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Salisbury Police officer dies after contracting COVID-19

SALISBURY — Rowan County recorded its fifth COVID-19 death in two weeks early Thursday.

Sgt. Shane Karriker of the Salisbury Police Department died after contracting COVID-19, Gov. Roy Cooper said during a news conference in Raleigh on Thursday. He was 48. Karriker became a Salisbury Police officer on Nov. 27, 2000, and was promoted to sergeant in 2018.

“We will forever miss his friendship and commitment to the PD,” the department said in social media posts.

Capt. Melonie Thompson asked people to pray for Karriker’s family.

“We will forever miss you big guy,” Thompson said.

State data updated Thursday show 310 deaths in Rowan County attributed to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. That didn’t include Karriker’s death, which makes at least 311. Just six counties, all of which have higher populations, have more deaths than Rowan: Buncombe, 324; Cumberland, 317; Forsyth, 401; Gaston, 443; Mecklenburg, 971; and Wake, 730.

“For anyone who has lost a loved one to COVID-19, including Sgt. Karriker’s family, we hold you in our prayers as you mourn,” Cooper said during a news conference during which he announced higher cash incentives for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Across the state, COVID-19 deaths have dipped into single digits per day. In Rowan, deaths have continued to occur once a week or more as county residents mostly have shunned the COVID-19 vaccine.

State data show 31% of Rowan County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but that number does not include veterans who have been vaccinated through the Salisbury VA. Rowan’s number is significantly lower than the statewide average for partial vaccinations — 44% — and the national figure — 51.8%.

Cooper said state officials are worried about the spread of COVID-19 picking up among people who are unvaccinated.

“We worry about counties and just areas of the state where a lot of people remain unvaccinated,” Cooper said. “There is a potential for more virus and more sickness and death.”

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said the potential for the virus to spread and cause death among the unvaccinated is one reason why officials announced the potential for anyone who’s vaccinated to receive $1 million or, for those 12-17, $125,000 in scholarship money. Cooper and Cohen said they believe there are a number of people who want to be vaccinated or aren’t opposed to it, but barriers such as taking time off work may prevent it.

There was some good news Thursday in an announcement by the Rowan Health Department that fewer than 100 people in the county have active COVID-19 cases.

“There is no way that Rowan County could have reached this major milestone without our community partners and our citizens doing their part by getting vaccinated and/or practicing the 3W’s, especially as the coronavirus became more prevalent within our community,” a news release from the Rowan County Health Department said.

To continue to make progress, the  Rowan Health Department said it’s important for people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

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