Weekly COVID-19 spread worst since March

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Local spread of COVID-19 has reached levels unseen since early March.

There were 46 new cases announced this week, taking the county’s total to 3,674, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 Dashboard.

The county’s percent positive rose from 5.1 to 6.5 percent in the past week.

There have been 227 county residents get at least their first vaccine dose, the most since May, and 81 who completed their vaccine series

In total, 18,118 county residents have received at least one vaccine dose and 16,995 residents are fully vaccinated, 46 and 43 percent of the county.

No new COVID-19-related deaths reported this week kept the county’s total at 73.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new mask guidance last week based on levels of transmission in communities. The new maps designate counties as areas of low (blue), moderate (yellow), substantial (orange) or high (red) transmission.

As of Tuesday, Person County is classified with high transmission using data between July 27 and Aug. 2.

The CDC advises masking in areas with high or substantial spread.

Masks to be required in county buildings

In a Monday Facebook post, Person County announced that, due to increasing metrics due to the delta variant, face coverings are required indoors, regardless of vaccination status, in county buildings.

According to the post, the county has had a 6.2 percent test positivity rate and 92 new cases in the previous 14 days.

“Due to these trends, it is now necessary to reinstate some precautionary measures in County facilities,” the post reads. “Effective today, face coverings are required indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Please continue to maintain social (physical) distancing as much as possible and practice frequent and proper handwashing.”

Executive Order requires vaccine verification for state agencies

In a Thursday press briefing, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that he had signed a new Executive Order that says the state government will begin verifying the vaccination status of its workers.

Employees not vaccinated will be required to wear a mask and be tested at least once a week.

The NCDHHS also updated its guidance to encourage private sector businesses to verify vaccination status for their workers, at a minimum.

After initially suggesting that state schools require masks for K-8 schools while high school masking would be based on vaccination status, NCDHHS updated its guidance to suggest all K-12 schools should require universal masking, regardless of vaccination status.

Cooper said a majority of the cases are in unvaccinated people rather than breakthrough cases in vaccinated people.

“After months of low numbers, our trends have turned sharply in the wrong directions,” Cooper said. “I want to be clear about why. Unvaccinated people are driving this resurgence and getting themselves and other people sick. People who are unvaccinated make up most all of our cases where people are getting sick and hospitalized. The delta variant of COVID is even more contagious to those who are not vaccinated. It doesn’t matter your age or your race – if you are not vaccinated, you are at great risk.

“Here is my message to anyone who has yet to get a shot: get a vaccine today,” Cooper said. “Don’t wait until you or a family member is sick and going on a ventilator. Don’t want until we run out of hospital beds. Don’t wait until skyrocketing numbers threaten to shut businesses or cancel sports. Don’t want until you infect somebody you love. Get a vaccine today.”

NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen outlined the state’s COVID-19 four metrics.

Cohen said the state’s trajectory of individuals arriving in emergency departments with COVID-like symptoms is rising since the end of June, but remains below where the state was at this point last year.

The trajectory of new cases is rising faster than it has with other increases because the delta variant is more contagious, Cohen said.

Originally, COVID-19 would spread from one individual to an average of two or three people.

Now, the delta variant spreads to an average of six people from one person, Cohen said, most of whom are not vaccinated.

“Nearly all of that spread is happening among people who are not vaccinated,” Cohen said.

Since early May, 92 percent of the state’s cases are in people who are not vaccinated.

The percent of positive tests is also rising and is “well above” the state’s five percent goal.

Hospitalizations are also increasing.

“This trend has increased rapidly and now we have surpassed 1,100 people in the hospital with COVID,” Cohen said. “This number has more than doubled in just two weeks and has been the fastest increase we’ve seen since the pandemic started. Like cases, nearly all hospitalizations are people who are not fully vaccinated. While we’re seeing increases in all age groups, admissions have increased by 200 percent for people ages 50 to 59 in the past week.”

However, Cohen said, the state’s current situation is different from when the state previously saw rising trends.

“Vaccines are now widely available across the state,” Cohen said. “The highest rates of viral spread are happening in areas with low vaccination rates and among, again, those who are not fully vaccinated.

“Fifty-five percent of North Carolinians who can be vaccinated, those 12 and older, are fully vaccinated,” Cohen said. “And while we’ve made progress, that’s still well below where we need to be to end this pandemic. Some counties are much lower. About two-thirds of counties in the state have less than half of their 12 and older population fully vaccinated.

“Bottom line: this is a moment of rapid viral spread driven by a highly-contagious virus finding and infecting those who are still unvaccinated,” Cohen said. “If you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, I urge you to do so now to protect yourself and your community. Getting vaccinated prevents serious illness, hospitalization and death and it slows community spread of this virus. Rigorous clinical trials among thousands of people ages 12 and older have proven that vaccines are safe and effective. More than 160 million Americans have been safely vaccinated.”

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