NORTH CAROLINA, USA — County and health department leaders are reacting after the state rolled out the new COVID-19 County Alert System, giving insight on community spread on a county-by-county basis.
The system breaks down the data based on case rate, percent positive, and hospital impact. It categorizes counties based on that data in either the red, orange or yellow, based on where they fall.
Wilkes and Davie counties fall into the red category in the Triad.
Wilkes County Health Director Rachel Willard said the health department has been working with city and county leaders to determine next steps.
Willard said they're hoping to have a plan out to the public in the next two days.
Wilkes County Board of Commissioners Chair Eddie Settle said he met with Willard recently about the concerning trends.
"It's very concerning. We definitely want to look after our citizens and their health. That’s always on the top of the list," he said.
Settle said they've been promoting the three W's and will continue to encourage people to wear a mask and social distance.
In Davie County, Health and Human Services Director Suzanne Wright said Davie County experienced 223 new cases of COVID-19 in the past two weeks.
"The surge in the past two weeks is very concerning. It is even more concerning knowing that we are entering the holiday season," said Wright, "We were extremely busy before the 223 new cases, so the volume of work now is even more significant."
Wright said they're partnering with the state department of health and human services to bring in more contact tracers and investigators. Two more testing sites have also been established in the county.
Other Triad counties like Rockingham, Randolph, Caswell, Stokes, Forsyth, and Yadkin are in the 'orange' tier, which the state categorizes as substantial spread.
The state set forth guidelines for counties that fall into the red and orange levels.
In addition to encouraging individuals to limit the mix of groups between households, and encouraging businesses to implement a work-from-home plan, there are guidelines for local and county governments, too.
The state is encouraging public officials to meet with the state to discuss plan for mitigating the spread, adopt ordinances that allow for the use of civil penalties, and increase enforcement of mass gathering limits and masks.
Several leaders of counties that fall in the orange category said they will continue to work to stop the spread of the virus, but are opposed to any civil penalties being implemented.
"We feel that there's a balance and we don’t feel like the state doesn’t necessarily deal with counties as individuals and their particular situation, its kind of a one size fits all," said Chairman of the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners Mark Richardson, "We have a responsibility here to look at the economic and social part of our citizens lives as well as the health issue. Obviously, we're going to do everything we can that’s reasonable but we are not going to forget that there's a balance with day-to-day activities."
Chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners David Plyler said the state wants this pandemic to end as fast as everyone else.
"My attitude is if they come up with this particular approach then by golly we need to follow it," he said.
Plyler said he thinks they need to continue to push the use of masks and social distancing and hand washing, but it's a choice that everyone needs to make.
"It has got to be an individual decision," said Plyler, "We're trying to tell people this is something that has to be done."
Settle said there will be no civil penalties enacted by the commissioners in Wilkes County, but they will continue to push the 3 W's.
"We do ask to wear a mask. If you're sick, stay home. Some common sense goes a long way in this problem," he said.