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“Frustrating, sad, and maddening:” Health Dept. Director on Rowan County’s 500 COVID19 deaths

One recent death was unvaccinated 35-year-old with no contributing conditions
Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 2:46 PM EST
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ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Rowan County surpassed a somber milestone this week with the 500th death attributed to COVID19. That’s the 7th highest total out of the state’s 100 counties. And with an unprecedented surge in cases, the Health Department Director has some strong words for local residents.

“Right now we are seeing a surge and we are seeing a surge like we haven’t seen before, and I feel like I keep saying that, but unfortunately cases have just jumped astronomically,” said Public Health Director Alyssa Harris. “I think what’s most unfortunate is that we’re seeing individuals who are passing away that are unvaccinated…so we are seeing folks as young as 35, not with co-morbidities, and understanding that if it wasn’t for COVID they would still be here today. The tools that we have include putting on a mask, getting vaccinated, getting boosted, washing your hands, staying socially distant from folks.”

The vaccine came too late for Johnny Lee and Cathy Darlene Peoples. They died in September, 2020, holding hands, just minutes apart.

“I just don’t know what to say. It hurts. It hurts. I have friends and even family that still aren’t taking it seriously,” said the couple’s son Shane.

Shane Peoples has become an advocate for masking and the vaccine. Customers who visit the Comic Monstore in Salisbury where he works know his story, and respect his wishes. He, like Alyssa Harris, want more people to do the same.

“I just wish you would take care of your neighbors. Take care of your family. Do what it takes to keep everyone healthy,” Peoples said.

“I want to ask people to get vaccinated,” Harris added. “I want to ask people to get boosted. It is so important, we are seeing the deaths due to COVID19 are among the unvaccinated and those don’t have to happen. I think that is what’s truly frustrating and sad and maddening is knowing that if folks are vaccinated they would be protected against severe illness, against hospitalization and against death.”

While the vaccine is not a guarantee against illness or death from COVID19, it can greatly reduce the severity, according to health experts. On Thursday Novant Health released updated information that shows that out of 522 individuals hospitalized for COVID19 in all Novant locations, 396 were unvaccinated, 126 were vaccinated. Out of 78 in the ICU for COVID19, 64 are unvaccinated, 14 were vaccinated, and out of a total of 49 COVID19 patients on life support, 42 are unvaccinated, while 7 were vaccinated.

According to the Rowan Health Department, 46% of Rowan County residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine and 42% are considered fully vaccinated.

73% of the 500 deaths are among people over the age of 65. Twenty-two of the deaths fall in the 25 to 49 age group.

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