Home Local News CDC lists Richmond County as high risk for COVID

CDC lists Richmond County as high risk for COVID

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ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County is one of 41 in North Carolina to have a high community risk level for COVID-19 following the latest weekly update.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, community levels “are determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area.”

The number of new local COVID cases has been steadily rising over the past several weeks, with 185 reported on Wednesday by the Richmond County Health Department. That brings the overall total to 14,026 since the first case was reported in April of 2020.

During the early weeks of June, total positive case numbers in Richmond had remained below 100.

Source: Richmond County Health Department

However, Health Director Cheryl Speight says there may be more cases than what have been reported due to home testing.

“We know many are testing at home which is what the state recommends now,” Speight said. “I am an example of that, I tested positive Sunday with a home test. This variant we have now is easily transmissible but seems to have milder symptoms.”

According to NCDHHS, the Omicron BA.5 variant has become the dominant strain, accounting for 50% of cases for the week ending July 9 — the most recent data available.

A press release from Gov. Roy Cooper’s office on Tuesday noted that the BA.5 variant is causing repeat infections and infections in the vaccinated.

Both the number and percentage of reinfections has been rising along with case numbers over the past two months.

Of the 27,930 cases in the state for the week ending July 16, 3,975 were reinfections, according to NCDHHS.

Source: N.C. Department of Health and Human Services
Source: N.C. Department of Health and Human Services

During the early weeks of June, total positive case numbers in Richmond had remained below 100.

Several other regional counties are also at a high risk, including Montgomery, Moore, Hoke and Harnett. Many counties along the coast are also at high risk, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

The total number of high-risk counties has increased by 30 since June 29.

Among counties with a similar population, Richmond County has had the second-highest number of new cases in the past two weeks. McDowell and Vance counties both have had 337, NCDHHS reports. Although McDowell has had so many, the CDC still lists it as being medium risk.

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Source: N.C. Department of Health and Human Services

Beaufort, Vance and Stokes are all high risk, while Jackson and Davie are low risk.

“Instead of just looking at numbers, hospitalizations are what we are really monitoring,” Speight said, adding that the Health Department hasn’t been made aware of any significant increase.

FirstHealth of the Carolinas reported on July 18 that 18 of its 362 patients (5%) were COVID positive. The system’s data includes patients from Moore, Richmond, Cumberland, Hoke, Lee, Robeson, Montgomery, Scotland, Randolph, Harnett, Chatham and Johnston counties, as well as those from out of state.

Statewide, hospitalizations have been slowly on the rise, from only 242 in the second week of April to 1,099 as of July 16, according to NCDHHS. COVID-related hospitalizations peaked at the end of January at 4,285.

The White House announced Thursday that President Joe Biden has been diagnosed with COVID-19, making the latest in a list of high-profile personalities reportedly vaccinated and double-boosted to test positive — including Cooper and Dr. Anthony Fauci.

According to the statement, the president tested negative on Tuesday.

Like Cooper and Fauci, Biden reportedly has mild symptoms and is being treated with Paxlovid.

That treatment is manufactured by Pfizer, which also makes one of the authorized vaccines.

Health officials also announced Thursday that a fourth vaccine, Novavax, has been granted authorization.

The Novavax vaccine differs from those made by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson because it uses protein-based technology, according to the American Medical Association.

NCDHHS figures show that 21,791 people, 49% of Richmond County’s population, have received at least the initial series of vaccinations and 23% have had at least one booster. (Pfizer and Moderna require two injections, Johnson and Johnson is a single shot.)

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Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.