COVID-19 in the Carolinas: NC has one of the lowest COVID-19 percent positive rates in region

COVID-19 in the Carolinas: NC has one of the lowest COVID-19 percent positive rates in region
(Thibault Savary/AFP via Getty Images)

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday reported 1,106 new cases of COVID-19 in the state.

9,563 new tests were reported as completed and 916 people are currently hospitalized.

The percent positive rate in the state is at 5.0% and has been around 5% in the last few days -- a number Dr. Mandy Cohen has identified as a goal for that metric.

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51 more deaths were reported in North Carolina on Tuesday, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 3,111.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen and Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry held a news conference Tuesday afternoon for an update on COVID-19.

Cohen announced that a new vendor was joining the state, which will help North Carolina create 230 free COVID-19 testing events in 80 counties over the next two months.

She said that a report from FEMA last week showed North Carolina as having the lowest percent positive COVID-19 rate in the region. Cohen said she believes it’s because of the state’s evidence-based response on how to slow the spread of the virus.

“North Carolinians are wearing masks and practicing social distancing and it’s helping our state standout from the rest of the South," she said.

Cohen said she plans on doing a deep dive into the numbers and trends at a news conference on Thursday. That’s when she’ll have a slightly better idea how the state’s move into Phase 2.5 is going. However, she warned that it would not be a complete evaluation of Phase 2.5, because she would need another week or so of data to make a more complete evaluation.

>> Have questions about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the Carolinas? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak -- CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

Note: The numbers we show you every day mean everything in how our community recovers from coronavirus -- both in terms of healthcare and the economy -- but they don’t mean much without the proper context and as much transparency as possible.

New cases vary day by day based on a lot of factors. That can include how long it takes to get results back, so a new case reported today can really be several days old.

The other big metric we watch is the percent of positive cases. This is data we can only get from the state because it’s not as simple as factoring a percent of new cases each day from the number of tests. That’s because test results take days and come from a variety of places.

What about closer to home?

As of Tuesday morning, there were 27,237 cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) with 339 deaths due to COVID-19 reported among Mecklenburg County residents.

Data as of September 13, 2020 are presented in more detail below. Mecklenburg County Public Health (MCPH) provides these routine updates about reported cases of COVID-19 to help our community better understand how this pandemic is developing in our county. These results only reflect laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 among county residents. Many individuals infected by COVID-19 have not been tested because they are asymptomatic. As such, these results are very fluid and only represent a fraction of the true burden of COVID-19 in our community.

Daily case counts provided by MCPH may differ from state and federal counts due to delays in reporting to the various entities. MCPH updates case counts after an initial case review and, where possible, a patient interview is conducted, which includes confirming county residency. Cases reported after 5 p.m. are counted in the following days case count.

Highlights about the 27,087 COVID-19 cases reported in Mecklenburg County as of September 13, 2020 include:

