Forsyth County and North Carolina have reached again new daily highs for COVID-19 cases, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported Saturday.
The state is in the midst of an expected surge in cases and hospitalizations stemming from recent holiday social gatherings. It typically takes seven to 10 days for COVID-19 symptoms to appear.
DHHS reported 430 cases in Forsyth, a 22% jump compared with the previous daily high of 353 cases on Dec. 19. The overall total is 22,957 since mid-March
There was one additional COVID-19 related death of a Forsyth resident for an overall total of 235.
Meanwhile, statewide cases hit a new daily high of 11,581, up 11% from the previous high of 10,398 reported Thursday.
The statewide case count has been above 10,000 the past three reporting periods and is at 614,355 for the pandemic.
The statewide death count increased by 97 to an overall total of 7,425. DHHS reported 115 deaths Friday and a record 137 deaths Thursday.
DHHS lists COVID-19 cases and deaths on the day they are confirmed by medical providers and public health officials, so individuals may have been infected or died days before their cases are counted.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday extending for three weeks a "modified stay at home" order that has acted as a statewide curfew since Dec. 11.
The 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew now lasts through at least Jan. 29.
The order requires restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, personal care businesses and others to end all on-premises services at 10 p.m. Take-out, delivery, drive-thru and curbside services are permitted during the curfew hours.
The order also stops on-premises alcohol sales at 9 p.m., whether at a bar or restaurant, or by a vendor.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state's health secretary, issued Tuesday a COVID-19 pandemic secretarial order that she called "a stark advisory warning." She repeated the warning Friday.
She recommends that North Carolinians stay at home apart from going to work and to essential activities, such as getting groceries, getting health care or taking care of family members.
The order repeated warnings that people 65 and older and anyone at high risk for developing serious illness should avoid leaving home.
The statewide hospitalization count was at 3,871 as of 11 a.m. Saturday, down 89 from the record high of 3,960 reported Friday.
The 17-county Triad region had 1,045 hospitalized COVID-19 patients as of Saturday's report, down 33 from the daily high of 1,078 reported Friday.
The region has had more COVID-19 hospitalizations than any other region in the state for the past 11 weeks.
The Charlotte region has the second-most with 983 COVID-19 hospitalizations.
David Priest, an infectious disease expert at Novant Health Inc., said Friday that one key area of concern is a 25% positive test rate in Novant's Triad and Charlotte markets over a seven-day rolling period.
DHHS reported Saturday a record 14.3% positivity rate for Forsyth out of about 1,500 tests conducted Thursday.
Statewide, there was a 14.8% positive rate out of a record 76,488 tests conducted Thursday — 71,125 of the molecular version and 5,363 of the antigen version. The record positive rate is 17.5% of the 25,882 tests conducted Monday.
Forsyth is on DHHS' list of 84 counties experiencing critical community spread of COVID-19 and color-coded red, the highest level on the state's county alert system.
The latest update, released Wednesday, also designated Alamance, Alleghany, Ashe, Davidson, Davie, Guilford, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, Wilkes and Yadkin as counties with critical spread.
Listed among 12 counties with substantial community spread — color-coded in orange — is Watauga.
The surge in COVID-19 cases appears likely to continue into March, according to two local infectious disease experts this week.
"We don't know the answer to when this will peak," Priest said Friday. "A lot of factors will go into it.
"How well we protect ourselves and our families and our communities in terms of exposure to group settings."
The projection from Cohen is that the majority of North Carolinians will not receive their first vaccine dose until late March or early April, and that it will take several months for everyone who wants to be vaccinated to get both doses.
The vaccine plan could change with a new presidential administration. President-elect Joe Biden will speed up release of first vaccine doses to protect more people, his office said Friday, a reversal of Trump administration policies that held back doses to ensure a supply for the required second shots.
Vaccinations are limited currently in N.C. to individuals in the Phase 1A and first subgroup of Phase 1B, which are individuals ages 75 and over.
The current Phase 1A distribution is for health care workers caring for patients with COVID-19, individuals who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying, and those at high risk of exposure to COVID-19.
According to DHHS' COVID-19 dashboard, 151,902 North Carolinians have received their first vaccine dose as of 11 a.m. Friday. Of those totals, 9,115 have received both doses.
Forsyth has had 245 individuals receiving both doses and 9,499 individuals with one dose.