UPDATED: COVID-19 cluster at private school did not impact students, classes

Published 1:15 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2020

By Natalie Anderson and Carl Blankenship

SALISBURY — State data on Tuesday reported that a local private school is now the site of a COVID-19 cluster, though the school says the infections were identified before students returned.

North Hills Christian School, a school located at 2970 W. Innes St., currently has five positive employees, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. So far, it’s the only educational facility in Rowan County with a cluster. That includes Rowan-Salisbury Schools. NCDHHS provides updates about congregate living outbreaks and school clusters twice per week.

In response to a request for comment from the Post, the school said it emailed students, staff and families on Aug. 10 about a staff member who tested positive. Everyone who was in close contact with that person was notified and required to quarantine. Four staff members tested positive while quarantined, and none of them have been on campus since classes began, the school said.

The first staff member reported symptoms on Aug. 7, and the school says it “deep cleaned and sanitized the affected building.” No other buildings on campus were impacted, the school said.

A cleaning company used aerosolized disinfectants on Aug. 10 ahead of classes beginning on Aug. 12.

“These cases do not affect our ability to hold in-person instruction, and we have plans in place for students and teachers to toggle to virtual learning/live instruction if the need arises,” Executive Director Maria Lowder said in a statement. “We are thankful for the flexibility of our students, staff and families as we work to keep everyone safe in the midst of COVID-19 changes and protocols. We miss our staff members who are currently out, but they are all doing well, and we look forward to having them back on campus once they are able to safely return.”

According to the school, it is following the protocols set by health departments, the buildings are sanitized during the day and students and staff are “required to wear masks when social distancing is not an option.”

Tuesday’s countywide COVID-19 update, meanwhile, showed recoveries rose by more than 40 and the number of currently positive cases significantly dropped from one day earlier.

After an additional 14 positive cases reported on Tuesday, the number of currently positive cases is now at 320 — a decrease of 35 from Monday. That brings the total number of cases in the county since March to 2,396. Additionally, recoveries have topped 2,000 and are currently at 2,023.

Hospitalizations are currently at 24, with a total of 167 people hospitalized since the pandemic reached the county in March. The average age among the hospitalizations is 63, while the average age among all cases is 42.5. The average age among deaths is 80.

Deaths remained at 53 on Tuesday, with the two most recent deaths reported last week at Autumn Care of Salisbury — the current site of the county’s largest nursing home outbreak. A total of 10 employees and 32 residents of Rowan County have tested positive, bringing the county’s total congregate care case count to 286. That total includes outbreaks at local nursing homes that have since been declared over.

The only other active congregate care facility outbreak is at Compass Health of Spencer, where one employee and one resident have tested positive.

Though hospitalizations have been on a steady decline lately, state data on Tuesday showed 980 people remain hospitalized in the state — a number unchanged from Monday — as 145,516 people have tested positive. However, the state has presumed 127,749 of those cases have recovered. After completing 1.94 million tests, the current rate of positive cases is 7%. Additionally, 2,348 people have died across the state.

Little has changed with demographic data regarding the outbreak in Rowan County. Hispanic residents have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic for months now, and currently comprise a little more than 29% of all cases. White residents make up more than half of all cases, while Black residents make up 14% of all cases. Less than 1% of all cases have been among Asian residents, American Indian/Alaskan Native residents and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander residents. A little more than 28% of all cases are considered unknown or other.

Young adults still make up the plurality of all cases as 740 people aged 18-35 have tested positive. Locals between the ages of 36-50 comprise 575 cases, along with 437 cases among the 51-64 age bracket and 395 cases among those 65 and older. Cases among children are currently at 249.

Nearly 52% of all cases have been among women.

Nearly 700 of all cases have been within zip code 28147, and nearly 500 have been within the 28144 area.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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