The surge in new COVID-19 cases — spurred by the spread of the delta variant — reached a four-month high in North Carolina over the weekend.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported Monday that there were 2,133 new cases on Friday.
That was the most since 2,250 reported on March 26.
The new case count was 1,910 on Saturday and 1,401 on Sunday.
The state also continues to experience a sharp increase in North Carolinians hospitalized with COVID-19 related symptoms. There were 943 reported for Sunday, higher than it has been in 2 1/2-months — when there were 968 on May 10.
DHHS reported Forsyth had 169 new cases from noon Friday to noon Monday, along with an additional COVID-19 related death.
Since the onset of the pandemic in mid-March 2020, 37,584 Forsyth residents have tested positive for the virus, and 430 have died from COVID-19-related illnesses. Forsyth has had 540 new cases so far in July.
In North Carolina, there have been 1.04 million COVID-19 cases and 13,580 COVID-19-related deaths, with the number of deaths up 10 since Friday’s report.
DHHS lists COVID-19 cases and deaths on the day they are confirmed by medical providers and public health officials, so people may have been infected or may have died days or weeks before their cases were counted.
DHHS said Monday that the delta variant has been the dominant COVID-19 variant since late June.
Sense of urgency
Gov. Roy Cooper and state Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen have added a sense of urgency in their messages prompting unvaccinated North Carolinians to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
That includes young people ages 12 to 17. Between 25% and 30% of North Carolinians in that age group have been fully vaccinated statewide as most public and private schools begin their 2021-22 school year over the next four weeks.
Cohen said last week that hospitalizations statewide more than have doubled since July 9.
“Unvaccinated North Carolinians are unnecessarily getting sick, being hospitalized and dying,” Cohen said.
“Don’t wait to vaccinate. If you haven’t gotten your shot, you need to wear a mask indoors at all times when you are in public spaces.”
DHHS said more than 94% of recent North Carolina cases are in individuals who were not fully vaccinated, which puts them at higher risk for infection by the more contagious and potentially more dangerous Delta variant.
“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,” Cohen said.
Cooper expressed concern about the spread of the delta variant and hinted he could take action to reinstate some social-gathering restrictions if the key COVID-19 numbers rise high enough.
“If the pandemic worsens and additional action is necessary, we’ll take it,” Cooper said Thursday.
“We have made so much progress against this virus. Now is not the time to ignore it. Take it upon yourself to encourage others to get their shot.”
DHHS reported an 8.6% positive test rate statewide, based on 22,597 tests conducted Saturday.
For Forsyth, the latest positive test rate was at 5% based on 550 tests conducted Saturday.
Cohen has said a statewide positive test rate of 5% or higher represents an elevation in community spread of COVID-19.
The 17-county Triad region, as defined by DHHS, had 179 COVID-19 related hospitalizations as of noon Monday, up 27 from Friday's report.
As of noon Monday, 26% of those currently hospitalized with coronavirus statewide were in the 50-59 age group.
Residents 60 to 69 years old and those 40 to 49 years old each made up 15%.
Eleven percent patients were 70 to 79.
Ten percent were 20 to 29 years old.
Another 10% were 80 and older.
Patients 30 to 39 years old made up 6% of hospitalized patients, and those 17 and under 5%.
Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious diseases expert at Wake Forest Baptist Health, said Thursday that “our cases are going up here, too, and in the counties around us, they are going up a little faster.”
“Our local hospitals are having increased hospitalizations. Numbers are still low overall, but they are all in unvaccinated people. That attests that these are good vaccines,” Ohl said.
Dr. David Priest, an infectious diseases expert with Novant Health Inc., said last week the Triad “is well on its way for the delta variant being the variant we see in COVID cases.”
Priest said it is concerning that the delta variant is not necessarily producing the same “classic” symptoms as the earlier version of COVID-19, in particular the temporary loss of taste and smell.
“Symptoms with delta tend to be a runny nose, sore throat, things that are less specific to COVID, and that’s going to present a real diagnostic challenge for clinicians as we head into the fall and the circulation of the flu and other respiratory viruses,” Priest said.
On Thursday, the state reached the 60% threshold for adult North Carolinians considered partially vaccinated, with 57% listed as fully vaccinated.
As of noon Monday, 4.87 million adult North Carolinians were considered fully vaccinated.
About 4.51 million North Carolinians have gotten two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, while 358,346 have gotten the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
When including 12- to 17-year-olds, 54% of North Carolinians are fully vaccinated statewide. About 84% of North Carolinians 65 and older are fully vaccinated.
DHHS says 179,683 Forsyth residents are fully vaccinated, about 47% of the county population, while 190,463 have had at least one dose, or 50%.