Why is Columbus County highlighted in the state’s new COVID-19 alert system?

Reasons why Columbus County is listed as 'critical' for community spread

WHITEVILLE, N.C. (WECT) - State leaders unveiled a new alert system this week to identify the counties with the most concerning coronavirus numbers.

The hope is to let local health leaders see how they’re doing and lay out resources for them if they see their metrics increase.

In our region, Columbus County glows red, garnering the most severe ranking. The red tier denotes the county has critical community spread.

According to the map released Tuesday, Columbus County has the second highest percent positive rate in the state and, as well as a high case rate, coming in at the third highest in the state.

A huge chunk of the active cases are tied to prison outbreaks. As for the other portion, health leaders say family gatherings and parties are still to blame for spreading the coronavirus

Columbus County is still expanding testing. Just this week, the health department announced they’re working to eliminate testing gaps and adding opportunities to get tested on Fridays now.

Outbreaks at nursing homes are significantly down, with just one facility outbreak that has seven active cases.

Schools aren’t major contributors either. A spokesperson with Columbus County Schools says there are just two active cases in school staff right now.

In the last eight days though, 70 more cases have been announced at Tabor Correctional. The prison now makes up more than 40 percent of the county’s active COVID-19 cases.

People who live in Columbus County, like Bill Memory, weren’t happy to learn the county is still ranked as one of the most critical in the state.

“I think everyone’s tired of it, tired of masks and doing stuff because it’s not our normal way of life; but when I go places, I see [people] with masks on I see people standing apart. I don’t know where it’s coming from unless there’s a new stories about it we have a lot of prisons here and a lot of prisoners that accounts for a lot of the numbers, but still it makes us look so bad compared to the rest of the state,” said Columbus County resident Bill Memory.

The COVID county alert map released by DHHS is expected to be updated every month.

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