Rowan County reaches 500 COVID-19 deaths since start of pandemic, seventh highest in state

Published 6:15 pm Wednesday, January 5, 2022

SALISBURY — State data show 500 Rowan County residents have died since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 311 of the deaths occurring in 2021.

The 500 deaths place Rowan seventh among North Carolina’s 100 counties for number of deaths. Only higher population counties have more deaths than Rowan. Neighboring counties all have fewer.

People 65 and older represent 73% of the deaths, but COVID-19 has claimed the lives of younger Rowan County residents, too. Twenty-two of the 500 deaths are in the 25 to 49 age bracket.

More men (244) have died than women (219) from COVID-19. The remaining 36 deaths among Rowan County residents don’t have a gender identified.

The number of deaths by race and ethnicity is as follows:

• 363 white Rowan Countians

• 45 Black or African American

• 36 race not available

• 1 American Indian or Alaskan Native

• 18 other

• 47 Hispanic

Health officials say a majority of deaths occurring now are unvaccinated people. In Rowan County, Health Director Alyssa Harris says all December deaths were among unvaccinated people.

“For people who have been vaccinated and especially for those who have gotten boosters, the new omicron variant has been less severe than previous surges,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a Tuesday news conference. “With these vaccines and boosters we have an amazing tool to save people’s lives and beat this pandemic — and we’ll keep our foot on the gas when it comes to getting more shots and more boosters administered.”

Dr. David Priest of Novant Health says the number of hospitalizations across the health care company’s facilities isn’t rising as sharply because there are fewer hospitalizations per case than with the delta variant. But the record numbers of new positives across the state are still producing enough hospitalizations to mean Novant Health hospitals are “incredibly busy yet again.”

About 2% of patients in Novant Health hospitals for COVID-19 are vaccinated. Their average age is 77, Priest said.

“Getting vaccinated and getting that booster, if you’re eligible, is a real great way to keep yourself out of the hospital,” he said.

About 46% of Rowan County residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine and 42% are considered fully vaccinated.

Priest said monoclonal antibodies used so far to treat COVID-19 will not be effective against the omicron variant. One product that should be effective, Priest said, has an “extremely limited” supply. Pills that can treat mild symptoms of COVID-19 are just coming onto the market, but supply is also an issue, he said.

State data show a continued rise in hospitalizations, with Rowan County’s region increasing from 349 COVID-19 hospitalizations to 782 in one month. The most recent federal data from December show 183 of 269 inpatient beds and 17 of 22 intensive care beds occupied at Rowan Medical Center.

The county is seeing more consistent triple-digit increases in new COVID-19 cases, with 207 reported Wednesday and 1,795 in the previous two weeks. About 23% of tests conducted in the previous two weeks have been positive for COVID-19.

There are 10 active congregate living outbreaks in Rowan County, primarily by COVID-19-positive staff rather than residents. Outbreaks are as follows:

• Autumn Care of Salisbury, two cases among staff

• Big Elm Retirement and Nursing Centers, seven staff cases and one resident case

• Liberty Commons Nursing and Rehab Center, four staff cases

• The N.C. State Veterans Home, three staff cases

• The Laurels of Salisbury, three staff cases and three resident cases

• Trinity Oaks Nursing Home, 11 staff cases

• Brookdale Salisbury, two staff cases, one resident case and one resident death

• Compass Assisted Living, two staff cases

• The Meadows of Rockwell, two staff cases and 12 resident cases

• Trinity Oaks Continuing Care Retirement Community, three staff cases

State data show the only cluster in a school or child care facility is at Southeast Middle, where two staff members and nine children have tested positive for COVID-19.

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