As COVID-19 cases creep up in some states, NC trends remain steady

Across the U.S., around a dozen states reported an increase in average COVID-19 cases this week.

The increase comes as health officials across the country continue to find new ways to reach unvaccinated Americans.

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Many of the states beginning to see an increase are the same states that have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.

Data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) still shows the average number of COVID-19 cases is decreasing.

North Carolina is averaging around 464 new cases a day, last week the average was 532.

Wake and Durham County are continuing to report a week-over-week decrease in new cases. Both counties also have some of the highest percentage of their populations vaccinated.

"So, likewise when you look at other countries that have lower rates the question is what is their adult vaccine status. I think there is a correlation there," said Ryan Jury, Wake County Mass Vaccination Branch Director. "We're just reaping the benefits of a lot of work that's been put in over the last six months by lots of people here in Wake County."

Jury said national data continues to show vaccines are protecting against current variants so new cases are largely stemming from the unvaccinated population.

Trends in the northern and southern portions of the state show that cases are increasing slightly. In Cumberland County, data shows a slight increase in the average number of new cases but county health director Dr. Jennifer Green said current metrics are within a normal variation.

"Our trends are fairly steady we haven't seen an upswing in cases like we have in other areas of the country anything other than what we would normally expect," Green said.

Green said she is not fearful of transmission jumping as high as last summer but she is still continuing to cautiously watch the trends.

"I don't want the public to think that the pandemic is over. Because it certainly isn't, but we really want to work hard together as a community to avoid swings in cases," Green stressed.

The county has vaccinated 24% of its population, a rate that is almost half of the state's average rate. Green said while their rate is slowly increasing, hospitalizations among the unvaccinated population are on the rise.

"What we're seeing, not just in Cumberland County, but state and nationwide is this uptick in cases among folks that are not vaccinated, and that are young, so are our young our youngest members, and then also really our 18 to 24-year-olds that are also lagging behind in our vaccination rates," she said.

While North Carolina's metrics are overall remaining stable, the state is still reporting the 15th worst vaccination rate, based on CDC data, so an increase in cases in the future is a concern.

"In North Carolina, we still have around 2 and a half million adults who are not vaccinated. Getting this life-saving vaccine to those people is critical for the health of our state and the health of our economy," Governor Roy Cooper said during a news conference on Thursday.

Jury explained to combat this officials are continuing to stress the importance of the vaccine but also continuing to aggressively contact trace. Health officials are hoping the state's new incentives will further help expand vaccinations.

"There's no silver bullet, there's lots of different strategies and lots of different ways to try to tackle this problem," Jury said. "That just goes to speak to kind of the complexity and the nuance of this program and essentially you know this discussion of whether or not an individual chooses to get vaccinated or not."
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