New Hanover County moves to ‘orange’ zone, Cooper urges North Carolinians to take precautions this Christmas [Free]

New Hanover County has moved from the “yellow” to the “orange” zone, signaling that the current state of Covid-19 in the county is worsening. (Port City Daily photo/file)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY – New Hanover County has moved from the “yellow” to the “orange” zone, signaling substantial levels of community virus spread, according to the state’s Covid-19 County Alert System

Updated Tuesday, the alert map revealed more than 90% of the state’s 100 counties are in the red or orange zone and just eight are yellow. Sixty-five counties are categorized as red, which means they’re seeing “critical” levels of community spread, and 27 counties are shaded orange, meaning there’s “substantial” community spread.

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“If you are in a red or orange county, you should limit going out to essential activities and avoid people that you don’t live with,” Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said in a Tuesday press conference.

Until Tuesday New Hanover County had been yellow since Gov. Roy Cooper first announced the alert system Nov. 19. Yellow marks the lowest levels of impact in the three-tier system.

The system rates Covid-19 spread on a county-by-county basis using a combination of three metrics: the number of new cases per 100,000 people over 14 days; the percent of tests that were positive over two weeks; and the hospital impact, including Covid-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations as well as open hospital beds and staffing shortages.

‘Don’t get numb to these numbers’

On Tuesday, North Carolina had counted 488,902 total cases to date, including 5,255 new cases just in the day. There were 3,001 people in the hospital with Covid-19 and 6,291 deaths.

North Carolina broke its record last week with 8,444 new cases in one day, and the percent of tests coming back positive has reached more than 11%.

“This virus continues to spread quickly,” Cooper said during the press conference. “Don’t get numb to these numbers. They have plateaued a bit over the last few weeks, but they are too high.”

The Pfizer vaccine started being distributed this week at 53 North Carolina hospitals to 24,500 health care workers serving on Covid-19 floors, including 544 people in New Hanover County, according to new data on the state’s Covid-19 dashboard.

Another 60,000 Pfizer doses are expected to go out this week. The state will also receive its first batch – 176,000 doses – of the Moderna vaccine, which is slated to go to 59 hospitals and 97 local health department sites.

The state makes decisions on how the vaccines, which come from the federal government, are distributed. Cooper warned any calls about a waiting list or those asking for personal information or money are scams.

The governor also asks that, for the sake of health care workers, North Carolinians continue to wear masks and “double down” on all prevention measures until enough people are immunized.

“When you think about their heroic efforts – spending all day on their feet in full protective gear, rushing from one ill Covid patient to the other – it doesn’t feel so hard to simply wear a mask at the grocery store or when we are with people who don’t live with us,” Cooper said.

In his briefing, Cooper urged North Carolinians to alter any in-person holiday plans to instead connect virtually or by phone with friends and family. If any gatherings do occur, they should be kept small and outdoors, he added.

“Get a Covid-19 test before you go,” Cooper said. “Spread out the tables and chairs. Follow the modified stay-at-home order and be home by 10 p.m. And as always, always wear a mask.”

However, Cooper confirmed he will soon make an important announcement exempting Santa Claus from the statewide curfew to ensure he can make his rounds Thursday night into early Friday morning.

“He will wear a mask, however. He’s told me that he would,” Cooper said.


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