LUMBERTON — COVID-19 cases in Robeson County rose by nearly a third over the past week, but no virus-related deaths were reported for the first time in three weeks.
The Robeson County Health Department reported 159 new cases between April 17 and Friday, up from 120 between April 10 and April 16. This brings to 16,491 the number of cases reported since the pandemic began.
There were no virus-related deaths reported by the Health Department between April 17 and Friday. After two weeks without a death reported between March 20 and April 2, there were two deaths reported between April 3 and April 9 and one between April 10 and 16. There have been 228 virus-related deaths in Robeson County during the pandemic.
County Health Department Director Bill Smith suggests the uptick in cases could be the result of Easter and spring break activities showing up in the statistics a couple of weeks after the holiday and school vacation.
Robeson County’s testing positivity rate has remained below the 5% goal for five straight weeks, although the state’s rate was 7% for the past week, Smith said.
There have been 25,413 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered in Robeson County as of Friday, according to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services statistics, and 20,568 second doses.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced this week he tentatively plans to relax virus-related restrictions on June 1, if 2/3 of the population has been vaccinated. For Robeson County to reach the 2/3 mark, nearly 90,000 people need to be vaccinated, or 65,000 more than those who already have been vaccinated, Smith said.
“While everyone’s aim is for a nonrestrictive environment, it’s not going to happen unless people commit to being a part of the solution,” Smith said.
White and Black Robeson County residents have been vaccinated at a rate matching their percentage of the county’s population, but American Indians are lagging significantly behind, Smith said.
“As people are wanting to have more gatherings allowed, vaccination rates will have to improve to allow these type activities,” Smith said. “Typically, American Indians represent over half of the population testing positive, which reinforces the notion that they are indeed at risk. Getting vaccinated will greatly benefit the whole county.”
The vaccine supply in Robeson County is sufficient, Smith said. Vaccines are available to everyone age 16 and older. Only the Pfizer vaccine can be used on people ages 16 and 17.
UNC Health Southeastern reported 10 virus-positive patients in isolation at its hospital as of 11 a.m. Friday, with no additional potential positives under investigation. Both figures remain the same as those reported April 16. Six employees have been quarantined because of possible exposure to the virus, up from zero on April 16.
There have been 11,572 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and 10,649 second doses administered at UNC Health Southeastern facilities as of Friday.
There are eight active cases among The University of North Carolina at Pembroke student body as of late Friday, with one active case among faculty and staff, and one among subcontractors. Four student cases are new cases since April 16, as are the single faculty/staff and subcontractor cases.
There have been 50 student cases, 25 among faculty and staff, and eight among subcontractors during the spring semester.
Statewide, there have been 13,239 new cases reported by NCDHHS between April 17 and Friday, down from the 14,287 cases reported between April 10 and 16. This brings the pandemic total to 956,932 cases in the state.
There were 136 virus-related deaths reported in North Carolina from April 17 to Friday, down from 139 between April 10 and 16, bringing the pandemic death total to 12,523.
There are 1,145 virus-related hospitalizations in the state as of noon Friday, up from 1,064 on April 16.
The state nears 3 million first doses of the vaccine administered, as 2,997,407 have received their first dose and 2,360,962 have received their second dose.
In other virus-related news, NCDHHS announced Thursday the Bringing Summer Back get-out-the-vaccine campaign, which aims to engage community organizations across the state to fully vaccinate as many people as possible.
In a press release, NCDHHS said more than half the state’s adult population remains unvaccinated. Getting the majority of North Carolina’s adults vaccinated by early summer means getting back to summer activities like backyard gatherings, fireworks, outdoor festivals and parades, all without wearing masks.
The campaign will run for two weeks in May and two weeks in June. Organizations can get involved by organizing volunteer days, distributing resources, hosting a get-out-the-vaccine challenge, and being creative.
Organizations that would like to get involved can register to participate and access toolkit materials at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/BringSummerBack (Spanish: covid19.ncdhhs.gov/Devueltaalverano) or by emailing BringingSummerBack@dhhs.nc.gov.
For more information about COVID-19 vaccines in North Carolina, visit YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov or call the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Help Center at 888-675-4567. Appointments can be made by visiting myspot.nc.gov.