COVID-19 Spreading Faster In Rural North Carolina: DHHS Report

Kimberly Johnson
·2 min read

CHARLOTTE, NC — When it comes to spread of coronavirus in North Carolina, nearly twice as many cases have been reported in rural areas of the state compared to urban or suburban communities, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday.

The news comes as North Carolina continues to see increases in COVID-19 around the state. As of Thursday, the state reported 303,454 cases, representing an increase of 2,893 new cases in the span of a day. At least 1,279 patients remained hospitalized in North Carolina medical facilities and the daily percent positive rate was 7.9 percent.

As of Nov. 12, at least 4,706 North Carolina deaths had been attributed to coronavirus since March.

In the last two weeks, rural counties have reported some of the largest jumps in cases. According to DHHS data, Gaston reported 1,109 new cases, Catawba County reported 918 new cases, Guilford County 1,990 new cases and Cumberland County 888 new cases — all in the last 14 days.

“It’s particularly worrisome to see high rates of COVID spread in our rural counties as healthcare can be harder to access in those communities. Most rural hospitals are small, and some are already feeling stretched to their capacity limits,” DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said.

The majority of the rural cases are in the white population and under the age of 49, Cohen said. "Death in rural white population has also increased," she said. The findings were released in a report, which may be found here.

Health officials are concerned about further spread due to upcoming holidays.

DHHS is sending 75,000 rapid antigen test to colleges and universities around the state to test students before they travel home to visit with families over Thanksgiving.

"I strongly encourage anyone who plans to travel or gather with people outside of their household for Thanksgiving to get tested for COVID-19 about three or four days ahead of time," Cohen said. Those who test positive should stay home and self-isolate, she said, adding, "Even if you have a negative test, that is not a free pass," because rapid tests can miss some cases.

Friday, North Carolina will begin clamping down on indoor gatherings, reducing the maximum limit of social gatherings from 25 to 10, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday.

"Our numbers are too high," he said during a news conference announcing the new executive order. "This reduction in our indoor gathering limit aims to slow the spread and bring down our numbers. It also sends a serious signal to families, friends and neighbors across our state."

The new executive order will be in effect from Friday, Nov. 13 through Friday, Dec. 4. The new limitations do not impact church or religious gatherings, but the principal still applies, Cooper said. Schools and universities will also not be affected by the order.

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This article originally appeared on the Charlotte Patch