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November 17, 2020 3:48 PM

11/17/2020 Wilkes County labelled "Red" on State's new COVID-19 County Alert System

[WILKESBORO, NC, November 19, 2020] – On Tuesday the State of North Carolina released a new COVID-19 County Alert System to track how counties are faring during the pandemic. Wilkes County has been categorized as “red”, meaning that there is critical community spread occurring in the area. The categorization is based on a number of metrics, but the most notable is that Wilkes County has experienced nearly 400 new cases over the last two weeks. Only four counties have more infections during that period. The percent of positive tests in Wilkes County is 10.5%; only seven counties have a higher percentage.

These metrics indicate that Wilkes County has entered a dangerous new phase of the pandemic. Hospitalizations and deaths, indicators that usually lag behind new cases, will increase in the coming weeks. Case counts, hospitalizations, and deaths will all continue to increase unimpeded unless residents change their behaviors. The three Ws -wearing a face covering, waiting six feet apart, washing hands frequently- are critical but insufficient on their own. Residents must also avoid gathering with anyone outside their immediate household, isolate if experiencing symptoms, and stay home as much as possible. Residents who have been exposed or are experiencing symptoms must get tested so that health authorities can swiftly identify others whom they might have exposed, and advise them on how to isolate safely and break the chain of transmission.

Wilkes Health Director Rachel Willard adds: “In an effort to slow the spread, I am urging everyone over the next four weeks to truly limit interactions to those within your immediate household. While the holidays are upon us, I insist that people try to keep it virtual and only go out for essential trips or work. While I discourage gathering with others, I understand sometimes it is necessary. If you have to gather with others, I ask that you take the following steps to ensure the health and safety for you and our community: keep it small, keep it outdoors, keep mask on at all times, and go get tested ahead of time. Testing is widely available throughout the county. Please call Wilkes Health at 336-651-7449 or your local provider to schedule a test.”

Additionally, in North Carolina municipalities have the legal ability to impose additional restrictions beyond the Governor's Executive Order with some limited exceptions. Municipalities are authorized to enforce the provisions of the Governor's Executive Order in accordance with North Carolina criminal law. The towns have not elected to implement additional measures at this time, but reserve the right to do so if trends do not improve.

Notwithstanding the severe public health danger that a prolonged pandemic poses, the economic and community impact will be crippling for years to come. As long as the current conditions exist, businesses will not be able to fully reopen, schools will be at risk for closure, large gatherings will remain prohibited, and the rhythms of day-to-day life will continue to be interrupted. Focused action by all residents is required now to snuff out community spread and bring the virus back under control.

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