Number of COVID cases in Robeson County make big increase

Staff report

LUMBERTON — New confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Robeson County are up nearly 50% over the past seven days.

The county Health Department reported 343 new cases of the virus from Nov. 14 to Friday, up from the 229 cases reported in the seven-day period ending Nov. 13.

This brings the total number of cases in Robeson County to 7,017 since the pandemic began.

The Health Department reported four virus-related deaths since Nov. 13, up from two in the previous seven-day period. This brings the county’s death toll during the pandemic to 109. Three of the individuals who died were age 75 and older, and one was under age 55, county Health Department Director Bill Smith said.

As the increases come just days before Thanksgiving, Smith was clear about the risks involved in holding large holiday gatherings.

“With Thanksgiving coming let’s guess what is going to happen?” Smith said. “People are not going to mask. They are going to have large family gatherings. They are going to have religious ceremonies without implementing coronavirus safety protocols. They are not going to distance and the outcome will be a given: even more cases and deaths before Christmas, with the consideration of closing indoor dining, movies, etc. — basically moving back to (the state’s) Phase 1.”

Continuing to follow protocols, even through the holidays, remains key in helping to keep cases down, Smith said.

“Simply by acting responsible — different than acting adult-like — we can have a shell of a Christmas,” he said. “Continuing to do as one pleases will net the same restrictions other states are having to implement.”

Southeastern Health reported 20 virus-positive patients in isolation at Southeastern Regional Medical Center, as of 11 a.m. Friday. This is an increase of onlyone patient from Nov. 13, though the number of potential cases under investigation at SRMC increased from two to six in the same period.

Thirty-three Southeastern Health employees are quarantined because of potential exposure, down from 35 on Nov. 13.

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke reported a significant drop in active cases on its campus, as of 5 p.m. Friday. The campus reported 13 active cases among students. There were 41 active cases among students on Nov. 13 and 69 on Nov. 6. There are eight active cases among faculty and staff, up from six on Nov. 13, and one among subcontractors, down from two.

In the seven days since Nov. 13 the university has reported 10 new cases among students, five among faculty and staff, and one among subcontractors. The student-body mark for new cases was at 10 for the second straight week after the 59 new cases reported from Oct. 31 to Nov. 6.

In total, there have been 397 cases among the student body during the fall semester.

Statewide, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported that as of noon Friday there have been 23,613 new cases since Nov. 13, up from 16,664 in the previous seven-day period. The new numbers bring to 328,846 the number of cases recorded in North Carolina since the pandemic started.

There have been 259 pandemic-related deaths reported in the state since Nov. 13, an 87.7% increase from the 138 deaths reported between Nov. 6 and Nov. 13.

There were 1,571 virus-related hospitalizations in the state as of Friday.

The state health agency reported North Carolina’s highest one-day case total Thursday, with 4,296 cases.

This week, the state established a new County Alert System to help people identify how their county’s virus spread compares with other counties around the state.

The system uses statistics, including case rate, positive testing rate and hospital impact to categorize counties into three tiers, from least to most severe: yellow, or significant community spread; orange, substantial community spread; and red, critical community spread.

Robeson County is currently classified as orange.

“The good news is that drops Robeson from the red section (in previous White House reports),” said Smith, who pointed out the county’s positivity rate is currently 9.8%. “As this will only be updated monthly we should look better for a while, no matter how artificial.”

Ten North Carolina counties are classified red, and Robeson County is one of the 43 classified orange. The remaining 47 counties are classified yellow.