‘We’ve been fortunate:’ COVID cases rising in other states – but not yet NC. How long can it last?

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Delta variant of COVID-19 is sending case numbers higher in more than 20 states across the country. 

But — so far — not in North Carolina. Not yet, anyway.

Dr. David Wohl calls such a rise here “inevitable” — especially with a vaccination rate among adults that remains in the bottom half nationally.

“It’s hard for me to imagine why we would dodge that bullet,” said Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

A CBS17.com analysis of state Department of Health and Human Services data shows North Carolina’s trends have remained relatively stable through the past several weeks, after sustained drops in key metrics that coincided with the increase in vaccinations.

“Look, we’ve been fortunate,” Wohl said.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases has lingered between the high 200s and the mid-300s for two weeks, holding steady in the mid-300s for much of the past week.

A total of 12 counties — either in the western mountains or the northeastern corner of the state — each reported no new cases during the past 14 days.

And the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the state has also remained relatively level, averaging between 385 and 397 patients every day for eight days in a row.

“One, we’re lucky in that in our area and even in our geographic region, we’re just not seeing yet the wave of Delta that is spreading across the country,” Wohl said. “Once we do, which is inevitable, my worry is that we will see cases, that we will see increases in the pockets in our state where the vaccination rates are much lower.”

That increase could arrive in the coming 7-10 days when the impact of Fourth of July gatherings could begin to show up in the daily numbers and “we get the ripple effect of cases.”

“I think that would be a really good test,” Wohl said.

A breakdown of Johns Hopkins University data by the USA Today Network showed a doubling of cases in the past week in both Alaska and Arkansas along with increases of more than 50 percent in South Carolina and Kansas.

And the federal government sent a COVID-19 surge team to southwestern Missouri, where cases and hospitalized patients are climbing.

Wohl says he’s keeping a close watch on what’s happening there.

“There’s parts of Missouri … that may have some similarities to what we have here, with lower vaccinations rates in some of our southern border counties,” Wohl said. “So I’m looking to see if there are other hot spots that start emerging … Those would be the dominos that lead up to our areas. And I’m really worried about that.”

Wohl says the best way to slow the Delta spread is with vaccinations.

North Carolina ranks 34th nationally in terms of adults who have gotten at least one shot — an improvement of four spots in two months — and 32nd when it comes to the state’s full population with at least one dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I think it is a race — it’s a race against the spread of the variant,” Wohl said. “Because the more variant we see, the more we will see people get infected. That’s just plain science. It’s more infectious, it’s more dangerous. And our vaccines work against it, but maybe slightly less than it might against some of the earlier variants. But it definitely works against it in protecting us from getting sick from it and dying from it.”

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