RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — New cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina have climbed nearly 30 percent in the past week, a CBS17.com data analysis found.
And some counties that had the lowest vaccination rates a month ago also saw some of the highest case increases on the state’s newest county alert map.
North Carolina is one of at least 21 states across the country where the case counts climbed by at least 10 percent over the past week, according to published reports citing data from Johns Hopkins University’s COVID tracker.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases was at 2,041 on Friday, the second straight day it has exceeded 2,000 — a level not previously seen since early March. That average has increased by 28 percent over the past week, after it was at 1,596 last Friday, following an analysis of state Department of Health and Human Services data.
More of those cases are showing up in people younger than 50. That age group accounted for 78 percent of new cases during the week of April 4, the most recent weekly case demographic data made available by DHHS.
It has steadily climbed, from 74 percent during the week of March 21 to 76 percent the following week.
It comes as DHHS released its newest color-coded county alert map, which had only one county — Edgecombe County — in the red zone as having a critical level of spread. Its two-week per capita case count of 390 cases per 100,000 people ranked third-highest in the state and its percent positive in excess of 11.4 percent was the highest.
And some low vaccination rates earlier in the rollout may be starting to be reflected in some increases in case counts.
The new report shows 35 counties where the per capita case count increased by more than 10 percent from the previous report issued April 1. Seven of those counties ranked among the 14 lowest rates of partial vaccinations on March 15, with none getting the first dose to more than 15 percent of their populations by that date.
Onslow County, which had a state-low 10.1 percent of its population partially vaccinated in mid-March, showed a 21 percent increase in its case count over the past two weeks. Rowan County, where the partial vaccination rate was 13.1 percent, had a 16 percent increase in per capita cases.
“If there are pockets that don’t get vaccinated, that are socially organized in a way that is cohesive, that will be a pocket and then the virus can incubate and spread very rapidly,” said Dr. Pia MacDonald, an epidemiologist at RTI International.
Experts are keeping an eye on the COVID-19 variants, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying 21 percent of the samples it’s indexed from North Carolina were found to be the variant first found in the United Kingdom — meaning the state ranks relatively well compared to others. That proportion was more than 60 percent in Tennessee and nearly 58 percent in Michigan.
Another 3.6 percent of those indexed samples in North Carolina were the South African variant. While that’s still a relatively low number, it is the highest percentage among any state, according to the CDC’s tracker.
MacDonald says the increase in cases should lead to a recommitment to the vaccination process, even though demand appears to be plateauing.
“We need to double down on making sure that the people who are most vulnerable to severe disease, get the vaccine,” MacDonald 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.