Editor’s Note: The Iredell County Health Department provided the following information about the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, along with advice for individuals and businesses for helping reduce spread in the comings weeks.
Special to Iredell Free News
The State of North Carolina is now using a new COVID-19 County Alert System. Counties are color-coded to visually represent levels of “significant,” “substantial” and “critical” community spread.
When this tool was introduced in mid-November 2020, Iredell County was labelled an Orange County, meaning there was substantial community spread of COVID-19. Since the Thanksgiving Holiday, Iredell County has experienced an immense rise in cases and hospitalizations moving us to the Red Category, indicating critical community spread.
Four more deaths attributed to COVID-19 were reported on Thursday, increasing the county’s total to 89 since the onset of the pandemic. Health officials also reported 89 new cases, increasing the total to 7,773.
This COVID-19 County level metric system uses metrics informed by the White House Coronavirus Task Force and North Carolina’s key metrics to categorize counties into three tiers:
♦ Yellow: Significant Community Spread
♦ Orange: Substantial Community Spread
♦ Red: Critical Community Spread
Because there is not a single metric that provides a complete picture of the COVID-19 impact on a community, the COVID-19 County Alert System uses a combination of three metrics: case rate, the percent of tests that are positive, and the hospital impact within the community.
♦ Case Rate: The number of new cases in 14 days per 100,000 people
♦ Percent Positive: The percent of tests that are positive over 14 days
♦ Hospital Impact: A composite score based on the impact that COVID-19 has had on hospitals, including percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations, COVID-19 related visits to the Emergency Department, staffed open hospital beds, and critical staffing shortages over 14 days.
To be assigned to the Red or Orange tier a county must meet the threshold for case rate for that tier AND the threshold for either percent positive OR hospital impact. Counties not meeting the Red or Orange criteria are categorized as Yellow (significant community spread) and while they are not experiencing immense impact, they should continue to be vigilant to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
On November 17, Iredell County was experiencing moderate hospital impact, a 14-day case rate of 308, and an 8.4 percent positive rate.
In just four weeks, we have grown to a case rate of 594, a positive rate of 12.8 percent, and are currently experiencing high hospital impact.
There are critical actions we can take to slow the spread of COVID-19. As a community, it is everyone’s responsibility to take these recommended actions, in addition to the requirements in existing executive orders (https://governor.nc.gov/news/executive-orders) and NCDHHS guidance (https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/guidance). We encourage community members to adopt these actions in order to reduce the COVID-19 impact on our county:
• Avoid holiday travel and limit mixing between households and minimizing the number of people in your social circle.
• Wear a mask at all times outside the home and maintain physical distance from people who do not live in your household.
• Get tested if symptomatic or if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 (https://www.co.iredell.nc.us/1406/Community-Testing).
• Avoid settings where people congregate, like outdoor bars and night spots (in NC, indoor bars remain closed and indoor night spots must remain below indoor mass gathering limits).
• If patronizing restaurants, consider ordering take out from restaurants and/or eating outdoors socially distanced.
• If you choose to host or attend a gathering, limit attendance to 10 or fewer, host outdoors, and ventilate indoor spaces as much as possible (e.g., keep windows open).
• Individuals who are high-risk for developing serious illness should consider staying at home as much as possible.
• Reduce your public interactions to mainly essential activities like going to work or school, caring for family members, buying food, getting health care or picking up medications.
Business and Community Organization Actions
• Share messages about the importance of wearing a mask and practicing the 3Ws
• Provide face coverings to employees and patrons
• Support employees to stay home when sick and if they are close contacts to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19
• Implement teleworking and working remotely to the greatest extent possible and cancel any non-essential work travel
• Community and religious organizations should avoid any in-person indoor meetings, events, worship services, or other gatherings above the indoor mass gathering limit
• Manufacturing, construction, food processing, farms – request a consultation from NCDHHS on reducing workplace transmission (919-707-5900)
• Promote community COVID-19 testing sites
• Follow NCDHHS general guidance for businesses and organizations
With the Winter Holiday season upon us, its more important than ever that we follow all recommendations and executive orders in order to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our community.
Additional information related to COVID-19 can be found at the following resources:
♦ NCDHHS-DPH: www.ncdhhs.gov/covid19
♦ CDC: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
♦ Iredell County Health Department: https://nc-iredellcounty.civicplus.com/1383/Coronavirus-COVID-19