Onslow County distributing vaccines to those 75 and older

People 75 and older can begin getting the COVID vaccine. The county is activating a Type Three Disaster Response Team to help facilitate that effort.
Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 7:20 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 6, 2021 at 7:13 AM EST
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Cases are soaring, and deaths are staggering across Onslow County, just as people 75 and older have the green light to get the COVID-19 vaccine starting Wednesday.

“I see the number of people coming to get tested rising,” said Koleen Schoon, the site supervisor at the county’s state-contracted testing location. “I see the number of rapids coming back positive rising.”

Of the hundreds of tests administered, over one in three rapid coronavirus tests at the site moved from the Jacksonville Mall to the parking lot of the old K-Mart on Highway 24, come back with a positive result.

A shocking rate, as the county confirmed seven COVID deaths and 546 new cases in three days.

This week, the county activated its Type Three Disaster Response Team to get their vaccine efforts going.

“This is the type of activation we do when we have a hurricane coming,” said County Manager Sharon Russell.

The plan shuffles county employees from across departments to the citizens’ phone bank. On Monday, the group began taking over 1,000 calls a day to register people 75 and older, recently moved to the top of the vaccination rollout.

As a result, the county museum and most county library branches will be closed.

“Whether it is inclement weather, whether it is wildfires, or in this case, a pandemic, those same mechanisms work,” said Citizens’ Phone Bank Coordinator Lisa Whitman-Grice.

The high-risk age group can begin getting vaccinations Wednesday.

“We hope that this will be life-saving for folks over 75 and for all of our population that may be higher-risk,” said Russell. “The tough thing about COVID-19 is no one really knows how their body will respond until they get it. So, we are eager to work as quickly and as efficiently as we can to get folks vaccinated.”

A vaccine effort desperately needed for a population making up a majority of the county’s deaths.

A frightening COVID reality, felt no harder than by the people on the frontlines, like Schoon.

“Just be safe,” said Schoon. “That’s all the front line can ask for you to do. Help protect them and their families, as well.”

The testing site is now open seven days a week, 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., up from five days a week when it was located at the Jacksonville Mall.

People 75 and older in Onslow County wanting to register for the coronavirus vaccine can call the citizens’ phone bank at (910) 989-5027.

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