The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday updated a map of COVID-19 in the community 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 who are at high risk for severe illness consider wearing a mask in public and take additional precautions, like get a booster shot, avoid poorly ventilated spaces or crowds and test frequently.
Wake one of the few counties under medium risk
Wake and Johnston counties are not currently seeing as much coronavirus in the community as other surrounding counties, according to the CDC’s analysis of coronavirus data.
This week, Wake County saw on average around 308 coronavirus cases for each 100,000 residents. Health leaders say that number is likely not the full the picture because of many people who are testing positive for the virus at home and not reporting the data to the state.
Around 8 people per 100,000 in Wake County are currently being admitted to the hospital with COVID-19, which keeps Wake County in the “medium” risk category as defined by the CDC.
Wake County’s positivity rate, however, has been on a steady incline since May. As of Thursday, North Carolina’s positivity rate was at 19%, which means more than 1 in 6 coronavirus tests that are taken in North Carolina come back positive. That number doesn’t include at-home tests.
Around 95% of the population in Wake County has received some sort of vaccination against coronavirus. Not everyone is fully vaccinated, and even fewer people have received booster shots.
Do low vaccination rates pair with high COVID community levels?
The counties with the lowest percent of the population vaccinated are Rutherford, Robeson, Montgomery, Hoke, Tyrrell, Polk and Harnett.
Harnett County — around 40 miles away from Wake County — has a high vaccination rate among those 65 an older, but a relatively lower vaccination rate among those who are below the age of 65.
Only 43% of Harnett County’s population is fully vaccinated against coronavirus, compared to Wake’s 95%. According to the CDC, fully-vaccinated is defined as completing two doses of either a Moderna or Pfizer two-dose vaccine or a single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. For people who are severely immunocompromised, that definition changes, the CDC says.
New COVID-19 cases by county
The curves below, showing a 7-day rolling average of reported new cases in each county, use data collected from state health officials by Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. The counties are sorted by the 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 scale each county’s cases individually to see their respective spikes. Enter a county below to highlight it for comparison. NOTE: Starting on Sept. 25, the Johns Hopkins data began including cases identified through antigen testing reported by DHHS. The addition of these cases appears as a sharp spike in some counties.
For every 100,000 people in Harnett County, the CDC estimates that nearly 300 people are testing positive with coronavirus this week. The county’s test positivity rate is higher than the state’s — more than 26% of people who get tested in the county are testing positive for 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 the 36 under medium risk for community spread. According to CDC data, it falls into this category because new coronavirus-related hospital admissions are falling below 10 per 100,000 people.
However, around the same number of people per capita are testing positive for COVID-19 in Rutherford County as in Harnett County.
Will people take the latest booster shots?
The U.S. announced Thursday that coronavirus vaccines specific to the latest omicron variants — BA.4 and BA.5 — will be available to the public starting in September.
Everyone has been eligible for a booster shot, however, many people have not taken advantage of the opportunity. A second booster shot is recommended for Americans over 50 and those over 12 with certain immune deficiencies.
But there’s little hope in the data that people are interested in getting another booster shot. Only 28% of North Carolinians 18 and older have been fully vaccinated and also received a first booster shot, CDC data shows.
Reported COVID-19 hospitalizations in NC
Experts worry about another fall surge in cases as new highly-contagious variants of omicron are emerging.
The number of North Carolinians testing positive for COVID-19 and going to the hospital has increased by 17% this week compared to last week, according to data released by the state on Wednesday.
North Carolina is seeing levels of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations not seen since the end of omicron’s peak in February, the data shows.
A total of 1,290 people were admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 in the week ending July 24, which is the most North Carolina has seen since the week ending on February 19.