WENTWORTH — With COVID-19 cases up by 112 this week, the county braced for a possible surge as a result of thousands socializing carelessly over the Labor Day holiday here.
County coronavirus hospitalizations hit 31, the highest since the start of the pandemic. And the county's percent positive rate remained at 9%, well above the 5% public health officials consider manageable. By contrast, North Carolina has an overall 5.6% percent positive rate.
Indeed the holiday was an opportunity for throngs of tubers to gather along the county's riverbanks, maskless and clotted together, waiting for shuttles.
Families hosted barbecues that brought relatives in from out of town, many ignoring social distancing guidelines.
Defiance of social distancing protocols is serious problem for Susan Young and her team of contact tracers, said the interim public health director during a recent video interview for "Rockingham 411,'' the county's public service series. "
"What concerns me the most is people really ... not wanting to wear a mask. There seems to be a big disinterest in wearing the mask, but it is the only thing we have,'' Young said, stressing distancing by six feet and handwashing, as well.
Young watches week in, week out as community spread of the coronavirus continues and widens its reach.
"We are having a hard time contact tracing where people are getting the virus from,'' Young said. "There's not a corner of Rockingham County that has not been touched by some COVID infections.''
A family practitioner in Eden shares Young's concerns as he waits for a likely uptick in cases after Labor Day.
"Nationally, we saw cases spike after Memorial day and Independence Day. I suspect the same with Labor Day,'' said Jason Vaughn, a family nurse practitioner at the James Austen Health Center in Eden.
"It is unfortunate that the under age 30 folks do not feel as susceptible to the virus and negate precautions,'' Vaughn said.
"This greatly increases the potential for spread to those more at risk. We must remain vigilant in wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing. Especially with flu season fast approaching.''
During the past few weeks, COVID-19 has ravaged two area nursing homes, with residents and staff contracting the disease.
An estimated 100-plus residents and staff at Jacob's Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation in Madison have battled the virus. At least two residents have died from the 170-bed facility, health department records show.
Meanwhile Eden's Brian Health & Rehabilitation Center reports at least 93 cases between patients and staff and eight deaths at the 112-bed facility with 85 residents and 102 staff.
Short-staffed due to the virus, the two long-term care facilities this week sent some patients to sister facilities and other agencies "to kind of ease the burden on them here, '' Young said.
County cases numbered 1,022 on Friday with 60% of patients listed as recovered, according to the Rockingham County Department of Health & Human Services. Another 34.7% were recovering at home and quarantined.
As the community braces for fall and winter weather, which could bring COVID-19 outbreaks, the case swell is evident.
Since Sept. 4, infections have gone up by 12.3%, and since Aug. 4 when patients totalled 500, cases have surged by 104.4%.
The county of 91,000 has conducted 12,213 tests to date.
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 that 548 of the county's coronavirus patients are over 40, while 434 are below. Ages were not specified for 40 patients.
Statewide, 180,754 people have contracted COVID-19 and 2,990 have died.
Individuals 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.
For more information from the Rockingham County Health Dept., visit: www.rockinghamcountydhhs.org.
Contact Susie C. Spear at firstname.lastname@example.org, (336) 349-4331, ext. 6140 and follow @SpearSusie_RCN on Twitter.
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