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Stanly County ranks 93rd in the state in residents fully vaccinated

Throughout most of January through March, at least 1,000 people were getting vaccinated in Stanly County each week, as residents jumped at the chance to get inoculated against the coronavirus.

During the week of Jan. 18, more than 2,000 residents got vaccinated — by far the county’s highest weekly total on record.

But as the year went on, weekly vaccinations gradually began to dwindle and eventually fell to below 200 for much of June and July. There has been a recent uptick over the last two months. For two weeks in August, for example, roughly 500 people got vaccinated, the highest totals since late April, according to state data. An average of about 475 people were vaccinated each week in August, about 83 percent higher than in July.

On Aug. 2, first dose vaccinations were at 35 percent and have now increased to 40 percent as of Sept. 13, according to Wendy Growcock, public health specialist with the Stanly County Health Department. Since people are not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after their second dose, Growcock said, “it is difficult to see a quick change in the fully vaccinated percentage but we do expect that number to continue to increase.”

Even though people are still getting vaccinated, the rate is not close to what it was at the beginning of the year. Throughout most of the summer, Stanly County has been struggling to get shots into people’s arms–especially when compared to most other counties across North Carolina.

As of Friday, 22,968 people were fully vaccinated in Stanly, which translates to about 36.6 percent of all residents. This ranks 93rd among all 100 counties in the state, according to a SNAP analysis of state health data. The only counties with lower rates are Swain, Rutherford, Currituck, Harnett, Gates, Duplin and Robeson.

Only 25,302 people, or 40 percent, of Stanly residents are partially vaccinated, which again is one of the lower rates in the state.

Roughly 52 percent of all North Carolinians have been fully vaccinated, which is middle-of-the-pack compared with many other states, some of whom have vaccinated upwards of 60 percent of their populations, according to CDC data. 

Stanly has a lower rate than every other county in the region. Both Randolph and Montgomery are at 37 percent while Richmond and Anson also have rates below 40 percent. Mecklenburg leads the area with 54 percent of residents fully vaccinated, which ranks ninth statewide.

Stanly also ranks behind all four of its peer counties — Granville, Haywood, Lee and Pender — which each have comparable populations. Granville ranks 10th in the state with 54 percent of its residents fully vaccinated. The closest county to Stanly is Pender, which has vaccinated 43 percent of its residents.

Stanly did a little better when it comes to more specific data, such as the percentage of fully vaccinated residents 12 and up (Stanly ranks 88th) and the percentage of residents 18 and up (Stanly ranks 87th), but the county still is lagging behind most of the state.

With a large portion of the county not fully vaccinated, cases of COVID-19 have picked up over the past few months, with the advent of the the highly transmissible delta variant, which currently accounts for 99 percent of all infections nationwide.

The county averaged about 290 weekly cases in August, according to data from the health department, a marked increase from the 62 cases a week in July. Stanly is averaging close to 390 cases so far this month.

The county reported 81 new cases on Thursday, one of the highest single-day totals during the pandemic. That followed the 78 cases reported on Wednesday. More than 400 cases have been reported so far this week, excluding the total for Friday.

With many more people alert to the dangers of the delta variant, Growcock is optimistic that people will continue to seek vaccinations.

"We have heard from many people that were uncertain but have now decided to get vaccinated," she said. "They are seeing friends and family members seriously ill and some have even died. Many have discussed vaccination with their healthcare provider and are following their guidance to get vaccinated. We continue to encourage people who are age 12 and older to get vaccinated."

Only about 820 kids, or 17 percent of the population aged 12-17, are fully vaccinated in Stanly, according to state health data, even though the group has been eligible for shots since May. That's the same percentage as Anson and close to both Richmond (18 percent) and Randolph (19 percent). Many other neighboring counties have performed much better — Mecklenburg has vaccinated almost half of its population while Union and Cabarrus have vaccinated roughly 40 percent.

Stanly's four peer counties have also done a better job, each having vaccinated at least 26 percent of children. Statewide, 37 percent of children 12-17 have been fully vaccinated.

Like most school districts, Stanly County Schools has seen its quarantine and positive case numbers rapidly increase over the first few weeks of school. During the week of Sept. 5-11, the district reported almost 1,500 students quarantined along with 143 students who had tested positive. The district has roughly 8,200 students.

Every school had at least 12 students in quarantine, with four exceeding 100. At least one positive case was identified at every school except Stanly STEM Early College High School and Stanly County Virtual Education.

Since children younger than 12 are still not eligible to get vaccinated, the best way the public can help them and everyone else in the community is by getting vaccinated, Growcock said.

"It is the best way to protect yourself and helps to protect others in the community who are not able to get vaccinated due to their age or due to certain medical conditions."

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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