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Halifax County Health Director Bruce Robistow told commissioners today a drive-through flu vaccination site will be a test run for when a vaccine is available for the novel coronavirus.

The drive-through vaccine is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Roanoke Rapids fire station 2 which is located off Highway 125 near Touchstone Bank.

The drive-through vaccine clinic is for adults 18 and up and those who wish to participate may stay in their vehicles and show their Medicare, Medicaid, Blue Cross Blue Shield, or other insurance provider cards. 

Those without insurance have to pay a $36 fee. Those who plan to attend should wear clothing with loose sleeves for access to the arm near the shoulder, Robistow said this afternoon.

“We remain optimistic with a vaccine that we’ll be able to get vaccinated in November,” he told commissioners, stressing next month is an optimistic projection. “When I say vaccinated that’s going to be for essential personnel, starting with healthcare providers, first responders and the like.”

Robistow said the health department has provided its plan for mass testing when a vaccine becomes available. “We’re going to be putting that plan to a test on October 30. This will be a test run of our ability to vaccinate with the COVID-19 vaccination when it becomes available.”

The flu vaccine is already available in many locations and the health director said it’s not too early to get one. “There is an increased need in getting immunized because it prevents double infection and it prevents reducing hospital and ER availability for COVID-19.”

Images from Robistow's PowerPoint Presentation to commissioners. Some of the data is from Friday's report and other previous data from last week:

Robistow said one of the biggest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic, which is now going into its seventh month, is that the state is now in phase 3. “The biggest ones that affect our county is that movie theaters are open. Indoor spaces are at 30 percent capacity or 100 guests whichever is less. Bars may operate outdoors at 30 percent of outdoor capacity or 100 whichever is less. The limits on mass gatherings will remain at 25 people indoors, 50 people outdoors and the 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales continues.”

But, Robistow said, as the state enters phase 3, “You’ll see the trajectory in COVID-like illnesses surveillance over the past 14 days is steadily increasing. The last confirmed cases are increasing.”

About a week or so before the state went into phase 3 the numbers were trending down, he said. “We’re seeing just a total difference in that now. Hospitalizations remain low regarding COVID and that’s exciting news because as the numbers go up we want to make sure we have plenty of space available for folks that will be treated.”

Robistow said the state continues to have testing capacity and lab turnaround times are averaging two days which he said is much better than they have been in the past.

The state has a new contract for testing with the North Carolina Community Health Association effective immediately through December 31 with an option to continue if needed. “The state has been incredible about providing resources to all counties. We’ve had an incredible working relationship with Rural Health Group and they will be involved with this contract as well to provide more testing sites. We’ve been working in collaboration with them, Halo Hands and North Carolina Central University. It’s been a very incredible group of people to work with and we’ve been getting a lot of testing done.”

Contact tracers and investigators are active. “The extensive calls that need to be made with the contact tracing and the investigations is such a challenge. It has taxed our health department resources considerably so the assistance from the state is greatly appreciated.”

Robistow in his presentation referred to numbers the health department released on Friday.

In this afternoon’s report the health department reported 1,092 total positive cases of COVID-19 since testing began in March.

The report this afternoon added 18 new positives. There remain 21 related deaths.

Today's graphic:

Today’s report does note a decrease in the trend.

That there have now been 21 deaths, “It continues to be concerning,” Robistow said. “Our numbers are up well over a thousand cases and our death rate has increased.”

Robistow said there has been an emphasis placed on getting testing done in primarily African-American areas of the county. “We’re testing everybody but we have a strong focus for testing there and working on mitigation.”

There remains a large unknown number within the Hispanic community, Robistow said. “It’s very complicated with the language barrier. We are working on that. The state is trying to get us Spanish-speaking contact tracers.”

Looking at the overall data, Robistow told the board with the numbers going up, “It is my strong recommendation for people to focus completely on wearing your mask — the three Ws — your social distancing and your handwashing. Please remember these masks need to be worn. You wearing a mask does not make you safe. Everybody else has to wear their mask for people to be protected so a mask does not protect you — it shows your commitment to your fellow man and prevents you from spreading the bad things.”

Robistow said now that the president of the United States has tested positive it “has reached the highest office in our country and this is an opportunity for people to reflect and comply with this mask. We need to work together. You need to communicate to everyone you can and urge people to wear a mask so we can get these numbers back down until we can get a vaccine and try to get this under control.”

Commissioner Patrick Qualls praised the health department and fellow Commissioner Carolyn Johnson, who is a member of the board of health for “how thankful I am of the job our health department is doing.”

Qualls said his daughter, a student at UNC, had COVID-19. “She’s at school but our health department followed up with her this past week and I think that’s pretty remarkable. I appreciate it. I think you are doing a great job.”

Qualls said his daughter is fully recovered and had very few symptoms.