By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on July 26, 2022
The latest weekly update on COVID-19 transmission in Dare County — covering the period from July 18-24 — is certainly nothing alarming. It shows a modest increase up to 145 cases from 121 the week before.
As has been the case for months, the weekly COVID numbers are posted, without fanfare or comment, on the Dare County website. The releases also reflect the gradual fading of the pandemic from public consciousness here, with the exception of seeing the occasional masked shopper in supermarkets, as the outbreak makes its way into year three.
Perhaps most importantly, the level of dangerous impacts from the virus in Dare County remain very small. According to the latest update, there are only two people here hospitalized with the virus and the death toll has remained stable and low, at 27 since January. Currently, the CDC does categorize Dare County as a community of high transmission.
At the same time, however, key COVID metrics at the state and national levels are moving in the wrong direction, causing some experts to raise increasingly loud alarms about a new surge driven by the BA. 5 variant, the most contagious form of the virus to emerge. Its most prominent recent victim is President Joe Biden.
Moreover, as Dare County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Director Sheila Davies indicated in a recent email to the Voice, the overall case numbers are clearly understating the spread of COVID due in large measure to the increasing use of home tests.
“Home tests are not reportable…so we have no way of knowing how many additional positive cases are out there,” she said. “I am sure there are many more [in Dare County] than what is in the reportable data. This would be the same across the nation.”
The latest metrics posted on the dashboard by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) show the state’s reportable numbers are worsening. As of the last update on July 20, the viral particles found in wastewater is up 31% over the previous week. Weekly new COVID cases in North Carolina rose to 27,930 from 26,014 the previous week. And hospital admissions moved up to 1,099 from 971 the previous week. Death from COVID, fortunately, have remained stable for several months and are generally below 50 a week.
On a national level, the metrics on COVID seem more concerning. A daily COVID tracker published by the New York Times using multiple data sources puts the July 25 daily average of cases at 128,015, up 10% from two weeks earlier. The number of people currently hospitalized with COVID across the nation is 42,862, up 12% from two weeks earlier. And the number of daily deaths from COVID, at 439, is up 34% from the period 14 days earlier.
Again, the national numbers are considered an undercount because of home testing or people foregoing tests completely.
No one is suggesting the nation, state or country is back to the bad old days of the worst of the COVID pandemic. Long gone are the days of regular media briefings by Governor Roy Cooper, mask mandates and seriously enforced social distancing as public officials now try to wrestle with a pandemic that still has the ability to ebb and flow.
To that end, Cooper issued a July 19 press release that seems to reflect that effort. The statement noted that as “key COVID-19 metrics increase in North Carolina and the U.S. due to the BA.5 variant,” people are advised to “stay prepared by being up to date on vaccines and boosters, having a supply of tests and seeking treatment if they test positive.”
“While COVID-19 metrics will continue to rise and fall,’’ the statement continued, “it remains important to prepare and protect yourself.”