What began with a single positive test result in Wake County in the first week of March 2020 reached a milestone Friday as North Carolina’s coronavirus cases topped 2 million.
The deadly respiratory disease is surging for the third time in the state, fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant of the virus. The state Department of Health and Human Services reported 35,759 more cases Friday, for a total of 2,011,302.
Doctors say the omicron variant tends to cause less severe illness than previous ones, in part because 59% of residents have received at least two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson.
But hospitals are still being pushed to their limits. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 grew again Friday, to a record 4,381. Doctors say about 80% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, and 88% of those in intensive care units, were not vaccinated against the virus, according to DHHS.
The death toll from COVID-19 also continues to climb. Another 53 people died as a result of COVID-19 infection, according to DHHS, bringing the total since the spring of 2020 to 19,903.
Some of the 2 million COVID-19 cases in the state were among people who had been infected previously, something the state only began to report in October. The state does not report reinfections separately, but the vast majority of those 2 million cases were people infected for the first time.
That means that close to one in five of North Carolina’s 10.7 million residents has now tested positive for the coronavirus at some point in the last two years.
Across the country, more than 64 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, resulting in more than 845,000 deaths, according to The New York Times.