Published 11:43 am Thursday, January 6, 2022
Updated on Friday (Jan. 7) with new info on local active cases
Health officials locally and across the state are reporting record-shattering numbers of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, to include hundreds of new cases this week in the Roanoke-Chowan area.
Omicron accounted for 95% of new coronavirus infections in the U.S. last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday, in another indication of how astonishingly fast the variant has spread since it was first detected in South Africa in late November.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported another record-setting day on Wednesday with 20,770 newly reported cases. By Friday that number reached 28,474 new cases.
According to Vidant Health officials, communities across the country and here in eastern North Carolina are witnessing worrying trends as COVID-19 positive cases and hospitalizations continue to rise. As of Jan. 4, the Omicron variant has contributed to almost all of the total variants detected, a number that has increased exponentially each week.
Brian Floyd, Vidant Health Hospitals president and chief operating officer, said the system is conducting approximately 4,000 COVID tests per day. Nearly one-third (32.1 percent) are positive, marking a 340 percent increase in the weekly average of the COVID positivity rate across the region. By comparison, the weekly positivity rate reported by Vidant Health on Dec. 1 was 7.3 percent.
Additionally, Vidant Health experienced a 183 percent increase of COVID-positive inpatients in their hospitals, with a vast majority of those individuals being unvaccinated. The number of inpatients increased from 52 on Dec. 1 to 147 as of Monday of this week.
“These test numbers are more than double what they were even during the Delta surge,” Floyd noted. “And our inpatient numbers are reaching back to the volume that they were at the height of some of our previous strains of COVID, and that’s a result of the significantly high volume of COVID-19 that’s in our community.”
In the Roanoke-Chowan area, the Northampton County Health Department is reporting the largest weekly increase of COVID-19 cases. As of Jan. 5, that number stood at 240. On Dec. 22, there were 25 active COVID-19 cases in the county.
Hertford County’s active cases jumped to 88 as of Jan. 4, up from 26 one week earlier. Three days later (Friday, Jan. 7), that number nearly doubled to 174 active cases.
Hertford County also reported three COVID-related deaths this week.
In Bertie County, 80 active cases were reported on Jan. 4, rising from 39 cases one week prior. By Friday of this week, Bertie reported 155 active cases.
The reported number of active cases in Gates County fell from 26 to 16 during the same time period, but then quickly doubled to 32 cases by Friday of this week.
“With COVID-19 cases rising, getting a booster of the COVID-19 vaccine or getting vaccinated if you aren’t already, dramatically decreases the risk of severe illness and hospitalization from the Omicron variant,” said R. Battle Betts Jr., Health Director of Albemarle Regional Health Services. “Vaccines remain the most important thing we can do to keep ourselves and our loved ones from becoming seriously ill from the COVID-19 virus. In addition, it is also important to follow the updated guidance from NC DHHS and the CDC which outlines what individuals should do if they contract or are exposed to COVID-19 to help slow the spread to others.”
The surge in cases also places a strain on hospitals as they must balance between meeting the needs of COVID patients as well as treating non-COVID patients.
“When we see this significant surge in caring for patients with COVID-19, it also stresses our system for those that have other conditions, many of which are far more emergent and critical,” said Floyd. “And so why we’re asking for the public’s help so much is to prevent the spread as much as we can… only use our resources when necessary so that we can be here to take care of all the other many conditions Eastern North Carolina needs us for.”
As eastern North Carolina continues to see rising COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and demand for testing, the COVID-19 vaccine and booster is now more important than ever. Vidant Health is offering the COVID-19 vaccine to everyone 5 and older. They are also offering third dose and booster appointments to eligible community members. To learn more about how to get vaccinated or if you are eligible for a booster, visit VidantHealth.com/vaccinate.
Vidant Health has 14 testing locations across eastern North Carolina to help you get tested for COVID-19. If you need a test, please visit VidantHealth.com/safecommunities to find a Vidant testing location near you. Due to significant demand for COVID testing, please expect delays.
COVID vaccinations are also available, by appointment, at the Gates County Health Dept. (252-357-1380), the Bertie County Health Dept. (252-794-5322), and the Hertford County Health Dept. (252-862-4054).
Northampton County residents can call 252-534-5841 to schedule an appointment for either a COVID-19 vaccine or a booster shot.
Meanwhile, the NC DHHS and CDC now recommend the following:
If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are not vaccinated…..stay away from others for five days, get tested on day five after exposure, and if you test negative, return to normal activities while wearing a mask for five additional days. If you are vaccinated and eligible for a booster, but have not yet been boosted – stay away from others for five days, get tested on day five after exposure, and if you test negative, return to normal activities while wearing a mask for five additional days. Vaccinated, and have either received your booster or are not yet eligible for a booster – you do not need to stay away from others, but you should wear a mask for 10 days.
If you test positive, regardless of vaccination status, and do not have symptoms, isolate yourself from others for five days, then wear a mask for five additional days when you return to normal activities. If you have symptoms, isolate yourself from others until you are fever-free and your symptoms are improving. You should isolate for at least five days since your symptoms began. Once you stop isolating, you should wear a mask for five additional days.