RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says "the war has changed" against COVID19, but maybe the only update needed is to our expectations.
The novel coronavirus -- and its Delta variant -- is spreading, even among the fully vaccinated, but new data obtained by the ABC11 I-Team shows COVID-19 vaccines provide a robust defense against disease, hospitalization and death.
Out of more than 4.8 million vaccinated North Carolinians, just 7,297 are potential breakthrough cases, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. That is a ratio of just 1.6 cases per 1,000 vaccinated people in North Carolina. Of those breakthrough cases, 383 required hospitalization -- a rate of less than one per 10,000 people -- and sadly, 66 deaths. The death rate among vaccinated individuals, however, less than 1 per 100,000 vaccinated people.
The numbers are preliminary and subject to change, officials maintain, but they are consistent with national data that shows how effective the vaccines are at saving lives, even if not preventing transmission.
"For context, nearly 92% of cases and 94% of deaths reported since May 6 have been in people who were not fully vaccinated," an NCDHHS spokeswoman explained to ABC11. "This is consistent with data from other states showing that current increases are being driven almost entirely by infections in people who are not vaccinated. People who were vaccinated and do still get COVID-19 are less likely than unvaccinated people to have serious illness or hospitalization."
The data on breakthrough cases will be updated again in August.
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"COVID-19 vaccinations are the most effective way to prevent COVID-19 and protect people from serious illness, hospitalization and death."
Earlier this week, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that all state government employees in his administration must prove their vaccination status or submit to regular testing for COVID-19 and wear a mask.
"Our trends have turned sharply in the wrong direction," he said ahead of that announcement.
The updated guidance, spelled out in a new Executive Order, applies to cabinet agencies including the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Environmental Quality, among others.
At a news conference from the Emergency Operations Center, Cooper's shift in tone was stern as he noted the dramatic rise in cases and hospitalizations, which are predominantly among unvaccinated North Carolinians. It was a marked departure from the cautious optimism he has expressed in recent months as vaccinations plateaued across the state.
"Don't wait until you or a family member is sick and going on a ventilator," he said. "Don't wait until we run out of hospital beds. Don't wait until skyrocketing numbers threaten to shut businesses or cancel sports. Don't wait until you infect someone you love."
Cooper said he "urges" and "implores" local businesses, corporations, universities, and other government agencies in the Council of State to adopt his administration's new protocols "at a minimum."
"I know hearing these messages is alarming," Cooper said. "Everyone hoped we'd be past this by now, including me. But until more people get vaccinated, this is the reality we must confront. We'll continue to battle this pandemic by increasing vaccination rates. This is our only way out of this."
Newly obtained data shows 94% COVID deaths in NC are unvaccinated