NC State forecasting at least 6 months of significant risk for COVID-19

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Lifted restrictions and the state’s reopening sound like the end of the pandemic but scientists say North Carolina is far from it.

Researchers are warning people to stay aware of risks as this virus will likely continue to circulate for the remainder of the year.

“We still need to be careful and I’m still wearing a mask even though I’m vaccinated,” said Dr. Julie Swann, head of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at N.C. State.

The CDC selected Swann to be part of a team to develop forecasts for the pandemic. Her latest model takes into account lifted restrictions, variants, and vaccines.

“Unfortunately, we are not at the end. We are at the point where the risk of the biggest surge, simultaneously across all hospitals is much less,” Swann said.

At the current pace of vaccinations, the models estimate another 2,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands more people in the hospital from COVID-19 by the end of the year.

Swann also predicted more localized surges.

“What we’ll probably see is little fires in many different communities but they may not all happen simultaneously,” she said.

Increasing the rate of vaccinations in young people and in rural communities may shorten the length of the pandemic. Swann said she believed there would be a significant risk for infection for at least the next six months.

En end date is still hard to predict. It’s why she says not to let your guard down.

“It’s important to still be careful. When you’re with unvaccinated people, your actions and behaviors could different than with your with vaccinated people,” said Swann.

The risk is especially high for unvaccinated people. While rare- breakthrough cases are possible for those who are vaccinated too.

Swann’s team also build an online interactive platform to visualize the future of the pandemic statewide and county-by-county. It allows users to see what COVID-19 spread may look like based on non-pharmaceutical interventions (like masking and school closures), vaccine efficacy, vaccine coverage and vaccine rollout speed.

To explore more of the forecast, click here.

Explore your county’s forecast below:

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