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COVID cases continue to increase, Board of Elections impacted

Stanly County continues to see increasing numbers of new COVID cases with each passing week as the highly transmissible delta variant continues to ravage the community, of which a large majority is still unvaccinated.

The county reported 258 cases last week, a 25 percent increase from the previous week’s total of 206 cases, according to data from the health department. It is also a roughly 640 percent increase from this time a month ago, when Stanly’s weekly total was only 35 cases.

Stanly has not seen weekly totals that high since the winter, when cases were at their worst in Stanly and across the state.

Since the beginning of July, there have been more than 725 cases, including 130 pediatric cases and roughly 70 breakthrough cases. There was also an additional death, bringing the total to 148.

Stanly Public Health Director David Jenkins and other health officials have urged people to wear masks and get vaccinated. Only 36 percent of residents are at least partially vaccinated, according to state data, with only 33 percent fully vaccinated.

“It’s frightening and it’s uncharted territory right now,” said family physician Dr. Lenny Saltzman. “I think everybody thought that this thing was winding down between vaccinations and the lower numbers and I think the delta variant has just changed all of that.”

What makes the delta variant especially harmful, Saltzman said, is it appears to be infecting younger people at a greater rate than the previous strains.

And as young people continue to get infected, there’s been 78 pediatric cases through the first two weeks of August, there are some concerns as they head back to school.

Only 12 percent of children ages 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated. Children younger than 12 are still not eligible to get vaccinated.

There’s been a national uptick in children getting infected with COVID in recent weeks. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association reported that children accounted for roughly 18 percent of all newly reported COVID-19 cases across the nation for the week ending on Aug. 5.

Nearly 122,000 child cases of COVID-19 were recorded during that period, up from 94,000 the week before.

Saltzman mentioned that many pediatric hospitals, including those in the state, are seeing an influx of patients that are younger than they had previously been.

Even though there is no longer a statewide mask mandate, face coverings are now required in certain local settings. All city of Albemarle employees and visitors must wear them in city facilities, SCS students and staff will need to wear them indoors once school starts back and students and staff at both Stanly Community College and Pfeiffer University must wear masks when indoors.

A motion was also raised during last week’s Stanly County Board of Commissioners meeting to require all county staff to wear masks, but it quickly failed.

The debate regarding masks comes despite guidance issued in late July from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that people — regardless of their vaccination status — should resume wearing masks indoors in areas experiencing high virus transmission. Every county in the state except Avery is experiencing high COVID-19 spread, according to the CDC’s COVID data tracker.

The emergence of positive cases has already started to interfere with day-to-day operations of a few municipal and county departments. The Albemarle fire department had to receive assistance from neighboring departments last month after 10 firefighters contracted the virus while the Stanly County Board of Elections will be closed to the public through Tuesday due to a COVID exposure.

Aside from getting vaccinated, health officials say the best ways to mitigate the spread of the virus are to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash your hands.

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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