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21 COVID-related deaths, another 3 under investigation

Outbreaks in long-term care facilities have resulted in nine deaths in the past two weeks, bringing the number of COVID-19-related deaths in Beaufort County to 21.

Another three deaths are currently under investigation, according to Jim Madson, director of Beaufort County Health Department.

Two local long-term care facilities are currently experiencing outbreaks, the most serious of which appears to be Ridgewood Living & Rehabilitation Center in Washington. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services report “COVID-19 Ongoing Outbreaks in Congregate Living Settings,” Ridgewood has had 82 residents and 21 staff members test positive for the virus, and four residents have died. The report was last updated Tuesday afternoon.

In the same report, River Trace Nursing and Rehab, also in Washington, has reported 20 staff members and 28 residents have tested positive. The outbreak that occurred in Pantego Rest Home, where four staff members and 10 residents tested positive for COVID-19 in early August, is now considered over.

“We call it an outbreak as soon as we have two cases in a facility — that’s when we start investigating it as outbreak,” Madson said. “As soon as they go 28 days without a COVID case, that’s when we consider an outbreak over.”

Madson said the health department is seeing common factors in each of the county’s 21 confirmed COVID-related deaths: age and underlying health conditions.

“All the confirmed deaths in Beaufort County have been over age 56; the average right now is 77 years old,” Madson said.

Common underlying health conditions they’ve seen are diabetes, heart disease and COPD.

“Almost everyone I’ve gotten has had a stroke, a history of a traumatic heart incident, COPD — almost all of them have had something like that,” Madson said. “It’s very unfortunate, especially because you can see how this affects the elderly.”