COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in Wilkes County and across the state, according to data from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Although actual COVID-19 case totals aren’t known due to home test results not being reported, cases that are reported to public health officials have increased. Dates for positive cases listed by DHHS are actually collection dates for specimens testing positive.

According to the DHHS COVID-19 dashboard, 85 specimens (one per person) collected in Wilkes in the seven days ending May 14 tested positive; 72 in the week ending May 7; and 49 in the week ending April 30.

That compares to 26 specimens collected in the week ending April 23 testing positive for COVID-19, nine in the week ending April 16 and nine in the week ending April 9.

Prior to positive specimens collected from 16 people in Wilkes on May 4, the number of positive cases for a single day hadn’t reached double digits since 10 on March 9.

The COVID-19 dashboard doesn’t have any COVID-19 outbreaks listed in Wilkes.

DHHS reported that the last Wilkes death from COVID-19 occurred April 15. Out of Wilkes County’s official COVID-19 death total of 266, about 60 were in 2022.

DHHS reported that 47.53% of Wilkes residents were fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and 63.47% had received at least one dose by May 23.

Health officials have urged those who are eligible to get booster shots, as data shows it offers increased protection against the omicron coronavirus variant.

Across the state, virtually all new COVID-19 cases were attributed to the omicron variant and its related “lineages” in the two weeks ending May 7, the latest time period for which data is available.

More than 23,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported statewide in the week ending May 14.

That’s up from about 3,000 cases a week in mid-March, but still far below a peak of 700,000 people tested positive in January.

Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at UNC Health in Chapel Hill, told the News and Observer newspaper in Raleigh that the recent increase in COVID-19 cases isn’t surprising.

Wohl said the virus evolves to become more transmissible, so an uptick is inevitable as people get back to normal activities and aren’t wearing masks.

“And we just have to, as a society, decide what we’re willing to tolerate,” Wohl said. “Right now people are very clearly voting with their masks, that they are willing to tolerate the current numbers of cases and that they’re willing to tolerate the hospitalizations and deaths that are occurring.”

Hospitalizations and deaths statewide remain low compared to previous stages of the pandemic.

DHHS reported 12 deaths due to COVID-19 statewide in the week ending May 14.

On average, 471 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 per day the week ending May 14, up from as little as 351 a day in late April, according to DHHS.

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