COVID-19 roundup: Cases rising across the state, on college campuses

STAY SAFE: North Carolina set a new record for the most COVID-19 cases reported in a single day at 2,885 cases on Oct. 29. The state’s other COVID-19 metrics are steadily creeping upward. Image courtesy of the CDC

Yesterday’s COVID-19 message was grim. Today’s is worse. 

For the second day in a row, North Carolina set a record for the most COVID-19 cases reported in a single day. On Oct. 16, the daily new case count jumped to 2,684, up 152 from the previous high of 2,532 set Oct. 15, according to data from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

With numbers rising both across the state and in Buncombe County, here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus as the weekend approaches. 

North Carolina hospitalizations, new cases trending up

LEAPS AND BOUNDS: For the second day in a row, North Carolina set a record for the most COVID-19 cases reported in a single day. Graph courtesy of NCDHHS

Statewide hospitalizations due to COVID-19 reached 1,148 on Oct. 16, the second highest number in the past 30 days, NCDHHS reports. Hospitals located in North Carolina’s 18 westernmost counties reported 66 confirmed COVID-19 patients on Oct. 15, the latest day for which regional data is available. The same day, 54 patients were admitted to regional hospitals with suspected cases of COVID-19, a figure second only to the Charlotte region.  

For now, hospitals have been able to meet the coronavirus-related increase in demand. Of the region’s nearly 2,000 inpatient beds, 484 are currently empty and another 484 are on standby to meet a sudden surge. Statewide, 4,886 inpatient beds and 481 intensive care beds are empty, with 97% of hospitals reporting. 

NCDHHS also added county-level case data sortable by date range to its dashboard. Users can track new county case counts over the prior day, a seven-day span and the previous fortnight. To align with federal reporting metrics, the dashboard now includes new case rates per 100,000 residents. 

Using this seven-day data, the following new cases were reported to NCDHHS, Oct. 9-16: 

  • Buncombe: 242, up from 221 reported the previous week
  • Henderson: 145, up from 88 reported the previous week
  • McDowell: 81, up from 64 reported the previous week
  • Transylvania: 31, up from 17 reported the previous week
  • Haywood: 30, up from 20 reported the previous week
  • Madison: 8, down from 12 reported the previous week

Cases continue to rise at area colleges

According to Western Carolina University’s COVID-19 dashboard, 16 students tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 16. Xpress reported that WCU had 172 cumulative cases among students, employees and staff as of Oct. 12; the number has climbed to 202 infections in the four days since.

Montreat College, which had one active case on Oct. 12, is now reporting seven COVID-19 cases. As of Oct. 16, Warren Wilson College is reporting its first case of the coronavirus. 

Haywood County cases linked to party, lax mask-wearing habits

At the beginning of the week, Haywood County had the lowest rate of new COVID-19 cases in the state, health department spokesperson Allison Richmond wrote in a weekly update. But as of Oct. 16, cases are back on the rise. 

“The current trends in COVID infections include a party that resulted in multiple positive COVID-19 cases, a case of someone testing positive for COVID-19, the flu and strep at the same time; and an employer whose lax mask-wearing habits resulted in a positive COVID result and exposure for several employees with at least one hospitalized,” Richmond wrote. 

On Oct. 12, Haywood County Public Schools unveiled a new COVID-19 dashboard. Six positive cases at six different schools have been reported since Oct. 5. 

Applications now open for housing, utility relief programs

More help is now available for residents struggling to cover housing costs because of the pandemic, thanks to the new $117 million N.C. Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions (HOPE) program.

NC HOPE offers assistance for renters affected by COVID-19 who have a current household income below 80% of the area median income and are behind on rent or utility payments; applications can be found here

Buncombe residents may also be eligible for assistance through the county’s COVID Housing Assistance Program. Households that can show COVID-19 income loss, an annual income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level ($52,400 for a family of four) and a plan to pay shelter expenses after the initial aid are encouraged to apply.

Updated at 2:50 p.m. on Oct. 19 to correct the number of COVID-19 cases at Warren Wilson College. 

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About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

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