BY KARISSA MILLER
According to Iredell County Health Department Director Jane Hinson, the county has been hit hard in the past few weeks as the COVID-19 virus spreads throughout the community.
“In a matter of a little bit of 24 hours, we have had 213 new cases – that’s what we’ve been experiencing in the past few weeks,” Hinson told Iredell County commissioners during Tuesday’s board evening.
That has been most evident since the start of the new year as the number of new confirmed cases has spiked to 12,311 total positive cases and 152 deaths from complications as a result of COVID-19.
The impact of the coronavirus is especially being felt by nursing home and assisted-living facilities in just the last month.
Hinson said that the Health Department is currently helping with five nursing home outbreaks, two assisted living outbreaks and one school cluster.
Although the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has hit snags, Hinson said she was proud to report that no doses are being wasted and that the rollout in Iredell has been smoother than many surrounding counties.
“We are using Moderna. It has a 95 percent effective rate. This means that 95 percent of individuals will be prevented from getting an infection from taking that vaccine,” Hinson said.
The vaccine is free and there is no charge to be vaccinated.
Hinson also emphasized that there is a surging demand of people who want to get vaccinated.
“Unfortunately, right now, supplies are extremely limited. We usually find out our supply of Thursday or Friday of this week for next week,” she added.
She also dispelled rumors about the vaccine itself.
“I want to say this loud and clear: there is nothing in the vaccine that can be tracked. I have heard too many times that the government is putting a microchip in the vaccine and is using it to be tracked. If you hear that, please tell the individual that is absolutely not true,” Hinson said.
Hinson explained that the Health Department is formulating a plan on how the vaccine will distributed in the coming weeks. They will survey pharmacies and health care providers to see if they will be eligible to be vaccine sites in the future.
“We know if we have spaces that are larger, we could do more vaccines,” Hinson said.
Last week, the Health Department had to turn away individuals because there were not enough vaccines. She said that those turned away in the 75-year-old and up group will receive vaccines this week.
Hinson hopes that next week — if they feel that they have reached most of the 75 and up population, they will begin vaccinate individuals that are age 65 and up.
While the community has shared its frustrations about the rollout, the health director said that there have been some powerful and touching moments during the vaccine clinics.
“As we were doing eligibility, I had people say, ‘Bless you,’ ” Hinson said. “I had one man start singing Amazing Grace. If that doesn’t touch my heart. These are people we have to protect.”
Iredell has 6,000 or 7,000 elderly and a majority of them have come out and want to be vaccinated.
Hinson shared photos of the staff giving vaccines during the clinic last week.
“This week, we hope to vaccinate 1,200 people. The goal is to not have one vaccine left at the end of the week,” Hinson said.
Vaccine clinics will be held this week at Mazeppa Park and Hebron Baptist Church.
If seniors can do their registration ahead of time, it can speed up the process. Visit https://www.co.iredell.nc.us/161/Health-Department for more information about the vaccine clinics and for other updates.
Hinson also emphasized that citizens must continue to wear cloth face coverings, wash and hand sanitize their hands and continue to social distance.