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UPDATED: County ends week with several worsening COVID-19 statistics

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — An increased positivity rate, an “orange” code designation and a new statewide record are among some of the metrics indicating a worsening community spread of COVID-19 in Rowan County and the state.

For the second week in a row, the county’s rate of tests returning positive rose Thursday. After 65,407 reported tests, 7.68% of those have returned positive. Last week’s update showed 7.59% of 65,407 tests reported were positive cases, which marked the first week that rate increased since September. The change serves as a negative indicator for how well a community is controlling the spread.

The county reports 5,072 positive cases since March, with 844, or 16.7%, of those currently active. A total of 4,101 have recovered, but 20 are being hospitalized as of Friday. The average age among all cases is 44.

Demographic information of the 844 active cases show that Hispanic and American Indian/Alaskan Native Rowan Countians are disproportionately being impacted by the pandemic as they make up 12.2% and 0.8% of the active cases, respectively. The latest Census data show that Hispanic residents comprise 9% of the overall population, while American Indian/Alaskan Natives comprise 0.6% of the population.

Additionally, the plurality of those cases, nearly 28%, are among locals aged 65 or older. Those aged 51-64 comprise 160 cases; those aged 36-50 comprise 188 cases; those aged 18-35 comprise 193 cases and children comprise 68 cases.

Also this week, state health officials released a color-coded system used to indicate how each county is faring. Rowan County’s designation this week as an “orange” county, which is the intermediate category, is based partly on the fact that the percentage of positive tests recently has crossed a desired threshold.

“Orange” signals substantial community spread, while yellow shows significant community spread. Red, the worst category, shows a critical level of community spread. As of Tuesday, 10 counties were designated red, including neighboring Davie County. Cabarrus and Iredell counties have also been designated orange, while Davidson and Stanly are currently coded yellow.

Another worsening local statistic is that of the 106 available beds dedicated for COVID-19 patients in the county, 73 are currently in use along with one of the 61 available ventilators. Last week, 53 of the 106 hospital beds and one of the 61 available ventilators were in use.

Additionally, deaths among locals who aren’t in congregate care facilities continue to rise, with two reported on Tuesday and one reported Friday. That amounts to 51 of the 127 total deaths, with an average age of 80 among them. The other 76 deaths have been reported from seven local congregate care facilities.

These county statistics currently put Rowan County 16th in the state for most COVID-19 cases reported per 10,000 residents, and sixth in the state for most deaths reported.

A biweekly update of outbreaks across the state, last updated on Friday, showed Elmcroft of Salisbury is no longer among the active local outbreaks. Elmcroft ended its second outbreak with 10 positive staff members, 30 positive residents and two deaths reported.

Currently, nine outbreaks are among local facilities, including Accordius Health, Brightmoor Nursing Center, Trinity Oaks Health and Rehab, Liberty Commons, The Meadows of Rockwell Retirement Center, Compass Assisted Living in Spencer, The Laurels, the Citadel, N.C. State Veteran’s Home and the Piedmont Correctional Institute.

Additionally, state data showed Rockwell Christian School was no longer the site of an active cluster of cases. Prior to the removal on Friday, the state reported 13 positive students and five positive staff members.

Both clusters and outbreaks are considered over if there is no evidence of continued transmission in the facility, which is either 28 days after the latest date of onset in a symptomatic person or the first date of specimen collection from the most recent asymptomatic person.

This week, North Carolina set another single-day case increase record when it reported 4,296 additional cases on Thursday. The state now reports 332,261 cases after 4.86 million tests, which amounts to an 8.3% daily rate of tests returning positive. That number has fluctuated and remained above the recommended rate of 5% since at least mid-October. The overall rate of tests returning positive in North Carolina currently sits at 6.8%.

Additionally, the state reports 5,005 deaths from COVID-19, with 1,590 North Carolinians currently hospitalized.

The latest demographic information for newly admitted COVID-19 patients across the state show that Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native North Carolinians are being disproportionately impacted as they comprise 28% and 4% of those newly admitted patients, respectively. Hispanic North Carolinians make up 7% of those newly admitted patients.

Thursday’s record of single-day cases follows several days of increasing trends in new cases, percent of tests returning positive and hospitalizations across the state, prompting concern among health officials, particularly ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

“I am very concerned. We are seeing warning signs in our trends that we need to heed to keep our family and friends from getting sick and ensuring our hospitals are able to care for those that have serious illness,” N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said about Thursday’s record. “We can do that if each North Carolinian wears a face mask over their mouth and nose anytime they are with people they do not live with; waits 6 feet apart and avoids crowds; and washes their hands often. We have reasons for hope. With promising news on vaccines, this pandemic will end. Until then, North Carolinians need to do what we’ve done throughout this pandemic — take care of one another.”

State health officials weren’t the only ones this week to express concern for worsening COVID-19 trends and metrics moving in the wrong direction. Both the Rowan County Board of Commissioners and the Salisbury City Council this week passed formal resolutions urging locals to follow the three Ws — wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart and wash/sanitize hands — and avoid the three Cs — crowded places, close-contact settings and confined spaces with poor ventilation in an effort to control the spread amidst increasingly negative metrics and a worsening level of community spread in the county.

On Friday, the CDC reported 185,095 new cases, which amounts to 11.65 million Americans infected with COVID-19 since the CDC began tracking cases in January. And after adding 2,045 additional deaths, COVID-19 has now claimed the lives of 251,715 Americans.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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