Tag Archives: forsyth county nc

When Perception Matches Reality

Since the COVID-19 crisis began one of the local testing centers here in Winston-Salem, NC has been located on Hanes Mall Boulevard near my home, and I’ve driven past it at least a few times a week throughout the crisis. For much of the first six-ish weeks of the crisis, I would either see no one out there, or just the health workers hanging out waiting for potential cases to drive in. Then a few weeks ago I started noticing cars in line with people waiting to be tested, and then more recently I saw those lines getting significantly longer. It was noticeable enough that I mentioned to Celeste, my better 3/4, that I wouldn’t be surprised if we started to see on the news that there were more cases in Forsyth County. Sure enough, over the last two weeks, we’ve seen a heavy surge in cases and we’re not alone as the entire state of North Carolina has seen an uptick in positive test results and hospitalizations. The following is from the Winston-Salem Journal:

Forsyth County has experienced its largest one-day spike with 97 new cases reported Thursday by the county Health Department. The previous daily high was 61 on May 14. The number of COVID-19 related deaths remained unchanged at nine.

The overall total surged to 1,160, which may signal that Forsyth has surpassed Guilford for having the third-most cases by county. The latest N.C. Department of Health and Human Services update, released at 11 a.m. Thursday, had Guilford with 1,137 cases and 56 deaths.

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This is one of those times where I really wish the reality hadn’t matched my perception.

While we’re here I’ll also share that there’s an anomaly that I can’t wrap my head around: while Forsyth County’s case count has been skyrocketing the deaths have remained relatively low when compared to neighboring Guilford County. Forsyth has 1,160 total cases with 9 deaths, for a fatality rate of .775%. Guilford has 1,173 total cases with 56 deaths, for a fatality rate of 4.77%. Given that the two counties abut each other and are similar in so many ways I just don’t understand what can account for such a large discrepancy.

The numbers are tragic no matter how large or small, but it’s discrepancies like this that make me believe that we still don’t have an accurate picture of what this disease is doing to our community. Only time and good public health science will give us a true picture, and I fear that the worst of this picture is yet to be revealed.

Winston-Salem as a Case Study

Since moving here in 2004 I’ve found Winston-Salem to be a fascinating study in how to revive a city that had been hit by multiple economic tsunamis in recent decades. It seems that others have taken notice, including a writer who penned a piece for the Christian Science Monitor about how a few US cities can teach the country a little something about democracy (h/t to my Mom for sending me the article). You can find the full article here (second story down), but here’s the segment focused on Camel City:

Winston-Salem, N.C., lost 10,000 jobs in 18 months after R.J. Reynolds moved its headquarters to Atlanta and several other homegrown companies failed in the late 1980s. It was the first of several waves of job losses as the city’s manufacturing base collapsed. Civic leaders chipped in to create a $40 million fund to loan start-up capital to entrepreneurs, hire staff for a local development corporation, and fund signature projects. One of them was the renovation of a 1920s Art Deco office tower into downtown apartments.

This activity helped spur Wake Forest University’s medical school to undertake an ambitious project to create a research park in former R.J. Reynolds manufacturing buildings next to downtown. The school has filled 2 million square feet of empty factories with high-tech companies and world-class biomedical researchers. An adjacent African-American church has turned 15 acres in the area into lofts, senior housing, and businesses. Downtown has attracted $1.6 billion in investment since 2002.

Now people gather to sip coffee, attend concerts, or take yoga classes in a new park in the shadow of the looming chimneys of a former Reynolds power plant. The plant itself is being repurposed into a $40 million hub of restaurants, stores, laboratories, and office space. Students, researchers, and entrepreneurs mingle in the halls and atria of all the former factory buildings, creating the kind of synergetic environment the innovation industry now craves.

Our very own Jeff Smith, of Smitty’s Notes, provides the money quote:

“It wasn’t one person or thing that made it all happen; it was everyone from the grass roots to the corporate leaders coming together,” says Jeffrey Smith, who runs Smitty’s Notes, an influential community news site. “We realized it would take all of us to get this hog out of the ditch.”

Much of the foundation for this renewal had been laid by the time I moved here with my family in 2004, but community leaders have continued to do what’s necessary to keep building upon it. For my job I get to spend a significant amount of time in neighboring Greensboro, a city that is slightly larger but quite comparable to Winston-Salem, and it’s been interesting to see how the two cities have proceeded from their respective economic crises. Winston-Salem has a lot of momentum, and it’s redevelopment seems to be benefiting from consistent collaboration among its community leaders, including elected officials as well as corporate and civic leaders. Greensboro, on the other hand, is making progress but it seems to be in more fits and starts; its progress seems to occur in spite of local leaders’ lack of cooperation and collaboration.

Sure, Winston-Salem has its problems and leaders sometimes disagree on how to proceed, but for the most part its leaders have shown how to lead a community out of the ditch and back on the road. Hopefully we keep it going for decades to come.

