Raleigh, N.C. — More than 8,500 new coronavirus infections were reported in North Carolina since Friday, an 84 percent jump from the first weekend in November.
The state has reported 2,980 infections a day over the last week, up 77 percent from the previous week.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 also is on the rise, topping 1,300 for the first time since Oct. 29. Only 20 percent of hospital beds statewide are available, and the figure drops to 16 percent for intensive care unit beds.
“This is probably the exact case increase that we expected after the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Jessica Dixon, WakeMed’s infection prevention specialist.
“We always see a little bit of a spike after a holiday where people travel or get together with family in different locations,” agreed Dr. Linda Butler, chief medical officer at UNC Rex Hospital.
In the region that includes Wake, Franklin, Harnett, Johnston and Lee counties, only 8 percent of ICU beds and 15 percent of all hospital beds are available. In the region that includes Durham, Caswell, Granville, Person, Vance and Warren counties, only 6 percent of ICU beds are open, but 26 percent of all hospital beds are available.
“We don’t have any indication yet that this increase in cases has anything to do with a new variant,” Dixon said.
North Carolina hasn’t yet had a confirmed case of the virus’ omicron variant, which has been spreading rapidly in the U.S. but is believed to be less dangerous than the delta variant, which caused the last surge in infections statewide over the summer.
The delta surge had WakeMed setting up emergency beds in its lobby and Rex erecting triage tents outside its emergency department. Officials said such measures aren’t needed yet, but they worry they could return if pandemic-related trends continue on their current trajectory.
“We do have concern,” Butler said, noting that Rex’s COVID-19 patients have tripled in number in a month. “We were down as low as 10 active patients with COVID; now we are up to 31.”
“I think that better vaccination coverage would certainly help” reverse the surge, Dixon said.