Columbus County is one of 10 counties in the state declared a COVID-19 red zone, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services during a press conference on Tuesday. A red zone means over 200 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 county residents, along with a positive test rate of more than 10% or a high hospitalization impact.
“By pinpointing counties with high virus transmission and asking people in those counties to work with us and do more right now to slow viral spread, we can succeed,” Gov. Roy Cooper said. “It can help bring down case rates, keep their communities safer, save lives and keep their hospital systems working.”
Columbus County is one of the state’s hotspots with 2,249 COVID-19 cases and 67 deaths, according to the county health department on Monday. Viral spread at correctional facilities is a contributing factor, with 196 positive tests since Nov. 9.
During the first two weeks of November, Columbus County’s 14-day case rate per 100,000 people was 724.2 and its 14-day percent positive was 15.8%. NCDHHS categorized the hospital impact in Columbus County as “moderate.”
Other red zones include Bladen, Sampson, Mitchell, Avery, Gaston, Alexander, Wilkes, Davie and Wilson counties, according to NCDHHS. The map will be updated every four weeks.
For residents of these counties, NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen recommended the following:
- limit mixing between households
- minimize the number of close contacts
- reduce public interactions to mainly essential activities
- avoid settings where people congregate
- telework when possible
- cancel non-essential travel
Businesses and community organizations in red counties are encouraged to implement teleworking if feasible and require employees to participate in “Count on Me N.C.” safety training. State recommendations for local public officials in red counties include meeting with state officials to discuss plans for mitigating spread, working to expand the availability or no-cost testing, adopting ordinances that allow for the use of civil penalties for enforcement of the statewide restrictions, and increasing enforcement of mass gathering limits and mask.
Although he did not impose more guidelines on Tuesday, Cooper threatened stricter state-wide mandates if COVID-19 metrics continue to worsen.
“Now is the time to recommit to taking this virus seriously, and that means changing our holiday plans to be smaller and safer,” Cooper said. “Your community may benefit or suffer from your decisions.”