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September COVID-19 death toll in Rowan County grows to 14

SALISBURY — Rowan County’s September COVID-19 death toll grew to 14 on Wednesday when the state reported six new deaths.

The new deaths come as daily positives have slowed from a peak in late August and hospitalizations have stayed flat or decreased slightly.

Rowan County’s COVID-19 death toll since the start of the pandemic is 364. A majority of the 364 resident deaths have occurred this year, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Rowan County continues to have more COVID-19 deaths than every neighboring county. It’s also eighth in the state for most deaths. Seventh is Buncombe County, with 366 fatalities.

Data reported to federal health authorities Sept. 2 show 182 of 269 beds occupied at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center. All intensive care beds are reported occupied.

Hospitalizations in Rowan County’s region, which includes part or all of 18 counties known as the Triad Healthcare Preparedness Coalition, were 855 on Wednesday. That’s a slight decrease from the start of the month, when 885 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the region. Intensive care beds show a similar trend — flat or even down slightly. Just 53 intensive care beds in Rowan’s 18-county region are reported to be empty and staffed. About 1,100 total inpatient beds are empty and staffed.

There have been 2,087 positives in the previous two weeks in Rowan County, which reflects a slow downward trend in the number of cases reported daily. Included in the two-week total are 125 new positives reported Wednesday.

The percent of tests coming back positive in the previous two weeks is 19.8%, which is among the highest in North Carolina. The Rowan County Health Department said a rate around 20% is still concerning. Anything above 10% is considered to be “high” community transmission.

“On a scale of 100, 20.2% doesn’t seem like a lot, but in epidemiological eyes it is,” the department said Tuesday in a news release about the positivity rate. “The higher the level of transmission or test positivity rate, the more it indicates the seriousness of community spread, the need for more testing and the need for stricter restrictions.”

Two ways to lower the positivity rate include reducing the amount of COVID-19 transmission or increasing the number of people getting tested. But those two often go hand-in-hand.

“If a community is doing more testing and responding appropriately to positive tests by making sure that people who might be contagious are isolated, for example, the amount of transmission should go down over time,” the Health Department said. “But even without testing, measures such as everyone wearing masks out in public, practicing physical distancing and avoiding large gatherings are all effective ways to reduce transmission.”

The number of COVID-19 outbreaks in schools remained unchanged in the NCDHHS weekly update. The state’s update showed three new congregate living outbreaks, including two staff and eight resident cases at Liberty Commons Nursing and Rehab Center, four staff cases at the Citadel of Salisbury and three resident cases at Angels at Heart Assisted Living.

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