By Catharin Shepard •
There are now 45 known positive cases of COVID-19 at Autumn Care nursing home in Raeford, and one resident who tested positive for the illness has died, according to health officials.
The outbreak began earlier this month when an employee at the facility tested positive while experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, Hoke County Health Department Director Helene Edwards said.
Healthcare workers with FirstHealth are performing COVID-19 tests on all Autumn Care employees and residents twice a week. By September 25, the state’s ongoing outbreaks tracker showed five employees and 18 residents had tested positive for COVID-19.
Officials received reports Friday of seven more people at Autumn Care who tested positive, and another 15 this week for a total of 45 known positive cases.
Most of the employees and residents who have tested positive have not shown any symptoms of the virus, Edwards said.
“Only a few of the positive employees and residents have exhibited mild symptoms,” she said in an email Tuesday.
One Autumn Care resident was the 18th person in Hoke County to die after testing positive for COVID-19. The death was previously included in report totals for the county. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) last week included the person’s passing in the twice-weekly report of ongoing outbreaks at nursing homes.
The nursing home is following strict COVID-19 precautions and updating the Health Department daily, Edwards said.
This is the fourth local outbreak at a congregate living facility in Hoke County since the start of the pandemic. Smaller outbreaks at Open Arms, the Crossings at Wayside and Canyon Hills behavioral treatment facility for youth experienced outbreaks, and were cleared of outbreak status earlier this year with no new cases reported.
Local cases going up
As of Tuesday, Hoke County was up to at least 1,217 known positive cases of COVID-19 since officials identified the first known local case March 18, according to the Hoke County Health Department.
Two more people with permanent Hoke addresses have died of coronavirus-related causes, local health officials said, bringing the total number of deaths to 20 for Hoke County. The most recent deaths were an African-American man who died September 26 at Southeastern Regional Medical Center, and an African-American man who died September 23 at FirstHealth of the Carolinas.
Of the total 1,217 local cases since the start of the pandemic, the Health Department is currently investigating 359 as active, ongoing cases. Another 838 people who previously tested positive are considered recovered.
As of Tuesday, 16 people from Hoke were hospitalized with COVID-19. A total of 45 people from Hoke County have been hospitalized with the virus at one time or another March.
The county appears to be seeing an increase in the daily number of positive tests, Edwards said.
“We’re finding out where the COVID is, but we are having a large increase in our numbers in the past week, with 15, 20 positives a day. That’s kind of alarming,” she said.
The increased numbers could be related to several factors, including wider availability of testing, such as a rapid test available at Goshen medical clinic on Southern Avenue in Raeford. Staff members at the Health Department are also working hard to conduct contact tracing, and are encouraging people who may have been exposed to get tested. That could also potentially be catching more cases, health officials said.
“With our contact tracers calling, a lot of people are following up to get tested when they’ve been exposed,” Edwards said.
The expanded testing is a good thing because it helps the Health Department have a better idea of where the virus is spreading in the community, she added.
The county will have access to even more testing later this month, as the state brings mobile testing sites to Hoke County. The plans are still in the works, Edwards said, with the exact date and location still to be determined. The Health Department is waiting on guidance and site approval from the state.
People who get tested at the state-manned laboratories will be able to get their test results quickly. That’s a good thing, because right now, it’s sometimes taking up to five days for positive test results from other counties to be linked to the home county of the person who was tested.
“Some of the numbers are coming in later than they should,” Edwards said.
The Health Department Director encouraged people who have been potentially exposed and tested for COVID-19 to isolate until they find out their test results. Health officials are seeing some people continue their daily routine while waiting on test results, when they are potentially infectious and could spread the virus if they do have it. If someone does test positive for coronavirus, they should stay isolated for the full quarantine period and not go out around others.
State health officials continue encouraging people to remember the “three Ws” of wearing a mask, washing hands and waiting at least six feet apart from others in public.
For more information, visit https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov.