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COVID-19 outbreak at child-care center in Kernersville. County has additional COVID-related death.
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COVID-19 outbreak at child-care center in Kernersville. County has additional COVID-related death.

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The first child-care center outbreak has been reported in Forsyth County involving four children and two staff members at a Kernersville facility.

The outbreak was identified on July 31 at The Crossing Preschool Afterschool facility at 1650 Pecan Lane in Kernersville. The center is operated by First Christian Church.

Meanwhile, state health officials reported Friday that Forsyth has had an additional COVID-19 related death, bringing the county's total to 52. There were 57 new cases for an overall count of 5,148.

The Forsyth County Jail, which had 11 staff members with COVID-19 cases, has been removed from the outbreak list by N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Pete Kunkle, senior pastor of First Christian, said Friday the affected children are ages 2 and 3. They were in one classroom with the staff members. The child care facility, which is open to the public, serves 11 children.

Kunkle said testing was conducted after one child developed flu-like symptoms, and the others "appeared weak and tired." He said the children and staff members are recovering.

"We have had all Crossing and church staff members tested, and their results all came back negative," Kunkle said.

Kunkle said the child care facility is being cleaned and won't reopen until Aug. 17. There will not be services at First Christian on Sunday.

DHHS listed Friday that 10 children and five staff members have been infected with COVID-19 at Appalachian State University's Child Development Center.

The center has been closed until Monday, according to AppHealthCare, regional health department for Alleghany, Ashe and Watauga counties.

“We have been working closely with them to conduct the case investigation, identify close contacts and provide public health recommendations and guidance for infection control,” AppHealthCare spokeswoman Melissa Bracey told the Watauga Democrat.

DHHS reported Friday there were 1,545 new cases of COVID-19 across the state Thursday, down from 1,979 on Wednesday. The highest-ever daily number of new cases statewide was 2,481, reported on July 18.

There have been 132,817 cases statewide since the pandemic began in mid-March.

There were 42 additional COVID-19 related deaths reported in North Carolina for the second consecutive day, raising the overall total to 2,134.

DHHS said 1,123 North Carolinians are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 related illnesses, down 24 from Thursday. There have been more than 1,000 hospitalizations in the state every day since July 7.

Surry outbreaks

There has been a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases and deaths in Surry County, going from 516 cases and two deaths from the period of mid-March to July 4, to 916 cases and nine deaths as of noon Friday.

It is the largest number of cases for the rural counties in the Triad and Northwest N.C.

A COVID-19 outbreak at the Wayne Farms meat-packaging plant in the county contributed to the cases.

DHHS reported Tuesday there have been at least 29 cases, including three deaths, at the PruittHealth nursing home facility in Elkin. Fifteen residents tested positive and three died. Fourteen staff members have been infected.

Surry County Health and Nutrition Center said in a statement that, while acknowledging those two outbreaks, "we would assume the majority of the increase in cases is due to widespread community transmission."

"Many people in our county are reluctant to follow guidelines, such as wearing cloth face coverings, maintaining social distance, and following the gathering limitations. These carefree behaviors lend themselves to an increase in cases within our communities."

Back to Phase One?

Gov. Roy Cooper chose Wednesday to extend Phase Two reopening restrictions a third time — for five weeks to Sept. 11 — to give time for a selective number of reopening actions to begin, such as K-12 schools on Aug. 17.

The Phase Two restrictions, which Cooper has called a "safer-at-home" approach, began May 22. The extension continues to prohibit the partial openings of businesses that include private bars, fitness centers, bowling alleys and gyms.

On Thursday, the University of Washington's School of Medicine released its latest COVID-19 forecast that said there could be 295,000 COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S. by Dec. 1.

There were nearly 161,000 U.S. deaths as of Friday.

The medical school's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said 70,000 deaths may be preventable with more consistent mask wearing by at least 95% of Americans.

"We're seeing a roller coaster in the United States," said Dr. Christopher Murray, the institute's director.

"It appears that people are wearing masks and socially distancing more frequently as infections increase, then after a while as infections drop, people let their guard down and stop taking these measures to protect themselves and others — which, of course, leads to more infections. And the potentially deadly cycle starts over again."

Murray said the institute is forecasting the need for North Carolina to return to Phase One restrictions as early as October. It is forecasting similar step backs this month for Arizona, Florida, Mississippi and South Carolina, and in September for Georgia and Texas.

"However, if mask use is increased to 95%, the re-imposition of stricter mandates could be delayed six to eight weeks on average," Murray said.

The institute's model assumes 50% of school districts in each state will opt for online instruction only for the 2020–2021 school year.

rcraver@wsjournal.com

336-727-7376

@rcraverWSJ

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