Which ZIP codes carry the highest COVID risk? This map breaks it down

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The risk of being exposed to COVID-19 is high across North Carolina — and it’s higher in some places than others.

That risk is even more important now, with the delta variant leading to thousands of breakthrough cases each week and people traveling for the Labor Day weekend.

It’s why a risk map created by health geographer Paul Delamater before Thanksgiving 2020 remains timely nearly 10 months later.

“It’s not one of those things where it’s like, ‘I can ignore what’s going on in my environment that I’m going out into because I’m vaccinated.’ We’re not in that situation anymore,” said Delamater, an assistant professor in the UNC Department of Geography and fellow at the Sheps Center for Health Sciences Research.

The map shows the chances for every ZIP code in the state that at least one person in random groups of 10 or 25 people is contagious with COVID-19.

“We know enough about the breakthrough cases that people need to consider if they’re going to be around or possibly be around infectious people right now,” he said.

A screenshot of the NC-COVID.org risk map estimating the risk that at a 25-person event, at least one person has COVID-19 and is currently infectious, as of Friday morning. (Source: NC-COVID.org)

The darker the color, the higher the risk, and most of the state is shaded dark orange with those chances set between 25 percent and 50 percent.

But there are about two dozen ZIP codes — mostly along the southern border or in the western part of the state — where those odds are higher than 50 percent.

In the Outer Banks community of Corolla (pop. 613), there were an estimated 39 people infected — and the chances that a random group of 25 people contained at least one infectious person was 81 percent.

“I’ve really watched it kind of grow,” Delamater said. “Delta started circulating and really, really taking hold in those communities and you just could watch it kind of spread.”

He says the risk map looks like the inverse of the vaccination map.

“The places that have had the highest uptake, the highest proportion of people who are either partially or fully vaccinated right now, kind of have the lower amounts of the virus circulating in those populations,” he said.


CBS 17’s Joedy McCreary has been tracking COVID-19 figures since March 2020, compiling data from federal, state and local sources to deliver a clear snapshot of what the coronavirus situation looks like now and what it could look like in the future.


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