The CDC on Thursday reported 13 North Carolina counties have high community COVID-19 levels, places where masking in indoor public places and on public transportation is recommended.
The CDC bases its COVID-19 community level determinations on case rates, COVID hospital admissions and the percentage of hospital beds used by COVID patients over seven days.
It makes sense to wear masks in indoor public places when there’s high transmission, Dr. Adia Ross, Duke Regional Hospital’s chief medical officer told reporters this week. Ross says she wears a mask in the grocery store and in public places indoors when she can’t social distance.
People are tired of COVID and want to go out and do things, she said. But its important to assess individual risk and think about people who are most vulnerable.
“We can’t forget the basics that we know,” Ross said.
Last summer, a surge in the COVID-19 delta variant hit the United States in late summer. The omicron surge of last winter sent record numbers of COVID-19 patients to hospitals.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased slightly in North Carolina since mid-April, according to weekly averages the state Department of Health and Human Services reports. But the percentage of hospitalized COVID patients in ICUs has remained at about 10% or 11%. Last winter, upwards of 30% of hospitalized COVID patients were in ICUs.
Fewer cases are requiring intensive care, and hospitalizations are not as high as they have been as a percentage of cases, Ross said.
Dr. Cameron Wolfe, an infectious disease specialist at Duke Health, said it’s unlikely that another COVID wave will hit in the next few months.
“It’s a possibility, but there’s nothing on the radar that would hint that that’s likely,” he said. “We have an imperfect vision of the future, but we do have a pretty good vision of the next month or two.”
The DHHS COVID-19 dashboard, which reports CDC community risks levels on Wednesdays each week, showed only Durham County at a high community risk level. The CDC added Alleghany, Surry, Stokes, Yadkin, Davie, Forsyth, Alamance, Granville, Person, Warren, Hyde, and Pitt counties to the list with Durham.