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Liberty Commons site of new COVID-19 outbreak as county sees fourth straight double-digit jump

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Liberty Commons on Saturday became the third congregate living facility in Rowan County that has become the site of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Saturday also marked the fourth day in a row that Rowan County’s positive case count has jumped by double digits — this time by 23 to a total of 333 cases.

The outbreak at Liberty Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, located at 4412 S. Main St. in Salisbury, involves two staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19. The employees have since been sent home, according to the Rowan County Health Department. Meanwhile, tests have been administered to all residents and are awaiting results, and Liberty Commons said it has notified all staff and residents, or their family members, of the tests.

A public health communicable disease nurse and environmental health specialist have conducted a site visit, according to the county health department, and are reporting that the facility is adhering to guidelines and recommendations.

An outbreak is two or more positive cases in a congregate living facility. Other outbreaks include The Citadel on Julian Road and the N.C. State Veterans Home on the campus of the W.G. “Bill” Hefner VA Medical Center.

The county currently has 333 positive cases, which is up from Friday’s total positive case count of 310. A total of 2,130 tests have been administered, and 20 deaths have occurred. A total of 17 people are currently hospitalized.

Of the 20 total deaths, 15 have been from the Citadel nursing home, four were N.C. State Veterans Home residents and one person was not a patient at a congregate care facility.

Additionally, Saturday’s update reports that two individuals under the age of 18 have tested positive. Until recently, there had been no confirmed cases among people under the age of 18.

The average age of positive cases is 57.9. Individuals aged 65 and older comprise the plurality of cases, at 138. The age group 51-64 has 64 cases, the 36-50 group has 67 cases and the 18-35 group has 62 cases.

Statewide, 8,623 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 of the 105,265 tests conducted. North Carolina has seen 289 deaths and 456 hospitalizations from the virus across the state.

But for the second day in a row, state data on COVID-19 cases differ from Rowan County’s data. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting Rowan County has 342 positive cases and 16 deaths. The state data is updated daily by 11 a.m. while the county health department updates its data every evening.

Rowan County spokesperson TJ Brown said on Friday that a discrepancy between county and state data has happened before — notably when there was a number of positive test results after the Citadel’s outbreak was confirmed. While the county is “putting eyes on individualized numbers to hand-crunch” the data for each case, the state uses an automated system to pull data. Therefore, Brown said, sometimes cases don’t have a phone number or address attached to the individual and may be wrongfully reported under Rowan County.

Brown said the county health department has its own investigation team that looks into such discrepancies. If the team is unable to verify the county the case belongs to, it is sent back to the state to redetermine the county to which it belongs.

The state health department has not yet returned comments for a request sent on Friday from the Post.

Brown added that the time at which the final positive case count is determined each day depends on how many cases come in. The county reports demographic data along with each case, so it can be more time-consuming than just reporting the case count, he said.

Nonetheless, he said, the data from the state is “valid when it’s reported based on the processes they use,” and the county’s is valid based on the processes it uses. According to state data, only Durham, Mecklenburg, Wake and Wayne counties have more positive COVID-19 cases than Rowan. There are 100 counties in the state.

Additionally, only Mecklenburg County surpasses Rowan County in the number of deaths from positive cases.

In other COVID-19 statistics:
  • Of the positive cases, 170 individuals are white, 87 are black or African American, two are Asian, one is American Indian/Alaskan Native, 25 are white/hispanic, 45 are unknown and three are other.
  • Females still make up the majority of positive cases at 187, while males comprise 146 positive cases.
  • Zip code 28147 remains the area of the county with the most positive cases, which is where the Citadel nursing home is located.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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