North Carolina has broken a new Covid-19 record as it reports the highest percent positivity rate to date at 21.9%.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) updated its Covid-19 dashboard Tuesday for the first time in six days, following a break for the holidays. Previously on Dec. 23, the rate was reportedly 10.4%, meaning it more than doubled in less than a week. It breaks the Jan. 4, 2021, record of 17%.
The rate represents the percentage of tests returning positive on Dec. 26.
Throughout the pandemic, officials have considered a positivity rate of 5% or less the goal to slow the spread of the virus, and it’s also been used as a benchmark locally for when to consider removing the mask mandate.
The local percent positivity rate in New Hanover County grew from 6.7% to 11%; in Brunswick County it is up from 10.1% to 11.5%; and in Pender it rose from 8.9% to 12.6%.
The peaking trend is likely an effect of the highly contagious omicron variant, which began to spread earlier this month across the state and is now considered the dominant variant nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
NCDHHS expects to see the highest rates of Covid-19 infections in the coming weeks as a result of omicron, according to DHHS secretary Mandy Cohen. Omicron is two to three times as contagious as the delta variant and four to six times easier to catch than the original strain of the virus.
Last week in a news conference, Dr. David Priest, chief safety and quality officer for Novant Health, suggested a possible best-case scenario in which the variant could contribute to herd immunity while causing minor damage among the unvaccinated population.
“That kind of works toward some kind of end of the pandemic or a move to a more endemic phase of all of this,” he said. “I hope that’s true. The problem with it is that not everybody’s gonna have a mild case.”
Omicron is believed to produce less severe illness than other variants but still could potentially lead to hospitalization, Priest explained.
NCDHHS also revealed the daily case count fell by at least 1,000 compared to six days ago. On Dec. 22 the department was reporting 4,889 new cases of the virus compared to 3,698 on Dec. 28. However, in total, approximately 32,000 cases were reported in that time.
New Hanover County saw 629 new cases in the past six days. Between Dec. 10 and Dec. 17, the number of positives shot up from 265 to 460, according to a graph from the health department, obtained by Port City Daily.
Brunswick County had 258 new cases in the past six days, while Pender had 155. In the tri-county area, there were no new deaths reported; though, across the state, 75 people died over the holiday break, between Dec. 22 and Dec. 28. Previously at 19,233, the reported death toll has reached 19,308.
More people are in the hospital statewide. Last week the state was reporting 1,680 patients; currently, there are 1,992 people with Covid in hospital beds.
In the southeastern region, NCDHHS is showing 49 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 on Dec. 22. By Dec. 27, it had risen to 69, with eight adults in ICU.
Although state health officials are urging folks to get inoculated immediately, the vaccination statistics barely wavered over the break and didn’t appear to move at all locally. The percent of adults with at least one dose ticked up from 73% to 74% statewide. Vaccination rates in New Hanover County remained stagnant, with 61% of the population fully vaccinated.
The same can be said for Brunswick (61%) and Pender (48%) counties.
Statewide, 120,152 people received a third shot or booster in the past six days. In total, up to 2.3 million North Carolinians have taken an extra step in an attempt to protect themselves against breakthrough infections.
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