Wednesday, February 28, 2024

September on track to be New Hanover’s deadliest Covid month on record

Covid-19 deaths in Septmeber will likely exceed New Hanover County's monthly record, should current trends continue. (Courtesy/Anna Shvets)
Covid-19 deaths in Septmeber will likely exceed New Hanover County’s monthly record, should current trends continue. (Courtesy/Anna Shvets)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY –– A record 37 people in New Hanover County died from Covid-19 over the past week –– the highest weekly total pandemic deaths to date. Health conditions ranged among the dead, with some in their 30s.

Just halfway through September, the county’s total deaths (45) are nearly twice August’s entire death total (25), which at the time was the highest count since January. 

Should trends continue, this month will be the deadliest since Covid-19 first reached the area. 

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The overwhelming majority of deaths and hospitalizations are occurring among unvaccinated individuals, according to data shared by hospitals statewide. Across Novant Health systems, 89% of hospitalizations and 94% of patients requiring an ICU team or life support are unvaccinated, according to data released earlier this month. 

In New Hanover County, 57% of residents are fully vaccinated; 61% have received at least one dose, according to the latest N.C. Department of Health and Human Services figures. That’s slightly higher than the state’s partial (56%) and full (52%) inoculation rates. 

Vaccination rates among younger individuals are lower compared to the older population. The statewide full vaccination rate is as follows, as of Sept. 16: 

  • Teens aged 12-17: 37%
  • Young adults aged 18-24: 41%
  • Adults 25-49: 50%
  • Middle-aged adults 50-64: 65%
  • Seniors 65-74: 82%
  • Seniors 75+: 86%

The county’s positivity rate took a slight dip from last week’s 13.9% to 11.8%, with 467 new positive cases reported over the past week. Even with the improvement, the rate is more than double health officials’ positivity rate goal of 5%.

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The average number of patients hospitalized for Covid-19 on a daily basis is slightly down at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, at 98 as of Sept. 10. This is still on par with August’s figures –– which were then record-breaking –– but lower than the highest-ever 132-patient daily average the hospital reported earlier this month. 

While the county has observed slight downward trends in daily reported cases, positivity rate, and hospitalizations compared to peaks from a couple of weeks ago, deaths are a measure that can lag behind. 

“These deaths are real, they are incredibly sad, and they are being felt by the healthcare workers and the families and friends of the individuals who have died,” assistant public health director Carla Turner said in a press release. “Deaths from COVID-19 are a lagging indicator of severe spread, meaning they often come weeks after surges and can continue even when case trends begin to improve.” 

Since the onset of the pandemic, 250 county residents have died from the virus.

“We must continue to urge our loved ones to get vaccinated. It could literally save a life,” Turner said in the release.

Free walk-in vaccination appointments are available every weekday at New Hanover County Health and Human Services at 1650 Greenfield Street from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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