Checking in with Covid-19: New Hanover joins Brunswick in orange zone, Pender alarmingly red [Free]

North Carolina surpassed a half-million cases of the coronavirus this week and just eight counties remain in the yellow zone, the safest of the three color designations. (Port City Daily/File)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. – North Carolina reached another Covid-19 milestone this weekend, surpassing a half-million documented cases of the coronavirus, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Locally, the Cape Fear region broke its own records as well. New Hanover County joined Brunswick County in the orange zone, signaling “substantial” levels of community spread, according to the statewide Covid-19 County Alert System. Meanwhile, Pender County moved from orange to the “critical” red zone due to its alarming high case and percent positivity rates.

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However, the impact on the hospitals in all three counties is considered low, according to the report. The alert system considers a variety of factors at hospitals, from staffing shortages to the number of emergency room visits, as well as the counties’ number of new cases and the percent positivity rates when making designations.

As Covid-19 numbers have picked up in the midst of colder months and increasingly common gatherings over the holidays, just eight of North Carolina’s 100 counties remain in the yellow zone, the lowest level of spread in the three-tier reporting system.

New Hanover County

With 1,750 active cases, New Hanover County landed itself in the orange zone last week as a consequence of its increasing case rate, in combination with the high number of tests that are coming back positive.

In the last 14 days, there were 502 cases per 100,000 residents. The percent positive is hovering around 9%.

Since Dec. 19, eight more people have succumbed to the virus, raising the toll to 84. The county is nearing 9,500 cases after counting an additional 600 positive test results in those nine days.

Health officials are monitoring 13 outbreaks and four clusters as of Dec. 22. New Hanover County also has the second-largest cluster in the state at Coastal Christian High School, where there have been positive cases among 26 children and four faculty members.

Related: Coastal Christian High silently closes building after second Covid-19 outbreak

Brunswick County

Brunswick County has 4,306 cases to date, with 426 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days and around 8% of tests coming back positive.

Of the individuals who have tested positive, 3,337 are recovered and 71 have died. More than 880 people are currently isolating and 14 are hospitalized, according to the county’s reporting.

Related: As transmission reaches schools, Brunswick reverts to remote-only after winter break

So far in December, the county reported 1,210 new cases and 10 deaths, including one in the past week.

The county has seven ongoing outbreaks and three clusters, including the largest cluster in the state at Town Creek Elementary where 16 children and 21 staff members tested positive.

Pender County

Pender County is in the worst position of the three counties, per the alert system. Its case rate per 100,000 people is in the mid-600s and its percent positivity rate has been more than 10%, although it had lowered to 9.7% as of Dec. 28. However, its death toll, at 22 victims, is low compared to other counties.

Updated on Dec. 23, the county’s weekly Covid-19 report revealed there had been 13,115 tests. Of those, 10,446 were negative, while 2,148 residents and 343 individuals at Pender Correctional tested positive. There were 178 results pending.

Pender has two ongoing nursing home outbreaks at The Laurels of Pender and Woodbury Wellness Center.

Pender also breaks down its cities and towns by infection rate, which are as follows:

Atkinson: 56
Burgaw: 380
Currie: 118
Hampstead: 808
Ivanhoe: 15
Maple Hill: 17
Rocky Point: 425
Surf City: 58
Topsail Beach: 11
Wallace: 26
Watha/Willard: 187
Wilmington (Pender): 44

New Hanover Regional Medical Center

This week an average of 49 Covid-19 patients were hospitalized daily across New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s seven-county service area, according to its online dashboard.

To date, there have been 1,093 patients admitted for reasons related to Covid-19, including 877 people who were discharged and 154 individuals who fell victim to the virus during their stays.


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