Columbus County is in the top ten counties in the state for COVD 19 infections, Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday. Cooper unveiled a new rating system that denotes counties as red, orange or yellow.
Red is for counties where the main metrics used by the state – positive cases, cases per 100,000 population, and hospital capacity – show a critical level of community spread. Ten percent or more of all cases must be positive to reach the red zone, Cohen explained, with 200 new cases in 14 days for every 100,000 residents. Robeson and Bladen counties are in the orange zone, for substantial risk of community spread and moderate impact on local hospitals. Brunswick is listed in the yellow zone, for relatively low impacts on local resources.
Columbus County’s numbers have been heavily influenced for several weeks due to an outbreak at Tabor City Correctional.
Cooper and Secretary of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen announced the new system in a press conference broadcast via social media. All 100 counties are currently experiencing significant community spread of COVID-19. In addition to the ten in the red zones, 43 are orange, or experiencing substantial community spread.
Cooper said the state will continue at its current status of reopening for the near future, and urged the use of masks any time someone leaves their home.
“We don’t want to have to move backward because of a surge in cases,” Cooper said.
Cohen stressed the need for continued mask usage, and urged North Carolinians to stay home for Thanksgiving, especially if they live in one of the ten red zone counties.
The local Health Department is encouraging everyone to wear a mask, stay home for the holidays, limit travel, and avoid large indoor gatherings. Columbus will issue new COVID 19 data Thursday.
Cohen and Cooper hinted at further lockdowns, even to the point of returning to the early Phase One shutdown of the entire state.
“It’s going to take all of us working together to avoid tightening restrictions like so many states are now doing,” Dr. Cohen said.
Counties and local governments are being encouraged by the state to adopt their own CODI-19 rules and penalties, since the “one size fits all” approach doesn’t apply to every county, Cohen said. For counties that want to establish stricter local COVID rules, the state will provide guidance as well as necessary enforcement assistance in areas like civil penalties, Cohen said.
The state is also urging employers to require COVID-19 safety training and to make more testing available for employees.
Cohen and Cooper both emphasized staying at home or celebrating Thanksgiving in groups of ten or fewer.
“People who choose to travel or gather for Thanksgiving should have a COVID-19 test three to four days ahead of time,” Cohen said. “A test can help someone know if they have COVID-19 even if they do not have symptoms yet; however, tests can miss some infections and are not a fail-safe measure.
“If your test is positive, you should stay home, not attend any gatherings, and self isolate or quarantine.”
NCDHHS also recommends that everyone quarantine for 14 days before gathering with anyone outside their household to limit advance risk of being exposed to COVID-19. Quarantining is particularly important from the time you test until you travel or gather with people outside your household, Cohen said.
The Columbus County Health Department will be offering drive-thru COVID-19 rapid testing this Friday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Testing is free and by appointment only. For appointments, call 910-640-6615 extension 7006 or 7007.