NASHVILLE — Gov. Roy Cooper spent Tuesday morning back in Nashville as he visited a drive-thru vaccination clinic hosted by the Nash County Health Department.
Tuesday’s vaccination clinic was especially noteworthy as it was the first day the department administered third-dose shots of the vaccine to people who are immunocompromised. The shots were given to qualifying people in addition to roughly 100 first- and second-dose shots administered at the event.
“We are here to encourage more vaccinations,” Cooper said as he addressed the crowd gathered at the vaccination site next to the Nash County Health Department office in Nashville. “I wanted particularly to come today because for people who are immunocompromised, the CDC is recommending a third shot — and several people who have come today who are immunocompromised are getting that third shot.”
Former state Sen. A.B. Swindell and his wife Diane were among those at the event to get their third dose of the vaccine.
Nash County Health Director Bill Hill welcomed people to the vaccination clinic and was one of several speakers at the event. Other speakers included state Sen. Lisa Stone Barnes, R-Nash, Nash County board Chairman Robbie Davis and State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson.
“We feel that COVID vaccinations are our primary defense against the spread of coronavirus, even though the 3Ws are still very important,” Hill said. “Today’s vaccination clinic was one of many that we have conducted since late last December. Quite frankly, we viewed this vaccine as a very nice Christmas gift.”
The Nash County Health Department is focused on making it easy for everyone to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Recipients can stay in their car during the entire vaccination process. The N.C. National Guard also is helping with the clinic’s data entry and logistics.
On Friday, the state Department of Health and Human Services released new data showing that unvaccinated people were 15.4 times more likely to die from COVID-19 during the four-week period ending Aug. 21, Cooper said.
With the more contagious delta variant spreading across the state, Cooper continues to urge North Carolinians to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Cooper said that 941 North Carolina residents are now in ICU units across the state, which ties a previous state record.
“That new information alone should be enough to encourage people to get vaccinated,” Cooper said. “We are seeing some breakthrough cases since no vaccine is completely effective. However, people who are vaccinated and do contract COVID often see much milder symptoms.”
Cooper also commended Nash County officials for instituting a $500 incentive plan to encourage county employees to get vaccinated.
Cooper said that vaccinations are the way out of the pandemic. In response to a question from the Telegram about the likelihood of future executive orders limiting activities across the state during the current surge in cases, Cooper said he feels those steps will not be necessary with vaccines now available.
“During the first surge, we used the only tool we really had, which was to try to get people not to congregate with each other. We did not have vaccines and early on we did not have enough personal protective equipment such as masks,” he said. “Since we now have these vaccinations, we are in a different place. People know the steps they need to take to protect themselves, the main one of which is to get a vaccination. So there are not any current plans to do anything like the restrictions we had before.”
However, he also left wiggle room for future actions.
“That being said, we are going to keep the health and safety of North Carolinians as a No. 1 priority as we go forward, and we are going to do what we need to do,” Cooper said.
The surge in cases is being felt in Nash County. At a later meeting of the Nash County COVID Response Team on Tuesday afternoon, Hill announced that 325 new cases of COVID have been reported among Nash County residents over the past week. This brings the cumulative total of Nash County residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus to 12,680.
The number of Nash County deaths related to COVID also increased by three, bringing the total to 203.
However, local hospitalizations decreased over the past week with 26 people currently admitted to Nash UNC Health Care for COVID complications. That number was 34 last Tuesday.
Edgecombe County is also reporting a higher number of new cases than at any time since before vaccinations began being offered. Over the past week, 237 new cases of COVID have been reported in Edgecombe County, bringing the cumulative number of cases to 6,488, according to information from the state Department of Health and Human Services.
At last report, 118 Edgecombe County residents have died of COVID complications.