On Thursday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its COVID-19 community map to show that 61 of North Carolina’s 100 counties are at high risk. The majority of counties in eastern and southern North Carolina are at high risk.
The CDC recommends that North Carolina residents at risk of severe illness consider wearing a mask in public and take extra precautions, such as getting a booster shot, avoiding poorly ventilated places or crowds and testing frequently.
Wake up to one of the few counties at moderate risk
Wake and Johnston counties are not currently seeing as many coronaviruses in the community as other surrounding counties, according to a CDC analysis of coronavirus data.
This week, Wake County has seen an average of about 308 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents. Health leaders say that number is likely not the full picture because many people have tested positive for the virus at home and are not reporting the data to the state.
About 8 out of every 100,000 people in Wake County are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, putting Wake County in the “medium” risk category as defined by the CDC.
However, Wake County’s positivity rate has been on a steady rise since May. As of Thursday, North Carolina’s positivity rate was at 19%, which means more than 1 in 6 coronavirus tests performed in North Carolina have tested positive. This figure does not include at-home tests.
About 95% of Wake County residents have received some type of coronavirus vaccination. Not everyone is fully vaccinated, and even fewer people have received booster doses.
Are low vaccination rates associated with high community levels of COVID?
The counties with the lowest proportion of vaccinated residents are Rutherford, Robson, Montgomery, Hook, Terrell, Polk and Harnett.
Harnett County—about 40 miles from Wake County—has a high vaccination rate among those 65 years of age, but a relatively lower vaccination rate among those younger than 65.
Only 43% of Harnett County’s entire population are vaccinated against the coronavirus, compared to 95% in Wake. According to the CDC, a full vaccination is defined as completing two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine with two doses or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. For people with severe immunodeficiency, that definition is changing, says the CDC.
New COVID-19 cases by county
The curves below, which show a 7-day rolling average of new cases reported in each county, use data collected from state health officials by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. Counties are sorted by largest total of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases, and the top 20 counties are shown by default. Vertical axes are scaled by default based on the largest number of new cases. Select the variable axis setting to measure county-by-county states to see the heights of each. Enter a county below to highlight it for comparison. Note: As of September 25, Johns Hopkins data including cases identified through antigen testing reported by DHHS began. The addition of these cases appears to be a sharp rise in some counties.
Source: Johns Hopkins CSSE
Graphics: Tyler Dukes, WRAL // Get Data
For every 100,000 people in Harnett County, the CDC estimates that nearly 300 people have tested positive for the coronavirus this week. The county’s test positivity rate is higher than the state rate — more than 26% of people tested in the county have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to CDC data.
On the other hand, Rutherford County has the lowest vaccination rate but is not in the CDC’s high risk category. The county is one of 36 counties at average risk of community spread. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it falls into this category because new hospital admissions associated with the coronavirus fall below 10 per 100,000 people.
However, about the same number of people per capita are testing positive for COVID-19 in Rutherford County as it is in Harnett County.
Will people take the latest booster shots?
The United States announced Thursday that coronavirus vaccines for its latest omicron variants – BA.4 and BA.5 – will be available to the public from September.
Everyone was eligible for a booster potion, however, not many people took advantage of this opportunity. A second booster dose is recommended for Americans over 50 years of age and those over 12 years of age who are immunocompromised.
But there is little hope in the data that people are interested in getting another booster dose. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows that only 28% of North Carolina residents age 18 and older have been fully vaccinated and also received their first booster dose.
COVID-19 hospitalization reported in North Carolina
Experts are concerned about a further increase in the decline in cases with the emergence of new, highly contagious types of oomicron.
The number of North Carolina residents testing positive for COVID-19 and going to hospital is up 17% this week compared to last week, according to data released by the state on Wednesday.
Data shows North Carolina is seeing levels of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations not seen since the end of the Omicron peak in February.
A total of 1,290 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the week ending July 24, the largest number North Carolina has seen since the week ending February 19.