North Carolina, Facing Record Covid Case Numbers, Runs Into Testing Issues

Cases have more than doubled over two weeks, and some counties have expended all their tests.,

As the Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to fuel a nationwide surge, North Carolina is seeing a drastic increase in Covid-19 cases. The state has reported a 166 percent increase in infections in two weeks, according to a New York Times database, and some counties are struggling to keep up with testing demands.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported that there were 19,174 new Covid-19 cases on Friday — a record high for the second straight day.

On Thursday, the department said in a statement that it was the “highest one-day number of Covid-19 cases” with 18,571, which was 60 percent higher than the previous daily record of 11,581 set in January 2021 after a holiday surge. The current jump in infections is most likely driven by the highly transmittable Omicron variant, according to local reports.

True case numbers are likely to be even higher, though, since at-home tests are not reported by the state.

The department also said that hospitalizations in the state had nearly doubled since the beginning of December. The number of people visiting emergency rooms for “Covid-like illness” on Thursday also set a record with 4,171 visits. The department added that 89 percent of people in intensive care for Covid-19 in the state were unvaccinated.

According to a New York Times database, intensive care units in North Carolina are 82 percent full. The average I.C.U. occupancy rate nationwide is 79 percent. Currently, only 57 percent of the state is fully vaccinated, trailing the national average, which is 62 percent.

On Thursday, the Wayne County Health Department announced that it had run out of coronavirus tests and would have no tests available “until further notice.”

“Demand for testing has increased significantly nationwide over the past two weeks, and additional test kits have been ordered from the state,” the department said. So far, the county has had the slowest rise in cases in the state.

In New Hanover County, a testing drive on Thursday had to end early because the location ran out of tests, according to a statement from the county.

Wake County, where the daily case count seems to be the highest in the state, announced on Saturday that although its testing sites would be open, there were no available appointments until Monday. The county had doubled its Covid-19 testing appointments to 13,000 daily slots last week “to help meet rapidly increasing community needs,” according to a statement. But the increase failed to meet demand.

Universities in the state are also taking more precautions. Duke University will have remote instruction until Jan. 18, the university announced on Friday. Residence halls will open as planned on Sunday, but the university is asking students to delay their return until instruction resumes as normal.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is recommending that students and professors get booster shots when eligible and said it would announce any changes to on-campus operations by Monday.

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