NEW HANOVER COUNTY — The New Hanover County Department of Health and Human Services reported an uptick in Covid-19 cases over the past week. According to assistant public health director Carla Turner, last month the county was tracking around 28 cases per week. Now, public health is reporting 102 new cases last week alone, pulling New Hanover across the 20,000 mark since March 2020.
Reports from the CDC show the delta variant (B.1.6172.2) accounts for 51% of Covid-19 cases nationwide. In North Carolina it makes up 36.5%, with 37.4% coming from the alpha variant. Statewide, cases have doubled, from 871 to 1,998, over the last three days.
“This new variant is much more transmissible,” New Hanover’s health and human services director, Donna Fayko, said in a July 15 release. “It brings more severe illness.”
The variant began in India in December, before moving through Great Britain and landing stateside in March. It’s accelerated pandemic cases, most notably across the U.S. over the last week. Delta is said to be 50% more contagious and can affect unvaccinated populations 50 and under two-and-a-half times greater than other strains, according to Yale Medicine.
Fayko noted in last week’s county update that the vaccinated population isn’t seeing infection rates the same way as those who are unvaccinated. “In fact, in North Carolina, ninety-nine percent of the new cases are occurring in people who are unvaccinated,” Fayko said.
It’s not quite clear how the delta variant affects breakthrough cases, meaning the rate at which it can infect vaccinated populations. How the variant translates locally is unknown as well.
“While we are still unsure the degree of severity that the Delta variant is having in our community, it’s clear that Covid-19 is still very much here and very much a threat,” Turner said in the most recent county release. “Vaccines are an easy and effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and severe illness in our community.”
Vaccination rates have been on the decline, according to county weekly updates, as cases increase. Of the 20,020 total Covid cases in New Hanover, 19,610 have recovered, with 233 presumably still active and 177 deaths.
New Hanover Regional Medical Center admitted 2,152 cases to date and discharged 1,825, with less than five people a week checking into the hospital from Covid as of July 2. A spokesperson for Novant’s NHRMC said 27 were hospitalized over the last week, also mirroring state increases.
N.C. Health and Human Services’ data shows in the southeastern part of the state — which covers seven counties, including New Hanover — 723 inpatient hospital beds are in use, 237 are empty-staffed, and 362 are unreported or unstaffed. Twenty-seven percent of hospitalized adults with Covid-19 are in ICU and 12% are on ventilators across the seven counties.
The last spike in Covid-19 severity detected in the region came May 2, which reached 30% of Covid-19 patients admitted to ICU.
Officials are urging the unvaccinated to consider getting inoculated, especially as summer tourism is in full swing along the area’s coast, with businesses open and more events and gatherings taking place. So far in New Hanover, 121,869 people — which account for 52% of the population — have received one Covid-19 dose, while 116,208 (50%) are fully vaccinated.
Vaccination clinics in New Hanover County are set up at health and human services’ headquarters on Greenfield Street, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., and Tuesday, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. The Independence Mall clinic is also open on Oleander Drive, Tuesday and Thursday, noon – 7 p.m., with a new schedule starting Aug. 1 from 2 p.m. – 7 p.m.
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