WENTWORTH — Between Aug. 29 and Friday, Rockingham County marked its largest weekly increase in COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic with 112 new infections.
Another troubling statistic emerged as 9% of the county's residents tested were positive for COVID-19.
This percent positive rate is well above the state and national public health goal of 5%. And it's a significant jump from the county's recent rate of a little over 6%.
"The highest case counts are seen in Reidsville, Eden, and Madison,'' in order of highest to lowest, said Susan Young, the county's interim public health director, via email Friday.
Part of the uptick is attributed to a spike caused by outbreaks at two nursing homes here— Jacob's Creek Nursing & Rehabilitation in Madison and Brian Health & Rehabilitation Center in Eden.
Late last week, the bulk of 51 new cases were linked to Jacob's Creek, a 170-bed long-term care facility where administrators have not responded to requests for comment.
By midweek, another 20 of the county's new cases were attributed to Jacob's Creek and the 112-bed Brian Center.
While Jacob's Creek's director Shannon Hairston has not returned calls or emails to confirm the number of patients and staff who are ill there, estimates stand at around 90-95 patients and staff. The county Department of Health and Human Services reports two deaths at Jacob's Creek, where 160 staff care for 144 residents.
A Brian Center spokesman on Friday said that 65 of its residents have tested positive for COVID-19, 17 of whom were discovered on Saturday.
Of the total, 35 residents have recovered at the facility. Eight patients have died, five are hospitalized and 17 are recovering at the care home.
Additionally, 28 staff members have tested positive, while 11 have recovered, said spokesman Annaliese Impink via email. She explained that weekly testing of patients and staff continues and is done at an external lab. Results are typically available within 3-5 days, Impink said.
The RCDHHS has no record of any staff at either long-term care facility requiring hospitalization due to COVID-19.
One source close to the Brian Center said that almost all of the staff has contracted COVID-19 and that the facility must rely heavily on temporary staff. Two staffers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared losing their jobs, said the Brian Center's first case of coronavirus was linked to a staff member who contracted it from a relative who is believed to have contracted the virus while attending church.
Staff at Jacob's Creek and Brian Center have moved back and forth between the facilities over the past months, the sources said.
They explained that when Jacob's Creek offered sign-on bonuses for new nurses and aides, some Brian Center staff quit and moved to jobs at the Madison facility. Some of those workers subsequently quit jobs at Jacob's Creek and returned to work at Brian Center, the staff members said.
Young has praised the county's long-term care facilities for their diligence and cooperation with county health authorities in holding off COVID-19 during the first six months of the pandemic while many parts of the country watched the virus ravage nursing facilities early on.
Through aggressive contact tracing of nursing home staff, Young said her investigators had located the sources of infection for Jacob's Creek and Brian Center.
Where we stand
Eighteen Rockingham County residents have died of COVID-19, and all were aged between 56-98 and suffered from underlying medical conditions, Young has said.
Since, Aug. 21 when cases stood at 686, the county's experienced a 32.6% hike in illness.
Look back to Aug. 4, when Rockingham cases numbered 500, and cases have climbed by 82%.
Of the county's total patients found after 12,101 tests, 54%, or 491, have recovered, according to health officials. Rockingham County is home to an estimated 91,000 people.
Meanwhile, 23%, or 211 patients, are convalescing at home and in quarantine.
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.
Two known asymptomatic patients are noted in Friday's statistics from the RCDHHS.
Health stats show that 469 of the county's coronavirus patients are over 40, while 397 are below. Ages were not specified for 44 patients.
The climb in county cases has surged 155.6% since cases numbered 356 on July 17.
Statewide, 172,209 people have contracted COVID-19 and 2,803 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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