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Editorial: Continue to follow health guidelines on coronavirus

There are members of the crowd of people who were suspicious of COVID-19-induced shutdowns at the start who are now asking about how large gatherings of people for protests are affecting rates of new cases.

And without fully unpacking that question, the truth is that, like so many other things, it’s complicated.

Large numbers of people participating in protests here are wearing masks or cloth face coverings, as health officials have recommended to help stem the COVID-19 outbreak. Pictures of protests will show that. And there are instances of protest organizers encouraging people to do so.

Still, case numbers have been rising in the previous several days at a faster clip than they had been in the week and two weeks prior. And 13 people hospitalized (the total on Thursday afternoon) is higher than the point at which that number had been hovering previously— 19. It’s still a ways below the local health care system’s capacity.

The availability of testing sites is rising, too. We’re still not at the point where anyone who wants a test can get one, but our current state is closer than it’s ever been. The website for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says it recommends testing for “anyone with symptoms or anyone who thinks they have been exposed to COVID-19, whether or not they have symptoms.”

Those symptoms include:

• Fever

• Cough

• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

• Chills

• Repeated shaking with chills

• Muscle pain

• Headache

• Sore throat

• New loss of taste or smell

• Fatigue Congestion or runny nose

• Nausea or vomiting

• Diarrhea

It wasn’t that long ago that a single drive-thru testing site operated by Novant Health on Mocksville Road was the only such location in the county. Now, there’s testing every Monday at West End Plaza, every Tuesday at Northern Rowan Family Medicine in Spencer, every Wednesday at the Rowan County Health Department and every day at a Novant Health site at 1904 Jake Alexander Boulevard and a FastMed Clinic at 1361 Klumac Road.

If testing criteria is more lenient and there are more testing sites, it makes sense that numbers have been rising.

But it also may take two to 14 days before symptoms appear after exposure. Some people may contract COVID-19 and be unaware, having no symptoms. And people who do not feel sick are not likely to prioritize getting tested.

At the moment, it’s best for everyone to continue to follow the guidance of health care professionals and let them decide when it’s safe to enter a new phase of “reopening.” That means wearing a cloth face covering, staying 6 feet apart and avoiding close contact with strangers and washing your hands often or using hand sanitizer.

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