STATE: COVID-19 cases rapidly increasing in unvaccinated North Carolinians; hospitalizations doubled in two weeks

Published 3:46 pm Friday, July 23, 2021

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RALEIGH — After months of decline, North Carolina is experiencing a rapid increase in COVID-19 spread among those who are unvaccinated. Thursday, 1,998 cases were reported to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and 817 people are hospitalized with 132 admitted in the past 24 hours. There have been 9,053 cases reported over the past seven days compared to 5,441 cases in the preceding seven days — a 66 percent increase — and hospitalizations doubled since July 9 and are at the highest rate they have been since the May 11.

“Unvaccinated North Carolinians are unnecessarily getting sick, being hospitalized and dying,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “Don’t wait to vaccinate. And if you haven’t gotten your shot, you need to wear a mask indoors at all times when you are in public spaces.”

The state’s other key metrics are also increasing, including the number of people going to the emergency department with COVID-like symptoms and the percent of tests that are positive — which has been over 6 percent for the past week. In addition, this week’s updated County Alert System has one red county with critical viral and spread and 12 orange counties with substantial spread, up from one two weeks ago. Richmond County is red, and Cherokee, Chowan, Cleveland, Cumberland, Graham, Hoke, Lee, Onslow, Pitt, Rutherford and Sampson Counties are orange.

More than 94 percent of recent North Carolina cases are in people who were not fully vaccinated. People who are unvaccinated are at risk for infection by the more contagious and potentially more dangerous Delta variant. Patients who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 and are at higher risk for severe illness should talk to their health care provider to see if monoclonal antibody therapy is an option for them.

NCDHHS urges all unvaccinated North Carolinians age 12 and older to get a COVID-19 vaccine to protect against severe illness, hospitalization and death. Rigorous clinical trials among thousands of people ages 12 and older, have proven vaccines are safe and effective. More than 160 million Americans have now been safely vaccinated. Vaccines are the best protection from COVID-19 related hospitalizations and deaths, as well as complications from the virus. Research has shown even people who had a mild case of COVID-19 may struggle with long-term effects like shortness of breath, chest pain and brain fog.

To date, 60% of North Carolina adults have received at least one dose and 57% are fully vaccinated. To find a vaccine in your area, use the Find a Vaccine Location tool at or call 888-675-4567. You can also text your zip code to 438829 to find vaccine locations near you.