North Carolina on Thursday reported the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and the largest one-day increase in new cases since May, continuing a trend of rapidly worsening pandemic numbers.
The state announced 1,800 new cases on Thursday, up 366 from Wednesday’s 1,434 cases and the highest daily case increase since May 7. Except for a drop over the past weekend, the number of new cases reported daily has been rising rapidly since July 13, when the state Department of Health and Human Services reported 540 new cases.
There are now 751 people hospitalized, the highest number since May 21 and up 56 from Wednesday’s 695. The number of people hospitalized has increased every day since July 9.
The News & Observer reported that 98% of all hospitalizations in the state since May were people who have not yet been fully vaccinated. In Wake, Durham and Orange counties, 59%, 57% and 66% of the population, respectively, have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
As of Thursday morning, DHHS reported that 46% of the total North Carolina population has been fully vaccinated. President Joe Biden had set a goal of getting 70% of the country vaccinated by July 4. DHHS has said North Carolina is unlikely to hit that number before Thanksgiving.
Early in the pandemic, 70% was one of the figures mentioned as a threshold for the country to achieve so-called herd immunity to the coronavirus. Experts now say they don’t know what that number is because there has been no previous experience with COVID-19 and because the threshold varies from disease to disease, depending on how contagious the disease is. Yale Medicine reports, for example, that a 95% vaccination rate is necessary to achieve herd immunity against the highly contagious measles. For polio, the estimate is 80%.
Durham County currently has 26,122 total cases of COVID-19, Orange County has 8,700 and Wake County has 90,790. Mecklenburg County continues to lead the state with 116,762 total cases.
Durham County has had 77 cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days, Orange has had 55 and Wake 89.
North Carolina has now seen a total of 13,562 deaths from COVID-19 — 743 in Wake County, 239 in Durham County, and 101 in Orange County.
Johnston County, which significantly trails Wake, Durham and Orange in vaccination rate, has seen 212 cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks. The county’s death toll has climbed to 240.
Mecklenburg County has had 156 cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days and 988 deaths.
Health officials say the continued statewide rise in cases is due to the delta variant of the coronavirus, which is more transmissible and possibly more deadly, infecting people who have not been vaccinated.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that school districts should require masks indoors for all students and staff in elementary and middle schools.
This is a developing story and will be updated.