The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has updated North Carolina’s COVID-19 response.
On March 17, NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley; N.C. Department of Commerce Secretary Machelle Sanders and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper held a press briefing to outline NCDHHS’s amended response to the virus. Titled Moving Forward Together, the response is based on four principles: prioritizing equity, empowering individuals, maintaining health system capacity and collaborating with local partners.
Over 23,000 North Carolinians had died from COVID-19 as of Tuesday. According to Moving Forward Together, North Carolina had the lowest per capita death rate in the southeast and is among the lowest in the nation. Statewide hospital capacity has never exceeded 91%.
Cooper acknowledged that North Carolina was heavily affected by the virus but affirmed that the state responded to the challenges accordingly.
“Over the last two years, we’ve written a history of hardship and resilience, setbacks and successes,” Cooper said in the press release. “But now, we enter the next phase. One of individual responsibility, preparedness and prosperity. This virus will still be with us, but it won’t disrupt us.”
NCDHHS also announced changes to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, which began March 23.
A few key metrics reported throughout the pandemic “no longer meet the current situation and will no longer be used,” according to an NCDHHS press release. This is because the rise of antigen testing—including at-home tests—makes the percent of tests that are positive less reliable, according to the Moving Forward Together announcement.
The revised dashboard is updated every Wednesday and will include a focus on seven key metrics: wastewater surveillance, COVID-like illness, hospital admissions, cases, booster rates, prevalence of variants and the CDC’s COVID-19 community level metric.
- According to Moving Forward Together, wastewater testing can detect and quantify the SARS Co-V-2 virus in community wastewater systems. This testing may be an early indicator of increases in other metrics.
- High COVID-19 hospital admissions may indicate strained capacity at hospitals. This may lead to difficulty caring for people with COVID-19 and for people with non-COVID-19 emergencies.
- COVID-19 reported cases reflect people who have tested positive. Though it is not reflective of all COVID-19 cases, the metric gives an idea of overall community transmission.
- Booster rates give an indication of how much of the population is up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations, which is one indicator of immunity. This data is also available at the county level.
- A new COVID-19 variant may cause a shift in the state’s or an individual’s response in “layered protection.”
- The CDC’s COVID-19 community levels are based on hospital beds in use, hospital admissions and cases, helping to understand the COVID-19 spread in their community.
In addition to the seven metrics, demographic data will be available on interior dashboard pages for hospitalizations. Case data will continue to be reported weekly by date of specimen collection. Data on positive tests as a percent of total tests will also be available on the Data Behind the Dashboards page, but this data does not include results from at-home tests.
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Katie Tan is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.