The number of COVID-19 related deaths in Forsyth County has climbed by another six, while the number of cases exceeded 26,000, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported Friday.
The death toll for Forsyth is at 265 since mid-March.
It's the fourth time in the past eight days DHHS reports that Forsyth has had multiple deaths listed. Four were reported Thursday, seven were reported Tuesday and the record daily high of nine was reported Jan. 15.
DHHS lists COVID-19 cases and deaths on the day they are confirmed by medical providers and public health officials, so individuals may have been infected or died days before their cases are counted.
Most of the recent deaths in Forsyth appear to be connected to local long-term care facilities. However, DHHS did not list any new deaths for those facilities in Friday’s semiweekly report.
In Tuesday's report there were five deaths listed at Brookridge Retirement Community of Winston-Salem. Brookridge is affiliated with Baptist Retirement Homes of N.C.
Tatum Myers, health care administrator at Brookridge, said Wednesday that the long-term care facility has had seven COVID-19-related resident deaths since Dec. 17.
In the Jan. 15 report, there were three additional deaths listed for Summerstone Health and Rehab Center for a total of six. There also were two additional deaths at Oak Forest Health and Rehabilitation for a total of five.
Forsyth reported 311 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. The overall number of cases in Forsyth is at 26,007, with the daily high of 430 cases reported Jan. 9.
Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease expert at Novant Health Inc., was optimistic Friday — before the latest DHHS daily report came out — that "we have moved past the Christmas and New Year's Day surge."
It typically takes seven to 10 days for COVID-19 symptoms to appear.
Priest said the positive test rate, on a seven-day rolling period, has declined from 26% in the Winston-Salem area to 19%, as well as from 23% to 15% in the Charlotte area.
DHHS reported Forsyth had a positive test rate of 13.4% out of about 1,500 tests conducted Wednesday. The county had a record 14.8% positivity rate out of about 1,150 tests conducted Jan. 10.
"There's still a lot of COVID out there but some decline this week," Priest said. "We hope it declines more, but we'll take it."
North Carolina crossed the 700,000 threshold for new cases with 7,436 reported Friday by DHHS for an overall total of 705,535.
That followed 7,187 cases reported Thursday and 6,415 reported Wednesday.
There were 125 additional COVID-19 related deaths statewide, which followed on 139 deaths reported Thursday. The daily high is 142 reported Jan. 10. Overall, 8,464 North Carolinians have died as a result of COVID-19.
With Friday's count, January became the deadliest month for the pandemic at 1,661. The previous high was 1,542 deaths during December.
Priest cited the continuing statewide decline in patients hospitalized with COVID-19. At noon Friday, the number stood at 3,512. It is down 154 from Thursday and at the lowest level since 3,479 on Jan. 2. The record high is 3,990 reported on Jan. 14.
The same trend held true in the 17-county Triad region, where 946 COVID-19 patents were hospitalized as of Friday's report. The daily high for the region is 1,078 reported Jan. 8.
The Triad has had the highest daily hospitalizations of any region in the state for most of the past 13 weeks.
The Triad has the most intensive care units currently in use at 505, or 24.2% of 2,089 ICUs statewide, as well as inpatient hospital beds in use at 3,971, or 24.2% of 16,386 statewide.
The statewide positive test rate was at 10.1% out of 62,891 tests conducted Wednesday. The record positive rate is 17.5% of the 25,882 tests conducted Jan. 4.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state's health director, said Thursday she was encouraged that "we are seeing some progress in our key metrics ... stabilizing, though higher than we want them to be."
DHHS reported that, as of 1 p.m. Thursday, the statewide vaccination total is up to 569,334.