A Tale of Two Forsyth Counties

If you set up a Google news alert with the keywords “forsyth county” you’ll get a lot of news about two different places – Forsyth County, NC (where I live) and Forsyth County, GA. Today I saw a story about each from their local news outlets with the following headlines:

  1. Forsyth County Remains Healthiest in Georgia (GA)
  2. Forsyth County Slips Again in Health Rankings (NC)

If you read the articles you’ll see that Forsyth County, GA ranks first in its state and Forsyth County, NC ranks 29th in its state. So is my home county significantly less healthy than its counterpart in Georgia? If you look at a comparison of the two (see table below) using data from the countyhealthrankings.org you can see that Georgia has better numbers in many categories, but they really aren’t that far apart when you take into account the population size of each county. According to the US Census North Carolina’s Forsyth had 360,221 in 2013 and Georgia’s had 195,405 so even if you looked at some raw numbers that look pretty bad for NC, the population difference changes things. For instance:

Premature Deaths: NC 7,218 vs GA 4,234 but if you adjust for population size you see that NC’s is 2% of its population and GA’s is 2.16%. Still a decent difference but not as stark.

Then there’s this number:
Sexually Transmitted Infections: NC 755 vs GA 91

No amount of adjusting for population makes that better for NC (and gross!), and as you can see we in Forsyth of NC fare worse than GA based on our behaviors in general. Luckily we’ve got an awesome doctor/resident ratio to help deal with the consequences of our sins:

Ratio of primary care physicians to population: NC 945:1 vs GA 2,506:1
Ratio of dentists to population: NC 1,657:1 vs GA 2,677:1
Ration of mental health providers to population: NC 406:1 vs GA 2,246:1

Probably the biggest difference between the two counties, and a huge contributor to the health differences, is that Forsyth, GA appears to be far more affluent than Forsyth, NC.  In addition to the numbers in the chart below (NC’s child poverty rate 3x greater, single parent homes 2.5x greater violent crime 2x greater per capita) you have this data from the US Census: median household income (2009-13) in Forsyth, GA is $86,569 and in NC it’s $45,274.

Money may not buy love, but it sure does help on the health front.

Forsyth County’s Most Unique Road

A fascinating post over at the Forsyth County Public Library North Carolina Room's blog explains why Shattalon Drive is Forsyth County's most unique road name:

“Shattalon” is not a legitimate word, rather, “Shattalon” is a unique word, which means that somebody made it up and it is applicable in only one case, to the road in Forsyth County which bears its name. It appears nowhere else in the world…

At that time, the section of road between Robinhood Road and the Yadkinville highway was usually referred to as Flynt Road, because it led to the Flynt land along the Yadkinville road. But he noted the trend that most roads were being named for the activities that occurred along them. Since there were several dairy farms on his stretch of the road, he envisioned it becoming Jersey Road, or Guernsey Road or something like that. But he was a progressive thinker and wanted his neighborhood to project a more modern aura, with a unique road name that everyone would find pleasing to speak.

There were only  eight households on that three mile stretch of road…Sapp, Hines, Adams, Shields, Barnes, Petree, Cartner and Brown, the last three dairy farmers. So he wrote their names and began thinking. He experimented with combining the letters of their last names to find an appropriate name for the road and came up with a unique word, which was adopted…Shattalon…a unique word

His name was Carl Sapp, born in 1905 to Thomas Jackson and Minnie Norman Sapp in the Mount Tabor community of Forsyth County.

 
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Map indicating the road. Source Forsyth County Public Library North Carolina Room blog.

Yes! Weekly – Jesus Channeled by Four Forsyth Commissioners

Quote of the day comes from Yes! Weekly editorial that takes a unique stance by contrasting prayer and video poker policies:

Either way, in voting to appeal, the county is committing to feed the lawyers on this one. So far it’s being underwritten by the NC Partnership for Religious Liberty, which is accepting donations through its website and a series of billboards that also accuse the ACLU of stifling free speech. It’s a study in fear and reactionary politics in the face of rapid change, which is another way of saying that the church folks are taking a stand — some of them, anyway. A healthy contingent supports a moment of silence before commission meetings, which would allow all present to pray — or not — to whatever deities they wished. This, apparently, was not good enough for Jesus, as channeled through eight of 10 speakers from the floor and four members of the Forsyth County Commission.

Ecorations

I came across thispress release about a web-based company in Clemmons called Ecorations that has a pretty interesting product concept.

Ecorations, LLC is a web-based company launched in May 2008 by Kathy de Jong and Debora Owens. The concept was inspired by de Jong’s Dutch mother-in-law, who once presented Kathy with a Christmas gift wrapped in a burlap tote—only to promptly ask for it back (promising that she’d “see it again next year”). Today, Ecorations hopes to spread this lovely, timeworn tradition to the rest of the world.

Founded with the mission to reduce waste and shift standards in gift giving, the company is committed to quality and innovation “where green meets smart and chic.” Its bags and wraps are made in the U.S. of high-quality fabric, making them durable throughout years of reuse. Additional gift bag designs, including an apparel box wrap, structured pouch and wine bottle bag, come in several sizes (to fit any gift) and 10 reversible fabrics combinations for a variety of occasions