Forsyth’s health center could be a key factor in ranking high at COVID-19 community level |
Forsyth County’s current status in the high-community category for COVID-19 may be influenced by factors external to the county rather than internal factors, according to an infectious disease expert.
Forsyth on Friday remained listed in the highest of the three community levels as measured by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
dr Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist’s Christopher Ohl said Thursday that a key factor in Forsyth being rated high is being a center of the Northwest North Carolina health system.
The CDC’s COVID-19 community level is determined by looking at the hospital beds used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area.
“You have to take our color code for Forsyth County a little bit because we have a lot of acute care hospital beds relative to our population,” Ohl said. “The CDC takes the number of hospitalizations and divides that by the number of people in the county.”
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Ohl said the number of hospital beds in Forsyth is comparable to Charlotte’s, “but Charlotte’s population is higher, so they’re yellow and we’re red.”
“As it feels, given our other numbers at Forsyth, we’re more yellow than red.”
Forsyth is one of six in Triad and Northwestern North Carolina listed as incremented Alamance, Alleghany, Davie, Surry, and Yadkin.
Stokes was moved to the middle category in the latest CDC update, joining Davidson, Guilford, Watauga and Wilkes.
Those in the low category are Ashe, Randolph and Rockingham.
New cases factor
Forsyth’s health director Joshua Swift said Thursday he believes the spike in new cases was the key factor in the county’s shift from the low to the high category over the past three weeks.
Swift said he’s confident the county has achieved at least a “flattening out” of new cases after noting a 12% drop over the past 14 days.
In the NC Department of Health and Human Services’ latest COVID-19 dashboard update on Wednesday, Forsyth was reported with 963 new cases in the week ended June 4.
That’s down from 1,146 cases in the week ended May 27 and 1,112 cases in the previous week, according to the latest status updates.
Two months ago, however, the number of weekly cases had fallen below 200. Forsyth has now reported 98,582 cases since the pandemic began.
DHHS reported Forsyth with nine other COVID-19-related deaths over the past week for a total of 834 pandemics. This was the highest weekly death toll since March.
The weekly DHHS dashboard totals are subject to revision. When newly listed cases and deaths are added retrospectively to the statewide and statewide totals, they are assigned to the week in which the positive case is found. Swift said there were 20 COVID-19 patients in Forsyth hospitals as of Thursday. That’s an increase from 11 in the previous week. He said the positive test rate in the county has stayed at about 21% for the past week.
Update of the mask requirement
On Monday, Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said townspeople have been advised — but not required — to resume wearing masks indoors to reflect the CDC’s high community list for Forsyth.
“Our current daily case count is over 140 per day,” Joines said in a statement. “As you may recall, our goal is less than 10 cases per day.
“Therefore, I urge our citizens to take precautions to protect themselves and others by wearing a mask indoors.
“This is especially important when you’re in large groups or in a tight environment.”
Swift said that as new cases may have peaked for the latest wave, “I don’t think mask mandates are coming back, and I don’t think they should.”
“We would really encourage people to make that decision for themselves whether to mask or not.”
“If you’re immunocompromised or at high risk of a serious illness, you may want to talk to your doctor about your risk, and if you fall into that category, you may want to avoid some higher-risk, non-essential indoor activities.”
Ohl acknowledged “that the appetite for mask requirements isn’t huge right now, and I understand why.” Ohl said he doesn’t think a return to a mask mandate is necessary at this time, although he stressed “that masks work.”
“When the general population wears their mask, transmission for the community and region as a whole and in most settings drops significantly.”
Ohl said the challenge in reducing COVID-19 transmission through masking “is that you have to make every effort” to wear a mask consistently, both at work and in indoor social settings or when traveling.
For people who do not occupy this space, the mask effect can be “nullified”.
Ohl said his current advice is to “keep a mask in your back pocket” for certain indoor situations, but “I don’t think current wave levels and the severity of infection in most people are high enough for a mask mandate right now.” “
However, if these conditions worsen, it is worth re-evaluating “because nobody wants to be sick”.
Ohl continues to recommend that individuals receive a second booster shot if they are eligible.
Ohl said he understands some of the hesitancy of people not getting a booster shot, which he says sums it up to “a feeling that the pandemic is all but over.”
“It’s certainly not true.”
Ohl said some people over 50 who are eligible for a second refresher choose to wait until the fall to get a refresher. He said the wait might be okay – “but put it on your calendar” – for those who are healthy or have recovered from a COVID-19 infection since late 2021, “because that’s basically the same as one.” to get an injection.”