WENTWORTH — The COVID-19 death toll climbed by six to 105 this week as mortality statistics arrived late for tabulation by the Rockingham County Health Department. And increasing infections in young adults continued to worry health officials here.
The deceased were in their 70s and 80s and only one was a resident of a long-term care facility, according to Trey Wright, the county’s public health director. The dates of the deaths were not immediately available.
North Carolina’s county health departments sometimes see a lag in reports of COVID-19-related deaths when residents die outside of county limits, Wright has said, explaining that documentation must make its way through multiple county systems before the data is available to local health officials.
In heartening news, hospitalizations for those with COVID-19 infections continued to drop dramatically early in the week. On Friday, 66 Rockingham Countians were hospitalized, but by Tuesday only 43 were listed as inpatients. Hospital rosters of the past five months had tallied 90-plus occupied beds.
Meanwhile, more than 40,400 of the county’s approximately 91,000 residents have been vaccinated, health department statistics show.
Still troubling, though, is the high rate of infection seen here among younger adults, Wright said.
“Hospitalizations are dropping, but I worry about the (three or four) mid-20s and several 30s COVID cases reported today and yesterday,’’ Wright said via email on Tuesday. “I am worried about where they have congregated ... (Where) do they work? Do they live with older family members who have not been vaccinated?’’ Wright has studied infection trends in the county since February and notes that residents, aged 17-32, have shown the highest rate of infection over the past 10 weeks or so. He and health department staff plan to target the younger demographic by going into the community and explaining the necessity of vaccinating to stem the spread of COVID-19 and prevent a resurgence of the disease in the county, Wright said. On Tuesday, the county’s infection rate was 4.2%, down from 4.5% on Friday and below the 5% mark the Centers for Disease Control heralds as relatively safe for a community. Statewide, the rate was 6.9% on Tuesday. And while neighboring rural counties held at infection rates below 5%, bordering Guilford County saw an infection rate of 6.7% on Tuesday. Since the start of the global pandemic last year, Rockingham has diagnosed 7,221 residents with COVID-19. Nearly 70% of those individuals are still suffering from the highly contagious disease, while roughly 30% have recovered.
Vaccinating homebound residents
Meanwhile, the Rockingham County Division of Public Health of Friday announced it will begin an outreach campaign to homebound individuals who need COVID-19 vaccinations.
“Rockingham County has an aging population, needing additional assistance for things many may take for granted. For instance, being homebound with the inability to participate in the COVID-19 vaccination clinics hosted by our organization,’’ Katrina White, public information officer for the RCDPH, said in a news release.
Indeed, nearly 19% of the county’s residents are 65 or older.
“Rockingham County Division of Public Health understands the importance of providing this invaluable service to members of one of our most vulnerable populations,’’ White said in the release. “In an effort to better serve our community, Rockingham County Division of Public Health will provide “in-home” vaccination services at no cost for those unable to participate in the clinics and/or other resources in the county.’’
To receive the service, county residents should complete a COVID-19 Vaccine Homebound Vaccination Request form. The form may be completed by going to https://forms.gle/nWJjnEBHt8juQGZ79 or by visiting the Rockingham County Human Services page at: https://www.rockinghamcountypublichealth.org/.
For more information and for assistance for those with no access to a computer, call 336-342-8140.
Vaccinated? Still wear your mask
It’s also important for vaccinated individuals to understand they must still wear masks around unvaccinated folks, experts agree.
Researchers don’t yet know if it’s possible for vaccinated individuals to carry the virus while remaining uninfected themselves. For example, scientists aren’t sure if the live coronavirus can travel in the nasal membranes of a well and vaccinated person. If so, someone who is vaccinated could well spread the highly contagious disease.
How to register for vaccines
To sign up for a vaccine, citizens should check with the Rockingham County Department of Heath and Human Services website at: https://www.rockinghamcountypublichealth.org/emergency.aspx or check with Cone Health at conehealth.com/vaccine. Call Cone Health at 336-890-1188 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Vaccines are also available through UNC Physicians Network clinics through UNC Rockingham Health Care in Eden at www.YourShot.org.