The third — and largest — round of COVID-19 vaccination appointments was filled the quickest so far for the Forsyth County Department of Public Health.
The department opened its online page — Bit.Ly/FCNCCovidVaccine — at 9 a.m. Saturday for individuals ages 65 and older, plus health-care workers. Vaccination is by appointment only and no walk ups will be accepted.
About two hours later, all 4,000 appointments had been taken for Jan. 28 through Feb. 2, although the department continues to offer a wait list in case of cancellations.
The first round of 2,300 online applications took about 7½ hours to fill on Jan. 16. The second round of 2,700 appointments needed only four hours on Wednesday.
The department shifted Saturday to providing all of its vaccinations at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Education Building, located at 414 Deacon Blvd.
The fairgrounds site is expected to allow the department to increase its daily vaccinations from 550 to more than 1,000.
The number of COVID-19 related deaths in Forsyth increased by one, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported Saturday.
The death toll for Forsyth is at 266 since mid-March.
Forsyth has had multiple deaths listed in four of the past nine days: six were reported Friday; four Thursday; seven Tuesday and the record daily high of nine Jan. 15.
DHHS lists COVID-19 cases and deaths on the day they are confirmed by medical providers and public health officials, so individuals may have been infected or died days before their cases are counted.
DHHS reported Forsyth with 308 cases Saturday after 311 on Friday. The overall number of cases in Forsyth is at 26,315, with the daily high of 430 cases reported Jan. 9.
It typically takes seven to 10 days for COVID-19 symptoms to appear.
DHHS reported Forsyth had a positive test rate of 12.8% out of about 1,300 tests conducted Thursday. The county had a record 14.8% positivity rate out of about 1,150 tests conducted Jan. 10.
"There's still a lot of COVID out there but some decline this week," said Dr. David Priest, a Novant infectious disease expert. "We hope it declines more, but we'll take it."
Novant community testing
Novant Health Inc. launched Saturday the first in a series of community "pop-up" vaccination events focused on Black and Hispanic groups.
The plan is to provide about 150 vaccinations per event, the first taking place at Union Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. These vaccinations also are by appointment and available to both Novant patients and the general public.
Novant spokeswoman Samantha Williams said the "host sites manage outreach and scheduling to ensure that community members most in need are able to easily access an appointment."
Novant is partnering with faith-based organizations, school systems and community partners.
“We recognize that members of these communities have legitimate and valid mistrust around vaccines,” said Dr. Jerome Williams Jr., senior vice president for consumer engagement with Novant.
“These vaccination events will allow us to partner with church leaders to reach their congregations, providing education and information about the safety and importance of the vaccine, while also offering it close to home in a comfortable and trusted environment.”
Bishop Sir Walter Lee Mack Jr., Union Baptist's senior pastor, said he chose to involve the church as part of his overall message to the congregation during the pandemic.
"We have two choices: refuse the vaccine and risk the consequences of COVID-19, which has disproportionately ravaged our communities, or get the vaccine as an instrument of healing from God," Mack said.
"I believe this vaccine is good for us. It is not something we should fear."
DHHS reported 7,181 new cases statewide for an overall total of 712,716.
That followed 7,436 reported Friday, 7,187 on Thursday and 6,415 on Wednesday.
There were 122 additional COVID-19 related deaths statewide Saturday, following 125 on Friday and 139 deaths on Thursday. The daily high is 142 reported Jan. 10.
Overall, 8,586 North Carolinians have died as a result of COVID-19.
With Friday's count, January became the deadliest month for the pandemic at 1,785. The previous high was 1,542 deaths during December.
As of 11 a.m. Saturday, the number stood at 3,416. It is down 98 from Friday and at the lowest level since 3,339 on Dec. 30. The record high is 3,990 reported on Jan. 14.
The same trend held true in the 17-county Triad region, where 921 COVID-19 patents were hospitalized as of Saturday's report, down 25 from Friday. The daily high for the region is 1,078 reported Jan. 8.
The Triad has had the highest daily hospitalizations of any region in the state for most of the past 14 weeks.
The Triad has the most intensive care units currently in use at 504, or 24.3% of 2,069 ICUs statewide, as well as inpatient hospital beds in use at 3,940, or 24.1% of 16,316 statewide.
The statewide positive test rate was at 10.9% out of 74,335 tests conducted Thursday. The record positive rate is 17.5% of the 25,882 tests conducted Jan. 4.
New variant in N.C.
DHHS reported Saturday confirmation of the first N.C. resident infected with the COVID-19 variant known as B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the United Kingdom in December.
The B.1.1.7 variant was identified in a sample from an adult in Mecklenburg County processed by Mako Medical Laboratories.
As of Friday, there were 195 confirmed cases of B.1.1.7 reported in the U.S. across 21 states.
DHHS said that "early data suggest that this variant may be more contagious than other variants."
However, DHHS said that the current COVID-19 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are expected to be effective against the new variant.
“While expected, identification of this COVID-19 variant in North Carolina is concerning, especially at the same time as we are already seeing very high numbers of cases,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state's health secretary.
“It is more important than ever to practice the 3Ws.”
State health officials advise people to stay home except for essential activities and avoid gathering, especially indoors, with people who do not live with you.