WENTWORTH — For the third week in a row, new cases of COVID-19 have climbed in Rockingham County.
The most likely cause: community spread, say area health practitioners and county health authorities.
And case counts and hospitalizations are mounting in 36 states as the nation braces for a new wave of infection to blow in with colder weather, experts say.
Such community spread happens when people mix in crowded or enclosed spaces without observing social distancing measures, such as wearing a mask and standing six feet away from other people.
Statewide and nationwide, health experts have seen a trend in infections stemming from small social gatherings. They caution people to wear a mask and distance from anyone who does not live in their household.
Looking at the trend since early October:
On Oct. 2, the county had 1,340 cases. By Oct. 9, the number had climbed to 1,472 and by Friday, cases numbered 1,644 since the start of the global health crisis.
Those figures mean that cases increased by 9.8% from Oct. 2-9. And between Oct. 9-16, patient numbers climbed by 11.7%.
The 6.2% overall percent positive rate for the county is still above the benchmark of 5%, which public health officials say is necessary for effectively managing the pandemic within a community.
Statewide, of those tested for COVID-19, 6.3% are positive — a rate that nearly parallels that of the county.
Hospitalizations remained high at 38 for Rockingham, a county that for most of the pandemic, has weekly seen 20-25 receive inpatient treatment.
The county's rate of infection fluctuates from day to day. It was up to 6.9% on Tuesday, compared to 6.2% on Friday. About a month ago, the county struggled with troubling percent positive rates that shot as high as 10% when two area long-term care facilities were hit hard by COVID-19.
In recent weeks, the rate has come down, but continues to bob from 6% to nearly 7%, week to week, records show.
Rockingham County's Interim Public Health Director Susan Young has said she sees certain age groups with higher positive rates. Among them: people in their 20s, folks between 40-50, and individuals between 55-56 and 60-61, she said.
Since the start of the pandemic, 25 people in the county have died from the highly infectious virus, with four deaths in the past two weeks, health records show.
Young said it is critical that people get flu shots right away to arm themselves against the possibility of having to fight influenza with COVID-19 as a co-infection.
Rockingham County Health Department continues to provide a drive-up flu shot service at the Governmental Center in Wentworth on Tuesdays and Thursdays, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Young said. People with insurance coverage should bring insurance cards. Shots will cost $30 for those who are uninsured, but Young said the department would work with individuals who cannot afford the fee.
In Rockingham, 974, or 59.25%, of the county’s patients have recovered since the start of the pandemic. And 606, or 36.6%, are home recuperating.
The county of about 91,000 has conducted 26,128 novel coronavirus tests to date, records show.
Infectious disease experts caution that there may be many more infected patients than are tested. They forecast that for every known positive case of COVID-19, there are likely 10-20 times more. And a high percentage of cases — between 25-40% — are likely asymptomatic, meaning a person who is ill and highly contagious may not show symptoms of the disease.
Health stats show 942 of the county's coronavirus patients are over 40 years old, while 653 are below. Ages were not specified for 49 patients.
Statewide, 238,939 people had contracted COVID-19 and 3,874 had died as of Friday.
Those who suspect they might be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should call their primary care provider to discuss their health so appropriate steps can be taken to protect themselves and others. Testing sites are available throughout the county.
Find more information at www.rockinghamcountydhhs.org.
Contact Susie C. Spear at firstname.lastname@example.org, (336) 349-4331, ext. 6140 and follow @SpearSusie_RCN on Twitter.