County sees another double-digit jump in positive COVID-19 cases, bringing total to 422

Published 9:11 pm Tuesday, May 5, 2020

By Natalie Anderson

SALISBURY — The positive COVID-19 case count for Rowan County increased by 30 on Tuesday.

It was the second straight double-digit increase after the county had seen a slower rise in positive cases last week.

Rowan County public health officials reported that the county is now at 422 positive COVID-19 cases, with 25 deaths, after 2,655 tests have been conducted. A total of 136 individuals have recovered, while 15 are hospitalized.

County spokesperson TJ Brown said he doesn’t know the exact reason for the jump in cases and did not attribute the increases to a specific outbreak. While the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday reported an additional 10 positive cases at the Citadel nursing home, located on Julian Road, Brown said he was sure those are from staff members who don’t live in Rowan County. The state now says there are 154 positive COVID-19 cases at the Citadel, including 44 staff members and 110 patients.

Despite working at the Citadel in Rowan County, Brown said, the county in which a positive individual resides is responsible for tracking and reporting that case in its total case count.

The double-digit jump in cases was reported just after Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Tuesday the state’s plan to ease stay-at-home restrictions and move into Phase One of reopening businesses on Friday.

The first phase allows most businesses to open, including retail businesses that operate at 50% capacity with frequent cleaning and social distancing, and an encouragement for parks and trails to reopen. Additionally, gatherings are still limited to 10 people, but gathering outdoors with friends is allowed. Certain businesses such as gyms, salons, bars and theaters will remain closed, and restaurants will continue to offer delivery and take-out services only.

“COVID-19 is still a serious threat to our state, and Phase 1 is designed to be a limited easing of restrictions that can boost parts of our economy while keeping important safety rules in place,” Cooper said in the official Executive Order No. 138 document. “This is a careful and deliberate first step, guided by the data, and North Carolinians still must use caution while this virus is circulating.”

Statewide, a total of 12,256 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 after 151,800 tests have been conducted. There have been a total of 452 deaths with 534 hospitalizations.

Also on Tuesday, the state said more than half of North Carolina adults are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 because they are aged 65 or older, have at least one underlying health condition or both. To make that announcement, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services cross-referenced risk factors identified by the Centers for Disease Control with it data sources. The underlying health conditions included chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, severe obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease and immunosuppressive conditions, including cancer treatment, smoking and other immune disorders.

Findings from the state’s analysis include:

  • In 2018, 27% of people were aged 18 to 24, 36% of people were 25 to 49, 49% of people were 50 to 64 and 56% of people were 65 and older had at least one underlying health condition that is a risk factor for serious illness from COVID-19.
  • In 2018, 45% of black North Carolinians and 42% of white North Carolinians had at least one underlying health condition.
  • As of Monday, 31% of all people with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 had at least one underlying health condition.
  • As of Monday, 75% of all laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 deaths had at least one underlying health condition.

Rowan County public health officials continue to encourage people to wear masks, including children aged 2 years and older. Though children don’t seem to be at higher risk of COVID-19 complications than adults, the amount of cases among children has grown in Rowan County since late April. There are currently eight individuals younger than 18 who have tested positive. Additionally, health officials note that COVID-19 data and information continue to change quickly.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, ‘Everyone 2 years and older should wear a cloth face covering that covers their nose and mouth when they are out in the community,'” said county health officials in a press release. “Cloth face coverings should not be put on babies or children younger than 2 because of the danger of suffocation. Children younger than 2 years of age are listed as an exception as well as anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance.”

Parents and guardians are also asked to discourage children and teens from gathering in other public places while school is dismissed to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

“Don’t let up on protective actions,” county officials stated. “Wearing cloth face coverings is a public health measure people should take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in addition to (not instead of) social distancing, frequent hand cleaning and other everyday preventive actions.”

Four congregate living facilities in Rowan County are the sites of active COVID-19 outbreaks, including the Citadel; N.C. State Veteran’s Home, located on the Hefner VA Medical Center campus; Liberty Commons, located at 4412. S. Main St.; and the Laurels of Salisbury, located at 215 Lash Dr.

Of the 25 COVID-19 deaths in Rowan County, 17 have been from the Citadel nursing home, seven have been from the N.C. State Veteran’s Home and one was not associated with a congregate living facility, with an average age of 84 among the deaths. County health officials confirmed on Monday that Liberty Commons has six total positive COVID-19 cases — two being staff members and the remaining four being residents.

In other COVID-19 statistics:

  • Individuals aged 65 and older make up the plurality of cases at 150. A total of 87 cases are in the 51-64 age range, 89 are aged 36-50, 88 are aged 18-35 and eight are younger than 18 years old.
  • Of the positive cases, 262 individuals are white, 108 are black or African American, three are Asian, one is American Indian/Alaskan Native, 52 are Hispanic, 41 are unknown and seven are other.
  • Females still make up the majority of positive cases, at 239, while males represent 183 positive cases.
  • Zip code 28147 remains the area of the county with the most positive cases, at 188, which is where the Citadel nursing home is located. Next is 28144, a Salisbury zip code, with 97 cases. Zip code 28146, which includes part of Salisbury and a large swath of eastern Rowan, currently has 57 positive cases.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at or call her at 704-797-4246.

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