Stanly sees modest uptick in new cases

Published 11:55 am Friday, December 10, 2021

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With vaccination rates still relatively stagnant and more people gathering indoors for holiday celebrations, Stanly County has seen a modest uptick in new coronavirus cases, though there has not yet been any detection of the new omicron variant.

The county recorded 159 new cases last week, according to data from the Stanly County Health Department, the highest total in almost two months. So far this week, there have already been 169 new cases, with Friday’s total not yet accounted for.

The county’s percent positivity rate, which was less than seven percent a month ago, has risen to 10 percent this week for the first time since early October, when the rate was almost 13 percent.

There have been three new deaths recorded so far this month and 10 people are hospitalized. Since vaccinations have become available, a total of six fully vaccinated individuals have died from the virus, which accounts for about three percent of the 216 deaths since the pandemic began.

The big looming question is what kind of affect Omicron will have in the county (it’s been detected in 25 states though not yet in North Carolina). Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more transmissible and capable of causing more serious illness.

According to the most recent sequencing data, around 99 percent of sequenced specimens in the state have been from the delta variant, Jenkins told county commissioners this week.

While Stanly is still in better shape than it was in late summer and fall, when the delta variant was wrecking havoc across the country (there were 474 new cases for the week of Sept. 17), the recent increase in the COVID-19 metrics has not been surprising.

“We kind of expected an increase in positivity and cases throughout the holidays due to the seasonality of the virus and people coming together for the holidays,” said Health Director David Jenkins.

Unless more people get vaccinated — only 42 percent of residents have gotten both shots — there’s a good chance cases will continue to increase in the coming weeks, he said.

For November, about 130 Stanly County residents were vaccinated with at least one dose, according to state health data, the lowest total of the year. Just a few months earlier, in August, almost 480 people on average were getting shots each week.

Assuming the positivity rate continues to increase, Jenkins acknowledged there could be a time in the near future when the school system would have to seriously consider switching back to requiring masks, even though it would be deeply unpopular among large swaths of the public.

"We have to consider everybody when it comes to community health," Jenkins said, referring to people in schools who, for medical reasons, may not be able to adequately protect themselves by wearing masks or getting vaccinated. He said he is in regular communication with the school system.

Stanly is still listed as an area of high community transmission, according to the CDC’s COVID-19 tracker. The CDC recommends people in these areas to continue to wear masks.

Even though residents speaking out against masks can often receive attention, Jenkins said he regularly speaks with parents who are proponents of their children wearing masks in school.

The health department is still administering vaccinations each week from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It offers Moderna boosters on Monday and Tuesday, Pfizer boosters on Wednesday and Pfizer shots for children ages 5 to 11 on Friday.

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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