for anyone 16 years old or older.

The COVID-19 vaccine is another tool to help prevent the spread of the virus, McLeod said.

She said the point of the vaccine, which is safe and effective, is to keep people from dying or getting as sick if they contract the virus and keep them out of the hospital.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 15,075 people (16.7% of the population) are fully vaccinated in Burke County, while 21,271 (23.5% of the population) are partially vaccinated, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The state reported 35.9% of the state’s population are at least partially vaccinated.

The county vaccination team will hold a second-dose clinic Thursday.

McLeod said the vaccination team is planning a large vaccination clinic on Saturday, April 17 starting at 8 a.m. at Freedom High School. The clinic will have 3,300 vaccination spots available, she said.

McLeod said the Saturday clinic will allow those who can’t get away from work during the week to get a vaccine.

“Anybody who wants one can come as long as you’re 16 and up,” McLeod said.

McLeod is encouraging the public to continue taking COVID-19 precautions, including wearing a mask, particularly with Easter this weekend.

She said active cases and hospitalizations are continuing to trend downward in the county and she wants it to continue.

The Burke County COVID-19 dashboard showed 216 active cases and two people hospitalized due to the virus. The county has reported a total of 147 deaths due to the virus.

The Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge COVID-19 dashboard showed four people hospitalized on Wednesday, with two of them in the intensive care unit. The dashboard also showed 25 COVID-19 patients in its virtual hospital.

NCDHHS reported 1,929 new cases on Wednesday for a total of 914,132 cases since the pandemic entered the state a year ago. It also reported 955 people throughout the state hospitalized and a total of 12,112 deaths in the state due to the virus.

Outbreaks and clusters

NCDHHS every Tuesday and Friday updates its list of outbreaks and clusters in the state.

Numbers listed are preliminary and can change, either increasing or decreasing, as cases are further investigated, NCDHHS has said.

The latest outbreak list released Tuesday for Burke includes:

  • Grace Heights Health and Rehabilitation in Morganton has a total of 17 cases, with six residents and 11 staff members infected. The facility has reported one death since being put back on the list of outbreaks.
  • College Pines Health and Rehabilitation in Rutherford College has a total of 142 cases, up from 141 cases Friday, with 87 residents and 55 staff members infected. The facility has had 20 residents die from the virus.
  • J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center remained at a total of 203 cases, with 39 residents and 164 staff members infected.

The health department is reminding people that even though someone receives the COVID-19 vaccine, they will still need to practice the three W’s - Wear a mask, Wait 6 feet apart and Wash hands frequently - for a while until more people receive the vaccine.

Anyone with questions about COVID-19 can call 828-764-9150. The line is answered from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. If a call is made after hours, on the weekends or on holidays, the caller should leave a message and the call will be returned.

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