RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- An average of 4,162 North Carolinians test positive for COVID-19 a day, according to the latest data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
On Wednesday the state reported more than 29,000 new cases during the last week, a 151% increase from the end of April.
"This is an invisible germ, we don't see it even when it's spreading around us. But we do see it in the numbers," said Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease expert at UNC Health. "There's a lot of COVID out there."
Cases across the country have risen steadily since mid-April as the highly infectious BA.2 variant spreads.
"Numbers will go up even more. We have a much more catchy virus right now so it's easy to spread and people are putting their heads into a different sort of frame of like, if it's not a big deal, it doesn't matter, or I don't want to think about it. So those two things together are going to lead to more cases," Wohl said.
COVID-19 metrics often see a spike following holidays. Overall, cases continued to decrease and hold steady following last year's Memorial Day until mid-July. Two years ago, cases started climbing at the beginning of June.
However, in past years, there were significantly fewer COVID-19 cases around Memorial Day. In 2021, North Carolina reported about 673 average daily cases in the week around the holiday.
This year there is an average of around six times more COVID-19 cases reported a day.
Around 21% more patients were reported hospitalized for COVID-19 on Wednesday when compared to the week before. Despite the uptick, the number of patients hospitalized is more in line with what hospitals reported around Memorial Day in 2020 and 2021. Approximately 636 patients are hospitalized now, 15 fewer than last Memorial Day.
"What we're seeing a lot of people saying, 'I'm so over this,' and then they get infected and they get over it. And they're saying, 'That wasn't so bad.' But in general, most people infect a few other people, and you don't want to be responsible for being part of a chain that leads to somebody to get really sick or even die," Wohl said.
Wohl advised people to wear masks indoors and opt for outdoor gatherings to further reduce the risk for transmission.
He also said people should continue to test if they develop symptoms and if the test is negative, take another one.
"I would test a day out from when you get symptoms or that day and then test again the next day because it takes a couple of days before you can detect it because our immune systems are fighting the virus and lowering the amount in our nose. So we have the tools. Testing is great. I think testing is really important but you can't test your way out of responsibility," he said.