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Delta pushes spike in Covid cases and hospitalizations, overwhelming majority are unvaccinated people

School nurses confront the coronavirus.
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With covid cases surging thanks to the Delta variant, WHQR’s Kelly Kenoyer brought News Director Ben Schachtman into the studio to talk about the numbers.

Kelly Kenoyer: Hey, Ben, welcome.

Ben Schachtman: Hi. I wish I could say I'm happy to be here.

KK: Yeah, I thought we were done with all this constant COVID coverage, but it seems like we're not.

BS: Yeah, unfortunately, we are not.

KK: So can you tell me just how bad things are looking right now?

BS: Sure. So I'm going to drop a bunch of data on you. So stay with me here. At the state level, we are seeing hospitalizations go up quite a bit. Since this time last month, they've risen, risen from about 470 to about 2,400. That's a considerable increase.

At the county level, we're looking at cases per day. This is the highest it's been since February of this year where peaks got as high as 250. Right now, around 100 to 115, but those numbers have been trending up. And then at the hospital, the rolling average has been 71 patients in the hospital for Covid. There's been five deaths from New Hanover County residents this week. And again, those are higher numbers than we've seen in quite a while.

KK: And that's with 53% of the population here vaccinated. And they're saying it's Delta variant. Can you tell me about that?

BS: Yeah, we'll have more info on this later next week. But without going down the wormhole, basically, the vast majority of these cases are believed to be Delta based on how it's spreading. And how it's spreading is quickly. The chief epidemiologist at New Hanover Regional Medical Center [and infectious disease physician at Wilmington Health], Dr. Paul Kamitsuka, told me it's as contagious as chickenpox. So the original version was infecting one to two people per initial patient. And that number is now as high as eight to nine.

KK: Wow, that's crazy. It seems like hospitalizations are really scaring doctors right now. Dr. West Paul from the hospital held a press conference yesterday and sounded pretty alarmed.

Dr. West Paul: “Over the past four to five weeks, we've had rather a dramatic increase in our COVID hospitalizations both in the critical care unit and on an on the floor with regular patients that not only includes New Hanover Regional Medical Center, but Novant Health and Brunswick also has seen the same rapid rise of COVID-19 infections.

BS: Yeah, that's… that's pretty bad. What else did he have to say?

KK: Well, the patients that are coming in are a lot younger, on top of there being a ton of them right now. That included a few children. And most of the people who are hospitalized are unvaccinated.

Paul: “About 90% of our patients are unvaccinated. We have seen some patients that are vaccinated, they tend to be less ill and not in our critical care units. But we are seeing some of the breakthrough infections in our, in our population, but again, a very small number.

BS: Well, so what about the breakthrough infections?

KK: Well, those tend to be people who are already extra at risk. People who are immunocompromised or the elderly. So I guess if you fit those categories, you should probably be extra careful right now and follow guidelines, wear a mask, stay home as much as you can.

BS: And I guess we should just say here what we've heard over and over again, but it's true. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated.

KK: Yeah, absolutely. And so where can people go to get vaccinated?

BS: Well, they can go to myspot.nc.gov for vaccine information. And of course, they can go to whqr.org and we'll have links to trusted information [see links above for state, county, and NHRMC Covid-19 dashboards].

KK: Perfect. Thanks, Ben.

BS: Thanks, Kelly.