Local News

Federal data shows Triangle counties 'sustained hotspots' for coronavirus

Posted December 28, 2020 11:11 p.m. EST
Updated December 29, 2020 6:43 a.m. EST

Newly released data from the White House indicates 87 of North Carolina’s counties, including Durham, Orange and Wake counties, are “sustained hotspots” for COVID-19.

The federal government predicts coronavirus cases will continue to increase in these places, leaving health experts worried about the strain on area hospitals.

"We don't want to expend the resources we have," said Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at UNC Health.

As hospitals anticipate a post-holiday coronavirus surge, health officials are trying to avoid health care capacity issues. Wohl said that there's a limit to how many people not only local hospitals, but also large regional medical centers, can take care of.

"Remember, we're taking care of people without COVID, and on top of that, have to deal with COVID-19. So, it really does stretch, especially some of these smaller hospitals," he said.

Sustained hotspots are defined as communities with a high sustained case burden. Right now, Wake and Durham counties are both seeing substantial community spread, while Orange is seeing significant spread in North Carolina's COVID-19 County Alert system.

"I'd like to think it's because we've been effectively getting the message out to folks and they're adhering to the ‘three W’s,’" said Todd McGee, Orange County's community relations director, referring to guidance to wear masks, wait apart from others and wash hands.

Health officials continue to hammer the message of not letting down one’s guard.

"Keep the numbers in your head. There's a lot of virus right now," said Wohl.

"Stay home, and wear a mask if you do go out," said McGee.

Officials with the White House hope releasing this report inspires Americans to make personal choices to slow the spread of the virus.

"Previously, we had not seen this data. So, this data becoming more transparent is important because then people can make some decisions and then our policymakers can get the information they need," said Wohl.

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