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January 18, 2021

County passes 600 active COVID-19 cases again

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan County on Thursday surpassed 600 active COVID-19 cases for the second time as it marked its 14th day with more than two dozen COVID-19 cases reported in a single day.

An additional 43 cases were reported on Thursday, bringing the total to 4,620 cases. And after 3,895 recoveries, 602, or 13% of all cases, are currently active. The average age among the positive cases is 44.2.

Those statistics put Rowan County 18th in the state for most reported COVID-19 cases per 10,000 residents.

State health officials reported on Thursday that since September, nearly twice as many new cases have been reported from rural counties compared to urban or suburban counties. They attribute the increase to community spread rather than in congregate care facilities.

“It’s particularly worrisome to see high rates of COVID spread in our rural counties as healthcare can be harder to access. Most rural hospitals are small, and some are already feeling stretched to their capacity limits,” said Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Data show the majority of cases in rural counties are increasingly being reported among white, non-Hispanic residents, and are primarily among people aged 49 years or younger.

Additionally, deaths in rural counties continue to increase, especially among white, non-Hispanic and Black residents, and account for the majority of deaths statewide.

No new deaths were reported in Rowan County on Thursday, but 123 people have died from the virus, with all but 47 of those among congregate care facilities. The average age among those deaths is 80.

While Rowan County is listed on the report as a suburban county, surrounding rural counties include Davie and Stanly counties. Health officials urge North Carolinians to continue practicing the three 3 Ws to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Each Thursday, county health officials update the total number of COVID-19 tests conducted, which determines the rate of tests returning positive. However, TJ Brown, the county’s emergency management division chief, said he has not yet received those updated numbers from the state. Labs report tests to state health officials.

But hospitals update the county weekly on the number of beds and ventilators currently in use. Thursday’s update shows 53 of the 106 hospital beds and one of the 61 available ventilators are currently in use throughout Rowan County. Last week, only 44 hospital beds were in use.

The county reached a grim milestone on Wednesday when it reached a record of 31 hospitalizations. As of Thursday, 31 residents remain hospitalized. Since March, a total of 282 residents have been hospitalized with an average age of 64 among them.

County data show that outbreaks remain at 10 local congregate care facilties, including Accordius Health, The Meadows of Rockwell, Trinity Oaks Health and Rehab, The Laurels, the Citadel, N.C. State Veterans Home, Liberty Commons, Brighmoor Nursing Center, the Elmcroft of Salisbury and Piedmont Correctional Institute.

Additionally, a cluster remains at Rockwell Christian School.

North Carolina added 2,893 additional cases on Thursday, which totals 303,454 cases reported since March. On Wednesday, the state reported its highest single-day increase in cases when it reported 3,119 new cases.

The state reports 7.9% of the 4.49 million completed tests have returned positive. A total of 4,706 deaths have been reported across the state, and 1,279 people are being hospitalized.

A weekly update from the state shows that as of last week, both emergency department visits for COVID-19 and the percentage of patients admitted to the ICU for the virus increased. However, the percent of people seen in the emergency department who had to stay in the hospital decreased.

Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday announced that the state is providing 74,470 federally-funded rapid COVID-19 tests to colleges and universities across the state to help bolster schools’ student testing efforts ahead of the holiday break.

“Getting COVID-19 tests to college campuses is one way we can prevent more viral spread across the state as students go home,” Cooper said. “However, wearing a mask and maintaining social distance continue to be our strongest weapons against this virus as we approach the winter holidays.”

Cohen recommends students plan ahead and get tested before leaving campus or travelling to see family over the holidays. She also warns that just because a test result is negative, it’s not a guarantee as tests represent a moment in time. Therefore, health officials recommend getting tested three to four days in advance of travelling.

Additionally, Cooper’s Executive Order 176 will go into effect on Friday, which reduces the inside mass gathering limit to 10 people, and will remain in effect until Dec. 4.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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