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UPDATED: Three new COVID-19-related deaths confirmed at State Veteran’s Home

By Shavonne Potts

shavonne.potts@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Health Department on Friday confirmed three new COVID-19-related deaths connected to the N.C. State Veteran’s Home, bringing its total to seven.

The facility, which is located on the Hefner VA Medical Center campus, is now one of four congregate living facilities in Rowan County with an active outbreak. An outbreak is considered two or more people testing positive for the virus.

In a statement from PruittHealth, the company that manages the N.C. State Veteran’s Home, a spokesperson said the company offers its sincerest condolences to the veterans’ families and loved ones during this global pandemic.

“We consider veterans members of the family, which is why we are working under the guidance of public health officials around the clock to fight this disease,” the spokesperson said.

“Like many skilled nursing centers, North Carolina State Veterans Home – Salisbury is carefully monitoring patients for symptoms of COVID-19. To safeguard the health and well-being of all veterans and staff, those who test presumptive positive for COVID-19 are isolated and are treated by designated staff in an effort to contain the virus,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

The facility remains at a code red alert, which means visitors and nonessential personnel are prohibited from entering the building. As a result, PruittHealth said, the N.C. State Veterans Home in Salisbury has been strictly following enhanced infection control protocols, including increasing cleaning frequency, postponing communal activities, ceasing visitation as well as screening staff and veterans daily.

“We ask for your prayers during this difficult time, and out of respect for the privacy of veterans and their families, we cannot share any more details,” the spokesperson said.

The company provided an emergency operations center number — 855-742-5983 — for employees, veterans or family members with questions.

The Citadel of Salisbury, a nursing home facility located on Julian Road, remains at 17 of the 25 local deaths reported in connection with COVID-19.

According to a biweekly update from the state, the Laurels of Salisbury, at 215 Lash Drive, is the newest site of an outbreak with two staff members and one resident testing positive. No deaths have been reported at the facility, according to the state. At Liberty Commons, which became the third site of an outbreak last week, there have been two staff cases of COVID-19 reported.

The state updates its congregate living facility outbreaks data every Tuesday and Friday afternoon. Some of the data differs from what has been reported by the Rowan Public Health Department.

The health department says 379 people have tested positive for COVID-19 out of 2,506 total tests administered. Of people who have tested positive, 109 have recovered and the health department continues to follow up with 228 individuals. There are 13 people currently hospitalized, which remains below the local capacity of 104 available COVID-19-designated hospital beds. Six ventilators were being used Saturday of the 56 available locally.

Of those who have tested positive, 56.20% are female and 43.80% are males.

As cases continue to rise, Rowan Public Health Director Nina Oliver is urging residents to wear masks in public. If not for themselves, people should wear masks to protect others, Oliver said.

Wearing a mask, Oliver said, could prevent someone else from getting COVID-19. She also noted that many people are now showing no signs of typical symptoms. They may walk around with the potential to spread COVID-19 and not even know it.

“It’s really to keep other people safe not just yourself,” Oliver said.

Rowan Emergency Management Chief Chris Soliz added that once restrictions are lifted residents should still continue to adhere to guidelines, which include social distancing, hand washing and wearing a mask.

State totals on Friday continued to climb, with 10,923 people confirmed positive. That’s an increase of over 400 people in one day. There have been 133,832 total tests conducted in North Carolina, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

N.C. DHHS reports that 399 have died and 547 people are currently hospitalized from COVID-19. The state says that 98 counties of the 100 have provided data.

State data show Rowan County remains near the top in terms of total case numbers per county. Only Durham, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Wake and Wayne counties have more cases. Rowan County is also among the highest death totals in the state.

Consequently, among neighboring counties, only Cabarrus, with 315 cases and 12 deaths, is close to Rowan’s totals.

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