Two Island Businesses Close Due to COVID

Sundae Horn
Two Island Businesses Close Due to COVID

Owners and staff are quarantining after known exposure. 

On Saturday, November 7th, Jason Wells of Jason's Restaurant announced on Facebook that the popular island eatery would be closed for an indeterminate amount of time. 

"One of our employees tested positive for COVID, so Jason’s is closed until further notice," he posted. "The staff will be quarantining until we get get results back. We can’t be tested until Tuesday which is five days from exposure time or there is a chance for a false negative. Jason’s will be closed until at least next Friday [November 13th] when results come back, most likely til Monday the 16th. The employee only worked on Friday over the last 10 days so if you have been in Jasons restaurant anytime other than that you are 100% safe."

In the comments, Jason added that the positive case is a member of the wait staff. 

Leslie Lanier of Books to Be Red also shared on Facebook that the island's bookstore (and one of the best bookstores in the world) would be closed for the rest of the week due to COVID exposure. 

She posted, "I have been exposed to Coronavirus and will quarantine until I can be tested and get results back in. I am sorry for any inconvenience. I am updating this to say that I was exposed Friday afternoon on Nov. 6th. There is no reason to think anyone in my shop has been exposed through me. If you were in there you had on a mask and I had on a mask and I haven't been with anyone for more than about 10 minutes. I am closing and will be tested as soon as protocol demands and then I will continue to quarantine until I get my results. If you have more questions you can send me a message. Thank you for everyone's concern."

The November 7th ZIP code tracker on the NC Department of Health & Human Services website shows Ocracoke with 5 cases, which is up 1 from the 4 positive cases on the island so far. Of those 4, two were college students who gave Ocracoke as their home address and two were residing on the island. They were diagnosed in August; one of our residents was hospitalized and all have recovered. 

Hyde County has had a total of 178 COVID-19 cases since testing began. Most of those (100) have been in Swan Quarter, and the majority have occurred in aggregate living situations, either in the prison or nursing home.  

One of the most frequently-asked questions about the coronavirus is: How many visitors have been diagnosed?

On October 28th, Luana Gibbs, director of the Hyde County Health Department, told me that her records show that Ocracoke has had "three tested positive that were not residents of Ocracoke and were sent home as soon as they were found to be positive."

She added, "There was 1 other that was positive that we did not know about until after she had left the island and her quarantine period was already over."

Before I had heard from Gibbs, I had put the same question to Dr. Erin Baker of Ocracoke Health Center. 

She said, "The number doesn't matter and shouldn't matter."

She wouldn't (couldn't) tell me details, but said that, yes, she had tested visitors and had positive cases. 

"If the number seems low, I don't want people to let their guard down," she said. "Most of our encounters with visitors is short, less than ten minutes, in a work situation. With masks, social distancing, hand washing, and short interactions, we can lower our risk."

Dr. Baker assured me that asymptomatic COVID-19 positive visitors have come and gone from the island. Statistically, there are about 2-4 people per 10,000 who are COVID positive. That number goes up if you come from a place with an large outbreak or from a congregate living situation. She says we can assume that the positive rates of people visiting the island are the same as elsewhere. And we should behave as though we, and everyone we come into contact with, is carrying the virus. 

I looked at the ferry traffic numbers for July and August. Adding up the passengers who rode a ferry TO Ocracoke on any route (Cedar Island, Swan Quarter, Hatteras car ferry, and Hatteras passenger ferry), I get 94,415 people, or 1522 ferry passengers per day over those two busiest months. If 4/10,000 of those people are carrying the virus, then that number is 37. We've statistically had about 37 people in July and August, which is 4 or 5 per week. 

Dr. Baker says the exact number doesn't matter because it shouldn't affect our behavior. So far, Ocracoke has been extremely lucky because we haven't had community spread. Let's keep it that way!

Mask up, even around your friends. Keep your distance, and make sure that unmasked interactions (while eating and drinking) are short and sweet. 

Stay safe!





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