By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • For the first time since the state introduced its COVID-19 County Alert System in November 2020, Hoke County is no longer in the red zone for new coronavirus infections.
In the latest update from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), Hoke finally went from having a “critical” community spread of the virus, to a “substantial” community spread. The change reflected an overall decrease statewide in the number of new cases of COVID-19, with only six out of 100 counties critical as of March 4.
Hoke went from having one of the state’s highest percentage of positive tests at over 16 percent, to just over nine percent positive. The county’s hospitals, which at one point were seeing a moderate impact from COVID-19 cases, are back to seeing only low impact.
Hoke is now in the orange tier, along with 33 other counties. The majority of North Carolina, 60 counties, are in the lowest tier – yellow, or “significant” community spread.
Hoke County has seen a recent drop-off in the overall number of new cases, and in the number of deaths due to coronavirus. The county has seen a total of 4,183 total cases since the start of the pandemic, and 54 deaths attributed to the virus. That includes 133 cases in the last 14 days, including 60 new cases in the last seven days.
Overall the state is seeing fewer hospitalizations, with 1,126 people in hospitals across North Carolina as of Tuesday, down from over 2,400 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on February 5. Coronavirus cases are also rapidly declining in long-term care settings, according to NCDHHS.
Local vaccine providers continue ramping up efforts to vaccinate more people, as the state last week authorized offering the vaccine to more people in Group 3. Some providers have also moved ahead of schedule to start offering the vaccine to at-risk adults in Group 4.
Where to get the vaccine
FirstHealth of the Carolinas is making it easier for people to register to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The healthcare system announced this week it is launching online appointment registration for eligible members of the public to sign up to get an appointment for the shot. To schedule a vaccine at an Operation FirstShot clinic in Hoke, visit www.FirstHealth.org/shot. The provider also has appointments available in Moore and Montgomery County.
“FirstHealth Operation FirstShot vaccination clinics will continue in Moore, Richmond, Hoke and Montgomery counties as long as vaccine supply allows,” the healthcare provider said in a statement. “Appointments are required, and weekly availability will be determined by vaccine allocation from the state. Recipients will be scheduled for a second dose, if indicated, when receiving their first.”
People 65 or older, healthcare workers, school staff, childcare workers and frontline essential workers are eligible to get the vaccine. Frontline essential workers include people who work in critical manufacturing, grocery stores, education, food and agriculture, government and community services, public safety or transportation. The provider’s website also noted that it is moving to vaccinate some people in Group 4, specifically adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk of severe illness.
FirstHealth’s Hoke clinic is offering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which requires a second dose about 28 days after the first shot.
“Second dose appointments are guaranteed by FirstHealth; however, appointment dates are limited by vaccine allocation, so it is important to keep your appointment for your second dose when it is scheduled,” the hospital system said.
FirstHealth’s vaccine clinics in Moore County are offering the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccine, depending on when the appointment is scheduled.
The Hoke County Health Department continues offering appointments for eligible people to get the vaccine, as supplies allow. The Hoke County Health Department is currently accepting online vaccination appointments for individuals in Group 1, Group 2, and Group 3. To make an appointment, go online to https://www.readyhoke.org.
People who have trouble using the online appointment scheduler, or have any questions regarding the vaccination process, can email [email protected] or call 910-753-4429 or 910-753-4430 for help.
Cape Fear Valley Health’s Hoke Hospital is offering the vaccine by appointment only for first doses, and walk-in for second doses only. For an up-to-date listing of information regarding appointments, visit www.capefearvalley.com/COVID19 or the Cape Fear Valley Facebook page at www.facebook/capefearvalley. For more information, call the automated message line at (910) 615-9000.
Supplies of the vaccines are still limited, and it may take some time for everyone who wants the vaccine to be able to access it. Health officials continue to urge people to practice the “three Ws,” of wearing a facemask, washing hands frequently and waiting six feet apart from others in public to keep the numbers low.