GASTONIA, N.C. — Gaston County leaders are alarmed following a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. County numbers show from May 30 to June 12, there was a 312% jump in positive tests, and of the total number of tests given out, the percentage of positive tests rose from 5.14% to 11.17%.
But what Commissioner Ronnie Worley found the most alarming was the number of people hospitalized climbed from just the single digits to more than 20 people.
County experts said the number of people in a hospital is largely unaffected by an increase in testing, and it suggests COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in the area.
"We need to see the numbers going down so I want people to be responsible," Commissioner Worley said. "Things are opening back up, but it still doesn't mean that you should be out in large crowds."
He and other commissioners, including Allen Fraley, are urging people to follow social distancing guidelines and wear masks when necessary.
"At this point, I can't see shutting everything down again as an option," Commissioner Fraley said. "Everyone needs to remain vigilant in doing everything possible to keep from getting the virus."
One of the county's latest positive tests involved a worker at a McDonald's in Cherryville, which is in Commissioner Fraley's district.
The restaurant's franchise owner said he shut down the restaurant and alerted Gaston County's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
He said they've told every employee who interacted with the infected worker to self-quarantine for 14 days, and the restaurant underwent cleaning before it reopened.
Samantha Dye is Gaston County DHHS' environmental health administrator, and she makes sure restaurants follow COVID-19 protocols.
She said some protocols can be enforced while other rules can only be strongly recommended.
"A lot of things are recommendations as far as face coverings," Dye said. "But [restaurants] are required to do certain things with the cleaning and disinfecting."
CaroMont Health said right now, it has enough hospital beds and PPE for its employees.