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Forsyth to get more testing sites for COVID-19. County adds 689 new cases, three more deaths
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Forsyth to get more testing sites for COVID-19. County adds 689 new cases, three more deaths

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Additional state-sponsored COVID-19 testing sites are coming to Forsyth County “in the coming weeks.”

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday it is expanding local and statewide availability of both in-person and at-home testing for COVID-19.

DHHS’ testing network of vendors is being increased by two to 14, with those vendors being provided with additional professional rapid antigen tests.

Forsyth and Guilford counties are among 10 statewide being emphasized with the expansion.

The testing initiative is being rolled out as DHHS reported Forsyth with 689 new cases and three additional related deaths.

The highest-ever daily case count for Forsyth was 939 reported Jan. 6.

DHHS reported 2,653 new cases in Forsyth over the past weekend, including 577 Monday. The remaining 2,076 new cases were counted between noon Friday and noon Sunday.

Meanwhile, there were 3,991 COVID-19 hospitalized patients statewide as of noon Tuesday — up 141 from Monday and just one patient shy of the record high reported Jan. 13, 2021.

The state’s number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has increased for 15 consecutive days. Of the latest total, 429 patients are on ventilators.

Hospitals in the 17-county Triad and Northwest N.C. region reported a combined 986 COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday, up 48 from the previous report.

There were 88 children hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, including 22 in the Triad region.

Statewide, 17,705 new cases were listed in Tuesday’s report. The statewide count has declined over the past three days following a record 29,069 cases reported Saturday.

Testing expansion initiative

DHHS plans to make available more than 1 million professional and at-home rapid antigen tests, and at-home collection kits.

That total includes a recent order of 700,000 professional and at-home rapid antigen tests from the federal government.

The testing equipment is being prioritized for K-12 schools, health departments, long-term care facilities, health centers, farmworker camps and free and charitable care clinics. Community-based organizations are assisting with distributions to historically marginalized populations.

Currently, DHHS vendor StarMed offers testing and booster shots at Union Baptist Church, 1200 Trade St. NW in Winston-Salem, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

A key element to the expansion initiative debuted last weekend at Greensboro Coliseum involving Mako Medical in partnership with Cone Health and the Guilford County health department.

Forsyth health director Joshua Swift said Tuesday the department has requested additional state resources “to get more testing supplies and at-home kits into the community.”

“We do expect to get more masks next week, and we expect to get more at-home test kits, but haven’t been made aware of how many we will get.”

DHHS said it has “seen a record surge in testing demand recently that has strained the already tight testing supply nationally and across the state.”

The statewide testing volume exceeded 564,000 last week, compared with 314,802 the first full week of December.

The department recommends anyone seeking testing options go to ncdhhs.gov/gettested to find test sites, ordering at-home testing kits, locating at-home testing kits at local pharmacies, and finding no-cost community testing events.

DHHS said it is partnering with Labcorp to provide at-home collection kits at no-cost through the COVID-19 test home collection kit program. Go to www.ondemand.labcorp.com/nc for more information.

The program is available to all North Carolinians statewide, with tests delivered to homes. Parents and guardians are required to place the order for anyone 5 to 17 years old.

“There are 1,500 tests available each business day for residents to request,” DHHS said.

“We are aware that the federal government has plans to provide additional at-home tests, but are awaiting more information.”

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Forsyth update

Since the onset of the pandemic, Forsyth has had 68,026 cases and 633 related deaths.

Forsyth’s positive test rate over the past 14 days was at 32.5% as of Tuesday, while the statewide rate was 30.5%.

The vast majority of new cases during the current COVID-19 wave are the omicron variant, according to local and state public-health officials.

Swift said that, when the delta variant was the prominent form of the coronavirus, the peak positive test rate was around 14%.

With Tuesday’s report, Forsyth is averaging 180.8 cases per 100,000 individuals over the most recent two-week period. That’s up from 67.6 cases per 100,000 as recently as Dec. 31.

Both Swift and Dr. David Priest, an infectious diseases expert with Novant Health Inc., have said the number of COVID-19 cases likely is underreported, in part because most at-home test results aren’t reported to county health officials, and some infected individuals have mild cases and don’t seek care.

Statewide update

North Carolina has recorded 1.9 million cases and 19,706 COVID-19 related deaths since the pandemic began. The death total is up 21 from Monday.

The statewide positive test rate was at 30.5% as of noon Tuesday. The record for the pandemic has been 31.8%, reported Jan. 5.

Since early July, the vast majority of COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths locally and statewide have been among unvaccinated people, according to local infectious diseases experts and state public health officials.

There also have been deaths among vaccinated people who were immunocompromised or who had other health issues.

State and local health care officials also attribute the current surge to colder weather leading people to spend more time indoors.

“We’re pushing the boundaries of what hospitals can handle, and it’s going to be like that through January,” Priest said Jan. 4.

K-12 student update

DHHS’ latest K-12 school cluster report, updated Tuesday, does not contain any new outbreaks for Forsyth.

However, it does have additional cases for each of the three listed clusters.

The dashboard has N.C. Leadership Academy in Kernersville going from 16 to 18 students and from four to five staff members. The cluster at Meadowlark Middle expanded from seven to nine students while remaining at three staff. Piney Grove Elementary’s cluster went from four to five students, along with one staff.

DHHS also lists Friendly People That Care Childcare, based at 485 Shepherd St. in Winston-Salem, with a cluster of eight children and one staff.

It’s likely that the DHHS school cluster dashboard will include more WS/FCS schools in the coming weeks.

The system reported Monday on its COVID-19 dashboard having 644 positive cases among students and 263 among staff members for a case count of 907 for the week that ended Jan. 7.

The WS/FCS dashboard listed West Forsyth High with cases involving 29 students and 10 teachers. Clemmons Middle School was reported with 24 cases among students and seven among staff’. Clemmons Elementary had 15 positive cases.

DHHS said its report on school clusters are based on data entered into the N.C. COVID-19 Surveillance System.

“Time is required to determine whether a given COVID-19 case is associated with a child care or school setting, gather follow-up information, and enter it into NC COVID,” DHHS said. “Thus, data included in this report may differ from data available through media and other sources.”

Swift said at least 8,496 children ages 5 to 11 in Forsyth have received one dose of the kids’ version of the Pfizer vaccine. That represents about 24% of the 35,400 children in that age range in the county.

Swift said that about 6,018 Forsyth children in that age range, or 17%, are fully vaccinated.

Among ages 12 to 17 in Forsyth, the fully vaccinated rate remains at 46%. The statewide rate is 67% for fully vaccinated ages 12 and older.

“Our concern right now is what we’re seeing in our younger ages ... we still have a sizable percentage of the population that still don’t have even one dose,” Swift said.

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