RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina reached a milestone Thursday by recording its 1 millionth new case of COVID-19.
And several experts used the same key word to describe it — preventable.
RTI International epidemiologist Dr. Pia MacDonald calls it “at this point, a preventable death.”
Duke infectious disease specialist Dr. Cameron Wolfe lamented “a million preventable cases.”
But they weren’t prevented.
With 849 new cases reported Thursday, North Carolina’s total grew to 1,000,416 cases.
“I just think it’s a testament to how bad it really has been over the last year and a half,” said Dr. Alexa Mieses Malchuk of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine’s department of family medicine.
Mieses Malchuk says it’s further evidence that “we’re really not out of the woods yet.”
“I certainly hope that it serves as a reminder to all that we still are in the midst of a pandemic,” she said.
North Carolina became the 10th state with 1 million cases, but that’s mostly a function of the size: Nine of those states also rank in the top 10 in population.
Of the state’s 10.5 million people, nearly 1 in 10 have had a lab-confirmed case of the disease.
It took 452 days from the day the first one was reported — March 2, 2020 — until the millionth.
And, it took 298 days from that day for the state to reach half a million cases but roughly half that time — 154 days — for the last 500,000.
“If we take two steps back or 10 steps back, we really see what a big impact this pandemic has had on the state of North Carolina and how the disease has been shared across the state, amongst many different age groups, many different community groups, and that it is really a population-wide epidemic versus just certain groups being targeted,” MacDonald said.
“So this virus does not discriminate.”
The state recorded its 500,000th case on Christmas Eve, meaning half of the total came during the past five months.
But the largest chunk of those were from the post-holiday surge in January and February, while the spread has slowed markedly during the past month as the vaccine became more prevalent.
“There are ways forward here that you can really walk out with an optimistic view,” Wolfe said.
North Carolina averaged 812 new cases each day over the past week — less than one-tenth of its daily average at the peak of 8,654 in mid-January.
“The number of cases is continuing to decrease,” MacDonald said. “All of May, we’ve seen a decrease in cases, week after week. That is excellent news.”
Both public health experts and Gov. Roy Cooper said the way out of the pandemic involves even more widespread vaccination, with Cooper saying that “you’re going to see us ramping up our efforts over the next few weeks.”
Said MacDonald: “It is about vaccination at this point.”