ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County closed out the first month of 2022 with more than 3.700 cases of COVID-19 and nearly 20 virus-related deaths.
According to the Richmond County Health Department’s update on Jan. 31, the total number of new cases rose to 11,688. That’s an increase of 224 since Jan. 28, and makes 3,726 since the Dec. 30 report.
The massive increase in cases in January was blamed on the Omicron variant, which was reportedly easier transmissible but with lighter symptoms than previous variants.
It is not known how many people who tested positive had previously been vaccinated or how many have been previously diagnosed with the coronavirus.
Richmond County Schools on Monday reported 35 new cases on its COVID Tracker, with cases in all but three of the district’s 15 schools:
- 9 – Richmond Senior High
- 4 – L.J. Bell Elementary
- 3 – West Rockingham Elementary, Hamlet and Rockingham Middle
- 2 – Monroe Avenue Elementary, Cordova Middle, Ninth Grade Academy
- 1 – East Rockingham and Mineral Springs Elementary, Ellerbe Middle, Richmond Early College High School
The district also reported six new staff cases, one each at East Rockingham, Fairview Heights, Mineral Springs, Monroe Avenue and Washington Street Elementary, and Rockingham Middle.
Since the school year began in August, there have been 1,237 student cases and 293 staff cases. More than 700 of the student cases and 160 staff cases have been since Jan. 6.
While the local percentage of positive cases remains at 35%, the state’s average has dropped to 26.9%, with statewide cases plummeting to 7,327 — the lowest daily total during the month — according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
NCDHHS reported more than 735,000 cases during the month of January. Only 11 days had fewer than 20,000 cases.
The Health Department also reported four new COVID-related deaths on Monday, bringing the pandemic total to 178.
No statistics are available since the Health Department stopped sending press releases on deaths earlier this month.
Richmond County has seen 19 COVID-related deaths this month. As a comparison, there were 23 reported each in January and August of 2021.
North Carolina’s COVID-related death total is now at 20,757.
When compared to the other five counties with similar populations (43,000-48,000) Richmond ranks the highest and has seen the largest increase. Records with NCDHHS show the following death totals:
- Vance – 110 (+1)
- Beaufort – 143 (+1)
- McDowell – 142 (+0)
- Stokes – 142 (+2)
- Jackson – 81 (+1)
(Additions in parentheses are since Jan. 26. State records may not reflect county records, as Richmond is only shown to have 167. During the same time period, Richmond has had six.)
Neighboring Scotland County, which has about 10,000 fewer residents than Richmond, has had 163 COVID-related deaths, an increase of two since Jan. 26.
Statewide COVID hospitalizations seem to be on the decline after rising nearly every day since late December.
NCDHHS reported that 4,882 COVID patients were in North Carolina hospitals on Jan. 30, after peaking at a record-setting 5,201 just four days earlier.
According to FirstHealth, 107 of its 398 patients (26.9%) were COVID-positive on Monday. Likewise, Scotland Memorial Hospital had 32 patients isolated.
The federal government recently started taking orders for at-home kits at covidtests.gov. Each family is eligible for four free kits.
Free drive-thru COVID testing is available Monday-Friday behind the Health Department from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and the parking lot of Cole Auditorium in Hamlet from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., as well as from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays at both locations.
Vaccines and boosters are available for those who want them at the Health Department from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8-11 a.m. on Fridays.
Vaccines have been authorized for adults and children as young as 5 years old.
According to NCDHHS, 21,004 Richmond County residents (47%) are considered fully vaccinated and 8,429 have received booster shots.