By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • After months without a death due to the pandemic, Hoke County recently saw three more people die after testing positive for COVID-19.
So far 59 residents of the county have died after contracting the virus, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. More than 5,700 people in Hoke have gotten COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Hoke County Health Department Director Helene Edwards confirmed the three deaths. Two of them were unvaccinated individuals who were hospitalized with the virus, she said in an email Monday. Details on the third recent death were not immediately available.
With hospitalizations and new infections rising, state health officials are still sounding the alarm about the highly contagious Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus. Even fully vaccinated people living in areas of high community transmission should wear masks indoors, the CDC recommended.
As of Monday there were nearly 3,200 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in facilities across North Carolina. Of those hospitalized, nearly 800 were in intensive care units, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). The numbers were a sharp increase over just a month ago, when about 800 people in the state were hospitalized with the virus.
Like the rest of the state, Hoke County is seeing more positive cases. At least 317 people in the county tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days, including over 160 in the past seven days.
There was also movement this week in efforts to get more people vaccinated.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Monday fully approved the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech for people age 16 and up. The Pfizer vaccine was the first COVID-19 shot that received emergency authorization for use last year.
The vaccine is the only one of the three available COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in people as young as 12. People age 12 to 15 are still eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine under the emergency use authorization.
The full approval process takes longer than the emergency authorization. All three of the COVID-19 vaccines went through testing and clinical trials before the FDA authorized them for emergency use.
With at least one vaccine fully approved by the FDA for use in people 16 and up, it’s possible more agencies and businesses could start requiring employees to get vaccinated against coronavirus. Members of the United States military will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19, possibly as soon as September, according to a memo from the Pentagon released earlier this month.
Hoke County’s vaccination rate continued slowly climbing in recent weeks. As of Monday over 23,250 people, or 42 percent of Hoke residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. More than 26,360 people, or 48 percent of county residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Hoke County Health Department, Cape Fear Valley Hoke hospital, the Walmart pharmacy and local primary care offices are offering the free COVID-19 vaccine.