The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated a community map of COVID-19 on Thursday 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 North Carolina residents who are at high risk for serious illness consider wearing a mask in public and take additional precautions, such as getting vaccinated, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces or crowds, and testing frequently.
Wake one of the few medium risk counties
Wake and Johnston counties are currently not seeing as much coronavirus in the community as other surrounding counties, according to the CDC’s analysis of coronavirus data.
This week, Wake County has seen an average of about 308 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents. Health officials say that number is likely not complete due to many people testing positive for the virus at home and not reporting the data to the state.
About 8 people per 100,000 in Wake County are currently admitted to 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 steadily increasing since May. As of Thursday, North Carolina’s positivity rate was 19%, meaning more than 1 in 6 coronavirus tests taken in North Carolina come back positive. This number does not include home testing.
About 95% of Wake County’s population has received some sort of coronavirus vaccination. Not everyone is fully vaccinated and even fewer people have received booster shots.
Are low vaccination rates associated with high levels of COVID in the community?
The counties with the lowest percentage of population vaccinated are Rutherford, Robeson, Montgomery, Hoke, Tyrrell, Polk and Harnett.
Harnett County — about 40 miles from Wake County — has a high vaccination rate among those 65 and older, but a relatively lower vaccination rate among those under 65.
Only 43% of Harnett County’s population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, compared to 95% for Wake. According to the CDC, fully vaccinated is defined as the completion of two doses of a Moderna or Pfizer two-dose vaccine or a single injection of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. For severely immunocompromised people, that definition changes, according to the CDC.
New cases of COVID-19 by county
The curves below, showing a 7-day rolling average of newly reported cases in each county, use data collected from state health officials by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. Counties are sorted by highest total lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases, and the top 20 counties are shown by default. The vertical axes are scaled by default according to the greatest number of new cases. Select the variable axis setting to scale each county’s cases individually to see their respective peaks. Enter a county below to highlight it for comparison. NOTE: Beginning September 25, Johns Hopkins data began to include cases identified by antigen testing reported by DHHS. The addition of these cases appears as a sharp spike in some counties.
Source: Johns Hopkins CSSE
Graphic: Tyler Dukes, WRAL // Get the data
For every 100,000 people in Harnett County, the CDC estimates nearly 300 people test positive for the 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 test positive for coronavirus, CDC data shows.
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 at medium risk for community spread. According to CDC data, it falls into this category because new coronavirus-related hospital admissions 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 in Harnett County.
Will people take the last booster shots?
The United States announced on 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 was given a booster shot, however, many people did not take 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 another booster shot. Only 28% of North Carolinas age 18 and older have been fully vaccinated and also received a first booster shot, according to CDC data.
COVID-19 hospitalizations reported in North Carolina
Experts worry about a new wave of case drops as new highly contagious variants of omicron emerge.
The number of North Carolinians testing positive for COVID-19 and going to the hospital increased 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 omicron spike ended in February, the data shows.
A total of 1,290 people were admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in the week ending July 24, which is the most North Carolina has seen since the week ending February 19.