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Gov. Cooper: More than 90% of NC counties in red or orange zones

There are currently 65 red counties, 27 orange counties and only 8 yellow counties. Mecklenburg County was just placed in the red zone for critical community spread.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and Secretary of Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen shared updates on the COVID-19 County Alert System Tuesday, warning that more than 90% of North Carolina counties are now designated as red or orange.

“North Carolina needs to drive down our numbers. To do that, we all need to change our holiday plans if you haven’t already,” Gov. Cooper said. “The best and safest option is to connect virtually or by phone. But if you gather in-person, keep it small and do it outside. Get a COVID-19 test before you go. Spread out the tables and chairs. Follow the modified Stay at Home Order and be home by 10 PM. And, always, always wear a mask.”

The County Alert System uses COVID-19 case rates, the percent of tests that are positive and hospital impact within the county to categorize counties into the following tiers:

  • Yellow: Significant Community Spread
  • Orange: Substantial Community Spread
  • Red: Critical Community Spread

There are currently 65 red counties, 27 orange counties and only 8 yellow counties. Mecklenburg County was just placed in a red zone. 

“The county alert map shows how quickly things can escalate. As you think about the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays please avoid traveling and gathering. If you absolutely must, get tested ahead of time, wear a mask all the time, keep it small and keep it outdoors,” said Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.

The CDC is encouraging people to avoid traveling for the holidays. If continuing to gather, state officials urge North Carolinians to keep get-togethers small and outside with social distancing and masks. People can also get a COVID-19 test ahead of gathering. 

NC DHHS adds vaccination data to COVID-19 dashboard

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has added data on people vaccinated to the NC COVID-19 Dashboard

According to the state, data will be provided for the total number of people statewide and by county of residence who have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Data for people who have received the second dose of the vaccine will be added in January. 

Tuesday's dashboard reflects data through Tuesday, Dec. 22 at 8 a.m. It shows less than a week of data for the state. Most hospitals in North Carolina did not receive their first shipment from Pfizer until Thursday, Dec. 17 and continued ramping up vaccine administration through the weekend. There can be a 72-hour lag in data reported to state. Additional data reported after 8:00 a.m. Dec. 22 will be reflected in the next dashboard update on Dec. 29.

In addition to counts, the dashboard will include statewide data on vaccinations by race, ethnicity, gender and age group. The data will provide insight into the total people vaccinated across the state and the different demographic groups that have received each dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

On Tuesday, the state reported over 5,200 new cases, down slightly from the two-week average. So far, North Carolina has reported 5,255 total cases with 6,291 deaths statewide associated with the virus.

RELATED: You can now get a cocktail to-go in North Carolina

Earlier this month, Dr. Cohen said North Carolina was "on a dangerous path" with its rising COVID-19 metrics. The state has set multiple single-day records for both hospitalizations and new infections.

"The state is on a dangerous course. If you don't live with someone and you're around them, wear a mask, stay six feet apart and wash your hands frequently," Cohen explained.

Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris didn't mince words, stressing that staying home this holiday season could be the most crucial time of the pandemic

“So, what is not safe over the holidays? Travel, gatherings and extensive shopping,” said Gibbie Harris, Public Health Director for Mecklenburg County, citing a surge in both positive cases and hospitalizations. 

RELATED: 'That's no way to run our government': NC congressmen votes against COVID-19 relief bill