Cumberland County officials worry Christmas gatherings could cause COVID-19 cases to surge

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Cumberland County health officials worry we could be in the same boat again. The Thanksgiving holiday sent COVID-19 cases surging, and they said it could happen again after Christmas.

Many people are expected to travel to celebrate the holiday with family. However, Officials are recommending residents don't travel or gather in large groups.

"We know you are tired of the pandemic and want things to return to normal. This is not a normal holiday season," said Cumberland County Board of Commissioners chairman Charles Evans during a Wednesday morning news briefing.

Across North Carolina, COVID-19 cases are nearing 500,000, with more than 5,000 new cases reported each day this week. Tuesday, health officials sounded the alarm that Cumberland County is one of 65 counties with critical community spread. County health director Dr. Jennifer Green said at the briefing that cases are so high, the county can no longer contact trace.

"We have capacity at our hospital and that's good. However, the number of individuals hospitalized has increased significantly since Thanksgiving, and I'm worried about another holiday surge," said Green.

Last week, Cape Fear Valley Hospital reported 20 more COVID-19 patients on average each day in inpatient beds compared to the previous week. In total, 55 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted to the hospital last week. On average, 84% of the hospital's inpatient beds and 94% of the hospital's ICU beds were occupied each day.

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Officials are urging residents to celebrate with their immediate family and virtually to avoid more cases. This week, 1,800 doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived in Cumberland County. The director and other health department employees received the vaccine in this first round. Green said she hopes leaders getting the vaccine will encourage others.

"It's important we have leaders who look like me, quite frankly, get vaccinated. I'm doing that today as a leader in our community so that we know it's safe," Green said.
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