More than 24,000 health care workers have been vaccinated for COVID-19 in North Carolina, but state officials on Tuesday urged people to practice safety over the holidays as the number of infections mounts.
“If you think about the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays, please avoid traveling and gathering,” North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said Tuesday at a press conference in Raleigh. “If you absolutely must, get tested ahead of time, wear a mask all the time, keep it small and keep it outdoors.”
Out of North Carolina’s 100 counties, 65 were in the red zone of the state’s COVID-19 risk map on Tuesday, indicating critical levels of community spread. Twenty-seven others were classified as having substantial community spread.
“This is alarming,” said Gov. Roy Cooper, who brought two North Carolina pastors to the press conference to encourage residents to worship virtually.
Tuesday marks the first time Charlotte’s Mecklenburg County has been classified in the red zone. There have been at least 56,898 cases in the county since the pandemic began and 518 related deaths. According to the county’s most recent update, the number of positive COVID-19 tests has been averaging about 12% per day over two weeks.
For counties to meet the critical-spread threshold, they have to see at least 200 new infections per 100,000 people over 14 days and either a test-positivity rate of above 10% or a high impact on local hospitals. Two weeks ago, 48 counties were considered red.
“If you are in a red or orange county, you should limit going out to essential activities and avoid people that you don’t live with,” Cohen said.
As of Tuesday, more than 488,902 laboratory-confirmed cases had been recorded in the state since the pandemic began, and at least 6,291 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19. Just over 5,000 of those cases were reported in the last 24 hours, but because there is some lag time between when a test is taken and when it is reported, those could include tests taken earlier. Roughly 3,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in North Carolina on Tuesday morning — a new record high.
Cooper says more hospitals across the state will be getting the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for the coronavirus. As of Tuesday, about 24,500 health care workers had been vaccinated in the state. Vaccines are now being given to health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff. North Carolina Health and Human Services is now updating its data dashboard with vaccine information, including demographics on who has received shots.
“Supplies of the vaccine are very limited for now,” Cohen said. “It will take many, many months to vaccinate everyone who wants it.”
Cooper did warn people to watch out for scammers, saying that health officials would not contact people asking for money or personal information in order to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Don’t fall for crooks calling or emailing you and offering a place on a vaccine waiting list,” Cooper said. “There is no such thing. They’re either trying to steal your money, your identity or both.”
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