‘Don’t play pretend’: We’re past the delta peak, but what comes next?


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina appears to have made it past the latest surge in COVID-19 cases ahead of schedule.

But one expert says now certainly isn’t the time to let up.

He’s concerned about yet another bump this winter.

Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, doesn’t think any coming winter surges will be nearly as severe as the one we endured in January and February, when most pandemic highs were set.

“I think it may be more like a camel hump,” he said.

But he says the combination of Thanksgiving and cooler temperatures could lead people indoors more and cause case numbers to rise again.

He says there’s one important thing to keep in mind.

“The No. 1 thing that I caution myself against, and I urge others, is don’t play pretend,” he said. “Don’t pretend we’re not in the midst of a pandemic. Don’t pretend we’re not dealing with a variant that is hyperinfectious. Don’t pretend that you don’t need a mask when you’re around people outside your bubble in your indoors.

“So I am really worried that we’re still in this mindset that things are better, more than they are,” he added. “So just keep mindful. Keep reality-centered. We’re still in the midst of a surge. Let’s keep that surge going down and not let it re-surge.”

Wohl told CBS 17 in late August that the models he tracks pointed to the delta peak not coming until late October or early November.

Modelers two weeks ago painted a more optimistic picture: The delta surge does appear to be receding, with state Department of Health and Human Services data showing the seven-day average of new cases Wednesday was roughly half what it was at the peak less than three weeks earlier. 

And the count of patients in hospitals across the state has declined on each of the past 15 days, shedding nearly 1,000 patients during that span.

What did we do right?

Wohl says the key has been protection — one way or another.

He says concerns about the delta variant persuaded many of the hesitant to get vaccinated. Others may have been convinced by their employers, who required the shots to keep their jobs. Still others developed a level of natural immunity after catching — and recovering from — COVID-19.

“Putting these all together, maybe with some good luck because weather has been warm and people haven’t been driven inside, we’re not seeing as many new infections as maybe we projected,” Wohl said.

CBS 17’s Joedy McCreary has been tracking COVID-19 figures since March 2020, compiling data from federal, state, and local sources to deliver a clear snapshot of what the coronavirus situation looks like now and what it could look like in the future.

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