September was one of North Carolina's deadliest months for COVID-19

The United States hit another grim milestone in the pandemic this weekend with the virus now killing more than 700,000 people.

The death toll is equal to the entire population of the cities of Raleigh and Fayetteville combined.

In North Carolina, 16,605 people have died from COVID-19 with 12% reported just in the last month.

While the number of daily cases and hospitalizations are decreasing, more than 2,000 North Carolinians died in September making it one of the deadliest months since the pandemic began.

Many said the latest milestone was avoidable.

"It's horrible and it could have been prevented," said Lainie Gentry, a local ICU nurse. "It could have been... not as bad as it has been if things have been done differently, but it's not too late. I mean we can turn it around and we can get rid of this mess, once and for all. Just get vaccinated roll up your sleeves and do it."

Gentry said she has never seen anything like this past year and a half of working as a nurse.

"I'm sick of it. I'm tired of wearing masks for 12 hours of work every day. I'm tired of watching people walk in the grocery store with their chest all puffed out, like, 'I'm not wearing a mask,' Okay, well you might be next then," Gentry said frustrated. "If I can wear for 12 hours. You can wear for 10 minutes to go in the grocery store."

More than 3,700 North Carolinians have died since May 12 when all North Carolinians 12 and up were eligible for the vaccine.

Nationwide, 100,000 died from the virus in the last three and a half months.

This number sparking frustration in other central North Carolina residents.

"Depressed and angry because for those who don't believe the science they're putting not only themselves at risk but they're putting others at risk. And now it's not even affecting just elderly people it's not affecting only people with preexisting health conditions, it's affecting everyone," said Durham County resident Jan Paul.

Paul received her vaccine booster shot on Saturday through a popup clinic at the Efland Seafood festival. She preached the importance of vaccinations to prevent the nation from hitting another milestone.

It's a sentiment also shared by President Joe Biden.

"Hundreds of thousands of families have been spared the unbearable loss that too many Americans have already endured during this pandemic. If you haven't already, please get vaccinated," Biden said in response to the latest deaths.

It's estimated 70 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated.

"To heal we must remember, and as our nation mourns the painful milestone of 700,000 American deaths due to COVID-19, we must not become numb to the sorrow. On this day, and every day, we remember all those we have lost to this pandemic and we pray for their loved ones left behind who are missing a piece of their soul," said President Joe Biden.

COVID-19 deaths often lag behind high hospitalizations. While the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized across the state is dropping, the severity of the remaining patients remains high. Currently, one out of every five COVID-19 patients is on a ventilator.

"There is a solution. There is a way to protect ourselves. I just hope people will believe that and we'll do what needs to be done," said Alamance County resident Carolyn Rea.
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