Another 15 local residents have died from the coronavirus since the beginning of September.
Caldwell County’s death toll continues to mount, with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reporting on Monday that 179 local residents have died from COVID-19.
The cumulative case total has spiked to 2,705 since Aug. 1 when health officials began monitoring the spike.
The case total for September alone is over 1,800.
According to Paige Counts, Caldwell County public information officer, rates are almost at what they were during the height of the pandemic last year.
Laura Easton, chief executive officer of Caldwell UNC Health Care, said prior to the pandemic, the hospital would see about one to three deaths per week. “Last week we had nine deaths. Six were COVID related,” she said. “One of the deaths was someone in their 30s.”
Easton said the emergency room at Caldwell Memorial was swamped yesterday with over 100 people and 26 ambulances. “To put that into perspective, typically there would be around 80 in a day and 12 ambulances,” she said.
“Caldwell UNC Health Care employees could not be working harder. We would appreciate the community for helping how they can by getting vaccinated,” she said.
Despite the local surge in cases and fatalities, statistics show the state’s recent COVID crisis is beginning to plateau. For the second straight week, the number of coronavirus cases across the state has declined. With 15,824 cases over the weekend, North Carolina has confirmed just under 43,000 new COVID-19 cases in the past seven days.
The two weeks before, the NCDHHS reported 44,933 and 50,154 new cases, respectively.
The positive trend comes after weeks of rapidly increasing cases 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.
Statewide hospitalizations have also surged in recent weeks from 396 in early July to 3,323 as of Monday, though that number has also decreased recently.Of those currently hospitalized, about 27%, or 887, are being treated in intensive care units, down from the 932 reported a week ago. ICU patients hit a pandemic peak of 955 in late August.
So far in September, 849 people have died, and in August, 1,153 died, according to the latest reports from DHHS. In all of June and July combined, 378 people died.
Vaccinations in Caldwell have gradually improved, but remain among some of the worst in the state. Forty-five percent of the county has been partially vaccinated while 40% of the county’s population has been fully vaccinated.
North Carolina vaccinations are faring much better with 68% having been partially vaccinated and 63% fully vaccinated.
On Friday, advisors to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the Pfizer-BioNTech (COMIRNATY) COVID-19 booster shot is safe, effective and recommended for individuals who have been fully vaccinated for at least six months. They include:
• 65 years and older;
• At high risk of severe COVID-19; and,
• At high risk of occupational exposure.
Next, the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot must be reviewed and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to further define these groups before it will be made available for use. That meeting will take place Wednesday.
“COVID-19 boosters are another effective way to fight this pandemic and prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen. “We look forward to the CDC’s final guidance next week so that we can begin administering booster shots in North Carolina when it is time to do so. In the meantime, if you’re not yet vaccinated, don’t wait. Get vaccinated today.”
NCDHHS will provide additional information related to eligibility of boosters but reminds North Carolinians that they are not yet available to the public until the CDC issues its final recommendations.
People 12 and older who are moderately to severely immunocompromised and fully vaccinated with either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are already eligible to receive an additional dose. Studies indicate their immune systems do not always build the same level of immunity after vaccination compared to people who are not immunocompromised.
NCDHHS encourages everyone 12 and older to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and to continue to practice the 3Ws — wear a mask, wait six feet apart and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer to protect yourself and others.
Reporter Candice Simmons can be reached at (828)610-8721