DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – As the BA.5 COVID-19 subvariant takes hold, the social scene in Durham isn’t slowing down.
Jenny Levine spends every Friday night at the Carolina Theatre of Durham. She said she hasn’t stopped wearing a mask indoors throughout the pandemic, and will continue the protocol with the new variant.
“It’s scary, I know that cases are going up and just taking the precautions that we know how to take, washing, staying away, doing limited contact and wearing our masks except when we’re eating the popcorn,” Levine said.
Forty-one counties in North Carolina now have high community spread in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest map, more than 10 times as many as two weeks ago.
But still, filmgoer Anthony Gentile isn’t changing his habits, either.
“I’m vaccinated, I haven’t caught it yet, so I’ll play the odds,” Gentile said.
The BA.5 omicron subvariant is the top variant in North Carolina.
“It just becomes much much more infectious, and remember, omicron was already more infectious than delta, which is more infectious than the previous, so what we’re really doing is selecting for more and more catchy viruses,” Dr. David Wohl said, a Professor of Medicine in the division of infectious diseases at UNC Chapel Hill.
Wohl said while there are lots of COVID-19 strands out there, the ICUs are not overflowing with people on ventilators currently.
“If it’s really high on your agenda not to catch COVID-19 you won’t be caught indoors, in public, without a mask,” Wohl said.
Wohl said a big caveat to the numbers is that many people do at-home testing and don’t report it to the health department.
He also notes there’s a lag between variant sequencing labs do and real-time cases.
Still, Carolina Theatre President and CEO Randy McKay said the theater is having one of its best years yet.
“I think all of us wanted to get back out and do stuff,” McKay said.
He doesn’t expect the more contagious variant to impact attendance.
“We haven’t seen a lot of shift, once we reopened and folks began to return to the theatre it’s been a pretty steady climb since then, yes we’ve had some ebbs and flows, but in terms of attendance, it really hasn’t impacted us,” McKay said.
He said the theatre invested about $40,000 in equipment to make the theatre safer, including upgrading the HVAC filtration system.