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New Hanover County: Covid-19 community level ‘narrowly holds’ at medium

NHC Covid level medium.png

The county saw increases in the three metrics used to establish the CDC’s ‘Community Level’: case rate, percentage of inpatient hospital beds occupied by Covid patients, and new admissions to the hospital.

According to New Hanover County, the latest weekly snapshot of Covid data from the CDC shows the following increases that bring the county’s level closer to the upper range of the ‘medium’ community level.

Those increases are:

  • County case rate of 296.4 per 100,000 people — up 21.5 cases from last week
  • The region is seeing 5.4% of all available inpatient hospital beds occupied by a Covid patient – up from 1.5% last week
  • New admissions of patients with Covid-19 is 9.3 per 100,000 people

Based on the CDC’s Community Level metrics, communities with more than 200 new cases per 100,000 people are automatically moved into the ‘medium’ category. A community is further moved to the ‘high’ category if either the percentage of inpatient hospital beds occupied by Covid patients or the new admissions of Covid-19 patients per 100,000 goes over ten.

In New Hanover County, the higher of those levels is the new admissions level, which — at 9.3 — is close to the level for a ‘high’ category.

Currently, Brunswick, New Hanover, and Pender counties are all in the ‘medium’ category, but all of the surrounding counties, including across the border in South Carolina, are in the CDC’s ‘high’ category.

The CDC’s ‘community level’ system was criticized by some experts when it was rolled out earlier this year because it focused more on the impact of Covid on healthcare systems than on transmission risk, which was the main metric of the CDC’s previous system. Those critiques included that the CDC’s new system gave an incomplete view of the real-time risk of Covid infection — and that because there’s a lag between infection and hospitalization, using hospital capacity as a metric gave a delayed picture of the fluctuating risk level.

According to NPR, “[c]ritics of CDC's new approach say the agency seems to have moved the goalposts to justify the political imperative to let people get back to their normal lives.”

Under the CDC’s ‘community transmission’ system, all of North Carolina, including Brunswick, New Hanover, and Pender counties, is in the ‘high’ category.

Recommendations

New Hanover County currently recommends the following precautions: “speaking to a healthcare provider if you are at high risk about suggested mask wearing and treatment eligibility, being fully vaccinated and boosted, and testing for COVID if you develop symptoms or before being in contact with at high-risk individuals.”

Other ‘interventions’ encouraged by the county include masking, avoiding crowded indoor areas, and “other protections an individual feels is necessary.”

New Hanover County continues to offer free vaccines, boosters, and rapid testing, as well as free at-home tests and masks.

Initial vaccines and boosters are available at the Pandemic Operations Center, located at 1507 Greenfield Street. Appointments are recommended but not required and can be made by visiting TakeMyShot.NC.gov.

Vaccines and boosters will be available during the following days and times: 

  • Mondays from 9 a.m. — 5 p.m.  
  • Tuesdays from 9 a.m. — 5 p.m.  
  • Thursdays from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.  
  • Fridays from 1 — 5 p.m.  

The Pandemic Operations Center is also offering no-cost rapid testing; appointments are recommended — visit  this link — but not required.

Rapid tests will be available during the following days and times: 

  • Wednesdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.  
  • Fridays from 9 a.m.-noon  

For more information visit Health.NHCGov.com/Coronavirus or call the Pandemic Operations Call Center at 910-798-6800. 

Other COVID-19 Community Data, as of July 29:       

  • New Hanover County’s percent positivity over the past 7 days is 23.8 percent (this represents positive Molecular (PCR) tests as a percent of total PCR tests performed countywide).  
  • Approximately 63.9 percent of New Hanover County residents are considered fully vaccinated with either two doses Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of J&J. 

Since March 1, 2020, there have been 56,809 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Hanover County, resulting in 408 deaths.

Monkeypox Information 

According to New Hanover County, “the Pandemic Operations Center is also monitoring the current global Monkeypox outbreak. This disease is caused by an orthopox virus and is spread through close physical contact with a contagious individual or infectious material.”

Related: No monkeypox in New Hanover yet, but the county is prepared

The Pandemic Operations Center is offering the Jynneos vaccine, which can prevent Monkeypox or reduce the severity of illness, if given within two weeks of exposure. The vaccine is free to ‘high-risk’ individuals who are 18 or older who self-identify as meeting the following criteria:

This vaccine, which is free to high-risk individuals 18 and older, can be administered at the Pandemic Operations Center and is available for individuals who self-identify as meeting the following criteria:

  • People who have been in close physical contact with someone diagnosed with Monkeypox in the last 14 days 
  • Men who have sex with other men or transgender individuals, who report any of the following in the last 90 days:

    • Having multiple or anonymous sex partners 
    • Being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease 
    • Receiving HIC PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) 
    • Certain healthcare workers and public health response team members designated by public health authorities 

For more information or to schedule an appointment for vaccination, call the Pandemic Operations Call Center at 910-798-6800.