SPRUCE PINE — With an increase in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, Toe River Health Director Diane Creek credits much of the rise to “COVID fatigue.”
“People are getting tired of wearing masks and social distancing,” she said. “I get that. I’m tired of it, too. But, we’ve got to keep doing it.”
As of Wednesday, Oct. 28, Mitchell County had a total of 283 positive cases, with 33 of those active and 248 recovered. Additionally, there have been five deaths.
At the beginning of the month, the state moved into phase three of reopening, which allows more establishments to host gatherings. However, Creek said that doesn’t mean much when it comes to the virus.
“Just because we’ve moved into phase three, doesn’t mean anything has changed for COVID,” she said. “It hasn’t changed. It’s still here, it’s still very contagious and it’s still lingering in every corner.”
Creek reiterated the importance of the three W’s: wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance.
“Even though there’s no guarantee that these will keep you completely safe, they will definitely make you safer and less susceptible,” she said. “Even though it doesn’t transmit as easily through surfaces, it can still transmit that way, so continue to wash your hands and use hand sanitizer, as well.”
With the cold and flu season upon us already, Creek said if you’re sick, always assume it’s COVID.
“If you feel sick, it could be COVID, it could be the flu, it could be strep throat, it could just be a cold,” she said. “All of those respiratory things that are normally here in the wintertime are still here. The scary thing is, you can’t tell what it is. There’s no way you can tell. The symptoms are very similar.”
If sick, Creek said to wear a mask and quarantine if possible. Additionally, the Mitchell County Health Department is providing flu shots, flu tests and coronavirus tests, so people can call the health department at 688-2371 to set up a time to come and get a shot or a test.
In addition to the cold and flu season, Creek noted the holiday season is upon us, as well.
“People are traditionally going to want to be with all of their family and do whatever they usually do,” Creek said. “But, this year, it’s just not a good idea.”
Creek said unless everyone can wear a mask and social distance with extended family and friends, who don’t live in the same household, it’s probably best to hold off on the large gatherings this year.
She added her concerns about what would happen with schools, especially, following holiday celebrations.
“We may get to Thanksgiving and a week later our cases explode and kids start testing positive for COVID,” she said. “I wouldn’t be surprised by it, but I hope it doesn’t happen. I think kids need to be in school for a lot of reasons, but if it becomes too unsafe and there’s too many kids that are showing up at school who are sick, then I can see the school system having to possibly switch back to virtual.”
In order to avoid cases in the schools all the time, not just after the holidays, Creek said parents need to do their part.
“I think people need to understand that the school can only do as much as the school can do,” she said. “They can do extra cleaning and screening when kids come on the property and they can enforce the masks and social distancing and all that, but this is a true partnership between the school system and the parents. The parents have got to be aware of their kids’ health every day.”