First COVID-19 death reported at Bethamy Retirement Center; positivity rate rises again

Published 5:06 pm Thursday, December 17, 2020

By Natalie Anderson

SALISBURY — County health officials reported the first COVID-19 death at Bethamy Retirement Center in Spencer on Thursday as the positivity rate grew again this week.

Thursday’s death leaves the total at 155 since March, with all but 64 among local congregate care facilities. Bethamy Retirement Center became the site of an outbreak last Friday when two staff members and eight residents tested positive.

With 84,152 tests conducted and 7,345 positive cases in Rowan County as of Thursday, that brings the positivity rate, or percent of tests returning positive, to 8.73% — a number that’s grown in recent weeks as cases continue to surge across the county. An additional 96 cases were reported on Thursday, and 24.3% of all cases are currently active.

A weekly update of hospital bed and ventilator usage shows 91 of the 108 hospital beds and two of the 61 available ventilators are currently in use. Last week, 83 of the 108 available hospital beds and five of the 61 available ventilators were in use.

Additionally, COVID-19 hospitalizations grew to 20 on Thursday. That number indicates the number of Rowan Countians being hospitalized for COVID-19 in the county, and is updated daily.

State health officials reported an additional 5,786 cases across the state, bringing the total to 457,660 cases after conducting 6.15 million tests. A total of 2,804 North Carolinians are being hospitalized for COVID-19, and 6,065 have died.

Of the 2,804 hospitalizations across the state, the Triad Healthcare Preparedness Coalition region that includes Rowan County comprises the plurality at 815. The Triad region also comprises 508 of the 2,065 ICU beds in use, as well as the plurality of inpatient beds being used — 3,895.

Also on Thursday, a weekly surveillance report showed that as of last week, emergency department visits for COVID-19 increased, along with the total number of people admitted to hospitals for COVID-19 and the percentage admitted to the ICU. However, the percent of people seen in the emergency department for COVID-19 who had to stay in the hospital decreased.

State health officials are also tracking influenza cases. The weekly surveillance report showed that of the 1,174 specimens submitted to the state lab this week, none returned positive for the flu.

State data also show there have been at least 42,085 cases and 2,999 deaths reported in nursing homes, residential care facilities, correctional facilities and other congregate living facilities. A total of 303 outbreaks have been in nursing homes, 190 outbreaks in residential care facilities and 53 in correctional facilities.

Data also show a total of 642 cases, 21 outbreaks and three deaths in child care facilities, along with 827 cases, 51 outbreaks and no deaths among K-12 schools.

Earlier this week, state health officials announced that North Carolina Food and Nutrition Services participants can now purchase groceries online at Aldi using Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, cards in an effort to further promote social distancing and to address transportation and mobility barriers. Other retailers across the state approved for online Food and Nutrition Services purchases are Walmart, Amazon and Carlie C’s. In May, North Carolina was among the first 10 states to implement such a program, and it will remain in place beyond the pandemic.

The CDC on Thursday reported an additional 236,913 cases and an additional 3,435 new deaths across the U.S., totaling 16.76 million cases and 306,427 deaths since January. There have been an average of 93 deaths per 100,000 people across the nation.

On Saturday, the Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church will host a free COVID-19 testing event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“The testing throughout our Salisbury community has been outstanding but this event has significance because Black and brown people have been impacted with higher death rates from the virus,” said Rev. Dr. Roy L. Dennis Jr. “Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church is nestled in the African-American community and we hope it will encourage attendance for the testing.”

Free testing is also available Friday at the West End Plaza, located at 1935 Jake Alexander Blvd. W., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

CVS, located at 1924 Statesville Blvd., continues to provide testing, but criteria may apply. Appointments must be made online. Novant Health Rowan, located at 1904 Jake Alexander Blvd., is providing testing, but criteria may apply as well.

Testing is also provided at Fastmed Clinic, located at 1361 Klumac Road. Insurance will be billed, and the cost for non-insured individuals is $199 for both COVID-19 and antibody testing. No appointment is needed.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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 or call her at 704-797-4246.

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