Coronavirus cases continued to rise across much of North Carolina over the past few weeks, including Stanly County.
While the county experienced a minimal number of cases during the first few months (Stanly had roughly 40 cases on the Friday before Memorial Day), it has seen a rapid spike in the past few weeks. As of Friday, there are 204 confirmed cases, said Wendy Growcock, public health education specialist with the health department. There are also five deaths.
A total of 146 people have recovered and there are 53 active cases. The health department also reported that 609 individuals have been tested at the county’s drive-through testing site as of June 17.
The total number of cases has increased 100 percent since June 5, when there were 102 cases. Within the last week, when there were 151 cases on June 12, the number has increased 35 percent.
While part of the increase for the rapid increase can be attributed to more widespread testing in the county, Growcock said it is also a result of more people leaving their homes as state restrictions continue to relax.
“There is an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 in gatherings of all kinds,” she said. “I would expect an increase in gatherings to bring an increase in cases.”
There have also been several outbreaks in congregate living settings. An outbreak in these settings is defined by the state as two or more laboratory-confirmed cases.
Monarch recently had two outbreaks at two group homes in the county, while six offenders and 12 staff members at Albemarle Correctional Institution have also contracted the virus.
“Monarch leadership is working closely with the Stanly County Health Department, providing daily updates and information and following local health department and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines for care and testing,” said Laurie Weaver, Monarch’s vice president of marketing and philanthropy. “We are also communicating regularly with residents and family members at these homes. In order to mitigate additional risk for people we support and staff, we continue to conduct daily COVID-19 screenings, continue the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and are following enhanced cleaning and hand hygiene protocols.”
Bethany Woods Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Woodhaven Court Assisted Living and Memory Care and Spring Arbor Assisted Living in Albemarle have also had residents and or staff contract the virus.
The county has 31 cases per 10,000 residents, an increase from 17 cases per 10,000 residents two weeks ago. Stanly received its first confirmed case of the virus March 20, while its first death — a person in their 60s with underlying health conditions — occurred April 9.
At least 49,840 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 1,197 have died as of Friday, according to data from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. More than 712,000 tests have been completed, with nine percent coming back positive.
Hospitalizations across the state have continued to increase over the past month. Daily hospitalizations reached a new high in North Carolina again on Friday. At least 871 coronavirus patients were in hospitals, the highest one-day total the state has reported.
On Friday, 91 percent of hospitals reported data to the state. Roughly 18 percent of the state’s 21,222 licensed inpatient hospital beds are empty while about 14 percent of the 3,223 ICU beds are empty as of Friday. Also 27 percent of the total ventilators in the state are in use.
To combat the increasing rise in cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Roy Cooper is considering making face coverings mandatory. Cooper said he will decide early next week whether to extend Phase 2, which is set to expire June 26, or modify it in some way. He said at a news briefing this week that his decision will be based on science and data.
Though people ages 25-to-49 are the ones most likely to contract the virus, accounting for 45 percent of the state’s cases, people age 75 and older are the ones most likely to die, accounting for 61 percent of the state’s deaths.
The United States leads the world with more than 2.2 million cases and almost 120,000 deaths.