RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Amid promising news of a second COVID-19 vaccine candidate showing a high success rate, North Carolina’s health director said people can’t let their guards down yet.
Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, the State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, is asking everyone to double down on safety guidelines for the next few months as cases continue to rise in the state.
“We know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel if we can just people to hold on. Stay with us for another couple more months. I think that it’s great promising news about the vaccine,” Tilson said.
Tilson added that while a small amount of a COVID-19 vaccine could be available at the end of this year, it likely won’t be widely available until the spring of 2021.
“I know people are getting tired. I know there’s fatigue. I know people want to see their friends. It’s really hard,” Tilson said.
Tilson said the case count has worsened since the spring, even if cases aren’t “accelerating vertically” like in some other states. According to NCDHHS data, the five days with the most COVID-19 cases have all taken place in November. The 15 days with the most cases have all happened since mid-October.
On Monday, the positive test rate climbed over 8 percent.
“It’s not just that we’re testing more. I think that that the viral spread is increasing. That’s making me nervous, especially as we head into flu and cold season,” Tilson said.
Tilson said getting people to social distance, wear masks, and wash their hands consistently is going to be the key to slowing the spread this winter.
“We don’t have to do it forever. It’s just a couple more months,” she said.
She encouraged everyone to plan their Thanksgiving gathering with caution, advising people at high risk to have a virtual celebration.
“It is those small social gatherings that we’re seeing a lot of that transmission,” she said.
For those hosting gatherings, she said there are ways to do it safely — sit outside, six feet apart, and wear masks.
For those who plan on getting together over the holidays, she strongly suggested self-quarantining for 14 days and getting a COVID-19 test. However, she warned it’s not perfect — just another layer of protection.