State numbers released this afternoon show a hint of improvement in the COVID-19 battle in Columbus County.
Columbus was in the “red”, or critical, category, when the state unveiled a new system of tracking infections last month. As of today, Columbus was upgraded to “orange,” or substantial.
The improvement here came as 92 of the state’s 100 counties were listed as either critical or substantial spread, up from 60 just last week.
Several of the counties that were initially in the red zone with Columbus have also shifted to orange. Officials caution, however, that conditions could easily worsen if people “let their guard down,” Gov. Roy Cooper said.
As of Monday, Columbus County Health Department had recorded 3,318 cases of COVID-219, with 81 deaths. The county reported 75 new cases Monday. In the last previous report, on Dec. 17, Columbus had 144 new cases, with the death toll at 79. Recoveries as of Dec. 17 stood at 2,279, with 885 active cases. More recent recovery data will not be available here until Monday, due to the holiday.
There are currently 65 red counties, 27 orange counties and eight yellow counties.
Gov. Roy Cooper said in a press conference today that while there have been some plateaus in some areas, “the numbers are still too high.”
More than 6,000 North Carolinians have died so far from the virus, Cooper said, and hospitals across the state are pushing records for admissions due to COVID-19 symptoms.
The press conference hammered home the state’s advise to keep gatherings small, and to avoid traveling for Christmas or for any unnecessary purpose.
“North Carolina needs to drive down our numbers. To do that, we all need to change our holiday plans if you haven’t already,” Cooper said. “The best and safest option is to connect virtually or by phone. But if you gather in-person, keep it small and do it outside. Get a COVID-19 test before you go. Spread out the tables and chairs. Follow the modified Stay at Home Order and be home by 10 PM. And, always, always wear a mask.”
Cooper and Secretary Mandy K. Cohen strongly discouraged travel and gatherings for Christmas, but urged people to be tested three days before leaving if they must travel. Cooper and Cohen also emphasized keeping gatherings outside, with everyone maintaining social distance and wearing a mask.
“The county alert map shows how quickly things can escalate. As you think about the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays please avoid traveling and gathering. If you absolutely must, get tested ahead of time, wear a mask all the time, keep it small and keep it outdoors,” said Cohen.
Cooper said the state expects to receive approximately 60,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 176,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine. The Moderna vaccine does not require ultra-cold storage and is slated to go to 59 hospitals and 97 local health department sites. Columbus Regional received its first shipment of 300 Moderna vaccines Monday.
As of this afternoon, 38 health care professionals have been vaccinated in Columbus County. Columbus Regional began administering the first round of shots Tuesday.
The governor also sought to dismiss rumors of side effects from the vaccination.
“The only side effect we have seen is joy,” Cooper said. “People are glad to finally see a light at the end of this long tunnel.”