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Four new COVID-19 deaths reported in Rowan; outbreak at the Laurels declared over

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — County health officials on Tuesday reported four additional COVID-19 deaths among people outside of local congregate care facilities.

There have now been 194 deaths from the virus in Rowan County, with 92 of them among community members. The average age among the deaths decreased to 78 on Tuesday.

The county also reported 104 additional cases on Tuesday, which amounts to 10,310 total cases since March with 41% of total cases currently active and 5,866 recoveries. The average age among all cases remains 44.2. More than 2,800 cases are among those aged 18-35, and 2,343 are among those aged 36-50.

Currently, 29 Rowan Countians are being hospitalized.

Those totals currently place Rowan County 20th in the state for most reported cases and eighth for most reported deaths. While Wake, Mecklenburg, Guilford and Forsyth counties have remained ahead of Rowan in most reported deaths for months now, new counties with more deaths than Rowan include Buncombe, Catawba and Gaston counties.

Also on Tuesday, an outbreak at the Laurels, a nursing home located on Lash Drive, was declared over. A second outbreak had been declared there on Nov. 3 after one staff member and five residents tested positive.

Outbreaks remain at 11 local facilities, including Accordius Health, Autumn Care, Brightmoor Nursing Center, the Citadel, Trinity Oaks Health and Rehab, Trinity Oaks Retirement, Compass Assisted, N.C. State Veterans, Bethamy Retirement Center, the Piedmont Correctional Institute and Big Elm Rehabilitation Center.

The latest data from the state Department of Public Safety shows 422 active inmates across the state, with 11 hospitalizations. While a total of 37,598 inmates have been tested, 8,039 have tested positive. Data also show there are currently 24 active cases at the Piedmont Correctional Institute.

State health officials on Tuesday reported 6,851 additional cases, totaling 635,975 since March from 7.67 million completed tests. That amounts to a 14.7% daily percent positive rate and an overall rate of 8.3%.

A total of 3,940 North Carolinians are being hospitalized, while 7,638 have died.

State data show that as of Monday, a total of 173,928 North Carolinians have received the vaccine, and 20,608 have completed the series. Both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech brands require a second dose four weeks and three weeks, respectively, after the first shot.

Not included in those totals, however, is the total number of doses allocated for long-term care facilities, which are being managed by the federal government through a contract with CVS and Walgreens. As of Monday, 165,900 vaccinations have been allocated, while 37,992 doses have been administered.

A little more than 80% of the vaccinations have been among white North Carolinians, while Black North Carolinians comprise 10% of the vaccinations, Hispanic North Carolinians comprise 4%, Asian North Carolinians make up 5% and American Indian/Alaskan Natives comprise 1% of vaccinations. Nearly half, or 48%, of those who have received the vaccine across the state are aged 25-49, while 28% are aged 50-64 and 14% are aged 75 and older.

Additionally, 66% of vaccinations have been among women.

In Rowan County, more than 1,600 vaccines have been administered since Dec. 23. That includes health department staff and the public. About 200 of those doses were administered yesterday at the West End Plaza to phase 1b-eligible locals, which includes those aged 75 and older, regardless of health status, along with anyone who qualifies in phase 1a that had not receive a vaccination.

County health officials have not yet scheduled a date and time for the next mass vaccination drive-thru event as they depend on the state health department to allocate their supply. State health officials also rely on the federal government to receive vaccine shipments.

However, the county expects a shipment sometime this week. County health officials ask that locals remain patient as they continue to work through logistical issues and limited supply of the vaccine.

“Our goal is to get vaccine out as quickly and effectively as we can,” said county spokesperson Amy Smith in a statement. “We understand the lack of vaccine is frustrating to many. We are heartened that so many individuals are willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.”

During a news conference Tuesday, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said that one reason for such a limited supply across the state is because the number of doses are allocated based on each county’s population. Therefore, some may only receive 100 doses for an entire week, but the initial goal was to provide all 100 counties with a supply.

Smith told the Post on Tuesday that information regarding any other factors beyond population that are used by state health officials to allocate doses of the vaccine has not been provided to the local health department.

But in addition to each local health department’s allocation, state health officials are partnering with 14 health systems, health departments and community centers in 13 counties to provide more than 45,000 vaccine doses.

Gov. Roy Cooper said on Tuesday that there are currently hundreds of state employees who can be deployed to help with vaccine distribution in local communities.

Cooper also said that following a call with Vice President Mike Pence and the White House Coronavirus Task Force on Tuesday, the new federal guidance is to include adults aged 65+ in the phase 1b mass vaccination stage. He added that the state’s coronavirus task force and state health officials will review the new guidance before officially making any changes to who qualifies in each phase of the distribution.

Cooper also spoke out against the violent attack at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, calling it the result of dangerous rhetoric, lies and disinformation, which he says has also cost lives during this pandemic as well.

“Our nation experienced a one-day peak in reported COVID-19 deaths on Thursday with 4,085,” Cooper said. “More people could be alive today but for dangerous falsehoods that have been spread about the critical importance of masks, social distancing, and other common sense safety rules.”
State health officials currently report that cases associated with religious setting clusters declined for a third consecutive week after a peak was seen in December. Additionally, cases associated with clusters in K-12 school settings were reported at their lowest levels since August. To date, there have been 152 clusters, 2,162 cases and 33 deaths linked to religious gatherings. Additionally, 112 clusters, 975 cases and no deaths have been linked to K-12 schools. A total of 204 clusters, 2,752 cases and one death has been linked to colleges and universities.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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