ROCKINGHAM — There have now been 155 Richmond County residents to die from COVID-related complications in the 20 months since the pandemic began.
The Richmond County Health Department announced the latest death on Monday, making the fourth for the month of December. The previous deaths were reported Dec. 6, 7 and 16.
According to the Health Department, the updated race and gender breakdown is as follows: 23 African American females, 27 African American males, three “other race” females, one “other race” male, two Hispanic females, three Hispanic males, two American Indian males, 48 Caucasian females and 46 Caucasian males.
Those who have died range in age: 38 have been 80 or older; 39 have been in their 70s; 41 in their 60s; 24 in their 50s; eight in their 40s; and five in their 20s or 30s.
Of the county’s deaths, 123 have been at a hospital, 25 have passed away in another healthcare facility and seven have died outside of a health setting.
Based on previous reports, the latest death appears to be that of a Caucasian male 80 years old or older.
Health Director Cheryl Speight said earlier this month that nine individuals who have died since vaccines were made available were fully vaccinated. Speight also said she was not aware of any deaths attributed to any of the three approved COVID-19 vaccines.
North Carolina has recorded a total of 19,167 COVID-related deaths — an increase of 68 from Dec. 16 — according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The Health Department reported 27 new cases on Monday, which includes positive tests from Saturday and Sunday. There were also 22 reported on Thursday and 11 on Friday.
Richmond County Schools’ COVID Tracker showed five new cases: two students at Rockingham Middle, one at L.J. Bell Elementary; one staff member each at Fairview Heights and Washington Street Elementary.
There have been 425 student-related cases reported in the 15-school system since August. Richmond Senior tops the list with 91, followed by the Ninth Grade Academy with 49, Hamlet Middle with 40 and Rockingham Middle with 37. All other schools have had fewer than 30 cases.
School staff have accounted for 77 cases, including 11 at Fairview Heights, nine in Central Services and eight each at Mineral Springs and Richmond Senior.
There were 2,892 new cases statewide, according to DHHS, following the five previous days each recording more than 3,500 new cases.
Hospitalizations due to COVID across North Carolina have again started to steadily increase, with every day but Dec. 18 recording more than 1,600 patients.
FirstHealth on Monday reported that 36 of its 386 patients (9.3%) were COVID-positive.
The Health Department reported Monday that 20,419 residents have been vaccinated.
Vaccinations were recently authorized for children as young as 5 and booster shots are now available for all vaccinated adults.
COVID vaccinations and boosters are available at the Health Department from 8 a.m. -5 p.m. Monday-Thursday 8-5, and 8-11 a.m. on Fridays with no appointment needed.
Outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen on Monday issued an advisory urging North Carolinians to get vaccinated as both the Delta and Omicron variants continue to spread.
According to Cohen’s advisory, the Omicron variant is four to six times as contagious as the original strain of the coronavirus that started spreading across the state in late March 2020.
“This is a moment to act. We can keep people from becoming really sick and make sure there is hospital care for everyone who needs it. Early evidence shows that boosters provide a significant level of protection against Omicron,” Cohen said during a press conference. “I urge everyone who has been vaccinated to get your booster soon as you are eligible. Getting a booster is particularly critical for people who are 65 and over or with underlying medical conditions.”
In the first year of vaccinations, from Dec. 14, 2020-Dec. 13, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control says out of the more than 485 million doses administered, the Vaccine Adverse Reporting System has received 10,843 reports of post-vaccine deaths.
However, the CDC adds in bold letters that reports of adverse effects, including death, “do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem.”
There have been nine deaths identified through VAERS — three confirmed — due to thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome related to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the CDC.
The national health agency also reports 278 preliminary reports of Guillain-Barré Syndrome following the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as of Dec. 8.
According to the CDC, there have been 1,106 confirmed reports of myocarditis and pericarditis following the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines, mostly among young males.
Multiple media outlets have recently reported a 26-year-old New Zealand man likely died of myocarditis following the Pfizer vaccine. A woman in that country reportedly died the same way in August.