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Additional COVID-19 death reported in Rowan; Cooper announces small business relief

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Health Department on Tuesday reported an additional COVID-19 death from someone not associated with a congregate care facility.

There have been a total of 92 deaths in the county, with 31 among people not associated with a congregate care facility. The average age among the deaths remains at 80.

More than 450 cases have been among local congregate care facilities. Currently, there are seven active outbreaks. State data on outbreaks and clusters, updated twice each week, show there have been eight deaths and 90 cases at Trinity Oaks Health and Rehab, five deaths and 54 cases at Autumn Care, seven deaths and 43 cases at Accordius Health, eight cases as part of the Citadel’s second outbreak, four cases at Compass Health in Spencer and two cases at Big Elm Rehabilitation and Living Center in Kannapolis.

County and state data differ slightly on the number of cases reported at each facility. County spokesperson TJ Brown has previously said the county data hub only tracks Rowan County residents and not residents of other counties.

County and state data differed Tuesday on the number of reported deaths at both Liberty Commons and Accordius Health. While state data show 24 cases and five deaths at Liberty Commons, the county reports there have been six deaths. And state data show seven deaths at Accordius Health, while county data show six deaths.

Brown told the Post on Tuesday he was looking into the reason behind the discrepancies.

State data also show there is a cluster of 11 cases at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Preschool.

County health officials on Tuesday added 22 cases to its overall COVID-19 case count, which is now at 3,226. Of those, 383, or nearly 12% of all reported cases, are currently positive. A total of 2,751 people have recovered in the county. The average age among those testing positive is 43.6.

A total of 19 Rowan County residents are being hospitalized for COVID-19.

Across the state, 195,549 people have tested positive after 2.82 million completed tests, for a rate of 5.4%. Of those, 905 are currently being hospitalized and 3,286 people have died.

Also on Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced that large outdoor venues would be allowed to reopen at 7% capacity, with key safety precautions in place, on Oct. 2.

“We will continue analyzing our data and indicators as we determine how to move forward safely in other areas that may be included in the new order on Oct. 2,” Cooper said. “In it, we hope to ease some other restrictions, while still keeping safety protocols like masks, social distancing, and mass gathering limits in place.”

The governor also announced that some small businesses impacted by the pandemic may benefit from a $40 million relief program established to help offset fixed costs like rent, mortgage interests and utility bills.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy — powering our local communities and giving back in so many ways,” Cooper said. “They deserve our support, and this new initiative can help them weather this tough time.”

The N.C. Mortgage, Utility and Rent Relief, or MURR, administered by the North Carolina Department of Commerce, can provide up to $20,000 in relief funds per qualifying business location. Business applicants from certain industry sectors that have not been able to operate during the COVID period may apply for up to two of their business locations.

Applicants can apply for up to four months of mortgage interest or rent expenses as well as utility expenses. Applications to the program should open next week, state health officials said, and will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis. Applicants must certify that they were closed during the period of April 1 to July 31, expect to be able to operate after the COVID crisis has passed, and have not been reimbursed by any other federal source for the expenses for which they seek reimbursement through this program.

Eligible applicants include amusement parks, banquet halls with catering staff, bars, taverns, night clubs, cocktail lounges, bingo parlors, bowling alleys, dance halls, indoor fitness and recreation centers, movie theaters and museums.

Business leaders can learn about the MURR program by registering for one of the free educational webinars offered by the Department of Commerce over the next two weeks. The webinar schedule and additional information on the program can be found at www.nccommerce.com/murr.

Additionally, state health officials have launched a COVID-19 exposure notification app called “SlowCOVIDNC” to help North Carolinians slow the spread of the virus by alerting them when they may have been exposed to or near someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The app, which uses Google and Apple’s Exposure Notification System, is anonymous and doesn’t collect, share or store personal information or location data.

The app is free to download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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