RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As North Carolinians look ahead to the holiday season, many are wondering what activities will be safe.
COVID-19 metrics are decreasing across the state with the average number of daily cases cut in half in the last month. Similarly, 42% fewer people are hospitalized and the average positivity rate is almost half of what it was in mid-September.
The decrease from the Delta variant surge has many optimistic, but health officials said there is still work to be done to reduce the spread of the virus and gather safely.
This time last year, COVID-19 metrics were beginning to climb. By Thanksgiving the average number of new cases had doubled, and by Christmas they had tripled with nearly 2,000 additional people hospitalized.
While trends are moving in the opposite direction this October, the average daily cases reported are still more than double what they were in October 2020. Nearly 1,000 more people are reported hospitalized and three times more people are dying from COVID-19 every day this October.
So, while metrics are dropping, they still remain high, which is leaving health officials to urge caution ahead of the holiday season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not yet released updated holiday guidance, but state health officials are pushing vaccination as the first step in holiday planning.
"Once people are fully vaccinated, that risk is low and people can be a little bit more comfortable in planning those holiday activities," North Carolina health director Dr. Elizabeth Tilson said earlier this week.
Tilson also said groups should remain small and opt for outdoor activities.
Earlier this month, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CBS's "Face the Nation" it is too early to tell whether the holiday season will be a safe time for Americans to gather.
"We've just got to concentrate on continuing to get those numbers down, and not try to jump ahead by weeks or months and say what we're going to do at a particular time," he said. "Let's focus like a laser on continuing to get those cases down, and we can do it by people getting vaccinated."
For those who are unvaccinated, the deadline to receive the first dose of a vaccine before Thanksgiving and Chanukah is quickly approaching--or past due.
In order for the vaccine to be full effective for each holiday, people will need to receive the first dose by the following dates: