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Wednesday, 03 February 2021 15:43

Delayed test results skew COVID case counts in Richmond County, state

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Delayed test results skew COVID case counts in Richmond County, state Pixabay

ROCKINGHAM — For the second consecutive day, Richmond County’s COVID-19 case count has been skewed by late reporting.

The Health Department announced Wednesday that nearly half of the day’s reported positive cases — 21 out of 52 — are several weeks old.

That makes the actual number of new cases 31.

On Tuesday, the Health Department reported 52 of 88 cases were old, some dating back to January.

But it’s not just a local problem.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services also announced on Wednesday that state numbers were off due to “a large number of cases from tests performed at FastMed Urgent Care clinics during December 2020 and January 2021 that had not been previously reported.”

According to the company’s website, FastMed has 56 locations in North Carolina, including one in Rockingham.

DHHS reports that FastMed reported around 40,000 delayed results and the positive cases account for 7,912 of the 12,079 COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday.

That means only 4,167 cases are actually new.

“FastMed has fixed its reporting process, and the state is now receiving results from the company,” according to a press release from the state. “This delay in reporting to NCDHHS did not impact patient notifications or care from FastMed. Prior to December 2020, all testing from FastMed was done by third-party labs and test results were reported to NCDHHS from those labs and included in the NC COVID-19 Dashboard.”

State health officials said, as the RO has observed in recent days, that daily case numbers are trending downward.

Tuesday, statewide numbers dropped below 3,000 for the first time since Dec. 1.

The number of local active cases rose slightly to 290, an increase of 15 from the previous day.

To date, 3,815 county residents have tested positive and there have been 28,393 negative results.

COVID-related hospitalizations have also been declining since mid-January, following a gradual increase from mid-November.

Statewide hospitalizations were down to 2,706 on Tuesday, and the local number decreased by two, back to 16, on Wednesday. (State numbers are a day behind.)

Free COVID testing at the Health Department continues throughout the month of February. Normal hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.

However, Health and Human Services Director Dr. Tommy Jarrell said the schedule can be impacted by cold and rainy weather. Updates will be announced on the Health Department’s Facebook page.

Richmond County students returned to in-person instruction this week and, so far, no students have tested positive, according to the district’s reporting.

However, one staff member each at East Rockingham and Washington Street elementary schools were listed as positive on Wednesday.

Eight staff members have tested positive this week, according to Richmond County Schools.

During Tuesday’s meeting county board meeting, Commissioner Dr. Rick Watkins said with school back in session, teachers need to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

Educators fall under the essential workers category for Group 3 in the state’s COVID-19 vaccination schedule, which are not currently eligible for the vaccine.

Those in Group 2, which includes health workers and anyone aged 65 or older, are currently able to get vaccinated.

Jarrell told the RO on Tuesday that around 1,200 residents were signed up to be administered the vaccine this week.

Health officials say the state is running low on available vaccines, but President Joe Biden’s administration has vowed to increase supplies in the coming weeks.

According to DHHS, 3,463 Richmond County residents have received the first of the two-dose Moderna vaccine and 482 have been administered both doses.

Rockingham City Manager Monty Crump also announced Wednesday that the February City Council meeting has been canceled, as there was only one item on the agenda, which can be taken up at the March meeting.


William R. Toler

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