A scientist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviews a plate of serological test samples, which are used to detect the antibodies created by past infections of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 is fueling a rapid increase in cases throughout Moore County and across the state. 

On Monday, the positivity rate for coronavirus testing in Moore County stood at 12.5 percent, the highest rate reported by the local health department since late-January. Nearly 250 new infections have been identified in the county in July alone, with the month on track to surpass the combined number of cases recorded in June and May. 

“It is a cause for concern,” said Matt Garner, public information officer for the health department. “The major factor driving our case numbers appears to be the more contagious delta variant and in particular, its transmissibility among those who are unvaccinated.”

First declared a “variant of concern” in June by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the fast-spreading strain now accounts for 83 percent of all new cases in the United States.

“The delta variant spreads much more easily than previous virus strains, meaning you don’t need nearly as much exposure to become infected,” Garner said. “The good news is that current COVID-19 vaccines recognize the virus variants and provide excellent protection in the form of an immune response against them.”

But with demand for shots waning nationally, cities and counties in other states have begun reinstating mask mandates and other restrictions. Unvaccinated health care workers will soon be required to undergo weekly testing in both New York City and California, an inconvenience that officials hope will persuade more people to roll up their sleeves.

It remains to be seen if similar steps will be taken to slow the spread of the variant in North Carolina, where about 46 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to provide an update on the state’s COVID-19 response during a news conference on Wednesday.

FirstHealth Will Not Mandate Vaccine

FirstHealth of the Carolinas, the county’s largest private employer, announced last week that it will not yet join other North Carolina-based medical systems in requiring its employees to get vaccinated.

“While we are not mandating COVID vaccines at this time, we strongly encourage all employees, medical staff and volunteers to get the COVID vaccine as soon as possible,” Dr. Jenifir Bruno, chief medical officer for FirstHealth, said in a statement. “The vaccines are safe and effective and continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. We know that these vaccines offer the best protection against COVID-19’s known and substantial risks.”

Gretchen Kelly, administrative director of public relations for FirstHealth, said about 60 percent of the company’s employees had been vaccinated as of Friday. She said FirstHealth continues to vaccinate workers on an “ongoing basis,” with “dozens of employees" scheduled to receive their first shots this week.

Atrium Health, Cone Health, Duke University Health System, Novant Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health and UNC Medical Center are among the medical systems that recently announced vaccination requirements for workers. The action was praised by the N.C. Healthcare Association, which said it “strongly supports hospital and health system policies that require all hospital employees and clinical team members to be vaccinated against COVID-19.”

St. Joseph of the Pines Requiring Shots

About 54 percent of the county’s fatal infections are linked to outbreaks in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but vaccine hesitancy has persisted among local long-term care workers.

St. Joseph of the Pines recently became the second long-term care community in the area to make vaccinations mandatory for employees. The decision was announced on July 8 by Trinity Health, the company that owns St. Joseph of the Pines.

“Over the last year, Trinity Health has counted our own colleagues and patients in the too-high coronavirus death toll.” Mike Slubowski, CEO and president of Trinity Health, said in a statement. “Now that we have a proven way to prevent COVID-19 deaths, we are not hesitating to do our part."

Only 56 percent of workers at St. Joseph of the Pines, which is the county’s eighth-largest employer, were vaccinated before the new policy took effect, according to data shared earlier this month with the Moore County Board of Health. The data showed that less than 40 percent of staff members were vaccinated at most of the area’s long-term care facilities as of July 1.

About 90 percent of employees were vaccinated at Elmcroft of Southern Pines, the first local long-term care community to require its employees to get vaccinated. In a statement explaining the mandate, Eclipse Senior Living, the company that owns Elmcroft, said “being immunized against COVID-19 is a reasonable ask of our associates for those who can be vaccinated.”

Moore County-Born Wrestler Tests Positive

Professional wrestler Jeff Hardy, one of Moore County’s most famous native sons, was reportedly forced to drop out of a sold-out event in Missouri after testing positive for COVID-19.

Hardy, a former WWE champion, was set to appear for a meet-and-greet Monday at recordBar, a nightclub in Kansas City. On Sunday, the venue announced that Hardy’s appearance had been “postponed to a later date.”

“Jeff Hardy just tested positive for covid this morning, and will have to quarantine for the next two weeks,” recordBar wrote on its Facebook page, adding that the wrestler “will not be participating in any live events for the next two weeks."

