ASHEBORO — Since COVID-19 began appearing in Randolph County in mid-March, 2020, the county had recorded just under 24,500 positive cases through the end of 2021.
As the month of January, 2022, came to a close on Monday, Randolph County had recorded nearly 8,000 new cases, including nearly 5,000 in the last two weeks alone.
The climb has been quick and steep in January. Reports released every Friday by Randolph County Public Health on its Facebook page show weekly new case counts in January were:
— Jan. 7: 1,373.
— Jan. 14: 1,651
— Jan. 21: 2,595.
— Jan. 28: 2,346.
Those totals — 7,965 overall and 4,941 over the past two weeks — were reported through Jan. 28, with three days still to go in the month.
Additionally, those are just the recorded cases of COVID-19 through reported positive tests. There’s no way to know how many people might have contracted the virus and not been tested.
The percentage of tests taken that were reported positive have naturally risen as well, up to 37.9 percent of tests taken in the Jan. 22-28 week.
Area hospitals are feeling the effects of the rise in cases.
Randolph Health was treating 25 COVID patients on Monday, which is close to capacity for the hospital, according to April Thornton, Senior Director of Public Relations. She said the hospital has had between 15-25 for the past several weeks.
Of the 25 currently in the hospital with COVID, about 85 percent are not fully vaccinated, she said, “but that number changes routinely.”
The hospital is currently running seven ventilators within the 10-bed ICU.
Overall, the hospital is able to use only between 70-75 beds in its facility because of staffing issues (for reasons of staffing shortages and COVID). Those beds are needed for more than just COVID patients, thus the limit for COVID patients.
“Beds continue to be in demand and it is very challenging to get patients transferred to a higher level of care as surrounding health systems are experiencing staffing shortages as well,” she said.
Cone Health in Greensboro, for instance, said last week that it reached a record 304 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday, Jan. 24.
Thus both hospitals are trying to figure out ways to cope during this high-demand spike.
Randolph Health has been more heavily leaning on treating COVID patients on an outpatient basis. “Patients arrive at the ED [Emergency Department] for care, they are assessed, treated and discharged home,” she said. “They are not hospitalized.”
Randolph Health has been increasingly using that optional approach since August.
Cone Health took it a step further and has begun offering free COVID-19 e-visits for people experiencing COVID or flu-like symptoms.
The free COVID-19 e-visits consist of an online questionnaire. A care plan will be sent back within an hour.
Cone also offers on-demand video from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. through Cone Health MyChart. They allow face-to-face discussions about symptoms with a Cone Health doctor or advanced practice provider. Video visits are not free and are charged through the patient’s insurance carrier.
So is there a break coming in this spike?
Thornton says there’s “promising news” on that front.
“Based on data from other states, we are hearing that North Carolina should hit the peak of COVID patients within the next two weeks and then there will be a very rapid decline,” she said.
In the meantime, local health officials still urge residents to take precautions against catching the virus, including but not limited to wearing masks or cloth face coverings in public, using hand sanitizer and washing hands regularly, and avoiding close contact when you can.
Through Jan. 28, another 27 people in Randolph County had died from COVID-related outcomes, bringing that number in the county to 373 since the outbreak began.
Call the Randolph County Coronavirus Hotline at 336-318-6227 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday, for questions about the virus, vaccines, tests and other local COVID-19 related issues.