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NCDHHS: 'Greater urgency' to vaccinate as cases, hospitalizations, deaths increase statewide

The state said since May, more than 99 percent of new cases in North Carolina have been in people who are not fully vaccinated.

NORTH CAROLINA, USA — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is urging all unvaccinated North Carolinians to get their shot as metrics in the state increase day-by-day. 

The state's COVID-19 dashboard shows a slight uptick in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The percent of tests coming back positive has also jumped into the 4 percent range, a change from the 2 percent the state saw at the end of June, going into July.

"We are concerned," said Section Chief for NCDHHS division of Public Health Dr. Susan Kansagra. 

The state said it's looking at early warning systems, which shows more people going to the emergency department with 'COVID-like illnesses.'

Another concern - the Delta variant, which has been shown to spread faster than other COVID-19 variants. 

"After a lot of progress we've made, we are seeing the first signs of that starting to turn around and that's really especially concerning given we know we are seeing increased circulation of the delta variant," she said. 

Since May, state leaders said more than 99 percent of new cases in North Carolina have been with people who are not fully vaccinated. 

“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 K. Cohen, M.D. “Protect yourself and those you love by getting vaccinated now.”

But some are still hesitant to get the vaccine. Barber Dwayne Shaw at Heads Up Barber and Beauty has found the hesitancy that still remains in conversation with some of his clients. 

"Well, a lot of people don't trust it," said Shaw, "They don't trust the government, they think the rollout was too fast, they think there as an alternative motive."

Shaw said his clientele seems to be about split down the middle: some are vaccinated, others aren't. 

Shaun Canoy said he's not vaccinated, adding vaccines have never been part of his routine. 

"I've never had the flu shot or anything like that. I'm a personal trainer and I try to maintain a healthy life. I stay pretty active, eat pretty healthy," said Canoy. 

When they first rolled out, Canoy said he did start off with reservations. "I thought it came out a little fast, maybe a little too fast," he said. 

State and local leaders said they understand the hesitancy that comes with the vaccine and are working to address those concerns by getting trusted community leaders involved in the process. 

Wake Forest Baptist Health ICU Dr. Ashish Khanna said he hasn't cared for one vaccinated patient in the ICU to this day.

"I wish I could bring people into our ICUs even now and have them walk around and see that it is young people who are coming in unvaccinated with COVID-19," he said, "The real-world experience tells us that once you're vaccinated you're protected."

The state's COVID-19 metrics are far below what they were during the height of the pandemic, but the state said cases increased by 12% the week ending on July 3 compared to the previous seven days, and hospitalizations increased by 8% over the past seven days.

State leaders said those unvaccinated have to still wear a mask, social distance, and wash their hands often. As testing numbers also drop, health leaders are stressing the importance of getting tested if you feel sick or are unvaccinated and exposed to COVID-19.

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