60% of NC eligible now vaccinated, as September COVID deaths surpass June and July

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Six in 10 North Carolinians ages 12 and up are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported Monday.

Those 11 and younger are not eligible yet to be vaccinated against the virus.

All told, 65% of those eligible have received at least one dose of the two-shot vaccine from either Pfizer or Moderna.

Since the week of July 12, when the delta variant started to rapidly spread in North Carolina, vaccinations from week-to-week increased until the week of Aug. 23.

In the weeks following, the latest data show that the number of new vaccinations has fallen, but vaccine reports from those weeks can still be updated in the coming days. Therefore, data may show that vaccinations still have continued to increase when all reports are collected.

According to a DHHS report in August, unvaccinated people are more than four times as likely to catch COVID-19 and 15 times more likely to die due to the disease compared with those who have had shots, The News & Observer previously reported.

President Joe Biden announced vaccine mandates last week.

Employees at companies with over 100 people would be required to get vaccinated under Biden’s order or be subject to weekly testing.

Vaccination for workers at health care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding would be required as a condition of employment. The Triangle’s major health care providers — WakeMed, UNC Health and Duke Health — already have this requirement.

Many Republican governors have said they will challenge the Biden order in court, The New York Times reported.

Last month, Pfizer’s vaccine, now known as Comirnaty, was granted full approval by the Food and Drug Adminstration.

The vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are authorized for emergency use, a step below full approval, though both companies are working to apply for full FDA approval.

Hospitalizations beginning to decrease as deaths go up

DHHS reported 3,514 people hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide Monday. That number has dropped by more than 200 over the past week, though the state only had reports from 91% of hospitals. The rate is typically 95% to 97%.

But the number is still much higher than from early July when just 396 people were hospitalized with the virus.

As of Monday, 894 COVID-19 patients — about 25% of all coronavirus hospitalizations — are being treated in intensive care units.

It’s the first time since Aug. 26 that the number has been lower than 900. ICU patients peaked at 955 on Aug. 29.

The number of people dying due to the disease is increasing.

The state has death data for the first 10 days in September. In that time, 391 people in North Carolina have died due to the disease.

That’s more than those that died in June and July combined.

In August, more than 1,000 people died due to COVID-19, the highest monthly total since February, when vaccines were widely available.

The surge in deaths is due to the delta variant, a mutation of the coronavirus that’s more than twice as contagious as the original strain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among all sequenced virus in North Carolina, more than 97% is delta, the latest CDC data show.

As of Monday, 656,318 Americans, including 15,247 North Carolinians, have died due to COVID-19.

Weekend’s case count

DHHS reported nearly 24,000 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend.

But some of those cases were from Thursday. Due to a technical issue, some reports from that day were not submitted, resulting in a lower count on Friday.

The issue has since been resolved. The cases not reported from Thursday were added to those reported over the weekend, inflating the actual number of tests returned positive.

Among the tests reported Saturday, the latest available data, 11.8% returned positive. Over the last week of available data, 12% of tests have returned positive per day.

State health officials have said they want that rate at 5% or lower. It’s one of the many metrics that the state uses to gauge COVID spread.

Case, testing, hospitalization and death data reported by DHHS are preliminary and subject to change as more information becomes available.

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