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Data shows Rowan County, NC rank low in social distancing heading toward soft reopen

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY  — The state begins the rollback of some restrictions on business as well as lifting the state-wide stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Roy Cooper today.

Leading up to the soft reopen, Rowan County is not doing as well as the state, and the state is not a top performer either in terms of social distancing, according to data compiled by the University of Maryland.

State officials advise that masks be worn in public, and Cooper has said if new cases don’t level off or decline, the state will reinstate restrictions. Health officials have cited behavior as the main factor affecting spread of the virus.me

The Maryland data’s latest social distancing index score for the county is 20. The lower the number, the worse the social distancing practice. North Carolina is at 27, while Washington D.C., which is counted as a territory, has the highest score at 64.

The lowest-ranked states are mostly in the Midwest and the South. The lowest-ranked state is Arkansas with a score of 17.

Washington D.C. has the highest percentage of people staying home at 46%, while North Carolina is at 21%. In Rowan, by comparison, only 19% of people are staying home.

Neighboring Davidson and Stanly counties both have lower social distancing index scores, at 18 and 19 respectively.

However, Mecklenburg County has an index of 38, well above the state-wide score, and Cabarrus County has a slightly above-average score at 28.

The company Unacast gives different entities letter grades based on spread prevention. The United States was given a D-minus overall, with an F in the category of reduction of nonessential visits.

North Carolina received an F overall, with an F in the non-essential visits category from less than a 40% decrease in the density of encounters based on a national baseline. The state managed to score a D in reduction of average mobility.

Rowan County, by contrast, was given an F in all three categories. Mecklenburg, the highest rated nearby county, only managed to score a D-minus overall.

The soft reopen would allow non-essential retailers like sporting goods stores to reopen, though occupancy of stores is limited to 50% normal capacity and the state will require the store to ensure customers stand at least 6 feet apart. Restaurants, barber shops, salons and theaters that create close, crowded contact with other people for extended periods of time are not part of the soft reopen.

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