COVID-19 cases flat in Rowan; Novant Health doctor expects increase from holiday travel

Published 2:27 pm Tuesday, November 23, 2021

SALISBURY — With the holidays on the horizon, COVID-19 cases have flattened in Rowan County after declining from the delta variant-induced surge.

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services data show an average of 28 cases per day in the county in the previous two weeks, which is far below the peak of the delta surge and above the lowest point during the summer. Daily cases were regularly above 200 for a period in late August and early September. In June, daily cases were frequently in the single digits or low teens.

Statewide, new cases are hovering around 2,000 per day.

In a call with reporters on Tuesday, Dr. David Priest, a Novant Health physician who leads the company’s COVID-19 efforts, said virus numbers are about the same as they were in August 2020. Priest says he’s paying attention to a slight uptick in cases elsewhere in the country and believes travel for holidays will lead to an increase in new COVID-19 positives.

“We know this week Americans will be traveling at pre-pandemic rates. In two days, most households will be coming together with friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving,” Priest said. “We anticipate that will lead to some further increase in community spread given that we have individuals that remain unvaccinated and people will be indoors. But we do not anticipate the type of fall that we had last year.”

He said people who are vaccinated can celebrate Thanksgiving like normal. People should wear masks when traveling or in close spaces with people who are unvaccinated, Priest said. When there’s a mix of vaccination statuses at family gatherings, Priest said people should understand risks.

“If there are individuals in your family who are elderly, who have other health problems, who can be at high risk of COVID complications, those individuals need to be protected by having only vaccinated family members around them,” he said.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging already vaccinated adults to get a COVID-19 booster for safer holiday gatherings with loved ones.

For more information about COVID-19 vaccines in North Carolina or to find a vaccine location, visit or call the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Help Center for free at 888-675-4567.

The Rowan County vaccination rate — 44% with at least one dose and 41% fully vaccinated — remains below the state average and most neighboring counties.

Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show 178 of 269 inpatient beds and 19 of 22 intensive care beds in use at Rowan Medical Center.

There have been 475 COVID-19 deaths among Rowan County residents since the start of the pandemic — 279 of which have occurred in 2021.