RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina has reported thousands of cases of COVID-19 in fully vaccinated people.
These reports are called “breakthrough cases” and are coinciding with the increased spread of the Delta variant.
The Delta variant accounts for 83 percent of all new cases in the U.S. and 79 percent of new cases in North Carolina.
“For people individually wondering if that’s the variant they have, the answer is yes,” said Zack Moore, a state epidemiologist for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Finding breakthrough cases is a matching game.
“[We’re] taking the data that we have in our vaccine database and comparing that with the data we have in our disease reporting database and that helps us look for matches,” said Moore.
Out of the 4.8 million people fully vaccinated, DHHSS counts 4,659 potential breakthrough cases. The state said 2,327 of those were reported between May 6 and July 11. They represent 5.6 percent of the 41,893 total infections reported statewide during that period.
“There are definitely more cases, breakthrough and otherwise, that we don’t hear about,” said Moore.
The breakthrough cases landed 21 people in the hospital and killed 61.
Cases are going up for unvaccinated people too. The state’s seven-day average of cases tripled since July 1. While the state started the month with an average of 290 new cases a day, it’s now up to an average of 933 new cases a day.
“We are seeing big surges in cases going along with this emergence of the Delta variant,” said Moore.
Will North Carolina bring back restrictions?
CBS 17 asked Gov. Roy Cooper’s office if the recent rise would trigger the return of restrictions.
Cooper’s deputy communications director Mary Scott Winstead said, “The governor and state health officials continue to closely monitor the state’s trends and follow the science and guidance from experts in responding to the pandemic. It is important for all eligible North Carolinians to get one of the three safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to keep our communities safe from the virus and highly contagious variants.”
CBS 17 went back and looked at the trends. When restrictions first went into place March 2020, the seven-day average for new cases was just three. Today, the seven-day average sits at 933.
At the virus’ peak in January, the seven-day average number of people in the hospital was 3,924. Today that average sits at 535. That number rose for nine straight days. A trend like that hasn’t been seen since the winter holidays.
“The emergence of the Delta variant is something we have to keep in mind with all our guidance and recommendations and were going to be watching closely to see how things change,” said Moore.
Unless something changes there’s no end in sight for the grip the Delta variant has on the state. State health officials still saying the best protection is to get vaccinated.
“We’d like to keep as many people protected as we can and limit the impact that has on us in North Carolina,” said Moore.
Moore also said most breakthrough cases will present with milder symptoms. After all, preventing severe illness, not preventing infection altogether, are what the vaccines are intended to do.
“We don’t know what the future holds for other variants but we do have good evidence that vaccines are effective against the Delta,” said Moore.