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The U.S. has seen signs in the past month of COVID-19 pandemic numbers dropping, which experts say is due to mask wearing, social distancing and the emergence of two vaccines.

KENANSVILLE — After nearly 11 months of days when there was little to no progression and far too much regression, the U.S. has seen positive signs in the past month of COVID-19 pandemic numbers dropping nationally, in North Carolina and in Duplin County.

Health experts say it is because of mask wearing, social distancing and the emergence of two vaccines.

As of Monday, 4,576 first doses of vaccines have been administered to county residents, which is 7.8 percent of the population.

About 1,583 second doses have been given, a 2.7 percent of the county.

Both vaccines — Pfizer and Moderna — require two applications to reach full immunity.

Duplin has seen 5,529 cases and 121 deaths in about a year. It’s 6.6 percent rate of positive results is almost identical to the statewide number of 6.5 percent.

“Our numbers are pretty stable right now,” said Tracy Simmons Kornegay, Duplin County Health Director. “They may go a little higher when activity around the Super Bowl comes in.”

NC reached the 1.5 million first-vaccine mark last week and Gov. Roy Cooper rolled out guidelines for a third group to get into the vaccination lineup. About 1 million Tar Heels have had a first dose.

Starting Feb. 24, anyone working in child care or Pre-K to grade 12 schools will be in Group 3.

There are so many people in that group that the health organizations and the state need time to get the amount of vaccines required.

Groups 1 and 2 included health-care workers, long-term staff and residents at residential care facilities and anyone age 65 and older.

Yet the supply isn’t keeping up with demand quite yet, even as the state announced it would roll out a program to tell counties and health organizations how many doses will be available and when.

“We knew what was coming for the first three weeks in February,” said Simmons Kornegay, whose department had three vaccination events last week. “This helps our county and others in planning vaccination events.”

The state released the following information on vaccinations.

  • 68 percent say they either didn’t know if they were eligible for a virus vaccine or how to get one.
  • 52 percent say they are unlikely, or very unlikely, to get a shot.
  • 55 percent cited concerns over the vaccine, for its side effects (18 percent) to the fact they did not trust the government (15 percent) to 22 percent who said the vaccine is too new and they want to wait to see how it works on others.
  • Yet the most shocking figures came when it broke down the vaccine along political lines.
  • 72 percent of people who identify as Republican said they probably will not get the vaccine, and 63 percent who lean Republican do not want a shot.
  • 21 percent of those identifying as Democrat said they probably won’t get the vaccine, and 33 percent of leaning Democrats do not want a shot.
  • 54 percent of independents said they are shying away from vaccination.

The state summed up its report by saying 71 percent of strong Republicans won’t get the vaccine, while 79 percent of strong Democrats probably will.

Further insight into our county shows the virus has affected 37 percent of Duplinites ages 25 to 49, 21 percent are in the age 50 to 64 category and 16 percent are 65 or older.

Seventy-three percent are white, 18 percent black and 16 percent Hispanic.

In gender terms, 55 percent are male and 45 percent female.

Hope is on the horizon, at last, and barring a setback, using the phrase “back to normal” is still in the faraway distance.

But now it can at least be said.

Michael Jaenicke can be reached at