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Incoming Health Secretary: Get vaccinated, gather carefully. More than 18,000 COVID cases recorded in single day.

Incoming NCDHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley

[Editor’s note: On the final day of 2021, North Carolina recorded 19,174 newly reported cases of COVID-19. Nearly 23% of tests statewide are returning positive with 2,387 individuals hospitalized.]

North Carolina health officials expected COVID cases to rise over the holidays. But many did not expected to see the numbers reported on Thursday.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recorded 18,571 positive tests for COVID-19 on its dashboard. That is 60% higher than the previous one-day record (11,581) set back in January of this year.

While the Omicron variant of COVID-19 may cause less severe illness for people who are vaccinated, the number of individuals currently hospitalized with COVID-19 has nearly doubled since the beginning of December.

Currently 89% of people in North Carolina’s intensive care units being treated for COVID are unvaccinated.

Because hospitalizations are a lagging indicator, incoming NCDHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley says officials are concerned hospitals will be under a greater strain as we head into the New Year. (Kinsley replaces Sec. Mandy Cohen in January.)

“We are concerned that even a very small proportion of these cases ending up in the hospital could overwhelm our hospital system and increase the loss of lives of those most vulnerable,” said Kinsley in a press release Thursday.

“Everyone can help save lives and protect hospital capacity by getting vaccinated if you haven’t already and getting boosted if you are eligible.”

Sixty-three percent of state’s total population has been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. Those in the 5-11 year-old age group are among the least vaccinated.

Ahead of the New Year’s Eve celebrations officials are also encouraging North Carolinians to keep their gatherings small. Host are encouraged to consider holding their gatherings outside.

If you gather indoors, it’s recommended you leave room for responsible social distancing, open the windows or doors to improve ventilation, and consider wearing masks.

And while lines have been long this week, NCDHHS has been working with local governments to increase community testing. Visit ncdhhs.gov/gettested for a list of testing sites.

Health officials advise if your local testing site is full, and you can’t get an immediate appointment, try an alternate testing site.

Source: NCDHHS

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