Coronavirus omicron updates: Here’s what to know in North Carolina on Jan. 21

Jeff Siner/jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
·4 min read

We’re tracking the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus and vaccines in North Carolina. Check back for updates.

More than 29,000 cases added

At least 2,177,357 coronavirus cases have been reported in North Carolina, and at least 20,108 people have died since March 2020, according to state health officials.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday, Jan. 20, reported 29,580 new COVID-19 cases, up from 17,374 the day before.

At least 4,741 people were reported hospitalized with COVID-19 on Jan. 20, up from 4,727 the day before and beating the previous record of 4,630 hospitalizations. Seventy-one coronavirus-related deaths were also added.

As of Jan. 18, the latest date with available information, 33.3% of coronavirus tests were reported positive. Health officials say 5% or lower is the target rate to slow the spread of the virus.

Roughly 74% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and about 70% have been fully vaccinated. Of the state’s total population, about 59% are fully vaccinated and 64% have received at least one dose. State officials round vaccination numbers to the nearest whole number.

More than 2.8 million ”additional/booster” doses have been administered in North Carolina as of Jan. 20, the health department said. Health officials have urged those who are eligible to get boosted, as data suggests it offers increased protection against the omicron coronavirus variant.

About 99% of all new COVID-19 cases in the Southeast were attributed to the omicron variant as of Jan. 15, the latest date for which data is available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How to troubleshoot problems ordering free COVID test

Some people trying to order free at-home COVID-19 test kits through the federal government have run into error messages and other issues using the online order form.

If the message states that test kits have already been ordered for that address, the U.S. Postal Service says users should double check with others in their household to make sure no one else placed an order. Some messages also say the address isn’t valid, in which case people can look up the proper formatting using the zip code lookup tool on the USPS website.

At-home test kits cannot be sent to businesses, The Charlotte Observer reported, meaning users can get an error message if they try to use a company address instead of their home address.

Some people who live in apartments have also had trouble with the site. One trick Twitter users say has worked is entering the apartment number in the first line of the address instead of separating it in the second line.

More troubleshooting tips can be found here.

Case rates start slowing in Mecklenburg, but there’s still a long way to go

After the Charlotte area saw a rise in coronavirus cases, a slowdown may be on the horizon.

“We’re starting to plateau,” said Dr. Katie Passaretti, an infectious disease expert at Atrium Health. “We haven’t yet turned that corner.”

Raynard Washington, health director for Mecklenburg County, also said case rates are starting to slow. But trends seen before the omicron variant started its spread would still be far away, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Earlier in January, the county reached a positive coronavirus case rate of 38%. That has since dropped to 32% but is double the rate seen during past spikes, data shows. Mecklenburg will keep its indoor mask mandate unless the rate is below 5% for a full week.

Meanwhile, the county hasn’t seen a decline in the average number of new infections. Also, the area’s 7-day average of coronavirus-related hospitalizations has risen to 487, up from 182 on Dec. 9, according to a presentation from Washington.

Ivermectin among potential COVID treatments studied at Duke

A controversial drug is among the possible COVID-19 treatments being considered in a study led by North Carolina researchers.

Duke University doctors are testing three drugs to see if they could be used as effective tools during the pandemic. The drugs include ivermectin, which is used to treat parasites and hasn’t received federal approval to treat COVID-19.

“There were some early studies that showed that it could potentially be helpful with COVID-19, but they were not large enough to be definitive,” said Dr. Adrian Hernandez. “So we want to know either way, is it potentially beneficial or not.”

The study started last summer and is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Officials hope that having treatments along with vaccines could make COVID-19 “as manageable as seasonal flu,” The News & Observer reported.

Wake County giving out free N95 face masks

Wake County, home to Raleigh, is offering N95 face masks at no cost, officials said.

The masks are being offered weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. at the following sites: Wake County Health & Human Services Center Building on Kidd Road; Wake County Health & Human Services Center on Sunnybrook Road; and the Wake County eastern, northern and southern regional centers.

Experts have said N95 and KN95 masks offer the best protection as the coronavirus continues to spread.

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