  • About 3 in 4 reported cases were adults ages 20 to 59 years old.
  • About 1 in 4 reported cases are Hispanic – most of whom are younger adults. As previously noted, some factors influencing this trend include:
  • Targeted testing occurring in neighborhoods with lower access to care, some of which have larger Hispanic populations;
  • Higher proportions of Hispanics working in essential jobs that make social distancing difficult;
  • Significant household spread among large families; and
  • Pre-existing disparities in other social and economic determinants of health, like poverty.
  • About 1 in 20 reported cases were hospitalized due to their COVID-19 infection. While everyone is at risk for severe COVID-19 complications, reported cases who were older adults (≥ 60 years) were more likely to be hospitalized compared to younger individuals.
  • About 8 out of 10 have met CDC criteria to be released from isolation.
  • During the past week, an average of 79 laboratory confirmed infections were reported compared to the 14-day average of 87 confirmed infections. These data are based on Mecklenburg resident cases reported to MCPH.
  • During the past week, an average of 120 individuals with laboratory confirmed COVID-19 infections were hospitalized at acute care facilities in Mecklenburg County. Overall this represents a decrease over the last 14 days. These data are based on daily census counts from acute care facilities in Mecklenburg County reporting to MCPH.
  • During the past week, an average of 5.8 percent of individuals who were tested in Mecklenburg County were positive for COVID-19. This represents a decrease over the last 14 days. These data only include tests conducted in Mecklenburg County by Atrium Health, Novant Health, CVS Health, Walgreens Pharmacy and Tryon Medical Partners as available. Reporting of negative results to MCPH is not required or covered by communicable disease reporting laws. MCPH will include results from other providers and laboratories as accurate, consistent and timely reporting mechanisms are established.
  • Three hundred-thirty-nine deaths due to COVID-19 occurred among reported cases.
  • Almost all deaths were among older adults (≥ 60 years), 4 deaths occurred in adults ages 20 to 39 and 45 deaths were adults ages 40 to 59.
  • All deaths, except five, occurred among adults with underlying chronic illnesses.
  • More than half were non-Hispanic Whites. The disparity in COVID-19 deaths among non-Hispanic Whites is related to differences in race/ethnicity of residents of long-term care (LTC) facilities actively experiencing an outbreak.
  • More than half of deaths were connected to active outbreaks at long-term care (LTC) facilities.
  • Among deaths not connected to outbreaks at long-term care facilities, nearly 3 in 4 were non-White, with 40 percent being non-Hispanic Black. As previously noted, these disparities are largely driven by higher rates of underlying chronic conditions that increase risk of severe complications due to COVID-19 infection among these communities
  • Based on publicly available mobility tracking data, social distancing remained fairly stable in Mecklenburg County over the last 14 days.

The latest data, maps and charts on local COVID-19 are available here on MeckNC.gov.

NCDHHS Selects Additional Vendor to Expand Statewide COVID-19 Testing Capacity

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today announced its selection of an additional vendor, Optum Serve, to continue surging COVID-19 testing capacity in the state. These new community testing sites build on North Carolina’s ongoing work to increase access to testing and slow viral spread in key locations, including the previously-announced surge of additional testing capacity in seven counties.

“Testing is a core element of North Carolina’s response to this pandemic, and that means making sure cost and access challenges never act as a barrier to a needed test. As we continue expanding free community testing options, we’re helping North Carolinians to stay informed about their health and help slow the spread of COVID-19,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D.

Optum Serve will join two previously selected vendors, the North Carolina Community Health Center Association and StarMed Urgent and Family Care P.A., in standing up turnkey testing sites — including clinical and administrative staff, tents, marketing materials, specimen collection supplies, registration and interpreter or translation services — and will leverage commercial-laboratory capacity to provide timely testing results.

As with all NCDHHS-supported testing sites, there will be no co-pays or cost-sharing for anyone seeking testing, including North Carolinians who are uninsured. In total, the three testing vendors currently have 230 sites planned across 80 counties during September and October.

NCDHHS selected locations for the testing sites based on epidemiological trends and reports from local health departments. Key considerations included the acceleration and overall rate of case growth, the share of new cases among historically marginalized populations and current levels of testing access. Optum Serve will initially support testing sites located in 28 counties: Alamance, Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Burke, Chowan, Clay, Cumberland, Davie, Durham, Edgecombe, Gaston, Greene, Halifax, Hertford, Hoke, Johnston, Jones, Martin, McDowell, Montgomery, Orange, Pamilco, Robeson, Scotland, Stanly, Surry and Yadkin counties.

The sites will provide additional capacity to bolster North Carolina’s broader COVID-19 testing strategy, which prioritizes bringing urgently needed testing resources to higher-risk settings and historically underserved communities. Vendors coordinate testing with local health departments and community partners to provide services with culturally and linguistically appropriate standards and work within existing trusted community partnerships. 

NCDHHS recommends testing for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms as well as for asymptomatic individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19, especially people from historically marginalized communities. A disproportionately high percentage of North Carolina’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 have occurred among historically marginalized populations, including in the Latinx/Hispanic, Black/African American and American Indian communities, and mounting evidence shows the members of these populations experience higher rates of COVID-19 mortality and serious complications.

For an up-to-date list of events, visit the Community Testing Events page of the NCDHHS COVID-19 website, or search for testing sites at Find My Testing Place. For more data and information about North Carolina’s testing strategy, visit the North Carolina COVID-19 Dashboard.