What one might call 'the fifth wave' of the COVID virus is currently raging, producing more new cases than at any time since the pandemic began.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services added 44,833 new cases to the quickly growing total Thursday with a disclaimer: nearly 11,000 of those should have been recorded earlier this month. 35,759 new cases were reported Friday (Jan. 14th).
As the omicron-driven wave continues, NCDHHS also reported a record number of patients in hospitals--4,381.
On Thursday, the state also added its largest one-day increase in deaths since October, with 87. Another 53 on Friday pushed the total to 19,903.
Of the 153 adult patients on life support at Atrium Health facilities in the two weeks leading up to Monday (Jan. 10th) Atrium Health says 140 were unvaccinated, 13 vaccinated. The unvaccinated accounted for 92% of those on life support. The report showed a 72% increase in the number of patients on life support during that period.
The Lincoln County School Board voted 4-2 Tuesday to continue its 'masks optional' policy. There were a total of 78 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Lincoln County Schools in the period from Dec. 13-22, but that was before omicron became a major factor.
Catawba County's School Board voted this week to reinstate a mask mandate ('masks required) effective Tuesday (Jan. 18th).
Despite a recommendation from Public Health Director Steve Eaton urging them to reinstate a mask mandate, the Gaston County School Board voted 4-3 Thursday to continue its 'masks optional' policy. The decision was similar to what Lincoln County's school board has decided in recent months--divided with the same members voting as they had before: Dot Guthrie, Lee Dedmon and Robbie Lovelace voted to require masks.
Gaston County currently has a 33.4% positivity rate. Gaston County Schools required masks until Nov. 29th. Eaton showed charts at Thursday’s meeting showing the number of student quarantines, exposures and positive cases all rose in December.
Like Lincoln County, students in Gaston returned from their Christmas/New Year's break Monday and the omicron variant increase that has happened statewide was evident: in the first four days back, over 1,400 Gaston students were quarantined or sent home with symptoms and 14 tested positive.
The Cleveland County School Board voted 6-3 Monday (Jan. 10th) to continue 'masks optional.'
The Lincoln County Health Department's weekly COVID SNAPSHOT released Wednesday showed the average number of new cases reported each day for the past two weeks has now climbed to over 125. It was 80 the week before and 45 the week before that.
The Lincoln County Health Dept. released the following on Friday:
Message from Lincoln County Health Director, Davin Madden–
The Omicron variant continues to surge and has resulted in the highest reported daily average for positive cases in the past two years for Lincoln County. And although the severity of Omicron infections is less among most people, the sheer volume of new cases is increasing the demand on hospitals, medical providers, and testing resources. The volume of infected people and the subsequent exposures continues to burden the workforce and employers, which is creating another period of tremendous strain on our community. While the current surge is expected to occur over fewer weeks, it is still important to recognize the threat of the virus and do your part to lessen the impact.
1) Get Vaccinated. COVID vaccines continue to be the best prevention from being severely ill, hospitalized or worse. And for those that have been vaccinated with the primary series of Moderna, Pfizer or J&J and it has been over five months, strongly consider scheduling a booster right away. If you have questions about the vaccine or hesitancy discuss the matter with your primary care provider or utilize a credible COVID vaccine Q&A hotline.
2) Know Your Risk. The widespread transmission of COVID creates very few zero risk environments for most people. Understanding your health status and risk is important for making decisions on travel and social activities. Personal decision making is important in managing the risk of becoming infected or being exposed. This includes practicing the Three Ws. Wash hands often, Watch your distance as much as possible, and Wear a proper face covering when needed.
3) Mask When Appropriate. If you have a known exposure to a positive person or are recovering from a COVID infection, then you should wear a proper face covering to reduce additional exposures for up to 10 days from the initial exposure or when you tested positive. Also think about the setting you are going to be in, the length of time you are going to be in an area and the population you are going to be around. If the mask is uncomfortable, worn improperly or taken off frequently, there might be a reduction in benefit to wearing the mask. Proper and timely use of adequate face coverings can reduce the risk of transmission, especially during a period of high community spread or when dealing with a viral variant that is significantly more infectious.
4) Understand Mask Benefit. A mask is a mask, right? Not necessarily. With the wide array of masks available, the type of mask with the most benefit is a KN95 or N95. When you choose to wear a mask, the best mask is one that is worn correctly and consistently. Mask use should not be overly complicated or overly burdensome. The mask should have a wire bridge around the nose that should make the mask fit snugly on the face and be made from two layers of breathable fabric. Consider one that is a basic disposable KN95 or N95 in quality. If these masks are not obtainable, consider layering a surgical mask with a cloth mask.
Be cautious when purchasing KN95 and N95 respirators (masks). It is important that you select a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approved respirator in order for the mask to provide the expected protection against the virus. With many counterfeit masks circulating in the US, be smart about your purchase. For more information on selecting the correct mask visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019- ncov/prevent-getting-sick/types-of-masks.html