Jul. 24—RALEIGH — After months of decline, North Carolina is experiencing a rapid increase in COVID-19 spread among those who are unvaccinated, according to the state's health agency.
Thursday, 1,998 cases were reported to The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and 817 people are hospitalized, with 132 admitted in the past 24 hours, the NCDHHS announced Friday. There have been 9,053 cases reported over the past seven days, compared to 5,441 cases in the preceding seven days — a 66% increase — and hospitalizations doubled since July 9 and are at the highest rate they have been since the May 11.
"Unvaccinated North Carolinians are unnecessarily getting sick, being hospitalized and dying," said Dr. Mandy Cohen, NCDHHS secretary. "Don't wait to vaccinate. And if you haven't gotten your shot, you need to wear a mask indoors at all times when you are in public spaces."
A similar increase has been seen at UNC Health Southeastern, according to Renae Taylor, vice president and chief nurse executive at the heath care system.
"On July 9, we had nine positive COVID-19 patients in house, and, since that date, we have had 15 new COVID-19 admissions," Taylor said. "Two patients have died with COVID-19 since July 9. As of today, we have 16 positive patients in-house."
From July 9 through Friday only three of the COVID-19 positive patients were fully vaccinated, according to Taylor. One of them had received only a first dose.
"Census is high — over 200 — so any patient that is hospitalized that could have been prevented by being vaccinated, would help reduce putting a strain on the system and bed availability," Taylor said.
The state's other key metrics are also increasing, including the number of people going to the emergency department with COVID-like symptoms and the percent of tests that are positive — which has been more than 6% for the past week, according to NCDHHS. In addition, this week's updated County Alert System has one red county with critical viral and spread, and 12 orange counties with substantial spread, up from one two weeks ago. Richmond County is red, and Cherokee, Chowan, Cleveland, Cumberland, Graham, Hoke, Lee, Onslow, Pitt, Rutherford and Sampson Counties are orange.
"More than 94% of recent North Carolina cases are in people who were not fully vaccinated. People who are unvaccinated are at risk for infection by the more contagious and potentially more dangerous Delta variant. Patients who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 and are at higher risk for severe illness should talk to their health care provider to see if monoclonal antibody therapy is an option for them," a release from NCDHHS reads in part.
All unvaccinated North Carolinians ages 12 and older are urged to get a COVID-19 vaccine to protect against severe illness, hospitalization and death, according to the state health agency. Rigorous clinical trials among thousands of people ages 12 and older, have proven vaccines are safe and effective. More than 160 million Americans have been safely vaccinated. Vaccines are the best protection from COVID-19 related hospitalizations and deaths, and from complications from the virus. Research has shown even people who had a mild case of COVID-19 may struggle with long-term effects like shortness of breath, chest pain and brain fog.
To date, 60% of North Carolina adults have received at least one dose and 57% are fully vaccinated, according to NCDHHS.
To find a vaccine, use the Find a Vaccine Location tool at myspot.nc.gov or call 888-675-4567. Residents also can text their zip code to 438829 to find a nearby vaccination location.