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County sees new COVID-19 outbreaks at group homes, clarifies miscommunication

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — County officials on Friday released the names of two local group homes where five cases of COVID-19 have been reported this week.

One employee and one resident have tested positive at a group home located on Hummingbird Circle. Two employees and one resident at group home located on Camelot Road have also tested positive. Both are affordable housing facilities that are part of Rowan Homes, Inc.

Those five cases bring the total cases at congregate care facilities to 236. Currently, the county’s data hub shows 15 employees and 37 residents at the N.C. State Veterans Home have tested positive as well as two employees at Elmcroft and six employees at the W. G. “Bill” Hefner VA Medical Center Community Living Center. Outbreaks elsewhere in Rowan County contribute, including the Citadel nursing home on Julian Road, contribute to the total, but have since been declared over.

Also on Friday, the county reported an additional 16 people tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the countywide total to 1,838 cases. The number of currently positive cases, however, dropped by 25 on Friday, for a total of 268. Recoveries rose significantly after an additional 41 people brought the recovery total to 1,523.

Deaths remain at 47, with all but 10 from congregate care facilities. Three of those deaths not associated with a congregate care facility have occurred within the previous two weeks.

A total of 10,370 tests have been reported to the county.

Two additional hospitalizations also were reported on Friday bring the current total to 14. A total of 119 people have been hospitalized in the county, with an average age of 62.

While hospitalizations are reported each day, Novant Health Rowan Medical Center and the the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center update the number of beds being used for COVID-19 patients once a week so the county can gauge hospital capacity. Thursday’s data showed a total of 50 beds are being used for COVID-19 patients and four ventilators are being used. The Salisbury VA often accepts veterans from other counties that don’t have VA hospitals, but they aren’t included in the county’s daily report of hospitalizations.

A total of 103 beds in the county are designated for positive patients, along with 61 ventilators.

Rowan County spokesperson TJ Brown on Friday said a “communication gap” resulted in him inaccurately stating on Thursday that a local childcare facility had not notified local officials of a positive case there.

Brown said Cornerstone Child Development Center, in fact, notified the health department on July 16 of a positive employee and positive child at one of its sites. The child, however, was not at the daycare when positive test results came back, Brown said. The health department then walked through the next steps with the facility as it does following notification of a case at any congregate facility. Those next steps include notifying the state and ensuring the facility understands all guidelines regarding screening, cleaning and mitigation practices.

The Rowan County Health Department investigation team worked with the facility to trace anyone who has come into contact with the positive patients and stays in contact to monitor recoveries.

The state uses data on COVID-19 cases to determine where outbreaks or clusters occur. In a child care or school setting, a COVID-19 cluster is a minimum of five cases within 14 days.

The case reporting was followed as required by law, Brown said, and the lack of communication occurred between him and other county health officials. Brown and others who update the COVID-19 data hub daily keep an internal spreadsheet and take notes on situations such as a new case at a facility. But in this situation, he said, the reported cases didn’t make it onto the notes section of the spreadsheet.

Brown said the internal process was reviewed on Friday and procedures have been established to ensure all information is shared among everyone so all are on the same page.

COVID-19 continues to disproportionately affect Hispanic residents of Rowan County. Despite making up about 9% of the county’s population, they account for 29.27% of all positive cases, at 538.

A total of 984 white residents have tested positive for COVID-19 along with 230 Black residents, five American Indian/Alaskan Native residents, five Asian residents and one Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. A total of 364 are considered unknown and 249 are considered “other.”

The average age among cases is 42, with most cases among those aged 18-35 — 590. Those aged 36-50 comprise 458 cases, while there are 315 cases among the 51-64 age group, 287 among those older than 65, and 188 for children younger than 18.

Women now comprise the majority of cases at 924, while men trail closely behind at 914.

A plurality of cases have been in zip code 28147, and are now up to 588. Zip code 28144 has had 406 cases, and 28146 has had 266 cases.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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