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With 427 active cases, health official says COVID-19’s threat in Rowan remains steady

By Natalie Anderson and Josh Bergeron
news@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — While daily increases have fluctuated, the COVID-19 outbreak has been relatively steady in Rowan County, says the Health Department’s nursing director.

Rowan County saw its peak in average daily increases in early September, when the 14-day average was 30. For months, though, the average number of daily cases has hovered within 10 of the peak.

“We have had some highs, but on average things have just been steady,” said Meredith Littell, the Rowan County Health Department’s nursing director. “I don’t know that we’ve seen a dip (in cases).”

Of the 3,602 total cases reported since March, 427 are currently active in the community. Additionally, 70 deaths and more than 300 cases reported are among local congregate care facilities. The latest state data show that at Piedmont Correctional Institute, one of nine current outbreaks in the county, 95 inmates have tested positive. However, only 43 of those cases are considered active.

State data show outbreaks continue to grow at Trinity Oaks Health and Rehab, which has 93 cases; Liberty Commons, which has 55 cases; Autumn Care, which has 53 cases; and Accordius Health, which has 45 cases. Other outbreaks include fewer than 10 cases at Big Elm Rehabilitation and Living Center, Compass Health, Elmcroft and the Citadel.

Littell said she believes nursing homes are doing all they can to mitigate outbreaks and the people in nursing homes are generally at higher risks for a severe case of coronavirus.

And while she’s confident in the county’s response now and in the future, as fall events and flu season approaches, she urges residents to continue practicing proper hand-washing, wearing a mask and socially distancing from others. Littell said families considering trunk-or-treat or traditional trick-or-treat events should weigh the pros and cons and evaluate all risks with possible exposure.

As far as organizing these events, Littell said it’s important for organizers to read and understand how to best plan for social distancing.

She added that testing in Rowan County has been accessible and that “things are going well” with the turnout at local testing sites. The county reports a total of 43,641 tests conducted since March, with most cases returning within two to three days. Some, however, can return in 24 hours.

Health officials urge North Carolinians to receive their flu shot. Littell is optimistic that extra hand-washing could result in fewer flu cases reported. This week, state health officials will begin tracking the flu on the state health department website.

The average age of cases in Rowan County continues to hover below 44 years old, with most positive cases among young adults aged 18-35.

Hospitalizations remain at 24 in the county. Hospitalizations peaked in August when 27 were reported in one day. The county reports 237 hospitalizations since March, with an average age of 64 among them.

Hospitalizations across the state, however, increased on Wednesday and are now at 1,028, with 158 of those admitted within the last 24 hours. Of the 3.23 million completed tests, 222,969, or 6.4%, have returned positive. And the state currently reports 3,693 COVID-19 deaths.

Of those 222,969 reported cases, all but 6,026 have been molecular positive cases, which means they’ve been confirmed rather than presumed positive.

State data also show 950 of the 2,408 available ventilators, along with 15,430 hospital beds, are currently being used across the state.

State health officials this week announced that the North Carolina Institute of Medicine is convening a NC COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee to provide feedback to the state health department on its vaccination plan. The committee comprises public health experts, health care providers, advocacy organization leaders and representatives of essential workers and at-risk populations.

The intent of the committee is to set the framework for vaccine distribution based on federal guidance.

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