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New COVID alert system will show NC counties with highest levels

Gov. Cooper introduced the new system ahead of next week's Thanksgiving holiday as the state deals with a surge of new COVID-19 cases.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has announced a new COVID-19 alert system, which will address community spread in North Carolina by county.

“By pinpointing counties with high virus transmission and asking everyone in those counties to work with us and do more right now to slow the spread of the virus, we can succeed,” Governor Cooper said. “It can help bring down their case rates, keep their communities safer, save lives and keep their hospital systems working.”

Gov. Cooper introduced the new system ahead of next week's Thanksgiving holiday as the state deals with a surge of new COVID-19 cases.

RELATED: US doctors concerned about Thanksgiving after Canada sees major spike

The system uses metrics informed by the White House Coronavirus Task Force and North Carolina’s key metrics to categorize counties into three tiers:

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

Click here for the full report on the COVID-19 county alert system. 

Local counties with "red" or critical spread include Gaston, Alexander, and Avery Counties. 

Gaston County business leaders said they're doing what they can to be safe. Music & Arts in Gastonia said they keep the sanitizer on hand and have routine cleanings.

RELATED: Selwyn Avenue Pub closing temporarily as COVID-19 cases surge statewide

“We’re doing everything we can to keep our customers safe in the store and you can only hope that everybody else is doing the same," Music & Arts manager Gerald Wright said. 

Wright said they felt the hurt of being forced to close their doors once before and would hate to return to set it back. 

Governor Cooper said the new focus and alert system is especially important as holiday activities near, in order to protect the hospital system, save lives, and prevent the state from having to take a step backward.

During a health forum earlier in the day,  Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, shared fears that North Carolina's metrics will continue to rise after a record high for hospitalizations were set on Tuesday. 

RELATED: Tracking coronavirus data: Carolinas outbreak map

"I want to avoid what I see as the worst surge coming," Cohen said, according to WRAL-TV in Raleigh. 

Cohen also said she's concerned more people are experiencing pandemic fatigue and news of a possible vaccine coming next month may lead to risky behavior, insisting everyone continues the three W's: wearing a mask, washing your hands and waiting at least six feet apart in public.

Cohen and Cooper have stressed North Carolinians should limit their Thanksgiving celebrations to help limit the spread of the virus. Last week, Cooper issued a new executive order that extended Phase 3 of COVID-19 reopening through Dec. 4 and limits indoor gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

RELATED: US doctors concerned about Thanksgiving after Canada sees major spike

“By celebrating virtually, or outdoors, if possible, we can continue to stay on top of this pandemic and slow the spread of COVID,” she said.

At the most recent Mecklenburg County Commission meeting, Health Director Gibbie Harris gave an update on the spread of the virus in the community, saying all the numbers are trending in the wrong direction; however, Harris isn't ready for a lockdown. 

"To start locking things down now when are numbers are still somewhat manageable, our hospitals still have [the] capacity, people are still working, it would be a hard sell, a pretty hard sell in our community," Harris explained.

RELATED: Governors ratchet up COVID-19 restrictions ahead of Thanksgiving

Mecklenburg County continues to follow the statewide order for mask use and gatherings. For the county to impose stricter policies, there would have to be buy-in from every municipality in the county, not just the City of Charlotte.

Many US doctors are now looking to Canada for some insight on how to prevent further spread of coronavirus. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the country needs to "reverse these trends now" after last month's holiday led to an increase in new infections.

Government data shows a steep curve upward over the past few weeks. The country's average daily cases went from less than 2,500 on October 12, Canada's Thanksgiving, to 4,500 by the start of November.