As the U.S. celebrated Thanksgiving, 20 people in Burke County were in the hospital, cut off from family as they fight against a virus that has, so far, claimed 67 lives in the county.
Those 20 county residents were among the 1,780 people throughout North Carolina who were hospitalized on Friday due to COVID-19.
And the cases of the virus keep growing throughout the county and state.
The Burke County Health Department reported 86 new cases of COVID-19 between Wednesday and Friday for a total of 4,110 cases, up from 4,024 cases of COVID-19 Wednesday.
The Burke County COVID-19 dashboard, which lags behind the daily briefings, showed 805 active cases and 20 currently hospitalized due to the virus.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported Friday that 72 people died in the state since Wednesday due to the virus, for a total of 5,210 deaths, up from 5,138 deaths on Wednesday. It reported 1,780 people were hospitalized throughout the state on Friday due to COVID-19.
The department reported 3,834 new cases and a total of 354,514 cases with a daily percent positive rate of 7.3%.
Both local and state health officials have been pleading with people to wear a mask when out in public or around people who don’t live in the same household.
Gov. Roy Cooper, ahead of Thanksgiving, also ordered stricter mask requirements, telling retailers to make sure all workers and guests wear face coverings. Retailers with more than 15,000 square feet are required to have an employee stationed near entrances ensuring mask wearing and implementing occupancy limits for patrons who enter.
Cooper’s newest order also calls for patrons at restaurants to wear a mask at their table unless they are actively eating.
The order adds a mask requirement for any public indoor space even when maintaining 6 feet of distance; gyms even when exercising; all schools, public and private; and all public or private transportation when traveling with people outside of their household. The state says people can be denied entry to public transportation if they refuse to wear a mask.
The mass gathering limit remains at 10 for indoor settings and 50 for outdoor settings.
Penalty for violating the executive order is a Class 2 misdemeanor, which could result in a fine of up to $1,000 or active punishment.
Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge has launched a 90-day challenge to residents to try to slow the virus from spreading in Burke County.
“Our ability to control the virus over the next three months will be critical for all of us as the onset of colder weather, the beginning of flu season, COVID fatigue, and social and family holiday gatherings all increase the risk of the virus spreading,” Kathy Bailey, Carolinas HealthCare System - Blue Ridge president and CEO, said in a release about the campaign. “The theme of our campaign is ‘Love Your Friends and Neighbors: Wear a Mask.’ It’s to everyone’s advantage to consistently practice this simple, critical behavior that truly makes a major difference. We also encourage everyone to wash their hands and keep at least 6 feet away from other people.”
Bailey said Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge wants to have enough staff and space to safely care for patients.
In addition to wearing a mask, health officials continue to encourage people to wait 6 feet away from others and wash hands frequently with soap and water or using hand sanitizer when out in public or around people who don’t live in their household.
As for testing, the county health department will resume COVID-19 testing on Monday. It is asking people to visit the state’s COVID-19 website at www.covid19.ncdhhs.gov and go to the “Find My Testing Place” tab to find another testing place within Burke County.
The next update from the county health department will be Sunday.
For questions about the virus, call the county’s public information line at 828-764-9168.