RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Gov. Roy Cooper is urging people to stay prepared for this next wave of COVID-19 cases and take steps to protect themselves.
New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 41 of North Carolina's 100 counties have high transmission right now because of the BA-5 variant.
Jamie MacBride of Fuquay-Varina is masking up again.
"I still do it just to be safe," she said. "I got sick recently so I don't want to get it again, and I have asthma, so I'm not trying to take any risk for it."
The variant is highly contagious.
The CDC has deemed Durham, Orange, Chatham, Lee and Harnett counties as high transmission areas. Cumberland and Wake counties have medium transmission.
"That's kind of scary to hear, so I would definitely start back wearing my mask. I should have hand sanitizer and everything in my pocket," said Cary resident Ashley Mayo.
Medical professionals encourage people to mask up in crowded indoor settings, have a supply of at-home tests, and also make sure they're up-to-date on vaccines.
"Two vaccine doses, so-called primary series, are not very protective (against BA-5) particularly if people got them more than 6 months ago," said UNC Health Medical Director of Hospital Epidemiology and Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Weber.
He is reminding folks that COVID-19 can still be a deadly virus.
"We're still seeing more than 300 deaths a day, which makes COVID the third-leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer," said Weber. "Among children, COVID is the leading cause for death of infections, so yes, we need to take many steps to protect ourselves."
The state continues making free at-home tests available.