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COVID battle continues

GATES – Borrowing from a sports adage…the best offense is a good defense.

That’s the message North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper had for those who remain on the front lines and for those who have yet to receive a vaccination in the ongoing battle vs. COVID-19.

Cooper was in Gates County on Thursday where he visited a pop-up vaccination clinic in an effort to witness more citizens receiving their vaccine at the county health clinic run by Albemarle Regional Health Services (ARHS), an eight-county regional public health agency in northeastern North Carolina.

Thursday’s clinic followed-up an event held three weeks earlier through a partnership from ARHS and the Disability Rights North Carolina group.

“We are so grateful to the healthcare workers who are getting shots in arms every single day across our state, particularly in rural North Carolina. I’m so happy to be here in Gates County,” Cooper said during his 45-minute stopover.

“We know right now for a fact that 99-plus percent of the people who are getting sick, going to the hospital, going to the ICU, and dying are unvaccinated,” the Governor observed. “COVID 19 and the Delta variant can be prevented and certainly sickness and death can be prevented with a vaccination. We’re trying to get this message out across the entire state. These vaccines are safe and so more effective than scientists and researchers ever dreamed they would be.”

The Governor stressed that the state is making steady progress towards vaccinating 10 million state residents.

“We’re at about 83 percent of those ages 65-and-over that have gotten at least their first shot and close to 60 percent of all adults in our state have had at least one shot,” Cooper said. “That’s good news, but we still have too many people unvaccinated.

“Clinics like this make it so easy for people to get vaccinated,” he continued. “You don’t even have to get out of your car. You just drive up, get a shot, wait 15 minutes, and be on your way with a life-saving shot.

“I’m really grateful for the folks who’ve been out here in 20-something degree weather and 90-something degree weather doing this hard work day in and day out and talking to people and showing people that they can trust this life-saving vaccine,” the Governor added.

Dr. Althea Riddick, chair of the Gates County Board of Commissioners, was on hand to personally thank the Governor for taking time out of his busy schedule to arrange a trip to the county.

“Governor Cooper, we are appreciative to your leadership over the past 18 months and beyond,” Riddick noted of the COVID timeframe since the early stages of 2020. “The funding that we received; the volunteers that we have…we are thankful for the collaboration. But we’re not done, we must get everyone vaccinated. I ask our citizens to do all they can to get their shots.”

“Thank you Governor for supporting public health,” said Gates County Commissioner Ray Freeman who also sits on the ARHS Board of Directors “Public health is so valuable to all of us. That’s why this vaccine is being offered to us here in Gates County at our local health department [part of ARHS]. Karen Riddick organized that along with our Emergency Services Director. We thank them, and now thank the National Guard for helping to get these shots in the arms of our citizens.”

Karen Riddick is the Public Health Nursing Supervisor at the Gates County Health Department.

“On occasion, we’re doing pop-up, drive-thru clinics like you see today,” she said. “We’re offering vaccinations by appointment. We offer the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. All you have to do is call us (252-357-1380) and make an appointment.

“Having the governor here today to recognize the work of the entire eight-county Albemarle Regional Health Services district is very important as it boosts our confidence, but more importantly it gets the word out that we still have work to do to increase the number of people who need to be vaccinated,” K. Riddick added.

Prior to his departure, Cooper fielded a few questions from several media outlets attending Thursday’s pop-up vaccine clinic. The Governor praised partnering agencies who are assisting state and local health officials in getting people vaccinated.

‘They’ve made it easier here to get shots in Gates County,” Cooper said upon noting the efforts of the Disability Rights North Carolina group that staged a recent vaccine event in the county, which included visiting the homes of local residents who were physically unable to attend a clinic. [The shots] are easy, it’s fast, it’s safe, it’s free, and it’s time to get it done if you haven’t.”

A question was posed as to how much longer would COVID-19 impact the state.

“We will get on the other side of this pandemic as soon as we get enough people vaccinated,” the Governor stressed. “Those of us who are fully vaccinated feel very safe about being out and around people because the vaccines are so effective.”

For those who remain skeptical about the vaccine, Cooper encouraged them to talk to a medical professional.

“Talk to your doctor, talk to any doctor about whether you should get the vaccine,” he stated. “Talk to people who have had this vaccine and can tell you about its safety. Don’t rely on something you get off the Internet, talk to someone you trust about the vaccine. Getting COVID is a whole lot worse.”

The Governor also fielded questions about getting children vaccinated as well as if there would be a mask mandate for students/staff with the 2021-22 school year scheduled to start next month.

“We are having vaccination clinics in schools now and having direct promotions for young people to get a vaccine,” he said before turning to State Medical Director Dr. Betsey Tilson to provide additional information.

“Everyone [age] 12-and-up is eligible for a vaccine,” she noted. “There’s been incredible partnerships between our local health departments and our school systems to make the vaccine as assessable as possible, not just for the students, but for the families to feel that our schools are a safe and comfortable place.”

In regard to mask mandates, Cooper said the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has issued some guidance and that health officials, to include Dr. Tilson, are currently reviewing that material.

“We hope to come forward with recommendations within the next week or so so that the schools will know how to plan [for any health safety mandates],” Cooper said. “I want our students back in the classroom in person….that is absolutely critical. We want it to be as close to normal as it can possible be, but there are still some things we need to do, particularly for children under age 12 who are not vaccinated.”

North Carolinians who get their first dose are automatically entered into the Your Shot at a Million Summer Cash and College Tuition drawings. In total, four North Carolinians will win a $1 million prize and four people ages 12-17 will win a $125,000 college education scholarship.

Learn more about the state’s vaccine distribution at myspot.nc.gov (English) or Vacunate.nc.gov (Spanish).

Details on the Your Shot at $1 Million Summer Cash Drawing can be found at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/summervaxcash.

Use NCDHHS’ online tool Find a Vaccine Location to find a nearby vaccine site or call the state’s COVID-19 vaccine hotline at 888-675-4567.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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