Although fewer cases are being reported in Mitchell County, the novel coronavirus hasn’t gone away.
“It’s definitely not gone,” Director of Toe River Health District Diane Creek said. “It’s not spreading as much here anymore, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone away and we’re all back to normal. It’s still here.”
As of Tuesday Sept. 1, Mitchell County had two new positive cases. This leaves the county with 148 positive cases, 139 of which have recovered, five are active and four have died.
Creek said she attributes fewer cases mostly to masks and mask mandates.
“The masks are the number one thing to me,” Creek said. “Even a month ago, you would go to the store and only about half of people would be wearing one. Since a lot of the stores have required masks and public figures on both sides are pushing them, I think it’s helped a lot.”
She added there has also been a shift in how some people view the virus and masks.
“Now if you go into the store without a mask, you’re kind of the oddball getting glares from people,” she said. “It was just such a big mental shift we had to make to be hyper-vigilant at the beginning. I think there’s been more of an acceptance with this now that we’ve been dealing with it for six months.”
While cases are trending downward, Creek said we shouldn’t relax just yet.
“I wouldn’t relax until the vaccine comes out and people start getting the vaccine,” she said. “Because until people can start being immune to this virus then it’s just going to be sitting out there and all it’s going to take is someone going to Mecklenburg for a shopping trip and bringing it back here.”
Creek said in order to keep the case numbers down, people must continue to follow safety guidelines.
“Yes, cases are down right now,” she said. “But, to keep them down, we have to continue these practices we’ve put in place like wearing a mask, social distancing and not being reckless.”
One group of people who should be more cautious, Creek said, are people in their twenties.
While it’s not by a large margin, based on a chart the health department shared on Facebook on Aug. 15, people in their twenties have contracted the virus more than other age groups in the tri-counties.
“I think a lot of people in their twenties think they’re invincible,” she said. “And that’s a normal developmental thing. I was like that. But, when you’re that age, you just don’t think that you could get something that could kill you. Also, people in their twenties are a lot more active and crave social situations more.”
Creek noted the recent spike of cases at colleges like UNC Chapel Hill when they tried to reopen in-person classes.
“Give me a break,” Creek said with a chuckle. “Who is surprised? Is anybody shocked? I mean, honestly. These are college kids who haven’t seen each other in months. Of course they are going to get together and be reckless.”
Creek reiterated people need to continue to be attentive and safe even if numbers remain low.
“It is nice that the numbers are going down and we get excited every day we get zero,” she said. “But we just have to keep doing the same things we’ve been doing. Wear a mask, wash your hands and social distance.”