The Columbus County Health Department reported 6,828 cases in the county during its Board of Health meeting on Wednesday. That’s 373 more cases than the total recorded by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Monday.
“The case count is pretty accurate,” said Patti Nance, nursing director at the health department.
The county is averaging 3.7 new COVID-19 cases per day, which is better than April’s rate of 3.9, according to Nance. That gives Columbus County a positivity rate of 3.6%.
The health department, however, is worried that this downward trend could change. Neighboring Bladen County has the highest positivity rate in the state at 13.6%, according to Nance.
Bladen County, with a total of 3,497 COVID-19 cases and 44 deaths, is the only county on the NCDHHS COVID-19 alert system in red with significant viral spread. In the past three weeks, almost 60% of new cases in the county have come from Bladenboro, ZIP code 28320.
“They’re ramping up over there,” Nance said.
Columbus County Health Director Kim Smith added that she’s been communicating with the state to “see how we can help decrease their number and not increase our number.”
Columbus County continues to have an outbreak at Liberty Commons in Whiteville with three staff members testing positive, according to NCDHHS. Tabor Correctional Institution also continues to have an outbreak with three active cases, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.
In addition, the health department reports 154 total COVID-19 deaths in the county. NCDHHS only shows 152.
The health department is also working on increasing the vaccinations in Columbus County. It has administered over 10,700 doses, according to Nance.
The health department has entered the contact information for all those doses in the COVID-19 Vaccine Management System (CVMS). Gov. Roy Cooper will use the names from that system to randomly give away prizes worth $125,000–$1 million each.
To incentivize North Carolinians to get the vaccine, Cooper announced that he will award $1 million to four adults and $125,000 in scholarships to four children. Everyone entered into CVMS before June 11 will have one chance, and everyone entered into CVMS afterward will have two chances.
Not all vaccinators, however, use CVMS. Smith promised that the individuals vaccinated at the health department are eligible for the lottery.
“We have two double checks after we have finished the clinic for the day,” she said. “All our people are in there.”
Other counties are also using monetary incentives to get people vaccinated. Approximately 36 counties are giving $25 gift cards to people receiving a vaccine and $25 to people driving someone to get a vaccine.
Columbus County is not one of those counties.
Approximately 32% of county residents — or more than 18,000 — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to NCDHHS.