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New Hanover and statewide covid vaccinations on the rise as Delta variant drives more cases, hospitalizations


New Hanover County Assistant Health Director Carla Turner tries to keep the frustration at bay. But after a mad rush in spring to get much of the population vaccinated, the line of new patients coming into the county had slowed to a trickle — under 30 coming into the health building each day.

It took more than a month for North Carolina to get from 53% of adults fully vaccinated to 58%. New Hanover County currently has 62% of adults vaccinated.

But that slow pace has shifted a bit in the past week, alongside a surge in new cases likely caused by the Delta variant. More than 60 people in the county are hospitalized with COVID this week, compared to just 2 in early July. And the news of young people on ventilators has apparently shaken the unvaccinated out of their complacency.

“We literally did twice as many [vaccinations] last week as we did the week before,” Turner said. “So I'm feeling…. I'm encouraged. Let me put it that way.”

Vaccine clinics at Independence Mall and the county health building both saw more patients this week than last, with the mall nearly doubling its output. And statewide, there’s been a 42% increase in first doses administered.

Turner said the rise of Delta is the likely cause.

“I hate that that might be the catalyst. But I'm happy that people are stepping up and deciding to get vaccinated,” she said.

New Hanover County’s escalated vaccinations match a similar rise across the state: after a drop to about 78,000 vaccinations the week of July 5, last week saw more than 100,000 vaccinations, the majority being a first dose. But those rates are still a far cry from the half-million doses a week administered in March of this year.

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NCDHHS Covid-19 Dashboard
NCDHHS Covid-19 Dashboard
After a peak at nearly 700,000 doses administered in a week in early April, vaccinations dropped to under 100,000 per week in early July. But that trend has reversed slightly in recent weeks, with more than 100,000 doses administered each week for the past two weeks with data available.

A jump in vaccinations can’t come soon enough, according to health experts. New Hanover County Public Health Director David Howard said the current rise in cases is just as bad as this time last year, before the vaccines were even available.

“Our trajectory is basically straight up in terms of the number of cases,” Howard said. “Our hospitalizations have gone, in the past five or six weeks, from literally 1 hospitalization to 62 yesterday. It’s very troubling.”

Across the state, cases and hospitalizations have been on a steady rise, more than quadrupling in a month. But the vast majority of new cases and hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated, with relatively few dangerous breakthrough infections.

Those interested can get a vaccine Tuesdays and Thursdays at Independence Mall, between 2 pm and 7 pm. Or at the county health building four days a week. For more information on where to get your free COVID shot, go to myspot.nc.gov.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant new to the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.