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COVID-19 deaths, hospital bed usage continue rising in Rowan County

SALISBURY — Three weeks into the new year, Rowan County has recorded 59 COVID-19 deaths.

There were seven new COVID-19 deaths added Thursday — none associated with a congregate living facility. The additions bring the number of non-congregate deaths to 125, a majority of the COVID-19 fatalities in Rowan County.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 231 local deaths attributed to COVID-19, according to Rowan County Health Department statistics. The average age of deaths remains 78.

While report dates differ from the actual date of death, state statistics continue to show at least one COVID-19 fatality in Rowan County every day in 2021.

Hospital beds in Rowan County are closer to capacity this week than ever before, with 101 of 115 beds in use. There also are seven ventilators being used in Rowan County. Last week, there were 91 beds being used and the same number of ventilators.

Salisbury VA acting Chief of Staff Randall Gehle says the health care system is currently experiencing the fallout from the peak of positive tests in North Carolina. Gehle said numbers in the state peaked about two weeks ago and an increase in hospitalizations has followed. At the Salisbury VA, he said, the number of COVID-19 patients has climbed from five or six per day to 15 or 16.

“We’re very much hoping that has crested,” he said about hospitalization numbers.

While hospital beds used can include people from outside of the county seeking care here, the number of Rowan County residents hospitalized decreased by one on Thursday — from 30 to 29.

The number of COVID-19 cases on Thursday increased by 138 — the first triple digit increase after three days of new positives below 100.

There have been 2,411 new COVID-19 positives since the start of 2021 and 11,236 since the start of the pandemic. After peaking at more than 25%, the percent of tests coming back positive has also declined somewhat in Rowan County. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday said the average positive rate for the previous two weeks was 17.6%. But that’s higher than the pandemic average of roughly 10%.

Recoveries recorded by the Rowan County Health Department have been relatively stagnant since the start of 2021 because of a larger number of positive tests. However, the official number of recoveries was 5,990 on Thursday.

There have been at least 103,604 COVID-19 tests conducted in Rowan County, according to local statistics.

Statewide, there have been 698,099 total COVID-19 positives, 8.24 million tests and 8,339 deaths. There were 3,666 people hospitalized on Thursday.

The state also updated its county alert system Thursday, which classifies counties into critical, substantial and significant spread categories. Three counties — Edgecombe, Carteret and Burke — moved into the critical category while Buncombe County improved and moved to the significant category.

Rowan County remained in the critical category because of its 14-day case rate per 100,000 people and its percent positive rate. The county continues to be classified by the state as seeing a low impact on hospitals.

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