Almost two years after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the world has gained more understanding and at the same time still has questions about the virus and its impact.
Three vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) were approved for emergency use in the United States, and vaccinations began in December 2020 starting with health frontline workers. But most of the public did not start getting inoculated until early 2021.
New Hanover County began its vaccine rollout on Jan. 7, starting with adults ages 75 and older with appointments filling out within hours. Eventually, after managing rollout to different groups, anyone 16 and older was eligible in April.
As of early December, 60% of New Hanover County residents were fully vaccinated.
While vaccines were underway, many regions still had mandates set in place including masking and social distancing. When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that fully vaccinated individuals were safe to not wear a mask or social distance, Gov. Roy Cooper in May lifted many restrictions.
In July, public health officials learned of a new threat. The delta variant was a concern for many after it was discovered it was more than two-times infectious than previous variants and became the dominant COVID strain in the U.S.
By August, New Hanover County saw a rise in cases, and the county’s Health and Human Services Board voted to mandate face coverings in all indoor public places once again.
During this time, booster shots were starting to be administered in the county. In November, metrics started to improve on the county level, and the mask mandate was once again lifted.
Pandemic relief came for businesses in various programs, loans and grants.
The U.S. Small Business Administration provided the Paycheck Protection Program to help businesses keep their workforce. Through May 31, the SBA approved a total of 11 million loans adding up to $799 billion.
Another form of funding came from New Hanover County and the city of Wilmington in September.
Businesses in the hospitality, retail and service sector received grants totaling more than $4 million used for payroll to hire and rehire employees or for costs related to becoming COVID-19 compliant. The 192 businesses chosen represented as many as 3,700 local employees.
Much of the relief stemmed from the American Rescue Plan, which provided $45.5 million to New Hanover County and $25.9 million to the city of Wilmington. Brunswick County received $27.7 million and Pender County $12.2 million.
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