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'It's devastating, It's really devastating' | As COVID-19 hospitalizations rise in Cleveland County, testing increasing

Some Cleveland County students will start receiving at-home COVID-19 tests.

SHELBY, N.C. — Cleveland County is expanding its COVID-19 testing capacity after local leaders warned of a crisis due to a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

According to the county health department, the demand for tests has shot up from 600 tests a week in July to more than 4,000 tests a week in September.

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Last week, Cleveland County's health leaders warned of shortages in staff, supplies and beds at Atrium Health's Cleveland County hospitals.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Cleveland County has the third-highest average daily hospitalization rate in the entire state.

Crystal Kegler, a Cleveland County resident, said her friend died last week due to COVID-19.

"It's devastating, It's really devastating," Kegler said. "I just hope everybody gets vaccinated and wears a mask."

Cleveland County's health department said the spike in COVID-19 cases is directly tied to the fact that only 46% of people have gotten at least one shot of the vaccine.

"We're all just kind of just at each other's throats. It's really so divided right now, whether people want the shot or whether they don't for the freedoms," Charles Green, a Cleveland County resident who's vaccinated, said. "It's just mind-blowing, and it's frustrating. I just can't wait for it all to end, quite frankly."

The county is now distributing at-home tests in schools for asymptomatic students who were in close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

The county also partnering with StarMed to do testing at the health department every other Saturday.

For more information on COVID-19 testing and vaccine locations in Cleveland County, click here.

Contact Brandon Golder at bgoldner@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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