Cohen: COVID cases could top 10,000 a day in N.C. by early January

Outgoing state Health and Human Services Sec. Mandy Cohen speaks at a news conference Dec. 20, 2021. [courtesy PBS North Carolina/NCDPS]

With COIVD-19 cases and hospitalizations surging to their highest levels since early fall, due to the dominant delta variant and the omicron variant increasing its presence, Governor Roy Cooper and state health officials on Monday urged North Carolinians to get tested and vaccinated ahead of Christmas and wear masks indoors.

“With holiday gatherings, COVID cases beginning to rise and a new highly contagious variant on the way, it’s important everyone takes steps to protect themselves and their families,” Cooper said during a Monday news conference. “With every vaccine dose, we get closer to turning the tide of sickness and death brought on by this pandemic.”

Data released Monday showed new cases have increased by nearly 20 percent over this past weekend compared to last weekend, and 46 North Carolina residents died. 1,630 people remain hospitalized, the most since a surge in cases related to the delta variant in mid-October.

Dare County reported 52 new cases on Monday, along with 156 active cases and 10 residents in the hospital.

Outgoing N.C. Health and Human Service Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen issued a Secretarial Advisory urging the following actions to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death:

  • Vaccinate and Boost: Get vaccinated now and get a COVID-19 booster as soon as you are eligible. This is particularly critical for those over age 65, those with underlying medical conditions and healthcare workers. The Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are the best choice for most people. Layer protection by getting a flu shot.
  • Test: Get a COVID-19 test before joining indoor gatherings with others who are not in your household and before and after traveling, regardless of your vaccine status. Get tested if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
  • Mask: Wear a face covering indoors in public, even if you are vaccinated. If possible, wear a medical grade mask for more protection (e.g., surgical mask, procedural mask, KN95, N95).

“This is a moment to act. We can keep people from becoming really sick and make sure there is hospital care for everyone who needs it. Early evidence shows that boosters provide a significant level of protection against Omicron,” Cohen said. “I urge everyone who has been vaccinated to get your booster soon as you are eligible. Getting a booster is particularly critical for people who are 65 and over or with underlying medical conditions.”

Incoming N.C. DHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley also shared updates on how the state is handling the logistics of an expected wave of Omicron COVID-19 cases.

“Testing before you gather can help slow the spread of omicron,” Kinsley said. “And if you test positive, quickly seeking out treatment can help reduce the risk of severe disease.”

To date, North Carolina has administered over 14 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 69 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated. 73 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, including 95 percent of North Carolinians 65 and over.

Information on testing locations, free tests and home tests is available at North Carolinians can learn more about the state’s vaccine distribution at (English) or (Spanish). Visit NCDHHS’ page Walk-in Family Vaccination Sites to find a family vaccine event. Use NCDHHS’ online tool Find a Vaccine Location to find a nearby vaccination site. The North Carolina Vaccine Help Center at 888-675-4567 can also help you make an appointment. It is open 7 a.m.–7 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m.–4 p.m. on weekends.