Health officials urge COVID testing ahead of holiday travel

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – In one week, Vidant Health saw an increase in COVID-19 testing from November to December.

On Nov. 29, Vidant Health reported the 7-day testing average was 815. On Dec. 9, it jumped to 1,218.

“In addition to that, on Nov. 21, 2021, we hit a second wave positivity rate low of 5.2%,” Vidant Health said. “Now, that positivity rate is now back up to 8.2%, which is fairly reflective of what the state itself is seeing.”

Vidant Health’s increase in testing comes as millions of Americans prepare for holiday travel. As of Thursday, Vidant Health said the 7-day moving average of tests resulted is 1,278.

“The 7-day moving average of positivity of those tests is 8.2%,” Vidant Health said.

Nationwide, Triple-A expects more than 109 million Americans to travel for the holidays.

“I would incorporate testing into your holiday plans,” medical director Dr. Thomas Ryan Gallaher said.

Now that the Omicron variant is in Pitt County, Gallaher warned how children are at risk as people gather for the holidays.

“Children are often Petri dishes, they like to wear their mask down here, they like to rub their nose, they often don’t understand social distancing and I think that those are really important to consider getting tested before going to the holidays,” Gallaher said. “Especially if there’s even a glimpse of a symptom, that’s really important, because we’re seeing especially with Omicron, in other places, that it’s a lot more easily transmittable and often times more mild symptoms.”

In the CDC’s case forecasts, they predict 620,000 to 1.3 million new cases are likely to be reported by Christmas, and the number of newly reported COVID-19 deaths will “likely increase,” with well over 15,000 lives expected to be lost by the New Year.

Gallaher said as much as people want to celebrate the holidays, we really have to be careful.

“Well I think the first thing is, if you haven’t been vaccinated, let’s go ahead and do that,” Gallaher said. “Also if it’s time for you to get your booster, and you haven’t gotten your booster, I think it’s a great idea to consider that.”

Pitt County Health Director Dr. John Silvernail discussed how the county was an area of high transmission.

“We’re about 400 cases per 100,000 if you use the CDC terms,” Silvernail said. “Communicable diseases follow human activities so when we gather, when we travel, when we meet family and friends, there’s an opportunity for viruses and other infections to be exchanged in those interactions. We always see, normally it’s flu that we see rising this time of year, we see RSV in small children this time of year. And the holiday season, the weather, some of those things come together to help facilitate the transmission of these viral respiratory diseases this time of year.”

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