RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — We’re in the midst of another post-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases in North Carolina.
For a second straight year, the numbers are spiking in the days and weeks after Thanksgiving — just as experts predicted.
The seven-day average has nearly doubled in just over a week while reaching its highest level since October, a CBS17.com analysis of state Department of Health and Human Services data found.
“I’d be surprised if we didn’t see an increase in the number of cases at least, following all the travel and all the get-togethers” from Thanksgiving, said Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
“I think that was almost a sure bet,” he said.
Many experts last month braced for another spike after the holiday, citing the mix of travel, cooler weather and gatherings.
The signs began to show up late last week, when four straight days with at least 3,000 new cases were recorded by NCDHHS. That raised the daily average to 2,980 cases Monday, just six days after it was at 1,634.
And the latest spike is leaving some doctors and healthcare workers fatigued.
“My reaction was exhaustion,” said Dr. Erica Pettigrew, a family practice physician and assistant professor at the UNC School of Medicine. “We’re all exhausted. And we just really beg people to help us, help us help the public, help us help the hospitals from being overrun.”
But this surge shouldn’t be quite as severe as the last few, mainly because the vaccines are much more widespread than they were at this time a year ago when the worst surge of the pandemic was just beginning.
More than 60 percent of the state’s total population has had at least one vaccine dose — not nearly enough for herd immunity, but enough to avoid massive hospital admissions and deaths.
“I don’t anticipate that we will have the mountain that we saw in cases last December, January,” Wohl said. “That was just horrific and catastrophic. … They’ll be more muted. And really, that’s a testament to how many people are vaccinated and have protection.”
Wohl says he’s looking ahead to a specific point in time — the point when COVID-19 will cease to be a public health crisis.
“If we all get mild cases of COVID-19, we are no longer in a crisis,” he said. “It may not be what we want. … The issue is filling up our emergency rooms, filling up our hospital wards, filling up our ICUs. If we’re in a situation where that’s not happening, we’re no longer in this crisis. And we’re no longer going to have to do all the things we’re doing now.”
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.