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One N.C. Veterans Home employee among 17 new COVID-19 cases in county

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The COVID-19 case count in Rowan County grew by 17 on Wednesday, bringing the total to 570, just as state officials announced a transition to a “safer at home” Phase Two of the state’s reopening beginning Friday at 5 p.m.

The additional cases include an employee at the N.C. State Veterans Home, which is on the campus of the Salisbury VA.

Of the 570 total cases, 259 are currently positive, which is an increase of 16 since Tuesday. One additional patient has recovered, bringing the recovery count to 284. Additionally, 27 individuals have died and nine are currently being hospitalized. A total of 203 individuals have tested positive at local congregate care facilities, which represents one additional case since Tuesday and 13 since Monday.

Also on Wednesday, county spokesman T.J. Brown clarified that one of the congregate care facility cases reported on Tuesday is a resident of Rowan County and works at a facility in Cabarrus County.

Of the 27 deaths here, 19 have been at the Citadel of Salisbury, seven at the N.C. State Veterans Home and one individual wasn’t associated with a congregate living facility.

At least 3,172 individuals have been tested for COVID-19 locally.

Statewide, 20,122 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 after 277,603 completed tests. A total of 554 are currently being hospitalized.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s Phase Two will take effect on Friday at 5 p.m., but with a more modest approach than originally envisioned. Some businesses will remain closed, including bars, night clubs, gyms, indoor entertainment venues and public playgrounds. The mass gathering limit will remain at no more than 10 people indoors and up to 25 people outdoors.

Restaurants, however, are among the businesses that can reopen to dine-in customers with a limited capacity of 50% along with social distancing and cleaning requirements. Personal care businesses like salons and barbershops can also reopen at 50% capacity, as well as swimming pools.

County health officials encourage everyone to do their part in keeping protective measures in place so that the community will be able to safely move into Phase Three. Brown said the county is continuing to watch metrics and case data closely and is hopeful locals will abide by the guidance provided by the governor.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has provided guidance for restaurants during Phase Two. For the full list of requirements and recommendations, restaurant operators should use the interim guidance for restaurants document, which can be found by visiting covid19.ncdhhs.gov/guidance.

Among other things, restaurants are required to:

• Ensure social distancing by arranging tables and seating to achieve at least 6 feet separation between parties for indoor and outdoor dining.

• Each group of people sitting at a counter should be separated by 6 feet.

• Permit no more than 50% of maximum occupancy as stated in fire capacity. Restaurants may permit up to 12 people per 1,000 feet if there is not a fire code number available.

• Conduct daily symptom screening of employees at entrance and immediately sending symptomatic workers home to isolate.

• Perform ongoing and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas (doors, doorknobs, rails) with an EPA-approved disinfectant for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).

In other COVID-19 statistics:

• Individuals age 65 and older make up the plurality of cases, at 178, and the 51-64 age group has now reached 103 cases. However, ages 36-50 and 18-35 continue to climb — at 134 and 133 cases, respectively. A total of 22 cases are among children younger than 18 years old.

• Of the positive cases, 341 individuals are white, 125 are black or African American, three are Asian, one is American Indian/Alaskan Native, 117 are Hispanic, 71 are unknown and 29 are other.

• Females still make up the majority of positive cases, at 299, while males represent 271 positive cases.

• Zip code 28147, which is where the Citadel nursing home is located, remains the area of the county with the most positive cases, at 247. Next is 28144, a Salisbury zip code, with 158 cases. Zip code 28146, which includes part of Salisbury and a large swath of eastern Rowan, currently has 63 positive cases.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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