By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • More Hoke residents have died after testing positive for COVID-19, and the county saw a slight increase in the number of cases over the past two weeks, according to state officials.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services data showed that as of Tuesday, 91 people from Hoke County have died after testing positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. That includes several deaths added to the death toll in the past few weeks.
The county was also seeing a slight increase in the weekly number of new, confirmed cases, according to the NCDHHS. Hoke saw 100 new cases in the past seven days, and over 200 new cases in the past two weeks, the state’s website showed. The county has had over 7,660 known, confirmed cases of the virus since the start of the pandemic.
Hoke County Schools also saw an upswing in the number of cases among students and staff. The school district had 32 reported cases of COVID-19, including 21 students and 11 staff members, for the most recent reporting period. The cases were spread out through a number of the district’s schools. The district has about 9,000 students and 1,500 staff members.
Hospitalizations statewide continue to show a slight increase over numbers from earlier this fall. As of Sunday, December 12 there were 1,550 in hospitals across the state battling COVID-19. That’s up from the 1,078 people who were in the hospital with the virus a month earlier on November 12.
Vaccines against COVID-19 are now available for children age five and older, teens and adults, with third “booster” doses available for people age 16 and older. The Hoke County Health Department, Cape Fear Valley Hoke Hospital’s pharmacy, FirstHealth of the Carolinas primary care providers, Walmart pharmacy and others are offering the no-cost vaccines.
Cape Fear Valley Health administrators in a press release last week pointed to recent news about the vaccine booster’s effectiveness against the latest COVID-19 variant, named Omicron. It “underlines the importance of booster shots for people who have already been vaccinated,” healthcare system officials said in the statement.
“Pharmaceutical manufacturers Pfizer and BioNTech provided an update on the effectiveness of their COVID-19 vaccine against the latest Omicron variant, saying preliminary lab studies show that, when tested against the new variant, antibodies from patients with only the initial two doses of the vaccine are less effective than antibodies from patients who have also had the booster shot,” Cape Fear Valley Health said in the statement.
Cape Fear Valley Vice President of Pharmacy and Cancer Centers Christopher Tart said the news about the booster shot’s effectiveness was good to hear.
“Their laboratory studies about the initial effectiveness of the first two-dose vaccines series and the importance of also receiving your booster dose to protect yourself against the Omicron variant of COVID-19 show it is more important than ever to become vaccinated and receive your booster dose when eligible. Vaccines continue to be our best tool to beat the pandemic and lessen your chance of severe illness, hospitalization, or death,” he said in a statement.
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