Wilkes is among 84 “red” North Carolina counties — those with the most severe of three levels of community spread of COVID-19 — in the Jan. 6 update of an N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) alert system for the virus.

Wilkes was among 27 orange (middle level) counties in the Dec. 27 report, a yellow (least severe) county in the Dec. 8 report and a red county in the first report on Nov. 17.

The designations are based on three factors: number of new cases per 100,000 people in a 14-day period; percentage of positive molecular (PCR) tests for COVID-19 in the 14 days and COVID-19’s hospital impact. The latest (Jan. 6) update is based on these COVID-19 metrics for the two-week period of Dec. 20 to Jan. 2.

Hospital impact is determined by percentage of COVID-19 hospitalizations, COVID-19-related emergency department visits, staffed open hospital beds and critical staffing shortages in the two weeks.

In the 14 days from Dec. 20 to Jan. 2, 11.6% of COVID-19 tests in Wilkes came back positive and the county had 884.3 new cases per 100,000 people. The DHHS update said COVID-19’s impact on Wilkes Medical Center then was low, the same as the prior three reports.

Wilkes had 1,088 new cases per 100,000 people in the 14 days ending Jan. 9.

The Dec. 27 update was based on metrics for Dec. 5-18, which for Wilkes included an 8.7% positive rate and 722 new cases per 100,000 people.

According to the Dec. 8 update, 7.2% of COVID-19 tests in Wilkes came back positive in the period Nov. 21 to Dec. 4. Wilkes had 630 new cases per 100,000 people then. It said Wilkes Medical Center had low impact from COVID-19 then.

When the alert system was announced on Nov. 17, Wilkes was listed with 574.5 new cases per 100,000 people in 14 days. That first report said 10.5% of tests were positive in the 14 days and COVID-19’s impact on Wilkes Medical Center was low.

Among adjoining counties in the Jan. 6 update,

• Alexander stayed red, with 1,301 cases (up from 1,221 in the Dec. 27 update) per 100,000 people and 21.2% (up from 15.9) of tests coming back positive from Dec. 20 to Jan. 2;

• Alleghany stayed red, with 879 cases (down from 1,024) and 14.3% (up from 11.9%);

• Ashe stayed red, with 455.8 cases (down from 629) and 11.2% (same as prior update);

• Caldwell stayed red, with 893 (down from 1,328) and 18.8% (up from 15.2%);

• Iredell stayed red, with 824 cases (down from 993) and 17.5% (up from 16.9%);

• Surry stayed red, with 1,102 cases (down from 1,137) and 17.1% (up from 15.1%);

• Watauga stayed orange, with 278 cases (down from 395) and 8.1% (up from 6.2%);

• Yadkin stayed red, with1,025 cases (down from 1,067) and 18.6% (up from 16.3%).

Also in the Jan. 6 update, hospital impact of COVID-19 was listed as low in Alexander, Alleghany and Ashe; medium in Caldwell, Iredell and Watauga; and high in Surry and Yadkin.

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