COVID Testing

Large scale testing initiatives and adherence to social distancing guidelines are vital to slowing the spread of the virus.

Pitt County has continued to see a decrease in COVID-19 cases as this week marks 27 weeks since the first coronavirus case in the county.

Public Health Director of the Pitt County Public Health Department John Silvernail said the recovered case numbers continue to grow and the total fatality for Pitt County sits at 27 as of date of publication. He said 56% of COVID-19 fatalities are among the 75-and-over age group which make up 4% of total case numbers.

In recent times, the 18 to 24 age group now holds 39% of total COVID-19 cases in Pitt County, according to Silvernail. He said the reopening of East Carolina University in August played a factor into the rise of numbers among the age group.

“The thing we struggle with in any public health threat is perceived risk,” Silvernail said. “I think many folks within that age group perceive the risk of this infection to be very, very low and may not be as careful in protecting themselves against it.”

Prior to the university’s reopening, the primary age bracket for COVID-19 cases was 25 to 49 year olds, Silvernail said. He said the higher age groups do not have a larger percentage of cases due to factors such as their circulation in the community and protection against COVID-19 early on.

The vast majority of public health data is based on county residence and ECU has included its case numbers in Pitt County’s total numbers, according to Silvernail. He said ECU additionally has its own database for coronavirus cases among students, faculty and staff.

In terms of COVID-19 waves, Silvernail said he is unaware of any new waves of the virus as he believes we are not out of the first wave yet. He said COVID-19 seems to be part of our environment as it does not fret the weather and thrives in groups.

“We’re not there yet. We’re still in the mode where most people haven’t come into contact with it,” Silvernail said. “We may very well have another bubble.”

As state trends may be down, Silvernail said individuals should continue to practice precautions, to distance six feet, wear facial coverings and wash hands. He said as the holiday season approaches, it is important to promote safe environments and discourage gatherings.

Silvernail said Influenza is here and he encourages individuals to get a flu vaccine. He said while the symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu are similar, the vaccine could eliminate any confusion.

Silvernail said a COVID-19 vaccine may be available as early as next month, mid-to-late October, but it will be released by the federal government then to state levels. He said the distribution of any said vaccine would be under strict guidelines for individuals at a high-risk for COVID-19.

“It’ll be given to us in a proportional allotment with a distribution strategy which I believe would be to target the higher risk groups, the older, sicker, moving down to healthier, younger individuals as it becomes more available,” Silvernail said.

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