RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — While spread of COVID-19 remains high, transmission of the virus has noticeably declined in North Carolina over the last two weeks, according to new health department data released Monday.
The data from the state Department of Health and Human Services showed a nearly 25% drop in hospitalizations in the last 14 days, while the rolling average number of daily new cases has decreased by more than 30%.
Roughly one in every 310 people in North Carolina tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week. For the first time since mid-July, the share of tests coming back positive in North Carolina has been in the single digits for six consecutive days.
Deaths, which lag behind cases and hospitalizations, will likely drop as the trends improve.
The positive development comes even as fewer and fewer North Carolinians get vaccinated. While vaccination numbers continue to come in from last week, the latest data shows less than 33,000 residents got a first dose last week. This is the lowest weekly count since the week of Dec. 14 — the first week the state administered vaccines after receiving limited supplies from the federal government.
A report the state health department released last week showed unvaccinated North Carolinians accounted for 86% of COVID-related hospitalizations and 91% of infected patients in intensive care units.
State health officials said the available vaccines remain “highly effective” but warned of decreased effectiveness at preventing infection of the more contagious delta variant. Regardless, unvaccinated individuals are more than 16 times as likely to die of COVID-19 and four times as likely to contract the virus than vaccinated individuals.
“Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as well severe, hospitalization and death due to the virus,” the department wrote.
Americans who got a Pfizer shot and are at least 65 years old can now get a booster shot six months after their second dose, as can adults 18 and older who are medically vulnerable, live in congregate settings or work in a high-risk profession where they come into contact with lots of people.
The state also continues to offer monoclonal antibody treatments to those who have either been exposed to the virus or had COVID-19 symptoms for no more than 10 days.
While a number of factors contribute to a person’s risk of exposure and death, including age, race, and health issues such as obesity, vaccinated communities have seen substantially fewer cases and deaths.
About 43% of the more than 112,000 Harnett County residents who qualify for a shot because they are at least 12 years old are fully vaccinated. Since June 1, which marks a time when most anyone in the state could have been fully vaccinated if they wanted to, 61 county residents have died and one in 24 overall residents have become infected.
Of the roughly 131,000 Orange County residents eligible for a shot, about 79% are fully vaccinated. Eight Orange County residents have died from COVID-19 since June 1 and about one in 53 overall residents contracted the virus.
Two-thirds of North Carolinians 12 and older have gotten at least one shot, which lags behind the national average of 76%.