Unvaccinated Charlotteans are driving up COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations

Unvaccinated Charlotteans are driving up COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations

Uptown skyline view from Romare Bearden Park. Photo: Katie Peralta Soloff/Axios

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COVID-19 metrics in Charlotte are worsening while the vaccination rate is stagnant.

Why it matters: Most COVID restrictions have lifted in North Carolina, but the need for them could resurface if metrics continue to rise due to the large number of unvaccinated residents and a more infectious variant.

50% of county residents are at least partially vaccinated, which means there are over half a million residents who still aren’t vaccinated.

  • Note: the 65+ population has the highest vaccination rate in the county, which is why the majority of new COVID cases are occurring in younger populations.

During a press briefing on Friday afternoon, public health director Gibbie Harris advocated for vaccines, especially in order to protect children. Those who are unvaccinated need to keep wearing a mask in public places, she also said.

“We have many children in our community who cannot be vaccinated at this point. And it’s our vaccination rate that’s going to help protect those children, especially as they go back to school,” Harris said.

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COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, Mecklenburg County, delta variant, Charlotte, coronavirus

By the numbers: After a few months of COVID metrics steadily improving, the number of new cases and hospitalizations is ticking back up. Here’s an overview from the county’s July 14 metrics update:

  • Over the last week, an average of 92 new cases were reported daily, an increase from an average of 57 new cases reported the week before.
  • An average of 49 COVID patients were hospitalized over the last week, an increase from 41 the week before.
  • The average percentage of positive cases is 5.2%, an increase from 3.9% the previous week.

    Statewide metrics are following similar trends. Hospitalizations and new cases are both increasing, while the vaccination rate has leveled off.

    Of North Carolinians who are at least partially vaccinated:

    • 57% are 12 and older.
    • 59% are 18 and older.
    • 86% are 65 and older.

    Delta variant: One of the main causes for concern as cases increase is the new Delta variant, which is more infections than other COVID-19 strains. StarMed Healthcare reported that over 62% of COVID cases from their most recent testing were the Delta variant.

    Go deeper: Charlotte’s low vaccination rate makes it vulnerable to Delta variant.

    Testing for the Delta variant is expensive and can be a lengthy process. Deputy public health director Dr. Raynard Washington announced a new partnership between the county, StarMed and UNC Charlotte that will allow more cases to be tested for the variant.

    • But, this won’t apply to all positive COVID tests. The county will still focus on sequencing cases connected to active outbreaks and potential re-infections, Washington said.

    Zoom out: Some cities across the U.S. have reinstated mask mandates as a response to the rapid spread of the Delta variant.

    In regards to the county requiring masks again for all residents regardless of vaccination status, Harris said, “I don’t think we’re there yet.” The county is instead focused on getting more residents vaccinated.

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