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Wednesday, 06 January 2021 15:50

Cohen issues directive for North Carolinians to stay home, avoid crowds

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ROCKINGHAM — As more than 80 North Carolina counties are listed as having critical spread of the coronavirus, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services wants residents to “stay home.”

DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen on Wednesday issued a Secretarial Directive telling North Carolinians to “stay home except for essential activities and avoid gathering, especially indoors, with people who do not live with you.”

According to a press release issued by the department, there are now 84 counties across the state that are “red” counties, meaning they have critical community spread of COVID-19.

Four counties are yellow, having significant spread; and the remaining 12 are orange, having substantial spread.

Richmond County is one of the red counties, with 615.7 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days, according to DHHS.

The Richmond County Health Department on Wednesday announced 28 new confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the total number of active cases to 334.

So far, there have been 185 new cases in the first six days of 2021. December had a total of 806 — more than the previous two months combined. There were 403 positive cases in November and 401 in October.

New daily case counts statewide topped 9,000 on both Jan. 1 and 2. On Wednesday, DHHS reported 6,952. Only seven days since Dec. 4 have had fewer than 5,000 cases.

The percentage of positive cases is 17.8%.

COVID-related hospitalizations have also been on the rise since November, setting records nearly every day, reaching 3,893 on Jan. 5.

“There is an alarming amount of virus everywhere in our state. We are in a very dangerous position,” Cohen said in a statement. “Every single North Carolinian needs to take immediate action to save lives and protect themselves and each other.”

Gov. Roy Cooper has also extended the modified stay at home order to last until Jan. 29.

"We have turned the page on a new year — one that we’re hoping will bring better times. But as we know, the virus didn’t disappear at midnight on December 31," Cooper said in a statement. "In fact, in North Carolina, we have seen some of our highest case counts, percent positives, hospitalizations and ICU bed usage numbers in the past few days. No matter where you live, work, worship or play, COVID-19 remains a deadly threat, and we must treat it that way."

According to DHHS, Cohen’s directive aligns with advice from the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

North Carolinians are directed to:

  • Only leave home for essential activities such as going to work or school, for health care purposes, to care for family members or to buy food. 
  • Avoid leaving home if you are over 65 or at high risk for developing serious illness. Use delivery services or alternative pick-up methods for food and retail.
  • Avoid gathering with people who do not live with you. 
  • Wear a mask and keep distance from people when you leave home.
  • Avoid any indoor public spaces where people are not wearing masks.
  • Stay away from crowds. Avoid places where people may gather in large numbers.

(See the directive, executive order and county alert documents attached at the bottom of this post.)

State officials also encourage residents to get tested, noting that some individuals have shown symptoms weeks or months after becoming infected with the contagious virus.

Free COVID-19 testing will continue throughout the month in the parking lot behind the Health Department. Testing will run from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, except when closed for lunch from noon-12:30 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Of all the tests performed on county residents, 23,349 have returned a negative result.


The number of local cases per age group are as follows (includes recoveries):

  •  0-18 - 416 (+2) 
  • 19-30 - 462 (+9)
  • 31-40 - 386 (+2)
  • 41-50 - 483 (+2) 
  • 51-64 - 595 (+10)
  • 65-older - 503 (+7)

(+ Denotes increase from previous report)

The number of active cases per ZIP code are as follows:

  • Rockingham - 195
  • Hamlet - 103
  • Ellerbe - 27
  • Hoffman - 6
  • Mount Gilead - 0
  • Marston - 3
  • Jackson Springs - 0

The total numbers (including recoveries) for surrounding counties are as follows:

  • Mecklenburg - 67,193 (other counties to top 10,000 are Wake, Guilford, Forsyth, Durham, Alamance, Buncombe, Cumberland, Gaston, Pitt, Johnston, Cabarrus, Catawba, Iredell, Union, New Hanover and Robeson)
  • Union - 13,755
  • Stanly - 4,696
  • Montgomery - 2,068
  • Anson - 1,546
  • Moore - 5,242 (832 active) **
  • Hoke - 2,897
  • Scotland - 2,641
  • Robeson - 10,352 (more than higher-populated counties New Hanover and Buncombe)

All numbers are from DHHS except Moore, which are from the local health department, as there has been a discrepancy with the state.

(** no change from the previous day at the time of this writing.)

Tyrrell County, the smallest by population, remains the only one of the state’s 100 counties to have fewer than 200 cases with 185.

William R. Toler

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