North Carolina health officials are sounding the alarm on the rapid spread of COVID-19.
So far, at least 84 of the state’s 100 counties are in the “Red Zone,” indicating the highest level of viral spread. Hospitals are seeing a surge in new COVID patients, while struggling with a shortage of healthcare staff.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, said the situation is concerning.
“Many hospitals have stopped non-urgent procedures to free up staff, or have opened additional COVID units,” Cohen explained. “The situation is so critical that last week, the federal government said that if you were with people that you don’t live with, you should assume you’d become infected with COVID and you’re a danger to others.”
Cohen recently issued a directive calling on North Carolinians to stay home and limit public interactions to essential activities, such as going to school or work, caring for family members, or buying food.
While the state has begun implementing its vaccination plan, Cohen noted supplies are extremely limited. Under the plan, healthcare workers, long-term care staff and residents, people over 65, and front-line essential workers have first access.
“We are moving forward with facilitating large vaccination events starting next week, and we continue to onboard additional vaccine providers, starting with our federally qualified health centers,” Cohen outlined.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 300,000 North Carolinians have been vaccinated so far.
Cohen added despite all that’s happened during the ten months North Carolina has battled the pandemic, she’s most worried about the next few weeks.
“We continue to set new records,” Cohen cautioned. “Our tests that are positive remain in the double digits. And most worrisome, every day we see new record highs of people hospitalized with COVID-19 and record high of those needing intensive care.”
Nearly 4,000 North Carolinians are currently hospitalized from the virus, and more than 8,000 have died.