The Forsyth County death toll from COVID-19 related illnesses has increased by two to 84 as the county approaches 6,500 cases.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported Wednesday that Forsyth added 24 cases for a total of 6,481.
Forsyth Department of Public Health officials said Wednesday that it could take up to two weeks to determine whether President Donald Trump's campaign rally in Winston-Salem contributes to a significant community spread of the virus.
Trump spoke for a little more than an hour Tuesday on the tarmac at Smith Reynolds Airport.
Airport director Mark Davidson said he estimated that there were 7,000 to 9,000 individuals who turned out for the event. Photos from the event showed most attendees did not wear a face mask despite state social distancing requirements to do so.
"Symptoms typically begin 4-6 days after infection; however, it could be up 14 days," said Tony Lo Giudice, assistant Forsyth health director.
DHHS did not specifically address the Trump rally when asked about concerns of community spread.
“While the governor’s executive order has an exemption for First Amendment protections, large gatherings increase the risk of spreading COVID-19, DHHS said in a statement.
“North Carolina has a mask mandate that everyone, including those at rallies, should follow.
“Holding large events without face coverings and without social distancing can put people’s health at risk,” DHHS said. “People who have attended mass gatherings are encouraged to get tested for COVID-19.”
Later Wednesday, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and state Health secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen released a statement after meeting with Trump administration healthcare expert Dr. Deborah Birx and participating in a White House coronavirus task force conference call.
Cooper and Cohen said they discussed with Birx “the need for our elected officials and candidates to lead by example on the campaign trail this fall by holding events with face coverings and social distancing.”
Cooper said he requested additional federal support about “needing national leaders to model effective prevention strategies … and to take these measures to protect North Carolinians when visiting the state.”
Second-highest statewide death total
Statewide, there were 49 deaths reported Wednesday for an overall total of 2,958.
It is the second highest daily death total, surpassed by 50 on Sept. 5, since mid-March.
The state experienced a significant increase in those hospitalized by the virus after apparently reaching a nearly three-month low of 765 on Sunday. Hospitalizations were at 916 as of noon Wednesday after being at 827 in the Tuesday report.
DHHS cautioned again Wednesday that it continues to experience "technical and submission issues with hospital systems' data" that began Friday.
DHHS said 86% of hospitals submitted their COVID-19 data Wednesday by the daily 7:30 a.m. deadline. The Triad region for COVID-19 data had a 93% reporting rate.
DHHS said the issues "have been exacerbated by the holiday weekend, resulting in incomplete hospitalization data."
"Because the COVID-19 NC dashboard displays only data that it received, it is likely that actual hospital numbers are higher than what is on the current dashboard."
"DHHS has worked with all parties to resolve these issues, and will post revised numbers for those dates once correct data is received and confirmed."
The state's COVID-19 case total is at 179,532 after there were 897 cases reported Wednesday.
There have been at least 27,952 cases in the 14-county Triad and Northwest North Carolina region, representing 15.6% of statewide cases. There have been 455 reported deaths, representing 15.4% of statewide total.
Total Forsyth residents considered recovered as of 12:30 p.m. Wednesday: 5,736 (about 88.5%)
Active Forsyth County cases as of 12:30 p.m. Wednesday: 661
Total COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the Triad region: 169, the third highest of any region in the state.
The Triad region, for the purposes of state COVID-19 reporting, includes Forsyth, Guilford, Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Caldwell, Davie, Davidson, Iredell, Randolph, Rockingham, Rowan, Stokes, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin counties.
Total statewide residents considered recovered as of noon Tuesday: 156,652 (about 88%). DHHS typically updates statewide recovery totals at 4 p.m. Mondays.
Daily N.C. tests reported Wednesday (subject to change): 11,350
Percentage of N.C. tests returning positive results, as reported Monday (latest day available): 7.1% out of 15,057 tests.
Journal reporter Wesley Young contributed to this article