Data show rising COVID-19 hospital numbers, spike in positive test rate during past week

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Two of the three key coronavirus metrics state leaders hailed as supporting the transition out of the first phase of reopening appear to have worsened in the days since the shift into Phase Two.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has topped 600 in each of the last two days.

And the percent of total tests that wind up being positive spiked to 10 percent over the weekend and on Tuesday remained higher than it was when the decision to move to the second phase of reopening was announced last week.

“This virus remains a serious threat, and we cannot let our guard down,” Gov. Roy Cooper said.

In making that announcement, state leaders cited overall stability in both the hospitalization numbers and the positive test rate in relaxing some of the social distancing rules that had been in place since March.

But in the four days since the second phase of reopening began Friday, the single-day hospitalization high was set twice — first at 589 on Saturday, then 627 on Monday. The 621 people hospitalized Tuesday was the second-highest total on record for the state.

The positive test rate was at 7 percent at the time of the announcement, which came midway through a run of four consecutive days in which it climbed one percentage point every day. 

It peaked Saturday at 10 percent — its highest total since it was also at 10 percent on April 29 — and has been at 8 percent for the past two days.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the incubation period of the coronavirus can last as long as 14 days, with an average of 4-5 days. That suggests that trends that show up in the current data may reflect activities from the previous four days to two weeks — a timeline that falls early in the transition to Phase One.

The state is monitoring two other metrics — the number of people who visit the emergency department with flu-like symptoms, and the total number of confirmed cases — and both of them have remained consistent, for better or worse. The number of ER visitors has been viewed as a steady positive while the number of new cases of COVID-19 continues to steadily increase, with leaders attributing that climb to increased testing.

The state Department of Health and Human Services also showed significant drops in the single-day numbers of tests completed (3,503) and new confirmed cases (176) on Tuesday.

But state leaders and outside data experts have said similar dips in previous weeks could reflect the lag in reporting data during weekends — and those lags could have been exacerbated by the Memorial Day holiday.

That could produce artificial spikes in some numbers Wednesday and Thursday as the reporting process catches up.

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