By Friday, 6,618 Wilkes residents had been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Also by Friday, Wilkes had 112 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths.

The 112th death of a Wilkes resident, a person in his/her 40s, was reported the middle of last week. The two before that, both people in their 70s, were reported in late April.

Wilkes County Health Department Director Rachel Willard none of these three people were hospitalized or in long-term care facilities.

Despite Wilkes County’s comparatively low vaccination rate, Wilkes has generally fared better than adjoining counties in numbers of new C0VID-19 cases in recent weeks.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services listed Wilkes with 159 new cases per 100,000 people in the two weeks ending Friday. Also for that period, Alleghany County had 368 per 100,000; Watauga and Yadkin, both 276; Iredell, 235; Surry, 209; Ashe, 199; Alexander, 176; and Caldwell, 174.

Total cases and deaths for adjoining counties by Friday were Iredell, 18,602 cases and 208 deaths; Caldwell, 9,306 and 104; Surry, 8,165 and 159; Watauga, 4,589 and 31; Alexander, 4,375 and 84; Yadkin, 3,999 and 48; Ashe, 2,102 and 41; and Alleghany, 1,036 and five.

The percentage of Wilkes residents vaccinated for COVID-19 has slowly increased since April 7, when it was made available to all adults. It remains one of the lowest among counties statewide.

Sixteen percent of Wilkes adults were fully vaccinated on April 7; 21% on April 23; 22.5% on May 3; 22.6% on Friday; and 23% on Monday. Willard has said only a tiny number of teens have been vaccinated in Wilkes

Statewide, it was 22.6% of all residents 16 and older ere vaccinated by April 7, 37.3% on April 23, 41.7% on May 3 and 43.1% on Friday; and 44.5% on Monday.

All of the adjoining counties had higher vaccination rates than Wilkes on Friday. percentages of residents fully vaccinated in those counties Friday were Watauga, 34.9%; Alleghany, 32%; Ashe, 29.7%; Surry, 27.5%; Yadkin, 26.6%; Alexander, 26.4%; Caldwell, 26.3%; and Iredell, 23%.

The Wilkes County Health Department began transitioning drive-through COVID-19 vaccination clinics at Lowe’s Park at River’s Edge back to the health department building on College Street in Wilkesboro in late April due to reduced demand for the vaccine.

As of Sunday, the health department website said the last drive-through clinic at River’s Edge for second doses of the vaccine (Pfizer) is from 9-11 a.m. Friday.

The website said there are second dose vaccination clinics scheduled at the health department May 14 with the Pfizer vaccine and May 21 with the Moderna vaccine. Both are from 9-10 a.m.

The website said first dose appointment periods at the health department building are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 4-6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The health department started vaccinations in the Wilkes high schools with its MESH van last week, going to those schools each day. Willard said 23 high school students were vaccinated last week. Parental permission is required before a student can be vaccinated

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded use authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Monday to include people 12 to 15. The vaccine was already authorized for people 16 and older. COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are authorized for use in people age 18 and older.

In late April, Willard said health department and Wilkes school officials were engaged in discussions about making the Pfizer vaccine available to high school students 16 and older at school through the health department’s MESH van and only with parental permission.

Willard said the health department has started offering vaccinations at various locations in Wilkes communities to make it more convenient. These are scheduled at churches, parks and at events, including at the Town of North Wilkesboro's outdoor concert at the Yadkin Valley Market Place in downtown on June 19 and at a Wilkes County Cruisers event downtown on July 10.

"We are looking to partner with community events and have our van out there so we can vaccinate where people already are gathered." she said.

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