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COVID cases rising again

COVID cases rising again

Haywood County Medical Director Dr. Mark Jaben is sounding the alarm that COVID-19 case counts are increasing again, and people should take precautions to avoid contracting or spreading the virus as summer begins. 

In March, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services pivoted from daily COVID updates to weekly updates, so as of press time the most recently available day-by-day data was from May 7. However, case counts have been inching up since early April, with the state daily total breaking 1,000 on April 11 for the first time since Feb. 28. On May 2, the tally passed 2,000 for the first time since Feb. 21. 

“For me, three to four weeks of cases going up is a pretty clear trend, and because of underreporting we can have a pretty clear idea of where that trend is now,” Jaben said. 

Jaben believes that the rate of underreported COVID cases is far higher than it was with Delta. More people are taking at-home tests, and there is no mechanism to report those results to the state database. 

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map that monitors community transmission ranks transmission as high in Haywood and Swain counties, substantial in Macon and moderate in Jackson. However, a different CDC map that considers both case numbers and hospital capacity has the entire state rated “low,” save for Wake and Hyde counties. 

In Haywood County, there has not been an increase in hospitalizations to accompany the growth in cases, said Jaben, though that’s a cautious assessment — there is typically a multi-week lag between an increase in cases and increased death and hospitalization numbers. However, at this point most people have either been vaccinated or infected, both of which offer protection against serious illness from future infection. 

However, even without a spike in COVID cases, hospitals are currently at capacity. 

“Summer is always a time at which our health care systems are at capacity, at the best of times,” said Jaben. 

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