HUNTERSVILLE, NC — The post-Thanksgiving surge in new COVID-19 cases continues in North Carolina, as state public health officials reported 5,273 new cases and 98 deaths Wednesday. The new cases increased the state's tally of known cases to 451,874, as the death toll increased to 5,979 lives lost to the virus since March.
The rise in cases increases the percentage of positive cases in the state to 12.5 percent, according to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services data.
Mecklenburg County Public Health reported that as of Dec. 15, the county's tally included 51,838 cases and 477 COVID-19 deaths, representing a surge of more than 4,500 new cases and 14 deaths in the county in a week.
According to county public health officials, 11.6 percent of those tested in the county were positive for coronavirus and an average of 273 people were hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 infections.
In Huntersville, at least 2,453 cases were confirmed and 19 deaths reported as of Dec. 16, according to DHHS data. The tally represents an increase of at least 321 new cases and one death in a week.
Across North Carolina, hospitalizations rose to a new record high Wednesday. According to DHHS data, at least 2,811 patients with coronavirus illness, an increase of 76 patients reported since Tuesday.
The rising number of cases continues to put pressure on hospitals in the 13-county Charlotte metro, according to data. As of Wednesday, about 87 percent of the regional staffed intensive care unit beds were full, leaving 57 empty staffed ICU beds, according to DHHS. About 81 percent of the region's staffed inpatient hospital beds were full, leaving 922 staffed beds available.
This week, as healthcare workers began receiving the first round of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Roy Cooper said questions still loom about how much the state will receive in future shipments.
Shipments of the Pfizer vaccine began throughout the state Monday. State health officials are also preparing to receive the Moderna vaccine under federal consideration. Should Moderna's vaccine receive authorization by an independent U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) later this week, North Carolina could receive 175,000 doses of the vaccine by next week, Cooper said Tuesday.
"Just over half of those will go to long-term care facilities. We expect them to begin getting vaccination at the end of the month," he said.
"Beyond that, questions remain," Cooper said. "North Carolina and every other state still need clarity from the federal government as to how many doses of the Pfizer vaccine we will receive going forward."
DHHS has developed a database system to help manage the distribution of vaccine supplies, which is logistically complex, Cooper said. The database would record how many people have received the first dose so healthcare provided would know who needed the second dose, both of which need to be from the same manufacturer.
DHHS has also set up a "war room" to help answer healthcare provider questions, he said.
North Carolina health officials, along with those in other states, have been told they will receive information each Friday about vaccine shipments arriving the following week, "giving the states just a few hours to direct where these shipments will go," Cooper said.
Cooper said he raised the issued Monday during a call with other governors and Vice President Mike Pence. "I asked for more time to plan, which is critical as our vaccines roll out across the state and they said they will work on it," he said.