Special to Iredell Free News

RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday updated the COVID-19 County Alert System, which shows 27 red counties — a decrease from 61 red counties on the previous February 4 County Alert System and the fewest red counties in the state since the start of the County Alert System.

“With North Carolinians continuing to follow the 3Ws and more than one million people in the state having received at least a first dose of vaccine, we are slowing the spread and saving lives,” said NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy K. Cohen. “Let’s keep it up.”

Iredell County continues to be classified as a red (or critical) county. Iredell has a 14-day new case rate of 747.5 per 100,000 and a positive test rate of 11.9 percent. The impact on hospitals was deemed moderate.

The latest NCDHHS update also lists 40 orange counties and 33 yellow counties — changes from 33 orange counties and six yellow counties on February 4.

Although North Carolina’s key metrics remain high, they are moving in a positive direction with decreasing trends in numbers of COVID-19 cases reported each day, people being hospitalized with COVID-19, people in the intensive care unit and the percent of tests that are positive.

North Carolina has been recognized for its data quality throughout the pandemic. Most recently, Bloomberg News scored North Carolina as best in the nation on vaccine race and ethnicity data quality, reporting the data for nearly 100 percent of people vaccinated in the state. North Carolina has embedded equity in all aspects of vaccine operations, including how vaccine is allocated in the state. Vaccines are distributed to all 100 counties, with increases to counties with higher numbers of historically marginalized populations that are 65 and older. The state also sets aside a portion of its allocation to support events that increase access in underserved communities and engage historically marginalized populations.

These actions are having an impact. The week ending on February 14, 23 percent of first doses administered in the state have gone to the Black/African American population, up from 13 percent the week of January 18.

With vaccine supplies limited, there are critical actions North Carolinians can all take to slow the spread of COVID-19, regardless of whether their county is currently in the yellow, orange or red tier. Individuals, businesses, community organizations and public officials all have a responsibility to take these recommended actions, in addition to following the requirements in existing Executive Orders and NCDHHS guidance, as well as the Secretarial Directive (Jan.6) still in place.

Individuals in all counties should continue to limit public interactions to essential activities and avoid gathering with others from outside their household. And continued adherence to the 3Ws – wearing a face mask, waiting six feet apart and washing hands often – along with the start of vaccinations are slowing the spread of the virus.

Red and orange counties need to do even more to slow the spread of COVID-19 in their communities; it is strongly recommended these counties go further and build upon current requirements outlined in the County Alert System.

The COVID-19 County Alert System gives individuals, businesses and community organizations and public officials a tool to understand how their county is faring and to make decisions about actions to take slow the spread of the virus, and it uses COVID-19 case rates, the percent of tests that are positive and hospital impact within the county to categorize counties into the following tiers:

♦ Yellow: Significant Community Spread
♦ Orange: Substantial Community Spread
♦ Red: Critical Community Spread

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