The meet-and-greet was expected to follow a rematch between Hardy, 43, and Karrion Kross on the television program “WWE Raw.” Kross instead faced off against the wrestler Keith Lee.

Born in Cameron, Hardy is known for wearing ornately patterned face paint in the ring. He and his brother Matt Hardy first found fame performing as the tag-team wrestling duo Hardy Boyz in the early 2000s.

(12) comments

Nancy Certain

How do they know the current COVID 19 infections are from the Delta variant and not the current strain. Has anyone developed a new ELISA that has the ability to pick up the supposed Delta Variant or has someone invented a new test that has the specificity to identify the difference? Just food for thought

Kent Misegades

“ Rep. Greg Murphy (R-NC), a physician specializing in urology, told SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Daily on Thursday that “there is no science” to support the notion that masking children prevents coronavirus transmission. ”

Does that Dr.wear a mask? Does it have horns? What does he know about the spread of this disease? There are too many Dr.Atlas' around us unfortunately!

John Misiaszek

Joseph Clarke

Sure, let's cherry-pick a urologist who is a politician for advice on masking.

Kent Misegades

No big surprise, the CDC continues to shoot from the hip: “ The studies that prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to change their mask guidance for vaccinated persons are not available, a spokesperson told The Epoch Times on Wednesday.”

Jim Tomashoff

Epoch Times, yet another of Kent's extreme right-wing conspiracy spewing organization:

The Epoch Times is a far-right international multi-language newspaper and media company affiliated with the Falun Gong new religious movement. The newspaper, based in New York City, is part of the Epoch Media Group, which also operates New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television. The Epoch Times has websites in 35 countries but is blocked in mainland China.

The Epoch Times opposes the Chinese Communist Party, promotes far-right politicians in Europe, and has backed President Donald Trump in the U.S.; a 2019 report by NBC News showed it to be the second-largest funder of pro-Trump Facebook advertising after the Trump campaign. The Epoch Media Group's news sites and YouTube channels have spread conspiracy theories such as QAnon and anti-vaccine misinformation. In 2020, the New York Times called it a "global-scale misinformation machine". The Epoch Times frequently promotes other Falun Gong affiliated groups, such as the performing arts company Shen Yun."

Didn't First Health's ability to perform elective surgeries drop significantly when the virus first showed up last year? Din't that effect not only their profitability but this areas health care outcomes? Why won't First Health require employees to be vaccinated? Disturbing and insensitive to you patients,many of whom are in compromised health situations.

John Misiaszek

Kent Misegades

“If it bleeds, it leads.”

Justin Bradford

Kent, congrats to you, Woodward, Boesch, et al, your constant misinformation campaign is finally paying dividends. The virus has mutated, and more deaths are on the way. As predicted. The unvaccinated and misinformed have created a perfect opportunity for this deadly virus to mutate. As viruses do. Keep it up, Kent, your deadly efforts are taking hold.

Kent Misegades

All unfounded conjecture, aka “fake news”.

Kent Misegades

Why worried? Those vaccinated have no reason for concern, if the thing actually works and if there really is a pandemic. Same for masks - all those wearing a muzzle have no reason for concern, right? Never wore one, never will, never been healthier. Never got a flu shot, never will, Never been healthier. Sunshine and clean living work wonders. Have a nice day!

Pretty cavalier there Kent. One never knows what life has in store for them. Get vaccinated and you'll have a better chance of avoiding something quite avoidable. What do you have to lose? Or or you chicken? Afraid of needles? Need someone to hold your hand? MAN UP Kent,get your shot.

John Misiaszek

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Comments that violate any of the rules above are subject to removal by staff.

Thank you for reading!

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading. Subscribe today and support local community journalism.

Digital Only Subscriptions

The Pilot

Get unlimited digital access and support award-winning local journalism, for just $5 a month. This includes access to the electronic replica edition of The Pilot.

Starting at
$5.35 for 30 days

Already have a Print Subscription? Get Digital Access Free.

The Pilot

As a print subscriber, you also have unlimited digital access. Connect your account now. Or, call customer service at 910-693-2487 for help.


Our system has been updated, if you are a current print subscriber and cannot obtain your unlimited access, please contact customer support 910-693-2490. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Home Delivery

The Pilot

Our best deal: Get all the news of Moore County delivered to your home each Wednesday and Sunday — and receive unlimited digital access to

Starting at
$27.82 for 90 days