NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC - As restrictions and safety guidance related to COVID-19 are eased, officials with New Hanover County Health and Human Services are continuing to stress the importance of vaccinations and boosters, particularly in school-aged children.
Last week, the North Carolina Strong Schools Toolkit was updated to end contact tracing, replacing it with general notifications of exposure, and ending exclusion from in-person learning due to exposure. This means students and staff who were potentially exposed to COVID-19 can remain on campus unless they test positive for COVID or begin exhibiting symptoms. Additionally, the New Hanover County School Board voted unanimously last week to make masks optional in county schools, aligning with recent encouragement from Governor Roy Cooper that all school systems and local governments end mask mandates.
"We've seen very encouraging improvement recently and the changes in guidance are proof that we are in fact winning this fight," said Health Director David Howard. "Thank you to everyone for your hard work protecting our neighbors that are most vulnerable from these extremely transmissible virus strains. For our younger community members, the data shows they are less likely to develop life-threatening illness related to COVID-19, but they can still catch the virus, become seriously ill, and transmit the virus to others, which makes getting a vaccine so important. Vaccines do not prevent individuals from contracting COVID, but they are proven to be effective in greatly reducing the risk of severe illness, speeding up recovery, and reducing downtime. Each person's body responds differently to this virus, so taking preventative action by getting vaccinated can provide peace of mind. Please don't delay in speaking with your child's healthcare provider if you want to learn more."
More than 63% of all New Hanover County residents are considered fully vaccinated, meaning they have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single dose of Johnson and Johnson. Those numbers drop off sharply in the younger demographics, with approximately 50% of New Hanover County residents ages 12-17 and just 26% of those ages 5-11 considered fully vaccinated.
"Anytime a parent or guardian has to make a healthcare decision regarding their child, it can be stressful. Our team is here to help in whatever way we can," said Pandemic Operations Team manager Jon Campbell. "We have a dedicated staff on-hand at the Pandemic Operations Center to answer any questions about the vaccines. We have also made sure to have longer hours twice a week to allow parents and guardians a chance to visit us after work and get their children vaccinated."
Anyone who needs a COVID vaccine or booster can sign-up at TakeMyShot.NC.gov for appointments. The Pandemic Operations Center is administering vaccines during the following days and times:
- Mondays from 9 am to 5 pm
- Tuesdays from 9 am to 6 pm
- Thursdays from 9 am to 6 pm
- Fridays from 1 to 5 pm
Additionally, many local pediatricians' offices have access to COVID-19 vaccines for children, so families should contact their child's pediatrician to ask questions, learn if they are administering the vaccine and how to schedule an appointment to receive one.
For more information on the Pandemic Operations Center or vaccines, visit Health.NHCGov.com/Coronavirus or call the Coronavirus Call Center at 910-798-6800.
Testing is also available at the Pandemic Operations Center during set days and times. Learn more about testing.
COVID-19 Community Data, as of February 24:
- New Hanover County's % positivity over the past 14 days is 13.1 % (this represents positive Molecular (PCR) tests as a % of total PCR tests performed countywide).
- Over the past 14 days, 793 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the county which is an average of 56.6 cases per day.
- According to Novant Health NHRMC, as of February 21, the average daily number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized over the previous week was 30.
- Approximately 147,146 residents (about 63 %) have been vaccinated with two doses or one dose of J&J, and 76,878 residents (about 32.8 %) have been vaccinated with one booster or an additional dose.
View additional COVID-19 information and data at Health.NHCgov.com.