New death, two COVID-19 outbreaks reported in Rowan County

Published 7:45 pm Saturday, July 25, 2020

By Josh Bergeron and Natalie Anderson

SALISBURY — Rowan County saw its 48th COVID-19 death reported on Saturday and two additional outbreaks at congregate living facilities one day earlier.

The 48th death from COVID-19 occurred outside of a congregate living facility but no other information was immediately released.

There have now been 11 deaths outside of congregate living facilities, with four of them occurring in the previous two weeks. There have also been 21 deaths at the Citadel nursing home, the site of a COVID-19 outbreak that’s now considered over; 15 at the N.C. State Veterans Home; and one at Liberty Commons.

The average age of the deceased is 81.

The newest COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred at group homes in the county, bringing the total number of cases at congregate living facilities to 238.

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

The Rowan County Health Department on Friday reported 16 new positive cases and on Saturday reported 15 more, bringing the total COVID-19 positives to 1,853. The number of active cases is at 282 — a number that usually fluctuates within the same range based on recoveries, which numbered 1,523 on Saturday. There have been at least 10,418 tests conducted.

There were 14 people hospitalized on Saturday.

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 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 was in contact with the positive patients and will stay 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 Friday and procedures have been established to ensure all information is shared with 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 29.30% of all positive cases, at 543. A similar story is true across the state, where Hispanic residents make up 42% of positive cases.

A joint statement by Gov. Roy Cooper, the N.C. Department Health Human Services and the consulates general of Mexico and Guatemala said the nature of the jobs worked by many in the Latino community put them at higher risk of getting COVID-19, including food services, construction and manufacturing.

“The Consulates General of Mexico and Guatemala join Governor Roy Cooper and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to make an urgent call to the Latino community to take prevention measures against this virus. COVID-19 is highly contagious and, unfortunately, it is strongly affecting Hispanics,” officials said in their statement issued last week.

In Rowan, 990 white residents have tested positive for COVID-19 along with 231 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 — 596.

Women now comprise the majority of cases at 932, while men trail closely behind at 921.

A plurality of cases have been in zip code 28147, and are now up to 592. Zip code 28144 has had 407 cases, and 28146 has had 270 cases.