North Carolina reported fewer new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, partly because of less testing the day before, as many people and institutions marked the July 4th holiday.
North Carolina had 1,413 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, down about a third from the record high of 2,099 reported for Thursday. The number of tests completed also declined Friday by about 23%, to 18,234. More than a million coronavirus tests have now been completed in the state since the pandemic began this winter, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
The death toll has risen by four since the first of the month, to 1,395. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide dropped slightly to 945 on Friday, the second largest number since the pandemic began and the fifth consecutive day above 900.
Early in the pandemic, testing capacity was relatively scarce, and people could only get tested if they were seriously ill or working or living in high-risk settings, such as hospitals or nursing homes. That has changed.
Now state public health officials say anyone with symptoms or who thinks they have been exposed to COVID-19 whether they have symptoms or not should be tested for the disease. The NCDHHS has set up websites to help people determine if they have COVID-19 symptoms, at Check My Symptoms, and to find a place to get tested, at Find My Testing Place.
The increase in testing partly explains the rising number of coronavirus cases in North Carolina. The number of new reported coronavirus cases has averaged 1,588 a day over the past week, compared to an average of 1,003 in the first week of June and 421 the first week of May.
But the percentage of people tested found to be carrying the coronavirus has remained steady or grown of late, indicating that the virus is still prevalent and spreading. On Thursday, 11% of tests came back positive, the highest percentage since it was 12% on April 27. On Friday, that dropped to about 9%.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, the DHHS secretary, says that number is low compared to states such as Arizona (25.2%). Florida (17.7%) and Georgia (13.3%) but that she would rather see it approach 5%.
People age 25 to 49 account for about 45% of coronavirus cases in North Carolina; people age 75 and older make up just 6%. But the contagious respiratory disease is much deadlier for older adults. About 59% of those who died of COVID-19 in North Carolina were age 75 and older, according to DHHS.
More than 2.8 million people have tested positive for coronavirus in the United States, according to the Times and Johns Hopkins University Medical Center, which both are tracking the disease. Both report more than 129,500 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S., more than double the country with the second highest number, Brazil, with about 63,000.
Both the Times and Johns Hopkins databases tend to be ahead of the Centers of Disease Control, which also tracks and publishes coronavirus and COVID-19. The CDC put the number of COVID-19 deaths nationwide on Friday at 129,393.