ALBEMARLE — In a county-produced show, Stanly Spotlights, county manager Andy Lucas discussed COVID-19 with the Stanly County health director, David Jenkins. Jenkins talked about how the disease has affected the county and recommended that all eligible citizens get vaccinated.
Jenkins also discussed the various roles the health department has had to play since the pandemic hit Stanly in March 2020.
“But a lot of what we’re responsible for is education — educating the public — making them aware of the mandates, the executive orders, how they can best protect themselves from COVID-19,” Jenkins told Lucas.
To do this, Jenkins said they had to speak with the area schools, businesses, organizations and local governments to make sure everybody was on the same page. As the situation progressed, he said they also tracked the data and trends within the county. Testing and contact tracing, which is figuring out whom an infected person had been near and notifying them, also became key parts of their role.
“And more recently, vaccinating — we’re really excited about vaccines and where we are with that,” Jenkins said. “To this date, Stanly County Health Department itself has vaccinated over 15,000 people.”
The conversation then turned to providing information on areas where there may be confusion for the public, like how to compare COVID-19 with the seasonal flu. Jenkins said they get that question a lot. He cited data from Johns Hopkins University saying the fatality rate from COVID-19 is 1.8%, while the flu death rate is about 0.1%, making COVID-19 18 times more deadly.
“In North Carolina, since 2016, which has been about five years of data, we’ve had 12 deaths associated with flu; whereas, since the beginning of the pandemic, March of 2020, we’ve had 143 deaths associated with COVID-19,” Jenkins said.
Lucas asked how Jenkins would respond to those who say that not all deaths that are being counted as COVID-19 deaths are due to COVID-19 but only may be a contributing factor. Jenkins admitted that in many of the deaths this is the case, but that in around 90% of the deaths, the Center for Disease Control considered COVID-19 the “fundamental cause.”
For those with comorbidities, especially things like hypertension, diabetes and dementia, the disease can push a bad medical condition to a more dangerous level. But the No. 1 thing individuals can do to protect themselves, Jenkins said, is to get a vaccine. He said they are safe and effective, even against newer strains that are emerging, like the delta variant.
“Right now, as a percent of population of adults, 38% of all adults in Stanly County are fully vaccinated,” Jenkins said, adding that nearly 70% of the 65-and-older population are vaccinated.
Lucas responded, “And I think that’s obviously good news because they’re probably the most vulnerable that are living with us.”
The county as a whole, including children, is around 30% vaccinated, Jenkins said. Children are much less likely to be fully vaccinated — only 6% of 12- to 17-year-olds are in Stanly County. But the shots were only recently approved for this age group, so Jenkins said these numbers will likely rise.