Tuesday, January 31, 2023

New Hanover health officials don’t have position on mandatory vaccines for gov. employees yet as delta variant rises

New Hanover County Health and Human Services officials are recommending that Covid-19 vaccines be mandatory for county employees. (Port City Daily/Courtesy New Hanover County)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Following a week in which 334 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in New Hanover County — triple the cases from last week – the local health and human services board will meet Monday, Aug. 2 to discuss the newest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

RELATED: Masks back on: CDC reverses indoor mask guidance

The percent of coronavirus tests in New Hanover County coming back positive has risen from 1.7% at the end of June to its current level of 5%. This comes as daily vaccination rates in the county have dropped significantly from springtime highs. (53% of the county population has received at least one vaccine dose, according to state data).

Hospital systems around the state have implemented vaccine mandates, and Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order this week requiring employees of cabinet level agencies to either get vaccinated or submit to weekly Covid-19 tests. 

READ MORE: Cooper sets deadline for state employees to verify vaccination, else mask up

At this time, New Hanover County health officials do not have a position on vaccine mandate for local government employees.

“We do not have a county position at this time regarding COVID-19 vaccination requirements for New Hanover County staff or Health and Human Services (HHS) staff in particular,” according to a statement from health director David Howard. 

Draft minutes from a July 21 meeting of health and human services leaders show the team was “split” on the question of “whether NHC should mandate vaccines.”

Mecklenburg County Public Health employees will have to show proof of vaccination by Sept. 7, according to The Charlotte Observer. Novant Health is requiring all employees be vaccinated by Sept. 15. Systemwide, about two-thirds of the company’s employees had been inoculated prior to the mandate.

“We continue to provide convenience of access and reliable information regarding the COVID-19 vaccines to our staff and community, and encourage everyone to make an informed decision,” according to Howard’s statement. 

The Washington Post reported Thursday — based on an internal federal health document — that the delta variant spreads as easily as chickenpox. A Friday report released by the CDC, an examination of a 469-person Covid-19 outbreak in Massachusetts, stated that 346 of those people (74%) were fully vaccinated. Genetic sequencing was performed on 133 of those patients; 90% of those sequenced cases were identified as the delta variant, according to the CDC. 

“Jurisdictions might consider expanded prevention strategies, including universal masking in indoor public settings, particularly for large public gatherings that include travelers from many areas with differing levels of SARS-CoV-2 transmission,” according to the CDC report. 

For the week ending July 10, 74% of sequenced positive Covid-19 cases in North Carolina were identified as the delta variant, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. (Not all Covid-19 cases are sequenced, a process that requires the tests to be sent to a laboratory).

“The Delta variant is a major concern for people who aren’t vaccinated as it is more easily transmitted and some studies suggest it might cause more severe disease,” an NCDHHS spokesperson wrote to Port City Daily in an email. 

“North Carolina is experiencing a rapid increase in COVID-19 spread among those who are unvaccinated, in part due to the more contagious and potentially more dangerous Delta variant.” 

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