Local News

Wake, Cumberland counties see COVID cases jump by nearly 50% in a week

Posted May 18, 2022 3:17 p.m. EDT
Updated May 18, 2022 6:30 p.m. EDT

— Within the span of a week, COVID hospitalizations in North Carolina increased by 22%. Newly reported COVID cases have also risen by 32% week-over-week in the state, according to data from May 8-14.

Wake and Cumberland counties have been particularly hard-hit by the recent surge in COVID cases, with Wake County's positive cases increasing by 42% within a week and Cumberland County's jumping by 40%. Durham County's numbers went up by 20%.

"We are definitely seeing an uptick in cases in Wake County due to several factors," said Stacy Beard, Wake County's external communications manager.

Last week, Wake County was pushed into the 'yellow' zone for community spread – with communities like Raleigh, Cary, Wake Forest and Morrisville showing the greatest rate of that spread.

Beard says the county continues to recommend staying up to date with vaccines, getting tested if you have symptoms, and, for an extra layer of protection, wearing a mask in large crowds and gatherings.

The demand for COVID testing has already increased in Wake County, with appointments reaching around 95% capacity last week. However, Beard says there are still appointments available at each of the five sites within 24 hours.

"We’re definitely seeing a steady demand in testing, but not to the point that we are adding new Public Health drive-thru locations," said Beard.

The CDC no longer requires contact tracing for the general public, and most businesses are not required to report cases.

However, Beard said the county's case investigation team continues to prioritize and investigate reported cases of outbreaks/clusters and reported cases in congregate living settings and health care settings.

Why are COVID cases rising once again?

For the week ending May 7, there were over 17,000 new cases reported in NC, compared to fewer than 5,000 new cases per week roughly one month before.

“It is going to be more common again, I wish I wasn’t saying that,” said Dr. Cameron Wolfe, Infectious Disease expert with Duke University.

Wolfe is tracking the upward trend and says it’s happening for three main reasons.

The first reason: A highly contagious sub variant of Omicron - Ba2

“With this strain you need less time in front of infected people to get sick,” said Wolfe.

The second reason: Waning immunity

Those jabs you first got maybe 6 months ago are losing steam, and reinfection is happening.

The third reason: Large springtime events and social gathering

“We are more out and about now, we are not locked in and contained like we were in winter months, “ said Wolfe.

Several large events, such as school proms, have contributed to reported outbreaks at schools. Durham Public Schools said as mask regulations are scaled back, they are seeing an increase in cases.

Health officials have warned they are preparing for a potential summer surge – particularly with a new sub-variant and so many people attending large springtime and summer events and social gatherings.

Locally, hospital systems say they're preparing.

"We did see a little tick up in the spring, probably related to springtime travel and holidays and time with the family," said Dr. Lisa Pickett, the chief medical officer at Duke. "So we would anticipate a bit of a surge during the summer, but hopefully nothing as significant as we saw with omicron."

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