How to stay healthy as COVID-19 cases surge in New Hanover County – StarNewsOnline.com

As memorial weekend and summer vacation kick-off, health officials recommend residents continue to use some precautions while traveling to keep themselves and those close to them healthy and safe from COVID-19. 
One of the most important things anyone can do before traveling or heading to a big event is to get vaccinated or boosted and to test themselves for the virus, said Jonathan Campbell, New Hanover County Pandemic Operations Director. 
This comes as New Hanover County sees a surge in cases.
The positivity rate for COVID-19 is back up to around 20%, Campbell said, after reaching as low as 3% at the beginning of April. The good news, he added, is that the surge has come at a slower pace than previous spikes in cases. 
“The one good thing that I will say, it’s been more of a slow and steady progression and not necessarily shooting up to sky-high numbers,” Campbell said. 
Campbell said while there have been some hospitalizations due to the virus, most people experience mild symptoms with the current dominant variant, BA.2. But the elderly and those with underlying conditions remain at high risk for severe illness. 
That’s why it’s important for residents to continue seeking out vaccines, Campbell said.
And while there is less demand for vaccines than when they were first released last year, he said, there has been an increase in shots administered since a second booster dose was approved for high-risk populations and an initial booster was approved for children five to 11.  
Additionally, Pfizer has also recently announced it is close to a vaccine that is safe for children from six months to four years, though it has yet to be approved by the FDA.  
Vaccines are available at the Pandemic Operations Center inside the public health building, 1507 Greenfield St., at the following times: 
The Pandemic Operations Center offers free vaccine education programs, which are 15 to 30-minute conversations with residents on the importance of the vaccine and how to get it.
Campbell said the Pandemic Operations Center has worked to identify communities with lower vaccination rates and find ways to speak with them. He also said the center has options to help people in need of transportation, or to schedule follow-up visits to administer a vaccine. 
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It’s easier than ever to get tested for COVID-19 ahead of summer travel, with at-home tests readily available. Campbell said when done correctly, at-home tests are very accurate. He recommended anyone unsure how to administer an at-home test seek advice from a health care provider or do research on best practices.  
There are currently at-home tests available for pick-up at the Pandemic Operations Center, located inside the public health building on Greenfield Street. Eight additional at-home testing kits can be ordered from the federal government at covid.gov/tests. 
Rapid antigen testing is also available at the Pandemic Operations Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to noon on Fridays. 
Those who are not feeling well should always stay home and seek medical care, Campbell said. He also stressed the importance of not only paying attention to symptoms of the virus, but also making efforts to live a healthy lifestyle to improve the immune system. 
“I think other big things that sometimes get overlooked (is) we need individuals to be as healthy as they can be,” he said. “So focusing on your mental health, trying to get an adequate amount of sleep and rest, certainly trying to find moments to recover and rest muscles, relax, healthy eating.” 
Reporter Sydney Hoover can be reached at 910-343-2339 or [email protected]

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