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'We can’t sit idly by and do nothing' | Guilford, Alamance counties now 'red' zones on COVID-19 map

The counties are among 20 now in red, meaning a critical level for community spread.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Guilford and Alamance counties are listed in the red zone under the state’s new COVID-19 County Alert System.

The counties are among 20 in red, which means they are at a critical level for community spread.

Yadkin County was also added to the list in red. 

Last week, the state rolled out the new COVID-19 County Alert System to identify counties with the highest levels of viral spread.

The new COVID-19 County Alert System uses a combination of three metrics: case rate, the percent of tests that are positive and hospital impact within the county.

The system also uses metrics informed by the White House Coronavirus Task Force and North Carolina’s key metrics to categorize counties into three tiers:

Yellow: Significant Community Spread

Orange: Substantial Community Spread

Red: Critical Community Spread

To be assigned to the red or orange tier, a county must meet the threshold for case rate for that tier and the threshold for either percent positive or hospital impact.

Case Rate: The number of new cases in 14 days per 100,000 people

Percent Positive: The percent of tests that are positive over 14 days

Hospital Impact: A composite score based on the impact that COVID-19 has had on hospitals including percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations, COVID-19 related visits to the Emergency Department, staffed open hospital beds, and critical staffing shortages over 14 days.

Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston said he's drafting legislation on a local level right now to help county leaders better enforce violations of restrictions in place.

"We want to empower the health director to lay the fines on these businesses to these businesses that are not following the ordinances like they should," said Alston. 

Alston said he plans to have a final draft to the commissioners in the coming weeks and hopes it will become effective once more democrats are sworn onto the commission in December and hold the majority. 

"The last thing we want to do is a shutdown but if people continue to ignore the ordinance continue to do what they know is wrong as far as refusing to wear a mask and also not washing their hands and social distancing then they’re asking for a shutdown," said Alston. 

Alamance County Interim Health Director Alexandra Rimmer released the following statement:

“Alamance County was identified as a county with critical community spread of COVID-19. The COVID-19 County Alert System uses metrics informed by key metrics: case rate, the percent of tests that are positive, and hospital impact within the county. Since mid-October we have seen increasing numbers of COVID-19 throughout our community and continue working with our partners, individuals, and local businesses to continue educating the community and pushing the 3 W’s to keep our community safe. The positive cases we are seeing are from the general population. We have targeted messaging about staying safe during the Thanksgiving holiday. We ask that as we head into Thanksgiving we continue to make choices to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our neighbors. ”

Burlington Mayor Ian Baltutis said he was surprised to see the county turn red so quickly. 

"We've been seeing generally good compliance so it was a bit of a surprise to see us climb that quickly," he said.

Baltutis said the city will continue to push the 3 W's.