New COVID-19 cases in North Carolina continued to increase slightly at elevated levels, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported Friday.
There were 1,023 new cases reported statewide — the most since 1,187 were reported May 20.
The latest daily case count follows 1,020 reported for Wednesday and 995 for Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Forsyth County continued to report low numbers of new cases, with 19 reported Friday and no additional COVID-19 deaths.
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.
Since mid-March 2020, North Carolina has had 1.02 million COVID-19 cases and 13,523 COVID-19 related deaths, with the number of deaths up four from Thursday’s report.
North Carolina public-health officials are concerned that the recent uptick in cases may be because of the delta variant, which has been classified as a “variant of concern” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The delta variant spreads faster than other strains of COVID-19 and could pose an increased risk of hospitalization.
The federal Centers for Disease Control said the vast majority of new COVID-19 cases — 99% — have occurred in people who are not fully vaccinated. North Carolina is one of 24 states listed by CDC with a noticeable recent increase in cases. That list includes most of the Southeast.
On Friday, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing that the U.S. is becoming “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Walensky said new COVID-19 cases are up about 70% nationwide over the last week, along with hospital admissions being up 6% and deaths rising by 26%. She said nearly all hospital admissions and deaths involved unvaccinated individuals.
Most of the new Forsyth cases are the delta variant, Joshua Swift, the county’s health director, said Wednesday.
Local infectious diseases experts predict the variant will become the area’s predominant COVID-19 strain by the end of July.
Since Forsyth began feeling the brunt of the pandemic in mid-March 2020, 37,188 Forsyth residents have tested positive for the virus and 427 have died from COVID-19 related illnesses. Forsyth has had 164 new cases so far in July.
About 94% of Forsyth residents infected with COVID are considered recovered.
Other key numbers
Two more key COVID-19 indicators — positive test rate and hospitalizations — also are at elevated levels.
Statewide, COVID-19 related hospitalizations were at 536 in Friday’s report, up 44 from Thursday.
It’s the highest statewide COVID-19 hospitalization total since 548 on June 10.
The 17-county Triad region reported 83 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, up three from Thursday.
As of noon Friday 24% of those hospitalized with the coronavirus were in the 50-59 age group.
Twenty percent were 60 to 69 years old.
Thirteen percent of those patients were 70 to 79.
Another 13% were 20 to 29 years old.
People 40 to 49 made up 11%.
Nine percent were 80 or older.
Patients 30 to 39 years old, as well as patients 17 or younger, each made up 7% of hospitalized patients.
North Carolina reported a 4.2% positive test rate statewide, based on 21,298 tests conducted Wednesday. The rate was at 5.7% as recently as May 8.
By contrast, the statewide rate has been as low as 1.8% on June 23.
For Forsyth, the positive test rate was 2.1% based on 550 tests conducted Wednesday.
The recent addition of federal vaccination data to the state COVID-19 dashboard has moved the percentage of adult North Carolinians considered fully vaccinated from 53% to 56%, while those who have had at least one shot went from 56% to 59%.
As of noon Friday, 4.78 million adult North Carolinians were considered fully vaccinated.
About 4.43 million North Carolinians have gotten two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, while 350,932 have gotten the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
When including 12- to 17-year-olds, 53% of North Carolinians are fully vaccinated statewide. About 83% of North Carolinians 65 and older are fully vaccinated.
Yet, just 30% of North Carolinians ages 12 to 17 have been vaccinated to date.
DHHS says 175,755 Forsyth residents are fully vaccinated, about 46% of the county population, while 186,266 have had at least one dose, or 49%.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.