GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — Last year, there were big spikes in COVID-19 cases after the Fourth of July and other summer holidays, and some are worried this year because vaccination rates are still low through much of the area.
In Gaston County, just 37% have received one dose.
Dr. Crystal Bowe told Channel 9′s Gaston County reporter Ken Lemon that she is concerned about the potential spread of the virus over the Fourth of July holiday.
“I have a lot of concerns about so many people getting together in large groups who have not been vaccinated,” Bowe said.
She said she worries people already fatigued of COVID will understand that the rate of transmission is low now, but forget the virus is still spreading and mutating.
“The more the virus is allowed to spread, the more likely we are to see variants,” Bowe said.
Bowe said getting the COVID-19 vaccine, along with taking common sense measures, can only help.
Gaston County health officials have posted a video showing how COVID-19 can still spread if only a few people are vaccinated. They said they are heavily pushing this video, and others like it, ahead of the holiday weekend.
People in Gaston County will see more ads with the video online and on YouTube, Apple TV and RoKu.
Gaston County resident Patricia Durham is vaccinated and told Channel 9 she plans to celebrate the Fourth of July with her family, but they are still taking extra precautions.
“Everybody is supposed to wear masks,” Durham said. “I’m going to wear mine. This stuff is real.”
Gastonia resident Cheryl Pass, however, said she is skeptical about the vaccine.
“I smell a rat. I think people are getting suckered,” Pass said. “Unacceptable for people to be put into an experimental treatment without informed consent.”
Pass believes the vaccines currently under FDA emergency use authorizations weren’t tested well enough to be trusted.
Bowe said the vaccines are safe and is concerned not enough people in the county are willing to get them.
“It’s kind of a what will happen if we don’t get vaccinated,” Bowe said. “I think the 600,000 deaths we have had shows what happens if you don’t get vaccinated.”
(WATCH BELOW: CMPD warns drivers about consequences of drinking and driving over holiday weekend)
‘Perfect storm’: Bulletin warns of extremist violence as pandemic restrictions lift
Federal authorities are deeply concerned about the possibility of domestic terror and violence, including mass shootings, as the July Fourth holiday approaches and the summer season gets fully underway.
A new Homeland Security bulletin obtained exclusively by ABC News warns that “violent extremists might seek to exploit easing COVID-19 restrictions, increased access to mass gatherings, and possible changes in levels of violence during the summer months to conduct attacks against a range of potential targets with little or no warning.”
The intelligence document locks in on the nation returning to normalcy after the pandemic and notes that by the end of Wednesday, “34 states will have State of Emergency orders expire,” which means bans on mass gatherings and social distancing restrictions will be largely lifted.
“In recent weeks, domestic violent extremists (DVEs) motivated by various violent ideologies have continued to advocate violence and plan attacks,” the bulletin said. “As of 16 June, racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist-white supremacists (RMVE-WSs) were sharing downloadable links to a publication discussing targeting mass gatherings, critical infrastructure, and law enforcement officers.”
“In a sense, we have the perfect storm,” a senior law enforcement official told ABC News. “It’s a very volatile moment and it’s about to be a more target-rich environment.”
The official encouraged the public not to be in a panic mode but to be alert and to reach out to law enforcement if they see anything suspicious in the coming weeks.
“Sociopolitical factors that possibly contributed to violent acts in 2020, including social isolation and other pandemic-related stressors and divisive political climates, continue to exist,” the document, which was pushed to 18,000 law enforcement agencies on Monday, bluntly states.
Homeland Security officials also expressed fears about “the recent rise in mass shootings nationwide,” noting that it “increases our concern for violence, particularly in advance of upcoming holiday celebrations and anniversaries associated with high-profile extremist attacks.”
While no specific plot has been identified for Independence Day, the intelligence brief ominously notes that federal officials are seeing evidence of radicals —particularly white supremacists—and violence prone people— planning.
ABC News contributed to this report.
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