North Carolina’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have been declining over the past week, with just 3,287 people in the hospital (1/24) and 4,633 cases reported (1/25) according to the state health department dashboard. State and local health officials caution that while the trends are moving in the right direction, there is still a long way to go. The governor is expected to hold a coronavirus task force briefing this week. On Thursday, Health secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen held the first media briefing under the new administration.
“I want to commend the mask mandate,” said Cohen when asked by a reporter about what she expects going forward. Cohen added that she also appreciates “the broad strokes of where the vaccine planning is going.” BPR’s Helen Chickering and NC Health News founding editor talked about that exchange, the latest on the vaccine rollout and more during their Friday check-in.
(audio of NCDHHS press briefing asking feedback about the Biden administration)
HC: We just heard one of the first questions from reporters kicking off Thursday's briefing with North Carolina health secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, who was obviously very pleased with the moves she's seeing from the new administration.
RH: What's kind of fascinating is that there was a piece this morning in Politico, if I'm not mistaken where the Biden people looked at the plan that they were left and they realized for vaccine rollout and they realized there was no plan for vaccine distribution and that they're really starting from scratch. .
HC: The kinks are still being worked out of the rollout plans, but it feels like some counties are getting in sync. Buncombe County now has a wait list, which will help ease the burden on phone lines, lower frustration levels.
RH: Dr. Cohen referred to it as their operational tempo this week during her press conference. She's a musician (violin/piano), so maybe that's part of her musicianship. You know, she thinks about it that way. As we are speaking (1/22), there's a mass vaccination clinic that is operating this weekend in Charlotte where they will be vaccinating thousands of people. So, sometimes it just takes time to build the logistics.
HC: And speaking of, let's talk about that demographic in the prison population vaccines now made it to state prisons.
RH: They are giving the vaccines to staff and they're giving the vaccines to prisoners who are over the age of 75. We did crunch some really raw numbers. And you know, the death rate in prisons is about twice the rate in the state population as a whole. So, they are at much higher rate of dying. One in five prisoners has now had COVID.
HC: Anything else that is on your radar?
RH: There was a letter that was published by the department of health and human services. Now that family caregivers are now eligible for the vaccine, despite the fact that they might not fit into the age categories that are out there. If you're a family caregiver, you can go get it now.
Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992 but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees in public health policy and journalism. She's reported on science, health policy and research in NC since 2005. Contact: editor at northcarolinahealthnews.org/