ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. — COVID-19 metrics continue to rise, and the virus is hitting some counties harder than ever. In Rowan County, the percent positivity rate is up to 20%.
The health director, Alyssa Harris, is concerned about the number of kids who are now testing positive for COVID-19, likely with the more contagious delta variant.
Some of the spread in Rowan County sparks from the first few days of school. When Rowan-Salisbury schools started on Aug. 11, masks were not required. That quickly changed after what Harris calls an “explosion of cases and quarantines.”
It was somewhat expected when school started without a mask mandate.
“We know that when kids are congregating, we're going to see spread. Unfortunately, I did not think we'd see as many cases all at once,” Harris said.
Last week, the school board voted to make masks mandatory for teachers and students for two weeks. The latest data shows 94 students and 31 staff members have the virus while more than 1,800 kids and 70 employees are quarantined.
Harris is expecting that masks will need to stay put longer.
"I'm hopeful the data will show the school board and our parents that wearing masks keep kids safe and keep them in school,” she said. “That’s what I want to see. I want us to follow the science."
The number of cases among kids 0 to 17 in Rowan County is at an all-time pandemic high. They make up 29% of the cases in the county and there have been more positive cases in the last week than the previous six weeks combined.
"I think at the beginning, a lot of people didn't think that kids were as susceptible and what we're seeing now is that age range is getting COVID and is getting sick from COVID," Harris said.
This surge among kids comes as the delta variant spreads countywide. The percent positivity rate is up to 20% and health leaders are urging more people to get vaccinated, especially after the FDA gave the Pfizer vaccine full approval for people 16 and older.
In Rowan County, 43% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.
“We all want to see the pandemic end so I think that’s everyone’s responsibility to participate and get vaccinated to make that happen,” Harris said.
The clerk for the Rowan Salisbury Schools Board of Education said an exact meeting date has not been set yet, but the board will likely meet to talk about masking in schools again next Monday or Tuesday.