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New analysis of COVID-19 positivity rate in Charlotte area shows more improvement

The percentage of people tested and later diagnosed with COVID-19 locally is lower than previously reported, as Mecklenburg health officials begin weeding out results from non-county residents who have used testing sites in the Charlotte area.

The result: Mecklenburg’s positivity rate — a key data point used to measure both COVID-19 spread and testing capabilities — is better than previously understood. Like other metrics the county uses to gauge public health during the pandemic, the positivity rate in Mecklenburg was at its highest in July but has been generally falling since.

In a statement Tuesday, health officials said they now calculate the positivity rate exclusively among Mecklenburg County residents. Before, the figures included non-residents who were tested in Mecklenburg.

The current positivity rate, on average, over the past week is 5.5% — nearing the 5% benchmark set by state and national officials. That includes testing data from most but not all test sites operating in the county.

Meanwhile, the positivity rate in surrounding counties has risen, Mecklenburg officials said Tuesday. According to N.C. Department of Health and Human Services data, every N.C. county bordering Mecklenburg has a higher rate of positive COVID-19 tests. County and state case tallies and positivity rate figures typically differ, due to differences in labs reporting data to health officials. Regionally, around Charlotte, DHHS data show Cleveland and Lincoln counties have the highest percent of positives tests, as of Tuesday.

COVID-19 positivity rate has been seen as one of the key indicators of the spread of the coronavirus in a community, along with cases and hospitalizations.

Mecklenburg’s coronavirus caseload dropped steadily from late July to early September. Over the last two weeks, the 14-day average of daily new cases has ticked up, based on DHHS data. The state’s data, which includes positive tests administered in the county and not only Mecklenburg residents, shows an average of 144 new cases per day — compared to around 100 in mid to late September. At its peak, the county was adding about 330 COVID-19 cases per day in July.

The average of daily hospitalizations has been steadily falling since the summer.

As of Wednesday morning, there have been 365 COVID-19 deaths locally, according to the county health department.

Since the start of the pandemic, state officials say 29,701 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Mecklenburg. That figure includes 429 positive antigen rapid test results.

Mecklenburg COVID-19 update

As of Oct. 4 — the last date demographic data was publicly available — county coronavirus data show:

? During the past week, an average of 86 individuals with laboratory confirmed COVID-19 infections were hospitalized. Health officials say this represents a fairly stable trend over the past two weeks.

?An average of 5.5% of individuals who were tested were positive for COVID-19 during the past week. Mecklenburg County Public Health says this represents a fairly stable trend over the last 14 days.

? Most people — about 60% of more than 29,000 cases — were adults under the age of 40. People older than 60 account for roughly 12% of all cases reported but the majority of all deaths.

? After symptoms of coronavirus subside, a person diagnosed may be “released” from isolation under CDC guidelines. In Mecklenburg, roughly 80% of the people who tested positive have met the criteria to end isolation, according to local health officials.

? About 1 in 20 people diagnosed were hospitalized due to their illness. People age 60 or older were more likely to need hospital care compared to younger people with coronavirus.

? More than half of those people who have died from COVID-19 locally were connected to “active outbreaks” in long-term care facilities or nursing homes. Still, five of the 363 deaths recorded as of Oct. 4 were among people who had no known underlying conditions. Forty-seven of the people who died were between the ages of 40 to 59, and four people were under the age of 40.

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