ROCKINGHAM — Ahead of the Easter weekend and when most schools are on Spring Break, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its travel recommendations amidst the now-yearlong COVID-19 pandemic.
On Friday, the CDC recommended that U.S. residents avoid travelling unless they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, which has mutated into at least two new variants since the original strain was detected.
The CDC considers residents fully vaccinated two weeks following the second of the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Those who aren’t vaccinated are discouraged from traveling. However, if they must travel, they are encouraged to get tested both before and after their trip and self-quarantine for seven days.
For those who don’t get tested, they are encouraged to stay home for 10 days and avoid those at high risk for severe illness for 14 days.
Whether vaccinated or not, all residents are encouraged to continue to wear a mask over the face and nose on modes of transportation and in transportation hubs; remain at least six feet apart from others they’re not traveling with; and wash their hands often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
North Carolina’s mask mandate is still in place, despite Gov. Roy Cooper loosening some occupancy restrictions late last month.
While the state is not set to open vaccinations up to all groups until next week, both Richmond and Scotland counties have already made shots available to any adult.
FirstHealth and county health officials stressed in a press release that supplies are limited. However, Scotland Health cited the fact that “supply of vaccine appointments has been greater than the demand for vaccinations” as a reason for moving ahead.
During a press conference late last month, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the only vaccine rated for 16 and 17 year olds is the one developed by Pfizer. For the other two, individuals must be at least 18.
The Moderna vaccine is currently the only one available in Richmond County.
New COVID-19 cases seem to be slightly rising again, following a recent downward trend.
The Richmond County Health Department reported 15 new cases Thursday and 13 on Wednesday, for a total of 46 for the week (Saturday-Thursday). There were only 35 the previous week. No report was issued Friday and the next will be released Monday, April 5.
As of Thursday, there were 64 active cases and no COVID-related hospitalizations. Active cases had dropped as low as 32 (March 22, 23) after topping out at 504 on Jan. 14.
Statewide, daily cases have been up and down for weeks, but have remained near or below 2,500 for the past month, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
There were 2,027 reported in North Carolina on April 1.
COVID-related hospitalizations across the state have also risen by more than 100 since March 27 (882, the lowest in recent months) to 985 on March 31. FirstHealth reported 16 of its 375 patients (4.3%) were COVID-positive on April 1.
The Health Department adjusted its free COVID testing hours to 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, dropping the hours on Saturday.
To sign up for the vaccine locally, call 910-417-3030 and leave your name, date of birth and phone number. Local health officials ask that callers not leave multiple messages.
Vaccinations aren’t restricted by residency.
Weekly vaccinations are also available at Scotland Memorial Hospital. To register for the clinic in Laurinburg, call 910-291-7654 during the hours of 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday-Friday for assistance.