Rowan County sees COVID-19 cases coming more quickly, remains in middle tier for community spread

Published 12:01 am Sunday, July 25, 2021

SALISBURY — With a vaccination rate of 41.6% for those 12 and older, Rowan County’s daily COVID-19 positives continue to rise at ever-sharper rates.

The number of positives since the start of the pandemic is 17,569, which includes 242 cases in the previous two weeks. The county remains in the state’s middle tier for community spread and among the worst in the state for percent of residents vaccinated.

State officials say cases are rapidly increasing in unvaccinated people and that the number of people hospitalized with the virus doubled in the previous two weeks. More than 94% of cases in North Carolina have been in people who are unvaccinated, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said in a news release.

“Unvaccinated North Carolinians are unnecessarily getting sick, being hospitalized and dying,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen. “Don’t wait to vaccinate. And if you haven’t gotten your shot, you need to wear a mask indoors at all times when you are in public spaces.”

Like the rest of the state, hospitalization data for Rowan County’s region, the Triad Health Care Preparedness Coalition, show rising intake numbers. There are currently 152 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the region, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported on Friday.

NCDHHS doesn’t provide Rowan County-specific numbers about hospitalizations, but its biweekly update of the county alert system says there’s just a “slight impact” on local hospitals — the second-best of five labels. Combined with data that includes 140.80 cases per 100,000 residents in the previous two weeks and a percent positive rate of 7.8%, NCDHHS puts Rowan in the “significant/yellow” category, which is the middle of five classifications.

Excluding Davidson County, which is in the state’s second-best tier, all neighboring counties received the same label as Rowan. The lone “critical/red” county in North Carolina is Richmond, which touches the South Carolina border. There are 12 counties in the state’s second-worse tier, 40 others in Rowan’s group, 41 in the second-best tier and five (all of which are in western N.C.) in the best tier.

The rising case numbers haven’t yet done much to boost Rowan County’s vaccination rate. On May 12, the last time the Rowan County Health Department held a mass vaccination drive-thru, the rate was about 32% for all residents compared to about 35.7% today. While the number for those 12 and older only counts those who can be vaccinated, the 35.7% number counts all residents.

In other Rowan County COVID-19 news:

• COVID-19 deaths in Rowan County remained at 314 on Friday. The most recent death occurred on July 15, according to NCDHHS.

• The North Carolina Healthcare Association announced it supports COVID-19 vaccine requirements for health care workers and most hospital systems in the state have announced such requirements for employees.

That includes Novant Health, which operates Rowan Medical Center.

All staff members must be fully vaccinated by Sept. 15, Novant Health said in a news release. The company said tens of thousands of staff members have been vaccinated, but there are still some vaccine-hesitant workers.

“While our hope is for every team member to accept the vaccine on their own, a mandatory vaccination program will ensure that Novant Health’s patients and visitors, as well as our team members, have better protection against COVID-19 regardless of where they are in our health system,” the company said in its news release. “This disease is preventable thanks to a safe and effective vaccine, and we are committed to doing everything we can to bring an end to this pandemic.”

• A congregate living outbreak exists in the Rowan County Jail, where there are 12 inmate cases, according to NCDHHS.

• NCDHHS on Friday reported 1,998 new positives on Friday, which was the highest in months. The state reported about 1,800 new cases on Thursday and 1,434 on Wednesday.

• NCDHHS last week expanded its wastewater monitoring network to include sites in Asheville, Marion, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Roanoke Rapids, Fayetteville and Laurinburg.

No Rowan County sites are part of the monitoring network, which provides an additional way to track the spread of the virus. People with COVID-19 shed viral particles in their stool, which can be tracked through testing.