Bladen County, which has a vaccination rate of only 33%, is experiencing critical viral spread and increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Today’s COVID-19 County Alert System report shows the county is now red. State health officials urge people to get vaccinated now to protect themselves and the community from serious illness and virus-related hospitalization and death.
"What’s happening in Bladen County is preventable," said North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "More than 99% of new COVID-19 cases in North Carolina are in people who are not fully vaccinated. Vaccines are working."
Areas with low vaccination rates have seen increased COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. In the past 3 weeks, nearly 60% of new cases in Bladen County have been associated with a COVID-19 cluster in one zip code, the Bladenboro community. At this time, there have been approximately 81 cases and one death linked to the Bladenboro area. More than 64% of cases are in people age 49 and younger, and overall 63% of cases are among white people and 15% are among Black/African American people.
"Bladen County Health Department will continue to make sure it is easy and convenient to get your COVID-19 vaccine in our communities," said Terri Duncan, health director. "The vaccine is safe, free, and effective, and it will help prevent more people in our county from dying from this disease. If you haven’t gotten your shot yet, now is the time."
NCDHHS and the Bladen County Health Department are working together to address the Bladenboro community cluster and increase vaccination rates. The county health department continues to provide opportunities for people to get vaccinated, get tested for COVID-19 and offer education on the importance of disease prevention. NCDHHS will offer increased support for the county’s contact tracing, case investigation, testing and vaccination efforts.
There is increasing urgency for people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the more dangerous new Delta variant is rapidly spreading in the United States, including in North Carolina. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classified the Delta variant as a 'variant of concern' because it spreads faster than current COVID-19 variants. Early studies have also shown a possible increased risk of hospitalization in people infected with the Delta variant. The currently available COVID-19 vaccines are the best protection against the virus and its variants.
In addition to getting vaccinated, people who have not yet received their COVID-19 vaccine must continue to practice the 3 W's – wearing a mask, waiting at least 6 feet from others, washing hands often – to help protect their communities from the virus. Community clusters in areas of low vaccination rates, like the one in Bladenboro, demonstrate how drastically COVID-19 will continue to affect communities when mitigation efforts are not taken to prevent the disease.
Today’s County Alert System update also lists no orange counties (previously 6 counties in the June 10 report), 35 yellow counties (previously 36), 49 light yellow counties (previously also 49) and 15 green counties (previously 9). These updates account for 8 counties having moved up a tier (toward red) since the last report, 24 counties having moved down a tier (toward green) and 68 counties remaining in the same tier.
North Carolina’s key metrics show a continued decrease of COVID-19 trends. However, most of the state continues to experience substantial or moderate community spread, which will likely sustain until there is a considerably higher uptake in the COVID-19 vaccine statewide.
The COVID-19 County Alert System gives individuals, businesses, community organizations and public officials a tool to understand how their county is faring and to make decisions about actions to take to slow the spread of the virus. The COVID-19 County Alert System uses metrics informed by North Carolina’s key metrics to categorize counties into five tiers:
1. Green: Low Community Spread
2. Light Yellow: Moderate Community Spread
3. Yellow: Significant Community Spread
4. Orange: Substantial Community Spread
5. Red: Critical Community Spread