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NC Unveils New COVID County Alert System

In a new county COVID alert system, the state distinguishes the counties with the highest levels of viral spread.
Governor Roy Cooper Twitter

Governor Roy Cooper is unveiling a new county-level alert system to highlight COVID-19 hotspots. Counties will be marked yellow, orange or red to indicate the severity of concern.
In a briefing this afternoon, Cooper said he hoped it would prompt more cooperation and action from local leaders and others to prevent a surge of cases.

"If officials, business, community and faith leaders, and people who live in these orange and red counties can work with us to take effective action to bring down their numbers, we can protect our state's hospital system and save lives. And it can prevent us from having to take significant steps backward,” said Cooper.

The state has labeled 10 counties red in the initial map, meaning infections, test positivity rates and impacts on local hospitals are at critical levels. Forty-three counties are orange, indicating there's substantial community spread of the coronavirus. The rest of the state is yellow.

Cooper noted that statewide newly reported cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19 are at their highest levels since the pandemic began. Cooper acknowledged that North Carolinians are weary of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he said the data cannot be ignored.

State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said businesses in red and orange areas should utilize telework and cancel non-essential travel. Local officials should step-up enforcement of gathering limits and mask requirements. She said residents also have a role to play. 

"If you live in a red or orange county, you can help slow the spread and protect your loved ones by limiting social activities with other households, and minimizing the number of people in your social circles,” said Cohen.

Alert levels will be updated on a monthly basis, Cohen said, to allow counties to make progress. 

The governor indicated he plans to make his next announcement about statewide public health measures after Thanksgiving. 

Cole del Charco is an audio producer and writer based in Durham. He's made stories for public radio's All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Marketplace. Before joining Due South, he spent time as a freelance journalist, an education and daily news reporter for WUNC, and a podcast producer for WFAE in Charlotte.
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