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RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is urging all unvaccinated North Carolinians to get a COVID-19 vaccine as cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been inching up across the state, the department announced July 8.

North Carolina’s early warning systems are showing more people going to the emergency department with COVID-like illness and elevated viral levels in wastewater in certain regions of the state.

As of July 8, NCDHHS COVID-19 data dashboard lists 410 people across the state are currently hospitalized.

At the same time, the more infectious and potentially more dangerous Delta variant is rapidly spreading in North Carolina and across the country, according to NCDHHS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classified the Delta variant as a “variant of concern” because it spreads faster than current COVID-19 variants, and early studies have also shown a possible increased risk of hospitalization in people infected with the Delta variant.

“Don’t wait to vaccinate. Serious illness, hospitalization, death and the long-term effects experienced by many who have had COVID-19 are preventable with vaccines,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen. “Protect yourself and those you love by getting vaccinated now.”

Since May, more than 99 percent of new cases in North Carolina have occurred in people who are not fully vaccinated. Vaccines are proven to be effective against COVID-19 and its variants, according to NCDHHS. More than 150 million Americans have been safely vaccinated and are protected from COVID-19 related hospitalization and death. North Carolinians can go to MySpot.nc.gov to find a vaccine location.

“Vaccines remain the best protection against COVID-19, including against the Delta variant,” said State Epidemiologist Zack Moore. “Nationwide, more than 50 percent of new cases are now caused by the Delta variant, and the number of Delta variant cases is rapidly increasing in North Carolina.”

While the state’s trends are far below where they were at the height of the pandemic, cases increased by 12 percent the week ending on July 3 compared to the previous seven days, and hospitalizations have increased by eight percent over the past seven days. The state’s sampling of wastewater treatment plants also shows recent increasing of viral particles in four locations since June 24.

Those who have not yet received their COVID-19 vaccines must continue to practice the three W’s – wearing a mask, waiting six feet from others and washing hands often – to protect themselves, their families and their communities from the virus. People should also seek testing for COVID-19 if they develop COVID-like symptoms or if they have not yet been vaccinated and are exposed to someone who has COVID-19, according to NCDHHS.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for children over the age of 12, and NCDHHS has provided safety guidelines for schools to keep children safe, in addition to mask requirements in schools and other specific settings. K-12 public schools can also participate in the COVID-19 Rapid Testing in Schools Program to provide on-site testing at no cost to parents, staff or the district.

More information on how to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Avery County can be found at www.apprhs.org or at www.averycountync.gov.

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