COVID cases up, but percent positives remain the same

Published 5:09 pm Monday, June 15, 2020

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Twelve new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the past week, giving Beaufort County a total of 12 active cases — the highest number since the first person tested positive for the virus in late March.

But according to Beaufort County Health Department Director Jim Madson, the increase in numbers don’t represent a spike in cases; rather, it’s the result of increased testing and tracking down others who’ve been close to those with the virus and making sure they’re tested. The percentage of those testing positive has remained the same.

“I am attributing it to increase in testing. We really ramped up testing when the state put out an easier criteria to get tested. … With the increased testing comes the decrease in number of people testing positive,” Madson said. “Our numbers have gone up over 30% since the beginning of June, but our percentages are remaining between 1 and 3%.”

The state’s positive test percentage has averaged between 8% and 10% since the end of May.

Counties surrounding Beaufort County are experiencing the same jump in the number of positive cases. In the last week, Duplin County has added 35 cases; Pitt County increased by 78 cases, and Lenoir by 50 cases.

While several neighboring counties, such as Pitt, have experienced outbreaks in congregate settings — nursing homes and assisted living facilities — Beaufort County has not experienced a similar outbreak. Madson said the health department is working closely with local facilities to prevent one.

“We monitor them closely. We’ve been working with them from the very beginning to make sure they have the PPE they need. They have protocols in place,” Madson said. “We’ve either tested people or facilitated testing people at the congregate living facilities in the county. We’ve been very fortunate so far.”

Madson said the greater focus on contact tracing to identify those with the virus and isolate them to prevent its spread, as well as more than doubling the number of tests being administered per week since mid-May has bumped the numbers up, here and elsewhere.

“More people are being tested in a smaller time frame,” Madson said. “I expect the numbers will continue to go up as we do more contact tracing. … The virus is going to continue to float through our community. We’re probably going to have waves where it goes up and then it goes down, but we’re trying to slow the spread not prevent it.”