Health Team

Dr. Cohen: 'This is very worrisome;' 10.7% of COVID tests returning positive

Posted December 5, 2020 12:24 p.m. EST
Updated December 7, 2020 5:11 p.m. EST

— In an unusual weekend statement, Dr. Mandy Cohen, North Carolina secretary of Health and Human Services, warned the further state actions might be in order as new cases of the coronavirus and hospitalizations both climbed to records.

The state reported 6,018 new cases of the virus on Saturday and 2,171 people being treated for it in hospitals across the state. The average of new cases over the past seven days is 4,371, and the average of daily deaths is 42.

North Carolina also has a record number of people in intensive care, Cohen said. A total of 5,516 North Carolinians have died from the virus, an increase of 49 since Friday, the health department said.

Total reported COVID-19 cases, deaths in NC

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services updates the number of cumulative lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths daily at around noon. This chart shows the cumulative count of cases. NOTE: This chart now includes cases and deaths identified through antigen testing, which DHHS began reporting on its dashboard on Sept. 25. Read more about the corrections and compare the changes here.

"In less than a week, we went from exceeding 5,000 new cases reported in one day to exceeding 6,000," Cohen pointed out.

"I am asking each North Carolinian to take personal responsibility for their actions and slowing the spread of this virus. Always wear a mask when with people you don’t live with, keep your distance from other people and wash your hands often. We are looking at what further actions we can take as a state to protect North Carolinians and save lives," she said.

In just five days, the United States added 1 million new coronavirus cases -- and the month has just begun. After the first cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the US on January 20, it took almost 100 days to reach 1 million infections.

"Every single day, thousands more people are getting this virus, and we know that means that in a few days, in a week, hundreds of people are going to be coming to the hospital and hundreds of people are going to die," Dr. Shirlee Xie, a hospitalist and associate director of hospital medicine for Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis said on Sunday.

This week, coronavirus was the leading cause of death in the United States and experts project more deaths after the holiday season. Dr. Rachel Roper, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at East Carolina University, said she was "very worried" about Saturday's record-breaking cases.

"We're definitely in the danger zones. Everyone's in danger, right now, of catching COVID," she explained.

On Thursday, President-elect Joe Biden said he would call on Americans to wear facial coverings for 100 days.

Gov. Roy Cooper's latest executive order, which limits gatherings indoors and out and requires masks in all indoor settings where members of more than one household are present, is set to expire on Friday.

COVID-19 testing trends in NC

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services started releasing the total number of patients tested for COVID-19 on March 18. DHHS doesn't publish raw numbers detailing daily negative and positive tests from labs reporting both of these figures - just percentages. So WRAL is calculating the percentage of positive tests here on a rolling average based on the last seven days of reported new cases divided by the number of reported new tests. NOTE: Positivity calculations, new tests and cumulative tests in this chart now include tests identified through antigen testing, which DHHS began reporting on its dashboard on Sept. 25. Read more about the corrections and compare the changes here.

Source: N.C. DHHS
Tyler Dukes, WRAL

On Saturday, Cooper tweeted he was 'examining what action may be needed to protect North Carolinians."

"[It] looks like mandates actually do work but people get really mad about them. They don't like being told what to do," added Roper. "We need to have people staying home, only going out when absolutely necessary, keeping distance from other people, sanitizing your hands very carefully anytime you're out touching anything else, or even when you bring things home you need to be careful about what you touch."

With more and more people being tested for the virus daily, the percent of those tests that come back positive has continued to climb. On Saturday, the state reported 10.7% of tests were positive. The seven-day average is 10.26% positive tests, when the state wants that number to be closer to 5%. Both the number of tests and the percent positive have been rising in the week since Thanksgiving.

"There's widespread community spread. You can get it anywhere from anyone," said Roper.

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