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Stanly starting to see decline in new COVID cases

After COVID-19 cases spiked for weeks in August and most of September, it appears that Stanly County is now experiencing a decline in new cases, according to data from the health department.

The county was averaging about 31 new cases a day, as of Thursday, a notable decrease from the 49 cases the county averaged last week and the 68 the week before. On Tuesday, the health department reported 27 new cases, the lowest single-day total since Aug. 5.

Since the current wave of infections began in July, as a result of the delta variant, new cases have largely increased from week to week. But after hitting a high point of 474 cases two weeks ago, they have begun to decline. There were 345 cases last week and with an additional 31 new cases recorded on Thursday, there have been 186 cases so far this week.

Local health officials are cautiously optimistic that this recent decrease signals that the worst of the current wave has already passed.

"Based on the decrease in COVID-19 numbers it does appear we are coming down from the peak of the Delta surge," Stanly County Health Director David Jenkins said, adding he expects community transmission of the virus to still be around in the coming months "due to the seasonality of the virus and the fact that many people spend time indoors and around others that are not in their typical social networks."

Other COVID metrics have also been improving in recent weeks. After hitting nearly 40 hospitalizations in early September, the numbers of people in the hospital with COVID have declined 38 percent. As of Thursday, 24 people were in the hospital.

Statewide, 2,943 were hospitalized on Wednesday, the first time the total has been below 3,000 since mid-August, according to state data.

The county's positivity rate has also declined by about four percentage point over the past few weeks and now stands at 12.6 percent, though it's still above the state's rate of 7.7 percent.

Stanly has recorded 20 deaths in September, the highest monthly total in a long time. That accounts for roughly 11 percent of all deaths (175) since the pandemic began last spring. In comparison, there were 13 deaths in August.

As of Thursday, about 696,000 Americans, including 16,524 North Carolinians, have died due to the virus.

In addition to wearing masks in public, the best way for people to protect themselves is by getting vaccinated, officials said. As of Thursday, 38 percent of all residents are fully vaccinated — up from 37 percent at the start of the week, according to state health data, and 41 percent of all residents have received at least one dose. Those numbers still lag behind most of the other counties.

"As a community we need to strive towards having everyone that is eligible get vaccinated as we approach the holidays and winter months," Jenkins said.

The health department began offering Pfizer booster shots this week after the FDA authorized booster shots last week. So far at least 78 booster shots have been provided, Jenkins said.

People interested in receiving shots, including boosters, can make an appointment with the health department by calling 980-323-0205. Vaccinations are available from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. In addition to the health department, CVS and Walgreens locations are also offering booster shots.

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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