COVID-19 metrics climb following Thanksgiving but still far below 2020 levels

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A week after many Americans gathered and traveled for Thanksgiving celebrations, North Carolina's COVID-19 metrics are increasing.

"We've seen this after every major holiday here in the U.S. We've seen a bump in cases," said Jessica Dixon, an Infection Prevention Specialist at WakeMed. "So it's not unexpected, and we also have to keep in mind that there was already a rise going on even before the holiday."

The state averaged about 2,100 new daily COVID-19 cases this past week; around 300 more cases a day than at the start of the month.

COVID-19 cases were rising across the state leading up to Thanksgiving but hospitalizations and positivity rate experienced a large uptick this past week.

An average of 5.5% of tests was coming back positive in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. This week 7% of tests a day detected COVID-19.

Three times more patients were hospitalized this week than the week before.

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The uptick is causing some concern as this time last year is when metrics also began to rise and eventually led to some of the deadliest months of the pandemic.

"We of course have it like looming over us, but we're still being really cautious, mask-wearing, and like keeping our circle kind of small," said Willow Springs resident Lauren Sharpless.

Sharpless said this year her family's plans vary a lot from last year when she welcomed a newborn.

"We're back at it a little bit. We're still keeping it with our close family we know they're vaccinated. You know, we know that they're not being irresponsible," Sharpless said.

This week's uptick still paled in comparison to the levels experienced in December 2020.

"We're definitely in a better place right now today than we were a year ago," Dixon said. "If you look at our numbers here at WakeMed, we are definitely in a place where we have fewer than half of what we were seeing this time last year."

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Statewide, about 1,700 more people were diagnosed with COVID-19 a day last year compared to now. Similarly, almost two times more patients were hospitalized with the virus.

Dixon said she is hopeful that this spike doesn't get as bad as last year but encourages everyone to get vaccinated, wear their masks and avoid large gatherings.

"I think that there's definitely still time to make sure that this doesn't turn into a repeat of last year, but it really depends on the behavior of all of us," she said.

Dixon explained the new variant, Omicron, does make predictions harder.

"What we do know is that the physics of the virus don't change as the variants change. So masks are effective, no matter what variant is out there, distancing is effective, improving ventilation in your space, being outdoors, those are all effective no matter what variant you're dealing with," Dixon said.
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