COVID cases climb with limited tests

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Joe Gerrell stood in line outside of Dunn’s Campbell University Health Center in the cold, windswept rain Monday morning, waiting to be tested for COVID-19.

This clinic was the only one open on Tilghman Drive where walk-ins were considered “welcome” Monday. Several people stood in line with Gerrell.

He said he tried an urgent care in Fuquay-Varina near his home, first.

“They told me to come back this morning and I did. They said, ‘... you’ve got to have an appointment now because we ain’t got but one doctor on,’” he said.

Gerrell needed a test to get back to work and was willing to wait in the rain for the hope of one without an appointment in Dunn.
Melody West told The Daily Record her daughter waited an hour for a test before she was turned away without an appointment.

“She said they were lined to the road,” West said.

At-home testing kits were hard to find on store shelves in Harnett County as local hospitals tightened visitor restrictions in the wake of rising cases Monday.

The Cape Fear Valley Health system limited visits with COVID-19 patients to the hours of 4 to 8 p.m.

“COVID-positive inpatients may have two visitors between 4 and 8 p.m. for up to 1 hour each, and their visitors must wear an N95 respirator (provided by the hospital) at all times and may not eat or drink in the room,” Cape Fear Valley Health announced in a release Monday morning. “COVID-positive patients may not have overnight visitors.”

No guests were allowed for COVID-19 patients when the pandemic reached an earlier peak in 2020, prompting outcries from families unable to be by the side of loved ones as they died. In response, state lawmakers crafted a “No Patient Left Alone” Act that became law Nov. 1. It requires hospitals and health care facilities to allow patients to have visitors.

Cape Fear Valley Health’s modified visitation policy allows end-of-life patients one visitor a day outside of normal visitation times.

“In certain circumstances, the nursing supervisor may allow for compassionate exceptions to this rule for End of Life patients,” the release states. “COVID patients at End of Life are allowed a one-time visit for four immediate family members only with a maximum time of four hours, if outside of the normal visiting hours.”

By the numbers

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported its highest one-day number of COVID-19 cases in the state on Thursday.

“Statewide, 18,571 positive tests for COVID-19 were reported, 60% higher than the previous record of 11,581 set in January (of 2021),” stated a NCDHHS release. “The number of people visiting the emergency room for COVID-like illness also set a record at 4,171. The number of individuals currently hospitalized with COVID-19 has nearly doubled since the beginning of December.”

The Harnett County Health Department reported over 600 new cases of COVID-19 in the county as of Monday. The number was up from 277 cases reported in a week on Dec. 17.

In the last two weeks, the number of Harnett cases climbed to 1,277. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Data Tracker website reported 19 new hospital admissions and a countywide positivity rate of 14.42% on Monday. Harnett County lost 279 people to the virus since the pandemic began.

“One of the things that we do know about COVID is that vaccination provides protection,” said Debra Hawkins, public health administrator with the Harnett County Health Department. “For those who have yet to get vaccinated or (a) booster, it is of urgent importance that they do so. The best we can all do is continue to mask up, practice good hygiene, and be smart about distancing ourselves.” 

A total of 2,682 people tested positive for a version of the virus over the last two weeks in Johnston County, which carried a positivity rate of 14.86% on the CDC site. A total of 347 deaths are blamed on the virus there.

Sampson County reported 449 cases over the last two weeks with five new hospital admissions, a 12.06% positivity rate and a 51.6% vaccination rate among its population.

Cumberland County reported 3,641 cases over the last two weeks with 41 new hospitalizations, a 19.22% positivity rate and a 65% vaccination rate.

The Health Department is offering the Pfizer vaccine to ages 5 and older, free of charge and regardless of immigration or health insurance status. To make an appointment, visit harnett.org/health or call 910-814-6582. All vaccinations are administered by appointment at the Harnett County Health Department located at 307 W. Cornelius Harnett Blvd. in Lillington.

Emily Weaver can be reached at eweaver@mydailyrecord.com or at 910-230-2028. 

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