The spread of the coronavirus has been “substantial” in Moore County, according to the COVID-19 County Alert System launched Tuesday by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
Developed by DHHS to highlight infection and hospitalization trends in each of the state's 100 counties, the system uses color-based tiers to identify counties where the virus is spreading most aggressively.
Moore is among the 43 counties currently assigned to the orange tier, meaning the area is experiencing “substantial community spread.” The category is reserved for counties where 101 to 200 infections have been reported for every 100,000 residents over a two-week period, and where the pandemic has either caused a “moderate impact” on local hospitals or the positivity rate for coronavirus testing is 8 to 10 percent.
The only tier more severe than orange is red, which denotes “critical community spread.” Only 10 counties are currently assigned to the red tier.
Individuals in orange and red counties should “avoid places where people congregate” and limit their “public interactions to mainly essential activities,” according to DHHS. The agency is expected to update its rankings on the second week of December.
Jury Trials Delayed
Jury trials in District 19D have been postponed until next year as coronavirus cases continue to climb in Moore and Hoke counties.
Judge James Webb, senior resident superior court judge for the district, had planned to resume jury trials in both counties this month. In an email on Wednesday, he announced that the trials will be delayed “in the interest of public safety.”
The decision was made in response to the COVID-19 County Alert System. Writing in the email, Webb noted that Moore is an orange-tier county and Hoke is a red-tier county.
Webb said individuals who had been summoned for jury duty later this month and in December are dismissed. Jury trials are expected to resume in the district on Jan. 4, he said.
‘What We Need to Do’
During Tuesday’s meeting of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, Robert Wittmann, director of the local health department, addressed the reluctance among some residents to wear face coverings.
“I am aware that some do not believe that they need to, or should, wear a mask to slow the spread of COVID,” he said. “However, if we are to succeed in protecting our most vulnerable residents, some of us will need to step up and take personal responsibility. For the health and safety of our fellow residents, (we must) do what we need to do, not what we want to do.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently weighed in on the effectiveness of face coverings by updating its official guidance to emphasize that masks protect wearers from infection. For months, the CDC had acknowledged only that face coverings help prevent infected individuals from spreading the virus.
Matthew Garner, public information officer for the health department, said the agency hopes to persuade residents to be vigilant during the holiday season.
“As we get into the holidays, one of our big pushes here as the health department will be to encourage people to celebrate and gather safely,” he said “The overarching message that we want to give to everybody before the holidays is that if you are sick, if you do have symptoms, if you have been in contact with anyone who has had symptoms of COVID-19 or that you suspect may have been exposed, we ask that you stay home and isolate yourself from others.”