LUMBERTON — For the second straight week, new confirmed cases of COVID-19 dropped in Robeson County, but deaths hit a new high.
The Robeson County Health Department reports there were 184 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus between Sept. 11 and Friday, down from 223 cases the previous seven-day period. There have now been 4,221 cases reported in Robeson County since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Six deaths in the past week were attributed to the virus, the most in one week since the pandemic began. At least four of the people who contracted the virus and died were age 65 or older. There have been 72 deaths related to the virus in the county.
Bill Smith, county Health Department director, said a common cause of occurrence is community-acquired cases. He cited a recent situation in Maine where a wedding with 65 guests caused 176 positive tests and six deaths.
“Obviously, this many people did not attend the ceremony, but they were linked to it even though they may have been two or three circles away,” Smith said. “The harm done goes far beyond just those physically present.”
Once a vaccine is developed, it will be free, he said. But that doesn’t mean administration will be free. It will be a military and public health effort. It will be multi-dose from the same manufacturer, and initially it will be for health-care workers and people most at risk.
“If 70% to 90% of the population gets vaccinated or has immunity, the nation will be protected,” Smith said. “I hope you can find seven out of 10 people who will get vaccinated. We surely cannot.”
Southeastern Health reported 27 positive COVID-19 patients at Southeastern Regional Medical Center as of 11 a.m. Friday, up three from the past week. There are 20 employees quarantined because of possible exposure, the same number reported the past week.
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke reported 27 active virus cases among students, two among employees and one among subcontractors as of 5 p.m. Friday. That is down from 38 students, five employees and four subcontractors this past week.
There have been only 12 new cases among students and one each among employees and subcontractors, in the past week.
In total, there have been 219 cases among students, 11 among employees and 10 among subcontractors.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 8,733 new cases in the state over the past seven days. This is up from 8,032 in the previous seven days. A total of 191,019 cases have been reported since the pandemic began.
There were 110 virus-related deaths statewide over the past seven days, up from 102 the previous week. There have been 3,207 virus-related deaths in the state since the pandemic began.
In other COVID-19-related news, the United States Department of Agriculture announced Friday an additional $14 billion in relief for agricultural producers who continue to face challenges because of the pandemic.
“America’s agriculture communities are resilient, but still face many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sunny Perdue said. “President Trump is once again demonstrating his commitment to ensure America’s farmers and ranchers remain in business to produce the food, fuel and fiber America needs to thrive.”
The USDA will use funds made available from the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act and the CARES Act to support row crops, livestock, specialty crops, dairy, aquaculture and many additional commodities.
People working in agriculture who are affected by the pandemic can apply beginning Monday and through Dec. 11 at USDA’s Farm Service Agency county offices.