North Carolina COVID-19 cases increase but experts don't expect return of masking, closures

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BySamantha Kummerer WTVD logo
Wednesday, August 23, 2023
COVID-19 increases in NC but remains manageable
Ahead of the back-to-school season, doctors are urging families to take precautions now to ward off respiratory viruses.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Ahead of the back-to-school season, doctors are urging families to take precautions now to ward off respiratory viruses.

COVID-19 metrics are seeing an uptick in North Carolina.

More than 26 million virus particles were found in North Carolina wastewater last week; six times more than the amount detected two months ago, according to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).

The number of patients admitted to a hospital for COVID-19 is also increasing. More than 400 patients were admitted statewide; this is the sixth week of increase and the highest number of patients since March.

Despite the recent uptick, the state's metrics remain significantly lower than last August -- when the state had 1,259 COVID-19 patients in the hospital.

SEE ALSO | New COVID-19 variant EG.5 emerges as cases of the virus increase in North Carolina

COVID-19 cases are increasing in North Carolina and across the country. The presence of the virus in wastewater has increased by five-fold.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore said this increase isn't surprising and he doesn't predict any stricter restrictions will be put in place.

"We know COVID is going to rise and fall, but the big difference now is that we have effective tools to manage that, more like we manage other respiratory viruses, flu, etc.," Moore said.

The state is still only detecting a handful of flu and RSV cases. The latest data showed 14 people were admitted to the hospital last week for the flu. NCDHHS data also shows the number of people arriving at the emergency department with flu and RSV symptoms has remained low for months.

"I think the thing to do is do everything you can now to prepare yourself be ready when those viruses hit so that we don't end up in a situation where we have a lot more illness and where our hospitals and health care system get stretched again," Moore recommended.

A new COVID-19 vaccine is expected out this fall, but the exact timeline is still unknown. The vaccine is designed to better target Omicron variants.

SEE ALSO | CDC reveals new vaccine recommendations for COVID-19, flu, RSV

The CDC has made some slight changes to its recommendations for vaccinations related to COVID-19, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

"When they're going back to school. Vaccinations are, of course, the best line of defense that we have for COVID and influenza. So if you have kids who haven't had the COVID vaccinations yet, we would encourage that," Moore said.

Moore suggested anyone who is at high risk or has a high-risk family member get a COVID-19 booster now rather than waiting for the updated version. For everyone else, he recommends waiting for the updated version.

As for Flu vaccines, Josef's Pharmacy manager Jonathan Harward said they have started to get some doses of vaccines but are still waiting on double doses. The CDC recommends people get flu vaccines in September or October.

"We haven't seen much flu yet, so I think there's still plenty of time there for people to protect themselves," Moore said.

RSV vaccines for people 60 years and up are also expected out soon.

"We spoke with our vaccine distributor yesterday and we're hopeful to be able to have that in the next month or so," Harward said.

He said it is still too soon to know just how severe this respiratory season will be, so he recommends everyone prepare now.

Moore also recommends people stock up on COVID-19 tests now and stay home if they detect any symptoms.

For more vaccine recommendations and guidelines click here.