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Albemarle reaches 70 coronavirus deaths as hospitalizations continue to increase

With six additional deaths attributed to the Albemarle zip code over the weekend, the city now has 70 deaths related to COVID-19, according to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The total is third most amongst the more than 1,000 zip codes in the state. Only a Burlington zip code, 27217, and a Wilson zip code, 27893, have more deaths with 71 and 72, respectively.

For much of the pandemic, the Albemarle zip code has consistently ranked as having one of the highest coronavirus-related death totals in the state. A mid-December SNAP story mentioned that the 28001 zip code, which at that point had 60 deaths, was tied for second-most in the state.

In the article, Stanly County Health Director David Jenkins suggested the reason was because the Albemarle zip code is home to at least eight long-term care facilities, where most of the deaths in the county have originated. Many of these facilities, including Stanly Manor, Bethany Woods and Trinity Place, are dealing with ongoing outbreaks (defined as two or more positive cases), according to DHHS, which tracks outbreaks in the state.

“It’s also our most highly dense population in the county,” Jenkins said.

One of the reasons that rural areas around the country have been so susceptible to the coronavirus is due to demographics and higher uninsured rates. A December report from the NC Rural Health Research Program found rural hospitals in much of the country, including the South, have seen higher percentages of COVID-19 patients among their hospitalized populations than urban hospitals.

“I think Stanly County is more of an older population than a younger population” and because of that “you do have multiple chronic diseases,” said Chris Vaughn, executive director of the John P. Murray Community Care Clinic in Albemarle, which serves people between the ages 18 to 64 who have no health insurance and whose total income is 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines or less. “These are people that already have medical problems and that lends to not doing well,” if they happen to contract the coronavirus.

Vaughn said she’s seen an influx of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 over the past few weeks, which likely stems from the holiday gatherings that took place at the end of last month.

She’s also seen that many people continue to downplay the pandemic, with many people still going maskless in public. After hearing about patients’ symptoms and encouraging them to get tested, Vaughn said many still refuse to admit that they could possibly have contracted the coronavirus.

Though the Albemarle zip code also leads the county in total cases with 2,194, its current case rate of 774 cases per 10,000 residents trails several other county zip codes. New London (28127), for example, has 1,088 cases per 10,000 residents, the highest rate in the county, while Locust is second with 794 cases.

Since the SNAP’s last coronavirus update on Friday, New London and Stanfield have also experienced an additional death, per DHHS data. Below is a breakdown of the number of cases and deaths by municipality:

  • Albemarle (28001): 2,194 cases and 70 deaths;
  • New London (28127): 830 cases and seven deaths;
  • Norwood (28128): 511 cases and six deaths;
  • Locust (28097): 486 cases and one death;
  • Oakboro (28129): 389 cases and four deaths;
  • Stanfield (28163): 332 cases and two deaths;
  • Richfield (28137): 230 cases and one death;
  • Badin (28009): No information for the town

Stanly County had 39 people hospitalized as a result of COVID-19 on Friday, according to the latest data from the health department, the highest one-day total since the pandemic began in March 2020. It’s also nine more than at the beginning of the week.

Hospitalizations in the county have increased rapidly over the past few weeks. The current total is almost double the number at the same time a month ago, when there were only 22 people hospitalized.

The ICU hospital capacity at Atrium Health Stanly as of Monday is at 94 percent, according to a New York Times analysis of hospital beds across the country, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services. That’s higher than both the state (84 percent) and national (79 percent) average. The nearest other hospital, Atrium Health Cabarrus, is at 79 percent capacity in regards to its ICU bed availability.

The number of active coronavirus cases is now at 912, up from 825 reported on Thursday. The active case total accounts for 18 percent of all cases (4,935) since the pandemic began.

The number of deaths and those that have become reinfected with the virus remained unchanged at 93 and seven, respectively. A total of 3,929 people who had the virus have recovered while roughly 28,300 residents have been tested.

Stanly’s rolling seven-day average positivity rate is at 16.5 percent, per the state Health and Human Services Department, above the state’s current overall average of 13.7 percent.

There are eight outbreaks in Stanly, according to the health department, though it doesn’t list specific locations. The state Department of Health and Human Services, which tracks outbreaks, identifies five in the county: Stanly Manor, Bethany Woods, Trinity Place, Forrest Oaks and Premier Services of the Carolinas. Albemarle Correctional Institution, which has had 433 inmates test positive since March, has one active case.

North Carolina surpassed 11,000 daily new cases for the first time on Saturday before falling to almost 6,000 on Monday. The state has more than 629,124 total cases. There are 3,843 people hospitalized and 7,578 North Carolinians who have died.

With cases increasing all across the state, Gov. Roy Cooper last week extended North Carolina’s modified stay at home order for three more weeks. The order requires people to be home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

 

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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