The growing surge of COVID-19 in the state is causing local officials to take action on a number of fronts.
Whiteville Police announced Wednesday (today) that the office is closed to the public. The office will still be staffed, but citizens are asked to call 642.5111 or use email to conduct everyday business.
The county school board will meet in special session at 1 p.m. at the BoE office in Whiteville to discuss COVID protocols. With schools opening up in just a few days, education leaders across the state have expressed concern that Gov. Roy Cooper may call for more stringent rules due to the growing Delta variant outbreak.
Cooper and Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen were originally scheduled to hold a COVID briefing Wednesday (today), but the briefing was rescheduled for Thursday. The time has not been announced.
State officials are warning counties with low vaccination rates – like Columbus – are seeing dangerously high rates of positive tests, especially among the unvaccinated. State figures show that Columbus County has had 6,823 confirmed positives and 156 deaths since the beginning of the declared pandemic in March 2020.
“Unvaccinated North Carolinians are unnecessarily getting sick, being hospitalized and dying,” Cohen said in a press release. “Don’t wait to vaccinate. And if you haven’t gotten your shot, you need to wear a mask indoors at all times when you are in public spaces.”
Statewide, 47 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, and around 50 percent has at least one shot, according to the state office of Health and Human Services. In Columbus County, state figures show 17,483 people, or 32 percent, have been fully vaccinated, with 19,174, or 35 percent, partially vaccinated.
The Columbus County Health Department is continuing to urge at-risk residents to follow the three Ws – wash your hands, wear a mask and wait six feet apart. Vaccinations are available at the Health Department, and spokesman Daniel Buck said anyone with questions about COVID-19 may call 640.6615 during regular business hours.
Columbus Regional has reopened the COVID-19 hotline and resumed testing at the hospital in Whiteville. The hotline is available Monday through Friday 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., and testing is available Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. until noon. Appointments are required. The hotline is 642.1570.
UNC Southeastern in Lumberton reported Tuesday that all its beds are full, and patients are being diverted elsewhere except in true emergencies. The hospital said a majority of the cases were other health problems, but COVID-19 is playing a role in the lack of vacancies. Vaccinations can be obtained at any of the UNC Southeastern urgent care clinics or family physicians.
Guiton’s Drug Store in Whiteville is offering free vaccinations Thursday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines will be available for everyone age 12 and up. No appointment is necessary. Although the vaccine is free, patients are asked to bring a valid ID and insurance card. The drug store is located at 801 S. Madison Street.
WTXY and Columbuscountynews.com will provide a live link to Cooper’s press conference as soon as it becomes available.