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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Bladen County Has Worst COVID Trends In NC, Officials Blame Low Vaccination Rate

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The latest hot spot map from North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services shows Bladen County in the "red zone" for its COVID-19 trends.

Bladen County has the worst COVID-19 trends in North Carolina, according to the latest hot spot map and report from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Officials blame a low vaccination rate.

The report shows that Bladen, in the southeastern part of the state, has a COVID-19 test positivity rate of 11.7% — roughly six times the statewide rate. Its hospitalization levels are increasing and its 14-day case rate per 100,000 is 241. It is the only county listed in the “red zone” for “critical community spread.”

In the past three weeks, according to state health officials, the majority of new cases in Bladen County have been associated with a COVID-19 cluster in the Bladenboro community. The state reported 81 cases and one death linked to Bladenboro as of Friday. At least 64% of those cases were in people ages 49 and younger.

Bladen also has a low vaccination rate. Just over one-third of its population — 36% — has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, according to state data. For comparison, in Mecklenburg County, state numbers show roughly half of the county’s population has received at least one shot and in all of North Carolina, it’s 45% of the total population.

According to DHHS, areas with low vaccination rates have seen increased COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“What’s happening in Bladen County is preventable,” Dr. Mandy Cohen, DHHS Secretary, said in a news release Friday. “More than 99% of new COVID-19 cases in North Carolina are in people who are not fully vaccinated. Vaccines are working.”

Bladen County’s health director, Terri Duncan, echoed this sentiment in the same release. She said: “If you haven’t gotten your shot yet, now is the time.”

DHHS and the Bladen County Health Department said they are working together to address the Bladenboro COVID-19 cluster and increase vaccination rates. The state said it will offer increased support for the county’s contact tracing, case investigation, testing and vaccination efforts.

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