The Lincoln County Health Department has confirmed the first death associated with novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19) in Lincoln County. The Health Department was alerted to the death on Wednesday (June 17th) but it was not included in the daily report Wednesday afternoon, but was reported Thursday morning. The news release said "the individual was in their 80’s and had previous underlying health conditions. The person did not live in a long-term care facility. To respect the family’s privacy, no further information will be released about this patient at this time."
“I am very saddened by the loss of one of our community members. We knew this was a possibility, but were hopeful this day would never come,” Lincoln County Health Director Davin Madden said. “This tragic situation emphasizes the importance of doing your part to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community by wearing a cloth face covering while in public, washing your hands frequently, and maintaining a social distance of 6 feet when possible.”
Lincoln County's number of active COVID-19 cases had now swelled to 59 with seven people awaiting test results and 102 having recovered from the disease as if Wednesday.
Catawba County's number of active cases increased to 272 after 36 new cases were confirmed Thursday. 15 people remain hospitalized in Catawba County with the virus, while the number of people who have recovered is now 231. The county has recorded 13 related deaths.
Gaston County's active cases declined slightly on Wednesday. The county had 195 active cases and 388 people who have recovered.
More people than ever are hospitalized with COVID-19 in North Carolina. 846 people were hospitalized Wednesday, by Thursday, it was 857. The death toll has reached 1175, up seven from Wednesday.
The big concern statewide is the quickly disappearing number of available hospital beds for COVID-19 patients. UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill had 118 people hospitalized with the disease Wednesday. Earlier this week, all 22 of their intensive care beds that had been designated for COVID-19 patients were being used; that count was down to 20 Wednesday.
North Carolina and South Carolina, like several other states, mostly in the South, are seeing a significant increase in the number of cases--and it's not all due to increased testing. The percentage of tests that are positive is still hovering around 10%, indicating that the disease is spreading.
Despite pleas from health officials and the president of the American Medical Association, most people are totally ignoring the 3W's that have been recommended to help slow the spread. At two recent County Commission meetings and a City Council meeting, this reporter observed that less than 5% of those in attendance were wearing face coverings; at Monday night's Commissioners meeting, only this reporter and one County Commissioner, Rich Permenter, were wearing a face covering. In grocery stores and other locations, the number wearing masks is seldom (if ever) more than 10%.
WXII television in Winston-Salem reported Wednesday that Dr. Christopher Ohl, an Infectious Disease Expert with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, has joined in the chorus of medical experts urging the wearing of masks. "If everyone would wear a mask, it would mean that our cases would steadily decrease even if we further opened the economy,” said Dr.Ohl. But Dr. Ohl said it can’t just be a few people wearing masks…it has to be a community effort.
“The mask is key for us to try and have both worlds, to have an open economy to be able to do some things but still be able to personally distance and use the mask and be able to do it safely,” said Dr. Ohl.
Wearing a mask while out and about is no longer voluntary in Raleigh. The city joined Durham & Orange counties in requiring face-coverings in public spaces beginning at 4 PM Friday.
All restaurant, personal care, grooming, tattoo and retail employees and staff members must wear face coverings while working, and except for the exceptions established in the declaration, all persons in the City of Raleigh are required to wear a clean face covering any time they are or will be, in contact with other people who are not household members in public or private spaces where it is not possible to maintain social distancing or where recommended social distancing practices are not being followed. These places include, but are not limited to grocery stores, pharmacies, other business locations, parking lots and sidewalks and public transit. For people whose religious beliefs prevent them from wearing a face covering or who cannot wear a face covering because of a medical or behavioral condition, not wearing a mask is acceptable. Children younger than 12 years old are also not required to wear a mask, and neither are restaurant customers while dining. People also don't have to wear a mask while receiving dental care or swimming or while not in the general public but only with members of their own family or from the same household.
While some have urged Governor Roy Cooper to issue a masks-required edict for North Carolina, he has so far rejected the idea as impractical, saying, "we need voluntary cooperation. People need to do it because it has been shown as effective in slowing the spread of the disease and because they care about their own health and about others."
Other states have already implemented a face mask requirement. In Virginia, the public has been required to wear a face mask in public since May 29th. Virginia has shown a decrease in coronavirus cases while North Carolina and many other southern states have seen cases increase.
If you're thinking about a trip to the beach to escape the virus, you may want to reconsider. A list of 'hot spots' for increased cases of COVID-19 put together by John Hopkins Coronavirus Tracker and based on cases reported the week of June 8-15, shows Myrtle Beach as the 4th highest in the nation. Columbia-Orangeburg-Newberry came in 11th among metropolitan areas; Charlotte was 12th; Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson, 13th. Of the top 30, all but five were in the South.