RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The weekly number of new COVID-19 cases topped 30,000 for the first time since mid-February, marking the fifth straight week of increasing cases.
NCDHHS reported Wednesday that there were 32,156 new COVID-19 cases for the week ending July 23. During that same time period, there were 1,290 hospitalizations, the highest mark since February.
Despite the increases, hospitals continue to have capacity.
"We're in really good shape. And I think it's a testament to the immunity we've built up with vaccination and boosting, as well natural infection. We know a lot of people have been infected, sometimes multiple times and I think these things are coming together. And so we're seeing people get infected, a lot of people getting infected, but the very tip of the iceberg - people ending up in the hospital or the ICU, is really small," said Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at UNC Health.
NCDHHS reported that 67% of people have received at least one vaccine dose; of those who are vaccinated, 59% have received at least one booster.
"People should not hesitate to get boosted right now. There may be another new vaccine that comes out toward the later part of this year. Fine--that's not a big problem. We've got to keep on top of this virus," said Wohl.
Currently, the CDC is recommending second boosters for people 50 and older, or those 12 and older with certain immunocompromised conditions. Wohl would like to see eligibility expanded.
"I don't completely understand why we can't boost people under 50 and still roll out a bivalent, BA.5 plus the original vaccine come September, October. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We should be protecting younger people right now," Wohl said.
Last year, cases began to rise in July before hitting a peak in early September and falling again, where they remained fairly low until December.
"This is still a dangerous virus. We have someone in the ICU right now who is unvaccinated who's really sick. So I think this can put people in the hospital and very sick. We shouldn't think this is an attenuated or weaker virus," Wohl said of the BA.5 variant.