RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- With North Carolina facing worsening COVID-19 metrics, health officials are urging people to get their boosters as the holiday season approaches.
"I am very worried that we are going to see numbers remarkably that approximate what we saw last winter," said Dr. David Wohl with UNC Health, referring to a sharp increase in cases stemming from the holidays in December 2020 and January 2021.
While the focus for most adults is getting their booster shots, health officials are expressing concern over low vaccination rates amongst youth. According to the CDC, just 6.5% of children ages 5-11 are fully vaccinated. With families planning to gather over the next few weeks, doctors are urging parents to protect their children.
"We don't know about long-COVID really completely, in kids especially. But there's some data that indicate that double-digit percent of children who get COVID, even fairly mild cases, can have some impact subsequently with long-COVID, including cognitive impact. So I worry about that. That's number one. Number two, do you want to visit grandma, or do you not want to visit grandma? Young kids have been shown to be a reservoir of the virus and can shed it to others. Even if they are minimally symptomatic or asymptomatic," said Wohl.
The state's case positivity rate has remained fairly stable over the past week at around 7%, though new daily cases are rising, and hospitalizations are up more than 40% since Thanksgiving.
Friday, North Carolina confirmed the first case of the Omicron variant in the state, though Wohl stressed this recent increase in cases is being driven by the Delta variant. Still, he noted vaccinations and other mitigation measures can reduce future variants from spreading.
"We have to break the chain of transmission. If I get COVID-19, and it mutates in me, but I don't transmit it to anyone else around me because they're all vaccinated or because I wore a mask and they wore a mask, we kill it in its tracks," Wohl explained.
As hospitals are handling more patients, Wohl discussed available treatments.
"Monoclonal antibodies work. We have monoclonal antibodies against Delta. They require either an infusion, or an injection. So we've got that. There's a bottleneck for getting people in. Our staff is stretched and healthcare workers are at the breaking point. But we're trying to increase our capacity to meet this surge. We do know (with) Omicron, some of our monoclonal (treatments) don't work against it, but there are some that do. Some that are here now, some that are coming. So we'll be able to switch as we need to. Hopefully the government will be able to help us get supplies," said Wohl.
Saturday, there was a steady flow of people showing up to the Wake County Northern Regional Center in Wake Forest for their booster appointments.
"I pretty much go by whatever the health recommendations are for my age and risk factors. I figured I would be foolish not to get it," said Cynthia Wooten.
"The more I thought about it and knew how many other people I'd be around during the holidays, and how vulnerable they were, made me go ahead and make the decision to do the booster," said Rita Styron.
"We're actually going to New York for a vacation so we figured might as well get the booster now, a week in advance, so we're a little safer when we're going up there," said Dan Reuther.
"And (Dan and I are) actually PA students so it's really important for us to be protecting the patients that we're serving as well," added Mallory Fairweather.