RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Despite easing restrictions and increasing vaccinations, North Carolina is far from out of the woods when it comes to COVID-19.
Compared to the past two months, February showed some significant improvements in COVID-19 metrics. However, this progress should be taken with a grain of salt considering January was the worst month for the pandemic so far. Examining February's COVID-19 metrics from a wider scope shows the state still has a lot of work to do.
COVID-19 cases were cut in half last month compared to the more than 217,000 reported in January. With 103,000 new cases, February still reported the third-highest number of new cases.
COVID-19-related deaths also decreased last month, but February is still the second-deadliest month of the pandemic with around 1,900 deaths reported.
The percent of positive tests is at one of the lowest since the pandemic. Similarly, with 1,351 patients in the hospital on Sunday, this metric is back to levels reported in mid-fall.
Gov. Roy Cooper rewarded this progress last week by easing some restrictions across North Carolina, including expanding capacity limits, opening bars, and lifting curfews for non-essential businesses.
"Easing these restrictions will only work if we keep protecting ourselves and others from this deadly virus," Cooper said. "The order and our own common sense say that health and safety protocols must remain in place."
February isn't the first time COVID-19 metrics have dropped. Hospitalizations, cases and the percent of positive tests were all on the decline in August and September.
State leaders said they will continue to watch the data to determine if the state needs to take steps back.
"We've seen in the past how fragile our progress can be, so we need to keep protecting each other while we get everyone a spot to get their shot," NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said during a news conference last week.
This time around, the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine shows promise to help North Carolina's metrics move in the right direction.
On Monday, the state reported that more than 1.5 million people received the first shot.
On the other hand, the emergence of new, more contagious strains of COVID-19 threatens to spike COVID-19 again.
COVID-19 metrics stabilizing but cases and deaths in February still high
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