Charlotte’s COVID metrics are increasing. Is a 4th wave on the way?

Charlotte’s COVID metrics are increasing. Is a 4th wave on the way?
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Overall cases and the percentage of positive cases have increased in Charlotte over the last few weeks, suggesting a possible 4th coronavirus wave could be coming.

Nationwide trends are similar, especially in the northeast and midwest. On Monday CDC director Rochelle Walensky warned of “impending doom” as the virus continues to spread while restrictions loosen throughout the country.

Why it matters: A potential new wave points to the fact that we’re not out of the woods yet, a point health officials have been stressing even as vaccination ramps up.

  • “Everybody wants to be out in the community, but we need to make sure that we’re continuing to be safe, because we don’t have enough people vaccinated and we still have high levels of virus in our community,” said Mecklenburg County public health director Gibbie Harris.

The state of play: COVID restrictions loosened over the weekend, leading to busier bars and restaurants. March Madness has also created a boost in customers for some local businesses.

Harris pointed to a number of other factors that could be contributing to the case increase during a briefing on Friday: more parents going to work in-person after schools reopened, more people meeting in groups as the weather gets warmer, and new variants spreading, for example.

By the numbers: Here’s the latest COVID data from the county’s March 24 report compared to the March 17 report.

  • The percentage of positive cases is 6.5%, up from 5.1%. (And up from 4.6% in the March 10 report.)
  • An average of 211 new cases a day were reported over the last week, up from 179.
  • 113 people were hospitalized with COVID over the last week, down from 121.
  • There are 12 active outbreaks in congregate living settings, down from 19.
  • There are 2 active clusters in childcare and school settings, same as the previous report.

These numbers are still significantly lower than the last time Charlotte was headed toward a spike in cases, which was around the holidays. Back then the percentage of positive cases was consistently above 10% and hospitalizations were at some points four times what they are now.

COVID data comparisons, fourth wave, COVID surge, Charlotte, Mecklenburg County

The chart compares the county’s latest data report with metrics from a week after three winter holidays that led to case spikes. Chart: Axios Visuals/ Mecklenburg County

Yes, but: The New York Times’s COVID data tracker suggests that Mecklenburg County’s high percent positivity rate may be an indicator that cases are being undercounted. It says the county is at “very high” risk level.

The good news is unlike past spikes, we have vaccines now, which is helping the hospitalization rate stabilize and decrease.

Vaccine appointments are still tough to come by in Mecklenburg County [Go deeper]. About 17% of Mecklenburg County residents are at least partially vaccinated and just under 11% are fully vaccinated.

Best practices: Vaccinated or not, keep wearing your mask! And don’t be too quick to revert back to pre-pandemic behavior. Harris warned against being in settings with large groups, especially if they’re packed closely together indoors.

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