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UPDATED: Increasing positivity rate among several grim trends in worsening coronavirus statistics

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — As COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise across the country, the same is happening in Rowan County, proved by several grim milestones reported this week.

In addition to two COVID-19 deaths, the county saw its second-highest, single-day increase in cases, a record number of hospitalizations and an increased rate of tests returning positive for the first time since September. The developments came as Gov. Roy Cooper reduced the indoor mass gathering limit to 10 people, which became effective on Friday.

Total COVID-19 deaths reached 124 after a death was reported among someone outside of a congregate care facility on Friday. That was in addition to another community member’s death reported earlier this week. Those two deaths bring the total to 48 deaths that have occurred outside of congregate care facilities.

Rowan County is fifth in the state for its number of COVID-19 deaths. The average age among the deaths in the county remains at 80.

Since August, the county has provided a weekly update of negative tests. Generally, the weekly update as meant a lower positive test rate than the week before — an indication of declining spread of COVID-19 in the community. But this week’s update was the first since September in which the positivity rate has not decreased. Last week, the rate was 7.47% after at least 58,498 tests were reported. But that rate rose to 7.59% when an additional 3,431 negative tests were reported Friday.

Of tests conducted in Rowan County, a total of 4,768 have been positive, with 697, or nearly 14%, of those currently positive. That total was propelled upward Friday when the county saw its second-highest, one-day increase in COVID-19 cases — 82. The third-highest increase this year — 66 — came on Friday. The highest increase to date is 90, which was set in mid-April and included many positive tests from a nursing home outbreak that became the worst in the state.

This chart shows the progression of COVID-19 cases in Rowan County. The blue bars show single-day increases in positive Rowan County residents. The black line shows a 14-day average of daily increases. Click on the image to view a larger version.

A plurality of people currently positive are over the age of 65, with the second-largest age group being 36-50.

Women make up a majority of the currently positive cases, 356. There are 341 men who are positive.

White Rowan Countians are the majority of currently positive cases. There are 92 Black Rowan Countians currently positive, four American Indian or Alaskan Native, one Asian, one Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 175 people whose race is unknown and 65 who are labeled “other.”

On Saturday, local residents hospitalized decreased to 19 from a peak of 31 on Friday. In total, 284 Rowan Countians have been hospitalized for COVID-19, with an average age of 64 among them.

Additionally, a weekly update of hospital bed and ventilator usage, which can included people from elsewhere seeking care here, shows 53 of the 106 available beds and one of the 61 available ventilators are currently in use. Last week, 44 beds were in use.

State data on Friday showed an outbreak at Liberty Commons is formally declared over. Outbreaks can be concluded and removed from the state’s list when at least 28 consecutive days have passed since the last positive test. The facility ended its second outbreak with 24 cases among staff, 41 cases among residents and 14 deaths.

State data show 10 active outbreaks among local congregate care facilities, including Trinity Oaks Health and Rehab, Elmcroft of Salisbury, the Citadel, the N.C. State Veterans Home, Brightmoor Nursing Center, Piedmont Correctional Institute, Accordius Health, The Laurels, Compass Health and the Meadows of Rockwell.

A cluster remains at Rockwell Christian School.

Additionally, the state reached a grim milestone this week when it reported its highest single-day increase in cases — 3,885 — on Saturday. North Carolina reports 309,118 total cases. After 4.58 million completed tests, that amounts to an 6.75% rate of tests returning positive. Currently, 1,423 people are being hospitalized while 4,756 people have died.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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