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County hits new, grim milestones in COVID-19 outbreak

SALISBURY — Rowan County last week topped 10,000 total COVID-19 positives, 4,000 active cases and 100,000 completed tests.

The statistics are part of a COVID-19 pandemic that’s continuing to worsen locally, including that there were 17 deaths reported last week, with eight on Thursday alone.

A majority of the 190 COVID-19 related deaths have occurred in nursing homes or residential care facilities, with 11 such facilities having recorded at least one. There have been 88 deaths outside of congregate living facilities and the average age of the dead is 79.

On Friday, state health officials declared over an outbreak at the Meadows of Rockwell Retirement Center, located at 612 China Grove Highway in Rockwell. An outbreak of five positive residents was first declared there on Nov. 3 before growing to nearly 30 positive staff members at the conclusion of its outbreak Friday. A total of two deaths have been reported there.

There are still 10 outbreaks considered active, the largest of which has been Trinity Oaks Skilled Nursing in Salisbury.

Also this week, the county’s positivity rate rose to 10.07% after at least 108,634 tests completed. Last week, the rate sat at 9.43% after 93,558 tests had been conducted. There have been 10,021 cases since March. Of those, 4,016 were active on Saturday. The average age among positive cases is 44.2.

Additionally, while 28 Rowan Countians are currently being hospitalized for the virus, the county reported this week 91 of the 115 beds allocated for COVID-19 patients in the county are occupied along with seven of the 61 available ventilators. Those beds and ventilators can serve patients from outside the county seeking care here.

A total of 340 Rowan Countians have been hospitalized for the virus since March, with an average age of 65 among them.

Currently, Rowan County ranks 19th in the state for most reported cases, and sixth for most reported deaths. Additionally, the county, along with its neighbors, is among the 84 counties colored red in the state’s county alert system, which denotes a critical level of spread. Over the last 14 days, the county has reported a rate of 1,214.7 cases per 100,000 residents as well as a 14-day percent positive rate of 17.8%. The impact on hospitals locally, however, remains low.

Also this week, county health officials began mass vaccination of individuals who qualify for phase 1b, which includes adults aged 75 and older, regardless of their health status. Amy Smith, the county’s health education specialist and wellness coordinator, said about 600 vaccinations were administered in total on Wednesday and Thursday.

Vaccinations will continue next week starting Monday at 9:30 a.m. at the West End Plaza, located at 1935 Jake Alexander Blvd. West. No appointment is needed, and the vaccine is free. However, public health workers are filing health insurance claims to cover administrative costs. If someone does not have a form of insurance, they will still receive the vaccine at no cost.

For another consecutive week, the state reported a record-high increase in cases. Saturday brought 11,581 cases and more than 60,000 new completed tests. Overall, there have been 614,355 positives, 7,425 deaths and 7.43 million completed tests. There are 3,871 people currently hospitalized.

“More than 10,000 new cases two days in a row. Record-high hospitalization numbers this week. COVID-19 is spreading at a dangerous pace,” said Gov. Roy Cooper in a tweet Friday. “Treat it like the serious threat that it is. Keep your mask on and think carefully about how to reduce your risk.”

As a result of the growing number of cases, positivity rate and hospitalizations, Cooper this week extended the current modified stay-at-home order until Jan. 29. That order requires North Carolinians to stay home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless conducting essential business like going to and from work or picking up groceries or prescriptions.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen also issued a secretarial directive this week instructing North Carolinians to stay home except for essential activities and avoid gatherings, especially indoors, with people who don’t live within the same household.

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