NC DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen in a Dec. 10 media briefing. (Image via NC DPS) Mandy Cohen
NC DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen in a Dec. 10 media briefing. (Image via NC DPS)

As state rolls out vaccines, Mandy Cohen says the state is in its “most dangerous position” yet in the pandemic.

The new year brought a new high in coronavirus cases in North Carolina.

The state plunged into uncharted territory with a big spike, with 9,527 new cases reported on New Year’s Day. That number exceeded the previous single-day record set on Dec. 18 by more than 1,000 new cases. The following day dipped slightly, to 9,365 new cases. 

“We begin 2021 in our most dangerous position in this pandemic,” said Mandy Cohen, who serves as NC DHHS’ Secretary. “We have critically high rates of spread in much of our state.”

Monday’s daily count of new cases was much lower—at 5,187—but is likely an indication of fewer tests being conducted over the weekend rather than a drop in disease spread. The percent of tests that were returned positive was 16.5%, well above the 5% positive cases that had been a goal earlier in the pandemic and an indication that the disease is spreading rapidly. 

The state is also closing in on 7,000 deaths, with 6,941 people who had, as of Monday, died from the diseases.

Meanwhile, hospital beds across the state are indeed filling up, to the point that the Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse began constructing a field hospital in the Western North Carolina city of Lenoir.

NCDHHS_Dashboard_Cases-2-6
Source: NC DHHS

New Federal Guidance

NC’s dangerous surge coincides with new guidance from federal pandemic leaders.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force now has North Carolina on a list of “sustained hot spots,” an indication that healthcare resources are at risk of being depleted.  It’s also a sign that the steadily increasing spread of the infectious disease is now at its worst point during the 10-month long crisis.

Fittingly, the Task Force is asking more of residents. 

Under 40 and spent time with people outside of your household over the holidays? Assume you’ve got COVID-19 and quarantine.

And older NC residents over age 65 also should be changing their routines, staying home and getting groceries and medication delivered.

It comes as the first doses of vaccines are slowly being distributed to health care workers, long-term care staff, and residents, the first part of North Carolina’s five-step plan to vaccinate.

The state is expecting to begin administering the next round of vaccines early this month, prioritizing older North Carolinians, as well as first responders and frontline workers in healthcare, education, manufacturing, corrections, public transit, grocery stores and postal workers.