Governor further eases restrictions, ends some entirely as COVID-19 numbers continue improving

By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • Hoke County is now in the lowest tier of the state’s County Alert System map, with its number of positive COVID-19 tests continuing to fall off in recent weeks.

For months, Hoke had one of the state’s highest rates of positive COVID-19 tests compared to all of its virus tests. Earlier this month, the county finally fell out of the “critical” category and into the middle category of “substantial” community spread of the virus.

As of March 18, Hoke had dropped further into the lowest tier: yellow, for “significant” community spread. The improvement reflected a similar change across all of North Carolina. In the latest County Alert System update, only one county in North Carolina – Randolph County – remained in the red, a vast change over the winter months.

The County Alert System looks at multiple factors to gauge COVID-19’s current spread and impact in the state’s 100 counties. The data includes percentage of positive tests over a 14-day period, impact on local hospitals and the 14-day case rate per 100,000 people.

Hoke showed signs of improvement in all categories in the most recent update. Although the percentage of positive tests is still higher than the state’s goal of 5 percent or below – Hoke is at 7.6 percent – that’s less than half of what the rate was just a few months ago. Hoke’s hospitals are also seeing low impact at this time.

The county has had one more death over the last month, bringing the coronavirus death toll for Hoke residents to 55 since the start of the pandemic. More than 4,290 people in the county have tested positive for the illness, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Most of those people are considered recovered.

Taking into account recent data, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday he planned to further relax restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses. More customers will now be allowed into dine-in restaurants, bars and businesses such as gyms and retail stores. The alcohol curfew will end altogether starting this Friday, so that restaurants and bars can serve alcohol on their usual schedule.

Vaccination efforts continue, as more people in Group 4 are eligible to receive the vaccine against COVID-19.

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