RALEIGH — The number of positive COVID-19 tests in North Carolina crested the 500 mark on March 24, according to reporting from the Raleigh News & Observer.
Positive tests increased to at least 567 as of 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25, according to the newspaper. The News & Observer is compiling the numbers of cases announced by counties throughout the day, noting that cases reported by county health departments can take up to 48 hours before they are included in the state's numbers.
The newspaper's number varies from the daily reports provided by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. At 10:35 a.m. on March 25, the agency reported 504 positive cases. NCDHHS reported a total number of 10,489 tests had been conducted at the N.C. State Laboratory of Public Health and reporting hospital and commercial laboratories.
At 2 p.m., the governor announced that there have been two COVID-19-related deaths in the state: one in Cabarrus County, and one person from Virginia who was traveling in North Carolina.
The counties with the highest number of positive tests, according to the News & Observer, include Mecklenburg County, with 170 reported cases, Durham County with 74 reported cases and Wake County with 73 reported cases.
Watauga County has reported three cases of COVID-19, the third of which was reported March 24. Both Ashe and Avery counties have yet to report a positive case of the virus within their borders.
AppHealthCare, the public health department serving Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany counties, reported that it had collected 63 tests in Watauga County as of March 25, while outside agencies had reported a total of 103 tests in the county. The health department collected one test in Watauga County on March 25, it said.
In Ashe County, the health department had collected three tests by March 25, while outside agencies have collected a total of 25 tests to date for the county. The health department collected no tests in Ashe County on March 25, it said.
The department announced on March 24 that it was shifting from "broad based testing" to testing those who have urgent medical needs and demands for care.
North Carolina now has community transmission of COVID-19, AppHealthCare stated, and therefore, "we are moving to a different phase of our response efforts and ... increasing our population-based community mitigation strategies."
The goal of mitigation is to decrease spread of the virus among the population — especially for those who are at highest risk of clinical severity and health care workers — so fewer people need medical care at the same time, the department said. In addition, there is a need to implement strategies to conserve supplies and capacity so health care workers can care for people who need medical attention even during the peak of the outbreak, the health department stated.
"Though our local numbers are low compared to some other counties in our state, we also know that there is evidence of community transmission in North Carolina," said Jennifer Greene, AppHealthCare health director. "The numbers reported through our state are reflective of what we know today and have been expanding consistently each day. This is why it is very important that people who are at higher risk for severe illness stay at home to the greatest extent possible with the exception of key activities that they may need like getting groceries.
"We strongly encourage the public to stay at home. ... I also want to praise our local community, Watauga County Schools and other organizations (for what they) are doing to support basic, essential needs that need to be met," Greene added. "And, we want to encourage volunteers who are delivering supplies to please take care, wash your hands frequently, avoid volunteering if you are sick, and continue keeping social distance when dropping off supplies for friends and neighbors.”
Deb Gragg with the Toe River Health District reported on March 25 the department had conducted 31 tests, with 13 coming back negative and 18 pending.
Johns Hopkins University and Medicine reports a total of 62,086 confirmed cases in the United States as of 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25. The total represents the third-largest total of cases worldwide, trailing only China and Italy. At that time, the university reported that there had been a total of 869 COVID-19-related deaths across the country.