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Rowan designated ‘orange’ in state’s new COVID-19 classification system

SALISBURY — A color-coded system released Tuesday for COVID-19 spread in North Carolina puts Rowan County in the “orange” category and adjacent Davie County as one of just 10 in the state in the “critical” or “red” category.

The system aims to give individuals, businesses, community organizations and public officials another way to understand how their county is faring and to make decisions about actions to slow the spread of the coronavirus. All counties get a color in the system, with yellow being the lowest, orange being intermediate and red being the highest.

In a news conference announcing the color-coded system on Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper said he hopes that refocusing on getting people to comply with existing regulations will prevent new restrictions or a return to previous phases of reopening.

“We believe that’s going to work better right now to curb the numbers than to add another layer,” he said.

He said the color-coded system is “for everybody, not just for county commissioners” to use in deciding whether to take additional precautions.

The system, which will be updated monthly, uses a combination of three metrics — case rate, percent of positive tests and the impact on hospitals to give every county a color. To make it into the “critical” category, counties must have:

• More than 200 cases per 100,000 people in the previous 14 days, with at least 42 cases in the previous 14 days.
• A percent positive rate greater than 10%.
• A high impact on hospitals that serve the county or those in the county.

Rowan County has 417.3 cases per 100,000 in the previous 14 days, but it does not meet the percent positive or hospital impact criteria. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services says Rowan County has a 9.3% positive rate in the previous 14 days and there’s a low impact on hospitals.

Classifications for other nearby counties are:

• Cabarrus: Orange
• Iredell: Orange
• Davidson: Yellow
• Stanly: Yellow
• Davie: Red

In addition to Davie, red counties include: Alexander, Avery, Columbus, Gaston, Hoke, Mitchell, Sampson, Wilkes and Wilson.

State guidelines ask individuals in red and orange counties to limit mixing between households and minimize the number of people in your social circle; avoid settings where people congregate; consider ordering take out or eat outdoors instead of indoors; reduce public interactions to mostly essential activities like going to work or school, caring for family members, getting food, going to a health care provider or picking up medications.

Businesses and community organizations in red and orange counties should implement teleworking if feasible and curb non-essential work travel, according to state guidelines. The state also recommends community and religious organizations avoid in-person, indoor worship services, meetings or other gatherings above the limit. Higher education institutions should adopt strict restrictions on student gatherings on and off campus, close indoor dining services and move to single-occupancy dorms, the state says.

Public officials in red and orange counties, NCDHHS says, should meet with state officials to discuss ways to mitigate spread, adopt ordinances that allow for the use of civil penalties to enforce statewide restrictions, consider adopting local ordinances to end alcohol sales and on-site consumptions at an earlier time than the state requires and put other restrictions on public-facing businesses.

The existing executive order expires Dec. 4, and Cooper said he would announce any changes the week of the expiration if they’re needed.

To view the first monthly report for the color-coded system, visit: covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard/reports

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