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Onslow County receives Moderna vaccine as COVID cases, deaths surge

Over 1/3 of the county’s 61 COVID deaths have been reported in the last month, including one of their own: School Board Chair Pam Thomas.
Published: Dec. 22, 2020 at 7:21 PM EST
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The Moderna vaccine landed in the hands of Onslow County officials Tuesday as concerning levels of cases and deaths are reported, with months to go before it could be available to the public.

“We hope that we won’t be long before private providers will also have the vaccine and be able to schedule those appointments, as well as public health doing it,” said Assistant County Manager Sheri Slater.

The county is seeing nearly 200 new cases a day and has confirmed 22 of its 61 deaths in the last month.

That includes one of their own. This week, School Board Chair Pam Thomas died Sunday after a prolonged battle with the virus.

Pam Thomas
Pam Thomas(WITN)

“Our city lost a great leader this past week in Pam Thomas,” said Jacksonville City Manager Richard Woodruff. “Everyone knows her.”

“Certainly, losing Ms. Thomas hits us all,” said Slater. “She was a wonderful, wonderful person.”

The Department of Health and Human Services categorized the county as having “critical spread” earlier this month. However, with a publicly-available vaccine months away, it could be a while before they start to see a dent in its 13 percent positivity rate.

Several Eastern Carolina counties have moved into critical spread designation.
Several Eastern Carolina counties have moved into critical spread designation.(WITN)

“The life you may save may in fact be your own,” said Woodruff. “The solution to this can be one-size-fits-all regarding personal responsibility, but when it comes to closing businesses, we have to make sure that we are rational.”

A not-so-jolly reality ahead of the holiday, as the county grapples with its current record-breaking numbers that have been tied back to the last one.

“Vaccinating the infrastructure doesn’t sound like a huge thing, because it doesn’t feel like the general public is getting vaccinated,” said Slater, “But all these folks are moving around in the public.”

The state also rolled out a new digital notification system that will begin Wednesday. The system does not take the place of current contact tracing efforts but does send an automated message to people who test positive with the next steps in their recovery.

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