NC passes 15,000 COVID-19 deaths after weeks of rapid spread due to the delta variant

By Ben Sessoms

North Carolina added 110 deaths due to COVID-19 to the state’s tally on Thursday, bringing the total over the pandemic to 15,004.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services updates the state’s death count as information becomes available. Deaths reported from day to day could be from days or even weeks earlier. The large number of deaths reported Thursday may be a reflection of reports now coming in from over the long Labor Day weekend.

Since the beginning of August, 1,234 have died due to the virus in North Carolina, as of Thursday.

That’s up from the 374 people who died over the entire months of June and July.

August was the deadliest month of the pandemic since February, before vaccines were widely available, The News & Observer reported.

DHHS reported late last month that unvaccinated people are 15 times more likely to die due to COVID-19.

As of Thursday, 51% of all North Carolinians and 59% of those eligible, ages 12 and up, are fully vaccinated.

The rise in deaths is due to the delta variant, a mutation of the coronavirus that’s more than twice as contagious as the original strain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest CDC data indicates that more than 97% of sequenced virus in the state is the delta variant.

HOSPITALIZATIONS REMAIN HIGH

DHHS reported 3,815 people hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide on Thursday. That number has increased by just nine over the past week.

But the overall count remains among the highest over the pandemic. Hospitalizations peaked at 3,990 in mid-January.

Patients requiring treatment in intensive care units also remains high with 919 reported Thursday. The number peaked at 955 on Aug. 29.

COVID patients in intensive care make up 24% of all coronavirus hospitalizations. That rate was around 20% to 22% in mid-January.

NEW CASES PLATEAU AS TESTING NUMBERS DROP

DHHS reported nearly 6,300 new COVID-19 cases Thursday.

Over the last week, the state has reported just over 6,400 per day.

A week ago that average was over 6,800.

But testing numbers have dropped. In the past three days, the state has reported just over 101,000 tests. From Monday to Wednesday of last week, DHHS reported over 160,000 tests.

Testing numbers typically follow a trend week-to-week as more people tend to get tested and return results later in the week, DHHS data shows.

Among the tests reported Tuesday, the latest available data, 11.3% returned positive. Over the last week of available data, an average of 12.1% have returned positive per day.

State officials have said they want that figure at 5% or lower.

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