Nine new deaths in Burke County from COVID-19 were reported on Thursday along with new cases of the virus.
The Burke County Health Department said it was notified of the nine deaths in Burke County on Thursday, bringing the county’s total of COVID-19 deaths to 101. The department said all of the deaths are COVID-19-related.
The department reported one of the deaths was a person in their 40s, two in their 60s, four in their 70s and two in their 80s. It said six of the people who died had been hospitalized due to the virus, while three were not hospitalized before later dying from COVID-related complications.
“We want to extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of these individuals,” said Burke County Health Director Rebecca McLeod. “The health of our residents is a top priority of Public Health and its partners. We continue this battle on all fronts and plead with our residents to keep up the preventive measures with the 3 W’s to help slow the spread of this virus. With cases continuing to rise at a sharp rate, we are earnestly asking residents to please stay at home when they are sick with any symptoms and not visit family, friends, events, etc. to reduce the chance of passing COVID-19 and other infections.”
The Burke County Health Department also reported a total of 7,677 cases on Thursday, up from 7,619 on Wednesday.
The Burke County COVID-19 dashboard, which lags behind daily health department briefings, showed on Thursday there are 1,846 active cases and 33 people hospitalized in the county.
Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge’s COVID-19 dashboard showed 34 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, with six of them in the intensive care unit, with 8% of its staff beds available. It shows there were 226 COVID-19 patients in the system’s virtual hospital as of Thursday.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has reported a total of 1,962 people in Burke County have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 542 have completed the vaccine series.
During a COVID-19 briefing on Thursday, Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of NCDHHS, said in an effort to speed up vaccine distribution, providers who have the ability to can move forward with vaccinating all health care workers and anyone 65 years and older.
However, that doesn’t mean that will happen anytime soon.
Rebecca McLeod, director of the Burke County Health Department, said the department will have given out its remaining 220 doses by Friday morning.
“We have given almost 200 as of right now,” McLeod said Thursday.
McLeod said they have a list of people in the 1A category and a few people 75 years old and older that it plans on vaccinating Friday morning.
Once those doses are gone, the health department will have to wait on its next shipment of the vaccine, which will be the second doses to be given to those who received the first dose at the end of December, McLeod said.
“Hopefully, next week we will get more first doses,” McLeod said on Thursday.
But just because someone lives in Burke County doesn’t mean they can’t get vaccinated in another county, state health officials have said. However, demand is higher than the amount of vaccines available, say state officials.
McLeod said it could be February before the county is able to start vaccinating those 65 and older.
Cohen said it’s going to take some time to get everyone their spot in line to get their shot.
McLeod said no doses of the vaccine are going to waste.
Jackie Bunch, a public health nurse II for the county health department, told The News Herald on Thursday that the health department, like others, has a contingency plan of sorts with a list of people who need and wish to be vaccinated. If someone is unable to get vaccinated, the health department calls people on the list until they find someone who is available to take the vaccine, she said.
The health department said those who fall into the other priority groups and have received an email or phone call and were told they were added to a list for their priority group will be contacted to set up an appointment when the group is ready to be vaccinated. Otherwise, those in a priority group will need to call 828-580-6147 to schedule an appointment, according to information from the department.
The health department said as of Tuesday, anyone interested in registering for a COVID-19 vaccine will need to call 828-580-6147 to schedule an appointment. There is no need to call the health department because Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge will be scheduling the appointments for the community when vaccine is available. Staff for these community clinics will be from the health care system, Burke County Health Department and community volunteers, according to the department.
Anna Wilson, a spokesperson for Carolinas HealthCare Blue Ridge, said this week the hospital system plans to hold vaccination clinics every Friday from now until at least April. She said vaccination clinics on Thursdays will be for administering the required second dose of the vaccine. Those who are vaccinated at the clinic will get their appointment for the second dose when they get the first shot, Wilson said.
Volunteers are needed at vaccinations clinics, say state officials. If interested in volunteering, visit terms.nceem.org and sign up to help with a vaccine clinic in your area.
Also on Thursday, NCDHHS reported 9,853 new COVID-19 cases for a total of 650,926 cases and a daily percent positive rate of 11.1%. The state reported a total of 7,825 deaths on Thursday, up from 7,745 deaths on Wednesday. It reported there were 3,990 people hospitalized on Thursday due to the virus.
Of the state’s total number of COVID-19 cases, it reported on Monday that 521,475 are presumed recovered.
For local questions about COVID-19, call 828-764-9150. The line is answered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 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.