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Local health officials see record testing numbers ahead of Thanksgiving

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — As the number of COVID-19 cases have increased at steeper rates in Rowan County, local health officials say the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday also has prompted far more people to get tested, with Monday marking the highest turnout yet.

Amy Smith, the county’s public health education specialist and COVID-19 spokesperson, said local health officials have seen an uptick in daily testing since November, averaging 152 tests per day since Nov. 16. That’s attributed to holiday traveling and the need for documentation of a negative test before boarding a flight or train. A negative test result is among the documentation that could be required to show before boarding a flight with Delta Airlines, for example.

Smith said 240 tests were conducted on Monday during the health department’s only active day of testing, which she said was “huge compared to what we usually have” and the largest single-day testing total to date. She added that one local mentioned waiting in their vehicle for at least two hours before being tested due to the long line of cars awaiting a test.

On Friday, meanwhile, the county saw around 180 people get tested in a single day.

Smith said Mondays are usually the busiest day for testing each week, but those numbers still surpass the average number of daily tests.

In October, the county health department tested a total of 22 days. During that time, 1,545 people were tested, amounting to an average of 70.2 tests per day. The increase in tests conducted, however, has not coincided with a flat or lower positivity rate. Instead, the percent of positive tests has risen, putting Rowan County at the edge of being named a “critical” county in the state’s COVID-19 classification system.

So far in November, the county health department has tested a total of 14 days.

However, Monday was the last day the Rowan County Health Department conducted testing ahead of the holiday weekend.

Locals can still be tested at the following locations this week:

• FastMed Clinic, located at 1361 Klumac Road in Salisbury
Will bill insurance; for non-insured individuals, the cost is $199 for both COVID-19 and antibody testing. No appointment needed.

• CVS, located at 1924 Statesville Blvd. in Salisbury
No testing on Thursday, Nov. 26. Must schedule appointment online at https://www.cvs.com/minuteclinic/covid-assessment 

• Novant Health Rowan, located at 1904 W Jake Alexander Boulevard in Salisbury
No testing Thursday, Nov. 26 and Friday, Nov. 27. Call 704-210-7845 for an appointment. Testing criteria may apply.

• W.G. Hefner VA Medical Center, located at 1601 Brenner Ave. in Salisbury
No testing on Thursday, Nov. 26. Testing criteria may apply; will only test veterans.

The Rowan County Health Department will offer testing again on Monday, Nov. 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with weather permitting.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials for weeks have encouraged the public to be tested if they decide to pursue travel for the holiday season. It’s advised one be tested one to three days before the flight departure and within three to five days after travel. The CDC also advises staying home for at least seven days after travel even if one tests negative. That’s because a negative test results only show one point in time. There is still a risk of exposure during travel and upon arriving at the destination.

The CDC also advises anyone stay home for 14 days if they opt not to get tested after returning home.

Local health officials reported 75 additional cases of COVID-19 in the county on Tuesday, totaling 5,323 cases since March. Since Nov. 18, the number of daily cases has risen.

Currently, 18.9%, or 1,005, of those cases are active, while 78.7% have recovered. Deaths remain at 127, with an average age of 80 among them, and 20 local residents are being hospitalized.

The plurality of cases, or 27.4%, are among those aged 18-35, with 44 being the average age among all cases.

Those statistics put Rowan 18th in the state for most cases reported and sixth for most deaths reported.

State data on Tuesday showed that another outbreak has emerged at Autumn Care. It ended its first outbreak on Oct. 20 with 17 cases among staff, 36 cases among residents and seven deaths. Data show there is currently one positive staff case and nine positive residents.

Other local congregate care facilities with active outbreaks include the Citadel, Accordius Health, N.C. State Veteran’s Home, the Laurels, Trinity Oaks Health and Rehab, Compass Assisted Living and The Meadows of Rockwell Retirement Center.

Meanwhile, the outbreak at Brightmoor Nursing Center was declared over on Tuesday, ending its outbreak of two positive cases among staff. The outbreak there was first reported on Oct. 30.

An outbreak is considered over following 28 consecutive days after the latest date of onset in a symptomatic person or the first date of specimen collection from the most recent asymptomatic person, whichever is later.

Additionally, the latest data from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety show 60 active cases at Piedmont Correctional Institute.

No clusters are currently being reported at school settings in Rowan County.

The state reports 30,880 cases and 2,540 deaths among nursing homes, residential care facilities and correctional facilities. Additionally, 541 cases and three deaths have been reported among child care settings, while 544 cases and no deaths have been reported in K-12 schools.

Across the state, 342,294 cases have been reported since March, with 3,100 of those reported on Tuesday. There have been 5.01 million tests in the state.

Currently, 1,724 people are being hospitalized in North Carolina, while 5,074 people have died.

On Tuesday, the CDC reported an additional 157,531 cases across the U.S., which totals 12.33 million cases since January. And after adding 1,058 COVID-19 deaths, the CDC reports 257,016 deaths.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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