Editor's Note: The COVID-19-related deaths of 72 Wilkes County residents were reported by the end of 2020.

The Wilkes Health Department had reported 68 COVID-19-associated deaths of Wilkes County residents by the end of the day Tuesday, including 17 reported in December.

The Wilkes County Health Department reported the most recent two deaths at 5 p.m. Tuesday, which was past the deadline for Wednesday's printed issue of the Wilkes Journal-Patriot. One, a person in his/her 90s, died Monday. The other, in his/her 70s, died Tuesday.

Most of the deaths reported this month were people in their 70s to 90s, but officials said some were considerably younger. Many of the deaths were associated with outbreaks at long-term assisted living facilities.

Also at 5 p.m. Tuesday, the health department reported that Wilkes had a total of 3,279 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in March. It was reported then that Wilkes had 331 active COVID-19 cases, with 31 of them hospitalized.

In the last 14 days, 775 new cases per 100,000 people (431 actual new cases) have been reported in Wilkes.

On Monday, the health department reported a total of 3,220 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wilkes since the pandemic started, including 269 active cases. Of those 269, 27 are hospitalized.

In the 14 days ending Monday, Wilkes County had 738 cases per 100,000 persons (377 new cases). Wilkes is listed among yellow counties, which are those with the least severe COVID-19 community spread, on the state alert system.

Wilkes Health Department Director Rachel Willard said, “While we continue to see our hospitalizations and death toll rise, I am pleading in an effort to slow the spread, I am asking everyone over the coming weeks to truly limit interactions to those within your immediate household. While we continue to head into holiday parties and gatherings, I insist that people try to keep it virtual and only go out for essential trips or work.

“While I discourage gathering with others, I understand sometimes it is necessary. If you have to gather with others, I ask that you take the following steps to ensure the health and safety for you and our community: keep it small, keep it outdoors, keep mask on at all times, and go get tested ahead of time. Testing is widely available throughout the county.

“Please call Wilkes Health at 336-651-7449 or your local provider to schedule a test.”

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