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A large increase in the number of “recovered” COVID-19 patients in Wilkes County Monday resulted from the self-isolation period ending for many of 570 people working at the Tyson Foods Inc. chicken processing complex in Wilkesboro who tested positive for the disease earlier in May, said Wilkes Health Department Director Rachel Willard.

The health department listed Wilkes with 477 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday, including 443 people who had recovered from the virus and three-COVID-19-related deaths. That left 31 active cases in Wilkes.

On Saturday, Wilkes had 472 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 301 of those recovered and the three deaths. That left 162 active cases.

Wilkes County’s active COVID-19 case total hasn’t been as small as 31 since late April, when the COVID-19 outbreak at the Tyson complex in Wilkesboro was just starting to be reflected in the county’s confirmed daily case totals.

Willard said outbreaks in meat processing plants in some other counties nationwide resulted in a spike in COVID-19 cases about 14 days later due to people having close contact with those infected with the virus in the initial outbreaks.

She said if the same pattern occurs in Wilkes, there could be a spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases here later this week. The incubation period for the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is about 14 days.

Tyson Foods reported that 570 of 2,244 people working at the company’s chicken processing complex tested positive for COVID-19 after nasal swab samples were taken from them the first week in May.

A Tyson official said about half of about 3,000 people working at the complex live outside Wilkes.

Testing at Walmart in Wilkesboro

Willard also said that as of Monday, 223 COVID-19 tests had been completed during drive-through testing in the Walmart Supercenter parking lot on U.S. 421 in Wilkesboro. Willard said results were back on 90 of the tests, all negative.

The testing started on May 15 and is continuing until further notice every from 7-9 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The federally-funded testing here and at certain other Walmart stores nationwide is offered at no cost to those tested. Appointments for testing must be made by going to an eTrueNorth portal at https://www.doineedacovid19test.com/.

In accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the testing is available to anyone exhibiting what may be COVID-19 symptoms. It also is available to all health care workers and first responders, whether or not they’re exhibiting suspected symptoms. A referral from a physician isn’t needed.

COVID-19 milestones statewide

North Carolina had its largest single-day increase in new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, with 1,107 new cases reported. It also was the first time the state topped 1,000 new cases in a day. Saturday’s spike came amid an increase in testing, with an all-time high of more than 26,000 daily tests completed.

At least 627 North Carolinians were hospitalized with COVID-19 Monday, up from 587 on Sunday and the highest total the state has ever reported.

As of Monday, the state was averaging 706 daily cases over the past seven days.

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