Craven County continues to see a spike in COVID-19 cases, with nearly 60 patients currently admitted to CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern.
According to Public Relations Director Brandy Popp, as of Thursday morning CarolinaEast had 54 COVID positive inpatients, with four more in the emergency department awaiting admission. Popp said 35 of the patients admitted for COVID-19 are unvaccinated.
The current rise in omicron variant cases, which now account for 99% of all cases nationally, has also impacted CarolinaEast's staff. Popp said the medical center currently has 89 COVID positive employees.
One potential bright spot, said Popp, is that CarolinaEast has seen less severe illness with the omicron variant surge, meaning less use of mechanical ventilation and long tern supplemental oxygen, particularly in vaccinated patients.
Information from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services shows that during the week of Jan. 14, Craven County’s 7-day hospitalization average for COVID-19 patients was 45.6. According to the data, 76.1% of inpatient beds and 80.9% of ICU beds were in use at CarolinaEast over the same period.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and the Craven County Health Department show that over the last year, Craven County’s COVID-19 cases have nearly tripled, jumping from 6,906 cumulative confirmed cases on Jan. 27, 2021 to 20,201 as of Thursday.
There have been 172 deaths confirmed in Craven County as a result of COVID-19.
The county’s daily confirmed cases, 7-day average and infection rate per 100,000 residents have all risen sharply over the last 12 months.
Daily confirmed cases
Jan. 27, 2021 - 91
Jan. 27, 2022 - 119
Jan. 27, 2021 - 60
Jan. 27, 2022 - 294
Per 100,000 pop.
Jan. 27, 2021- 52.206
Jan. 27, 2022 - 285.452
Vaccinations crucial for overburdened healthcare system
Craven County’s vaccination rate mirrors the state’s, with approximately 60% of residents fully vaccinated. A total of 76.79% of Craven residents have received at least one vaccine dose.
A Jan. 25 report from the CDC stresses the importance of vaccinations both in preventing severe illness and easing the strain on overburdened hospitals.
According to the CDC, in December 2021 COVID-19-associated hospitalization rates were 12 times higher in unvaccinated adults ages 18–49, and 17 times higher in unvaccinated adults ages 50 and older.
“Although disease severity appears lower with the omicron variant, the high volume of hospitalizations can strain local health care systems and the average daily number of deaths remains substantial,” the report states. “This underscores the importance of national emergency preparedness, specifically, hospital surge capacity and the ability to adequately staff local health care systems. In addition, being up to date on vaccinations and following other recommended prevention strategies are critical to preventing infections, severe illness, or death from COVID-19.”
The Craven County Health Department is currently offering free vaccinations for individuals 5 years of age and older.
Booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are now available to all North Carolinians 12 and older. Booster shots are available anywhere COVID-19 vaccines are available and do not require a doctor’s note. Booster doses of Pfizer and Moderna should be given five months after completing the initial two-dose series. A booster dose of J&J should be given at least two months after receiving the single shot.
An appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine can be scheduled by calling 252-636-6693, Mon.-Fri. from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Free N95 masks coming to local pharmacies
The administration of President Joe Biden has announced it is deploying 400 million free N95 masks to the public. The rollout to local pharmacies and grocery stores began this week. The White House’s latest efforts to combat COVID-19 come following new CDC guidelines that state that cloth masks are less effective in preventing the spread of the omicron variant than N95 and KN95 masks.
The free masks are being distributed from the Strategic National Stockpile, which has more than 750 million of them on hand. The free distribution program is expected to be fully operational by early February.
Both Walgreens and CVS pharmacies are participating in the program. According to the CVS website, the masks are not yet available in their stores but should be arriving soon. The masks were also not available at local Walgreens locations Thursday. Both stores recommended checking their websites for updated information about N95 mask supplies.
This article originally appeared on Sun Journal: Craven County vaccination rate holding at 60% with COVID cases rising