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Pediatric doctor says Delta variant's hospitalizing kids more
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UNION COUNTY — Students will soon feel those first day of school jitters, but parents may feel nervous, too, due to the outbreak of the Delta variant of COVID-19.

The Delta variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), is “potentially more transmissible than other variants” which applies to both adults and children. It surfaced in India in late 2020 and has been found in 60 countries including the United States.

Dr. Amina Ahmed is a pediatric infectious disease expert and epidemiologist at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte.

She said while there is no increase in the number of hospitalizations, there is an increase in the number of tests that return positive. She reports that of the children who are tested for COVID-19, the number of positive tests is climbing.

“Nationally, there is a slight increase and continues to be a trend of increased hospitalizations for the 12 to 17 year old age group,” Ahmend.

Those who are most at risk are unvaccinated, per an article published by Yale Medicine. A study completed by researchers at the Imperial College London in the United Kingdom shows that children and adults under 50 were 2.5 times more likely to contract the Delta virus.

For students attending in-person, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends once vaccines against COVID-19 become available for children and teens, parents should make an appointment to have their child or children vaccinated. Too, they recommend everyone and children over the age of two wear face masks regardless of vaccine status.

“Because children are the ones that are unvaccinated — when they do return to school — we need to do everything that we can to mitigate transmission there,” Ahmed said. “We’re still very, very lucky in pediatrics that most children do well overall clinically. They don’t have severe disease, but we do know that severe disease can happen…Because that’s the population that’s unvaccinated they are still going to be vulnerable.”

She explained that when rules are followed like wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands that mitigation of diseases remains high.

“We know that if teachers are wearing masks and kids are wearing masks and the number of kids in the classroom are held to a standard sizes and we do separate or isolate a little bit at lunch when the masks come off then we can actually prevent transmission in schools,” Ahmed explained.

Sonja O’Leary, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on School Health said, “we need to prioritize getting children back into schools alongside their friends and their teachers — and we all play a role in making sure it happens safely. The pandemic has taken a heartbreaking toll on children, and it’s not just their education that has suffered but their mental, emotional and physical health. Combining layers of protection that include vaccinations, masking and clean hands hygiene will make in-person learning safe and possible for everyone.”

The Union County Board of Education unanimously voted to make wearing a face mask optional at their last regular meeting on July 13.

Ahmed noted that at the beginning of the pandemic, children accounted for one% of positive COVID-19 tests. Halfway through the pandemic, it was revised to 11%. Now, they know children account for about 25% of positive tests.

“Because adults are vaccinated, 20 to 25% of all the cases in the U.S. if you look at it in the last two to three weeks are in children. So that in of itself tells us it’s not like it’s dissapaiting in children because of vaccination in adults. We’re actually seeing not more cases, but relatively more cases in children,” Ahmed said.

She added that it was once thought that children did not transmit COVID-19 to adults; however, that has been disproven by household studies and the older the child the more likely the transmission is going to happen.

Continuing, she added that in trials there have not been severe reactions to COVID-19 vaccines — certainly not myocarditis.

“I am hopeful that parents will realize that this is a great mitigation opportunity for their child as they return back to school in the fall. Even though there is hesitancy or there maybe questions, it’s great to have dialogue with your primary care provider. I think they can probably explain a lot about the vaccine and maybe explain any concerns you have as well and take that leap of faith to take that vaccine,” Ahmed said.

Union County Special Events Center hosting ribbon cutting July 22
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MONROE — The grand opening of the new Special Events Center in Union County will be held on Thursday, July 22. This center is located at 307 Cultivation Circle in Monroe, directly behind the Union County Agricultural Center, on the property of Jesse Helms Park.

It includes an outdoor facility, as well as an indoor event center, and has a total of 36,500 square feet.

Family-oriented programs and opportunities will be offered on Friday, July 23, and Saturday, July 24. Starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, there will be bounce houses, food trucks and a live animal display, followed by an outdoor movie showing of “Rango” at sunset. On Saturday at 5 p.m., “Chairman of the Board” will perform. Also on Saturday, there will be bounce houses, food and beer trucks, followed by a firework show at 8:45 p.m.

“We are excited to be able to offer the weekend of events for the residents of Union County,” said Patrick Niland, Assistant County Manager, in a statement. “The last year and a half has been challenging and we are elated to finally have the opportunity to showcase this fantastic community asset. If you have a chance, please come out and join us, it promises to be a great weekend.”

The Special Events Center will give Union County Parks and Recreation the chance to offer additional programming opportunities to residents. Such events include movie nights, stargazing and nature exhibits.

“Union County Parks and Recreation is extremely excited about the new Special Events Center,” said Jim Chaffin, Director of Parks and Recreation, in the statement. “This space will provide numerous opportunities for programming and events for residents in eastern Union County. We also look forward to the development of Jesse Helms Park passive area in the near future as well.”

The Special Events Center will also allow Union County Cooperative Extension to offer more educational programming opportunities to residents. The Cooperative Extension plans to host 4-H livestock shows, rodeo shows, specialty sales, equipment trade shows and demonstrations.

Two COVID-19 deaths reported this week
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UNION COUNTY — As of Wednesday, July 21, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) reports 102,726 in the county have been partially vaccinated under all programs. The 43% compares to 49% of the state’s total population who are at least partially vaccinated. In the county, 97,473 or 41% of the county is now fully vaccinated compared to 46% statewide.

According to NC DHHS data updated on Wednesday, the total of cumulative cases of COVID-19 in the county is at 25,334 and the number of active cases is 254. Cumulative figures account for all reported cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Cumulative cases indicate both those who have tested positive and those who have come out of an isolation period.

The Union County Government COVID-19 online dashboard reported 12 current hospitalizations. The county positivity rate was 5.6% on Wednesday. There have been 228 cumulative deaths in the county. The state’s positivity rate, reported by NC DHHS on Wednesday, was 7.9%.

According to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, any positivity rate above 5% is classified as “too high” and indicates that “more testing should probably be done.”

Across the state, there have been a total of 1,028,131 COVID-19 cases per NC DHHS, and 13,557 virus related deaths.

Weddington reviewing trash service bids
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WEDDINGTON — The Town of Weddington is looking into adding a Solid Waste service for residents.

According to the town, it is a “safer and lower-cost” service, because it will limit the number of high weight collection trucks on roadways and therefore increase safe traveling for pedestrians and cyclists in neighborhoods. It will create a cohesive look if everyone is on the same collection schedule having their trash bins out on one day rather than various days. The town says it will provide better quality of services and there could be negotiated lower annual overall costs for residents.

One trash bin will be given to a household. Solid Waste pick up will be weekly, and bi-weekly for recycling.

So far, the Town has three bids from Waste Connection, Active Waste and Waste Pro. Waste Connection’s bid is $197.88 per year, Active Waste’s bid is $164.40 per year and Waste Pro’s bid is $199.44 per year. These are current fee proposals per household. Once a contract is final, actual fee numbers will be communicated.

The fee will be included within a resident’s property tax bill.

Once a contract has been finalized, the town anticipates a start date of July 1, 2022.

Even if a resident does not want Solid Waste service, they will be charged for it, the Town of Weddington reports. They explained that charging everyone is how they are able to keep costs low.

The Town of Weddington reports that for additional waste services: “A la carte items will be available directly from the selected provider. Including, but not limited to, yard waste, back door service, bulk pick-up, and additional bins. Billing for additional services will be handled directly between the resident and the provider.”