Editorial: COVID-19 Alert System will help communities tailor local responses
Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 -- The N.C. COVID-19 County Alert System is a creative and helpful tool. By better identifying COVID-19 hotspots around the state, businesses, local officials and residents in those counties can take the extra steps best suited to their communities to get on top of the virus rather than waiting for a statewide mandate that may - or may not - meet the situation a specific county or community faces.Posted — Updated
COVID-19 is an opportunity-seeking infector. It doesn’t distinguish its victims by gender, age, urban, suburban, rural, county, religion or race. If COVID-19 is in a spreadable environment and a human being is there too, opportunity greets the infector.
By better identifying COVID-19 hotspots around the state, businesses, local officials and residents in those counties can take the extra steps best suited to their communities to get on top of the virus rather than waiting for a statewide mandate that may – or may not – meet the situation a specific county or community faces.
At the same time, state health officials will be working with counties to increase testing and provide the help to meet the unique local needs, Gov. Roy Cooper and Health and Human Resources Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, pledged. “Every local community is going to have different drivers. We want to work with folks to tailor interventions that make sense,” Cohen said.
The system illustrates three levels of COVID-19 spread: yellow – “significant community spread”; orange – “substantial community spread”; and red – “critical community spread.” Those classifications take into account three areas – case rates, percent of tests that are positive and impact of hospitalizations in the county. There are 10 counties in the red zone; 43 in the orange zone – better than half of the state.
No place in the state or nation can find any optimism in any of this. Infection spread is on the rise and there are concerns about even wider spread through the Thanksgiving holiday. The numbers speak the loudest: 11.4 million cases nationwide and 320,870 in North Carolina; 250,000 dead nationally and nearly 5,000 in the state.
Health care providers are welcoming the new tool.
“UNC Health applauds efforts by state leaders to continue finding ways to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, and to avoid further strain on North Carolina’s hospitals,” said a statement from Alan Wolf, UNC Health’s director of news. “This warning system is an important tool as this pandemic enters a critical phase across the state. Since the pandemic began, leaders at all UNC Health hospitals have worked closely with their local elected officials and public health experts to raise awareness about the situation, and the importance of following safety recommendations.”
While this latest tool will help communities confront the infections spread, the best measures are those individuals can take to prevent COVID-19 spread in the first place.
As the holiday approaches, it is even more important to observe the basic proper health practices to both protect your own health – but more importantly avoid spreading the virus to loved ones or strangers.