Lincoln County Schools returned to face-to-face instruction for grades K-5 Tuesday. The change to Plan A went very well according to school administrators. One teacher was quoted at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday evening saying, "This was the most normal day I've had in six months." While some parents expressed concern about the change, many were happy to have their children back in school. One of the early problems was the long wait times at arrivals and dismissals. Interim Superintendent Dr. Aaron Allen said that is something the schools will be working to improve.
The decision to require a medical excuse for students to continue remote learning in the grades that have moved to Plan A was the topic of comments heard during the Public Comments portion of Tuesday night's School Board meeting. Three speakers questioned the safety of the change and board member Joan Avery, who with Kirk Herbertson voted against the change at a special board meeting September 24th, said Lincoln County Schoools should do a survey for staff input, something Gaston & Cleveland County schools are doing.
The Lincoln County Health Dept. reported 162 active COVID-19 cases on Tuesday (Oct. 13th), a slight increase from 150 last Friday (Oct. 9th) and a decrease from 200 a week ago. The county's death toll from the disease remains at 17.
Gaston County's active case count increased to 985. It had dipped below 900 for the first time since mid-July. The count remains below 1,000, after it was over 1,300 in early August. The county's rate of positive tests remained just under 10%--at 9.9% for the week of Sept. 27-Oct. 3. Gaston County has had one more death from the disease--their count now up to 99.
In Catawba County, two more deaths over the weekend and two more this week make the county's death total 61. Tuesday's 50 new cases was the largest number of new cases in a day since early August. 21 people remain hospitalized with the virus in Catawba County.
Cleveland County reported 208 active cases on Monday. The county had reported 73 COVID-related deaths.
North Carolina begins Early Voting this Thursday (Oct. 15th). The NC State Board of Elections says voters won't be required to wear face coverings, but it's strongly suggested. For those who go to vote without a mask, one will be provided free, but they can't be forced to wear it. An attempt will be made to maintain social distancing, and elections workers will be wearing masks.
NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen warned at a briefing Tuesday afternoon that the state's coronavirus metrics are headed in the wrong direction."Our cases are up, our hospitalizations are up, and our early surveillance data is up."
Cohen said there is no one event or policy that can be blamed for the rise in COVID-19 cases. Instead, she said she thought that it was because more people are not following health guidelines such as the 3Ws: wearing a mask, waiting more than 6 feet apart, washing hands thoroughly.
"We need to recommit to these actions. Right now, like much of the rest country and the world, our trends are moving in the wrong direction."
Cohen was joined by Lynn Minges, President of North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, and Andy Ellen, President of North Carolina Retail Merchants Association.
Both Minges and Ellen emphasized that restaurants and other businesses have made significant efforts to protect employees and customers. Both said it was important for businesses to stay vigilant and for customers to continue to follow the COVID-19 safety guidelines. "We can't afford to go back to closures because of rising cases."
North Carolina had 1,734 new cases of the virus reported Tuesday and 43 more deaths. That makes the state's death toll 3,816. There were 1,103 people hospitalized related to the virus on Tuesday. The latest positive test rate statewide has climbed back to 7.1%.
39 US states reported more new cases in the last week than in the week before. 10 states, one of them North Carolina, reported over 10,000 new cases in the last seven days. Nationally, almost eight million Americans have been infected and the national death toll is now approaching 220,000.
The US saw an average of 49,000 new cases each day, up 14% from the previous week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Americans need to continue practicing social distancing, wearing masks and washing their hands if they want to avoid a Fall surge that could lead to a return to lockdowns.
President Trump, whose doctors say he is no longer contagious, was holding a rally in Pennsylvania Tuesday evening. NC Senator Thom Tillis, who was also infected with the virus, has also been cleared to return to campaigning.
The Tuesday (Oct. 13th) NCDHHS report on ongoing clusters at child care facilities and schools lists only one in Lincoln County: Combine Academy. The previously reported cluster at a Denver daycare facility has been removed from the list as the quarantine period for those involved has passed.
Gaston County had two schools listed: Webb Street School and Gardner Park Elementary. In Catawba County, the cluster at Miss Millie's Child Care Center in Maiden was still on the list. Cleveland County had no schools or child care facilities on the list, although Crest High School was closed for students until this Thursday because of cases there.
Only those facilities with five or more cases are included.
On the NCDHHS report on Ongoing Outbreaks at Congregate Living Facilities (also issued on Tuesdays and Fridays), Lincoln County has two facilities mentioned (as of Tuesday Oct. 13th): Lincolnton Rehab continues on the list with 10 staff members and three residents infected; the Lincolnton Brian Center is listed with four staff members infected.
Gaston County has multiple facilities listed:
- Brookdale-Robinwood has had four staff members infected and 10 residents with one resident death.
- Elmcroft Assisted Living-Cramerton has had one staff member and two residents infected.
- Morningside Assisted Living has had seven staff members and 28 residents with the disease.
- Somerset Court has had two staff members and eight residents infected and two of the residents died.
- Terrace Ridge has had two staff members infected.
- Wellington House has had four staff members and 39 residents infected; two of those residents died.
- Accordius Health-Gastonia has had five staff members and one resident infected.
- Belaire Healthcare Center has had 26 staff members and 44 residents infected and has recorded 14 residents' deaths.
- Courtland Terrace has had three staff members infected.
- Peak Resources in Gastonia has had five staff and three residents infected.
- Peak-Cherryville has had five staff and eight residents infected.
- Stanley Total Living Center has had four staff and two residents with the disease.
- The Ivy at Gastonia has had five staff and 25 residents infected.
Carolina Care in Cherryville had cases, but all those have now passed the infection quarantine period, so they are no longer on the list.
In Catawba County, where there have been multiple outbreaks, those still on the list include:
- Conover Nursing & Rehab, four staff & two residents.
- Trinity Village, seven staff and three residents.
Cleveland County's current list includes:
- Summit Place-Kings Mtn. with 11 staff and 23 residents infected.
- Cleveland Pines, 27 staff and 77 residents infected, 13 residents deaths.
- Peak-Shelby, seven staff and one resident infected.
- White Oak Manor-Kings Mtn., 64 staff and 110 residents infected, 23 residents deaths.