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January 18, 2021

State reports record COVID-19 increase; positive test percentage continues rise in Rowan

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — As the number of currently positive cases and rate of positive tests in Rowan County continues to rise, the state reported nearly 4,300 new cases on Thursday — its highest single-day increase in cases yet.

The state added 4,296 additional cases on Thursday. North Carolina now has 325,158 cases reported since March after 4.77 million tests completed. Thursday’s daily rate of tests returning positive was 7.9% — a number that has fluctuated and remained above the recommended rate of 5% since at least mid-October. The overall rate of tests returning positive in North Carolina currently sits at 6.8%.

A total of 4,936 North Carolinians have died of COVID-19, and 1,538 are currently being hospitalized. Of those hospitalized, 198 were admitted 24 hours prior to the data, which was updated on the state’s Department of Health and Human Services website around noon.

Thursday’s record follows several days of increasing trends in new cases, percent of tests returning positive and hospitalizations across the state, health officials said.

“I am very concerned. We are seeing warning signs in our trends that we need to heed to keep our family and friends from getting sick and ensuring our hospitals are able to care for those that have serious illness,” said NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen. “We can do that if each North Carolinian wears a face mask over their mouth and nose anytime they are with people they do not live with; waits six feet apart and avoids crowds; and washes their hands often. We have reasons for hope. With promising news on vaccines, this pandemic will end. Until then, North Carolinians need to do what we’ve done throughout this pandemic — take care of one another.”

After reporting 63 additional cases on Thursday, Rowan County has seen 5,023 total cases since March, with 814, or 16%, of those currently active. A total of 4,083 people have recovered.

Of the 296 people who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 in the county since March, 26 Rowan County residents are being hospitalized as of Thursday. The average age among the hospitalizations is 64.

Deaths from COVID-19 in Rowan County remained at 126 Thursday, with all but 50 of those among congregate care facilities. The average age among the deaths is 79. The number reported Thursday by the Rowan County Health Department did not include the death of Jamesha Waddell, a senior at Livingstone College whom the school said died Thursday as a result of COVID-19 complications.

For the second week in a row, Thursday’s update also showed a rising rate of tests returning positive — a negative indicator for how well a community is controlling the spread. After 65,407 reported tests, 7.68% of those have returned positive. Last week’s update showed 7.59% of 65,407 tests reported were positive cases, which marked the first week that rate increased since September. Rowan County’s designation this week as an “orange” county is based, in part, on the fact that the percentage of positive tests recently has crossed a desired threshold.

An increasing percentage of positive tests is indicative of an outbreak that’s becoming more widespread. State health officials also report that the national percent positive rate rose from 8.4% in the week ending on Oct. 31 to 10.5% in the week ending on Nov. 7.

But the percentage of positive tests is not the only worsening local statistic. Of the 106 available beds dedicated for COVID-19 patients in the county, 73 are currently in use along with one of the 61 available ventilators. Last week, 53 of the 106 hospital beds and one of the 61 available ventilators were in use.

On Thursday, the CDC reported 165,087 new cases, which amounts to 11.5 million Americans infected with COVID-19 since the CDC began tracking cases in January. And after adding 1,836 additional deaths, COVID-19 has now claimed the lives of 249,670 Americans.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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