Fight continues against resilient virus

Leaders say next month will be hard

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The numbers are in on the status of the global pandemic in Harnett County and they are not good as the county struggles to avoid shutdowns that crippled the state nearly two years ago.

The number of new COVID-19 cases were at a record high 1,364 on Jan. 14, a staggering increase from the 805 cases recorded in the county the week prior, according to numbers released by the Harnett County Health Department.

Harnett’s total cases since the pandemic started was at 23,518 on Wednesday — and climbing.

“Since Christmas we are getting hundreds of new cases each day,” said Harnett County Health Director John Rouse.

The number of weekly cases has bounced around in the last year, reaching a low of 123 early in November and passing a record high for the month of January so far.

The increase is due in part to the emergence of the more-contagious omicron variant of the virus in recent days.

Rouse said the worst is not over.

“In Harnett County we are about six weeks behind the northeast and it is starting to plateau there,” Rouse said. “I don’t think we have reached our peak here.”

Rouse estimated that the county might face another month of increasing cases.

“Based on what we have seen in the past, I’m guessing about mid February we will start to see numbers go down,” Rouse said.

Nine schools were on remote learning Thursday as the district coped with a rise in cases that worsened staff shortages and sparked more quarantines.

Harnett County Schools maintains its mask optional policy on campuses.

Health officials continue to stress vaccinations are the best option to stem the flow of the virus.

“Vaccinations may not keep you from getting omicron but they keep you from getting seriously sick and they might keep you out of the hospital,” Rouse said.

The struggle to get residents vaccinated continues at different levels. Despite the push and availability of large vaccination clinics, only 46% of Harnett County residents were fully vaccinated on Jan. 14. That number represents 51,474 people above the age of 12. There are a total of 52,379 residents above the age of five who are fully vaccinated.

The majority of the vaccines given out at the Harnett County Health Department, now, are booster shots, Rouse said.

“We are finding out that most of the people who are going to get vaccinated have already gotten their shot,” he added. “We are not seeing a lot of new people getting vaccinated.”

The demand for testing remains high. The Health Department recently depleted its supply of testing kits and is no longer scheduling appointments for tests. Other sites are available, however.

According to the Health Department’s website, a COVID-19 testing site is available at 608 Tilghman Drive in Dunn and a drive-thru clinic is available in the Harnett Health Sciences Center parking lot at 51 Red Mulberry Way. The drive-thru clinic is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Appointments are required at both locations. To make an appointment, click here or call 877-562-4850.

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