More than one-fourth of all Covid deaths in the county have occurred since July

Published 3:57 pm Tuesday, November 2, 2021

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During a Covid-19 update for the county commissioners Monday night, Stanly County Health Director David Jenkins said that of the 197 deaths attributed to the coronavirus, more than one-fourth have occurred since July, as a result of the highly infectious delta variant.

The health department has recorded 54 Covid-related deaths since July, which accounts for 27 percent of all deaths during the pandemic, dating back to April 2020, when the first death in the county was reported.

Twenty deaths each were recorded in September and October, according to data from the health department. The only months that featured a greater number of deaths were August of last year (32) and January (24).

Commissioner Peter Asciutto lamented the fact that even though residents had known about the dangers of Covid for more than a year and vaccines had been available for many months, so many people still have died since July.

“It’s sad and it’s a shame and I just wish we could have done more to help slow this spread and stop this spread because this has not been good,” he said. “At first, people knew people who knew people who died, but now we’re literally knowing people who are dying and we’re still kind of right now being lax about it.”

Citing data he received as a community vaccine ambassador through Atrium Health, Asciutto said that Covid-19 was the second leading cause of death in the country in September. A daily average of about 1,900 people died in September, second only to roughly 2,100 people who died as a result of heart disease.

The total number of Covid deaths in Stanly account for less than two percent of the 11,652 cases that have been reported in the county since the pandemic began last spring.

Two such deaths were a result of people contracting the virus after already being vaccinated. These so-called breakthrough deaths are still rare as 469 cases of vaccinated people getting infected have been reported in the county since July. The vast majority of breakthrough cases do not result in any serious illness or hospitalization.

"Overall, it proves that the vaccine is again effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths," Jenkins said.

While the county has seen an increase in deaths, hospitalizations and new weekly cases have been on the decline for the past few weeks. There were 100 new cases last week, a 71 percent decrease from a month ago, when 345 cases were reported for the week of Sept. 24.

Though the county's percent positivity rate has also declined and is now around six percent, the level of community transmission is still high because the county's case rate is high. Stanly has had 338 cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days, second highest in the region behind only Anson, which has 340 cases, according to state health data.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still lists Stanly as having "high" community transmission, along with most other counties across the state. Counties across the country with high transmission are encouraged to continue wearing masks in public.

As it relates to vaccinations, Jenkins said the department is ready to offer Pfizer shots to young children ages 5 to 11 once the CDC grants final approval, which could come at any time. Pfizer booster shots are administered to people on Wednesday while Moderna booster shots are administered Monday and Tuesday.

The Covid-19 vaccine hotline for people wanting to schedule appointments is 980-323-0205.

Only 40 percent of people are fully vaccinated and 43 percent have received at least one dose — some of the lowest numbers in the state, though the percentages have improved since Jenkins last spoke with commissioners on Oct. 4. Since that time, vaccination rates for those with at least one dose have improved for every age group, especially for people 25-49 and 18-24, which each increased six percentage points, and people 50-64 and 75 and older which each increased five percentage points.

Looking ahead to the winter, when most people tend to stay indoors, Asciutto said he is prepared for the potential for another spike in cases.

"I hope the best for Stanly County because at this point we only have 40 percent of people who have been vaccinated," he said, noting many people will struggle to tell the difference between COVID-19 and the common flu. "I hope to God they just don't spread it."

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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