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Covid Update: Across the state and in New Hanover, vaccinations stagnate while Delta-variant cases tick up

To understand vaccine-induced immunity more fully, researchers are comparing antibody levels in people who received the Moderna vaccine but still got COVID-19 with levels in people who got the vaccine but didn't fall ill.

Just 47% of North Carolinians are fully vaccinated, though those rates vary significantly from county to county. Half of residents in New Hanover County are vaccinated, with Wake County closer to 60%. But rural areas are still lagging behind, with rates as low at 22% in Hoke County.

But even in more vaccinated counties, Covid cases and hospitalizations rates are increasing. New Hanover County Assistant Health Director Carla Turner said that’s evident at Novant Health in Wilmington. She blames the Delta variant for the change.

“Several weeks ago, there were two people in the hospital. Last week, there were 30,” Turner said.

While Covid-related hospitalizations are jumping, they haven't neared their winter peaks. Turner credits the vaccination efforts for that, but said there still aren't enough vaccinated people in the state to really stop the spread of COVID or prevent new variants from cropping up.

The vast majority of hospitalized cases are unvaccinated, she said, and 70% of cases in North Carolina are the more dangerous- and more transmissible- Delta variant.

“The Delta variant has a viral load 1000 times stronger than the others, so that's concerning," Turner said. "So the longer we wait to get vaccinated, the more opportunity that variant has to spread. And the more opportunity variant other variants have to develop.”

Those covid vaccines that have been tested against the Delta variant have continued to grant high levels of immunity and protection from severe illness, according to a recent study.

The CDC has now updated its mask guidance to recommend that even vaccinated individuals wear masks in high-transmission areas. New Hanover County hasn't crested 200 cases per capita in a 14-day period, but it's above 100 now— making it a county with "substantial" community transmission, according to the CDC.

Hoke County is above 300 per capita, by comparison, and is considered to be at a high level of community transmission.

For more information on where to get a COVID shot, click here.