Governor Introduces COVID-19 County Alert System

Grant Boone
November 23, 2020

North Carolina public health officials rolled out a statewide color-coded COVID-19 County Alert System pinpointing viral hot spots around the state Tuesday.

In response, state health officials unveiled a new county COVID-19 alert system created to pinpoint hot spots and offer targeted recommendations to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

North Carolina health secretary Mandy Cohen said hospitals are overwhelmed, "especially in the Trinity area".

On Nov. 17, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported 3,288 new cases of COVID-19, the second-highest number of cases reported in a single day. At least 1,501 patients were hospitalized for coronavirus-related illness, representing a almost 32 percent jump in hospitalizations throughout the state since November 1. Counties will be evaluated and reclassified every four weeks. Counties further out are showing orange, "substantial spread", while counties like Sampson, Hoke, Columbus, Wilson, Gaston, Alexander, and Avery are in the red, "critical spread". Businesses in those communities will also be advised to use telework whenever possible, cancel non-essential travel, and avoid indoor meetings or events that include more than 10 people.

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Compliance with the recommendations is voluntary, Cooper said, but failure to slow viral spread will result in additional restrictions at the state and county level, he warned.

Because no one metric provides a complete picture, the COVID-19 County Alert System uses a combination of three metrics: case rate, the percent of tests that are positive, and hospital impact within the county. Cases across the country are surging, forcing states to go backward. "Right now, North Carolina standards are increasing, not rising".

The state alert system is accompanied by recommendations that local governments, businesses and individuals should take based on the levels, Cooper said. "But the boom could happen quickly".

"Today we have the highest hospitalization rate since the start of the epidemic", Cooper said at a news conference on Tuesday, referring to statewide figures that also reflect the state of Kun. The new executive order, which went into effect Friday, is set to remain in place through Friday, Dec. 4.

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