After remaining unchanged at 188 since Nov. 17, the number of reported COVID-19-related deaths in Wilkes County increased to 192 on Dec. 2 and to 194 on Dec. 3.

Wilkes County Health Director Rachel Willard said four of the latest six deaths were reported later than normal, making last week’s increase appear larger than it really was. Willard said the six most recent deaths were people ranging in age from 40 to their 80s.

Wilkes remained in the red for COVID-19 transmissions early this week. This worst level of transmission refers to having a rate of at least 100 cases per 100,000 people in a week.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that 217 new cases were reported in Wilkes in the seven days ending Sunday, which was 197% more than the total in the seven days ending a week earlier.

As of Monday, 11,280 Wilkes residents had tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. That was up from 11,203 on Dec. 3 and 11,075 on Nov. 29.

On Monday, the CDC listed Wilkes with a COVID-19 test positivity rate of 9.58% in the seven days ending Dec. 2. It reported that 800 tests were given in the seven days ending Nov. 29, which was down 33% from the same period a week earlier.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported that 45% of Wilkes residents were fully vaccinated as of Monday. Willard said about 6% of Wilkes children ages 5-11, but she noted that it has been available to them only a little over a month.

Media reports say the omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected in more than a dozen states so far, but it was yet to be found in North Carolina or South Carolina by Monday.

Health experts say that’s likely to change, but there are still a lot of unknowns about the new variant. Doctors believe omicron has similar aspects to the other variants we’ve seen, including the more-contagious delta variant. The severity of the illness it causes remained uncertain on Monday.

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