Central North Carolina counties make progress against COVID-19

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Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Triangle counties make progress against COVID-19
As North Carolina health officials report decreasing cases and a lowered percent positivity rate, Wake, Durham and Orange counties are reporting similar trends.

ORANGE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- As North Carolina health officials report decreasing cases and a lowered positivity rate, Wake, Durham, and Orange counties are reporting similar trends.

"We were having average about 30,40, 50 sometimes new cases a day. Over the past couple weeks, we've had a lot of days where the new case count is in the single-digits. So we're pleased to see that those numbers are dropping," said Todd McGee, Orange County's communications director.

On Monday, the county reported 28 new cases since Friday.

After seeing an uptick shortly after students returned to UNC-Chapel Hill's campus, the numbers have similarly dropped after university officials moved undergraduate classes online.

RELATED: COVID-19 cases at North Carolina universities cause county totals to spike

"The age range of 19-24 prior to the students coming back was accounting for about 20% of the cases in Orange County. Within a couple of weeks of them coming back, that had doubled to almost 44% of the cases in Orange County," McGee said.

For the week starting August 16, the percent positive test rate was 12.9%; two weeks later, the positive rate was just 3.9% (though the county's dashboard did caution that test results collected during the latter time period may not yet be reported.)

In Orange County, people 24 years old and younger comprised 55% of all cases to date.

Wake County has also seen a drop in cases and the percentage of positive tests over the past few weeks. In late-August, the county had a 6.2% positive rate; Monday, it's at 3.8%.

"Our community has been great about our 3 W's. Really wearing their masks, and staying six feet apart, and washing hands. So really utilizing and doing those preventative measures and it reflects in the numbers that we're currently seeing in our county," said Dr. Nicole Mushonga, the county's epidemiology director.

WATCH: How NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen explains how North Carolina can continue to push the percentage of positive tests lower

This week, North Carolina met the mark on one of the state's key metrics for reopening: a percent positive rate of 5%.

Like UNC in Orange County, there were several reported outbreaks both on and around North Carolina State University's campus in Raleigh, leading university leaders to shift undergraduate classes online. Dr. Mushonga stressed the value of partnerships with neighboring counties, especially as the state works towards future reopening plans.

"What is important to know is that everyone continues the work that we have been doing in these preventative measures. That's important in maintaining appropriate distance, wearing a masks, and just following the Governor's Orders as we begin to reopen," said Dr. Mushonga.

After reporting 167 cases on September 4, the Friday before Labor Day, Wake County has only topped 120 new cases in a day once since then.

In Durham County, officials have seen a similar drop over the past two months. After hitting a 7-day average of 74 cases per day on July 16, the 7-day average dropped to 30 cases as of Saturday, September 19. Part of the county's success can be attributed to Duke, where university officials reported just nine positive cases last week after conducting 12,323 tests of students, faculty, and staff.