Richmond County sees highest daily increase in COVID-19 cases

Gavin Stone News Editor

ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County saw its highest daily increase in COVID-19 cases Wednesday with an increase of 16 from the previous day.

This peak comes in the same week that the county saw two residents die from the virus on back-to-back days, bringing the county’s death toll to seven. The county, which in early April was the lone holdout on recorded COVID-19 cases among its surrounding counties, has far surpassed Scotland and Anson counties in terms of total cases and has among the highest rates of infection of other surrounding counties.

Richmond County has 65 cases of COVID-19 per 10,000 residents, compared to 40 in Scotland (2 deaths), 53 in Anson (1 death), 49 in Moore (13 deaths), 70 in Hoke (3 deaths), 116 in Montgomery (7 deaths), 63 in Stanly (5 deaths) and 53 in Union County (24 deaths), according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

With these 16 new cases, Richmond County now has seen a total of 296 cases, 94 of which are currently active. Two of these 94 are in the hospital, while the rest are in home isolation. As of Wednesday, 195 patients have recovered from the virus. Richmond County received $70,000 in federal funds about two months ago to purchase additional PPE and equipment, to pay staff for time spent testing and for following up on patients, and to buy testing materials, according to Health Director Tommy Jarrell.

Jarrell said in an email this week that he is not aware of any specific gatherings in the county that have become hot spots for the virus. As of June 17, about 70 to 75% of the cases in the county were considered community spread, meaning the Health Department had not been able to determine where the patient contracted the virus through contact tracing efforts, according to Jarrell. The community spread cases referenced in the above percentage includes contacts with a positive case that is within the same household.

“As the numbers have grown, often it is not known how a person may have contracted COVID-19,” Jarrell said in an email.

Asked how many of the COVID-19 cases were in essential workers, Jarrell could not say. However, of the seven county residents who have died, he said that two were healthcare workers employed outside of the county, one was self-employed in an industry that Jarrell said is “not on the official essential (list) but could be argued as an essential” industry. The other four deaths were in individuals who were not employed.

Governor Roy Cooper made face masks a requirement in retail stores, supermarkets, construction sites, manufacturing plants, meat processing facilities, personal care businesses and restaurants beginning last Friday, and gave law enforcement the authority to cite businesses who do not enforce the requirement and to charge individuals with trespassing if they do not follow a business’s rules on wearing a mask.

Jarrell has urged the Richmond County community to adhere to the new requirement, and said Tuesday that he’s seen the majority of people doing so at businesses he’s been in.

“According to evidence, it is clear that mask help to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Jarrell said. “None of us know who we are going to contact while in public so I encourage each of us to do all we can to prevent the spread. Personally, I would hate to know I might be carrying the virus and transmit it to another person.”

Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]