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Novant Health gives Covid-19 update: Positive test rates, BA.5 infectiousness, and vaccine efficacy

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This week, Novant Health held a Covid-19 briefing to update communities around the state and answer questions.

Current CDC data shows that Covid spread across North Carolina is high and about 20-30% of tests are coming back positive. However, it’s likely that the number of positive cases is higher according to Dr. David Priest, Novant Health’s chief safety, quality and epidemiology officer, because many people are using at-home tests — which don’t get reported.

BA.5 is a subvariant of Omicron that currently makes up 65% of cases in the United States right now, and it is highly transmissible. While the variant has been able to affect people regardless of previous Covid immunity or vaccination status, the messaging around vaccinations remains clear: they are working.

According to Dr. Priest, even if fully vaccinated patients get Covid, their chances of severe illness and hospitalization are much lower than unvaccinated individuals.

The medical community has all of the tools it needs to combat Covid, he said. Antiviral treatments have become a popular form of treatment, and they’re proving to be successful.

Dr. Priest said that individuals need to assess their own risk. He urged people to protect themselves by getting vaccinated and boosted, and to “strongly consider” masking in crowded indoor situations.

He also spoke on the new Novavax vaccine in development:

“It's closer to like what our more traditional flu vaccines have been, it's an antigen vaccine. And I think for some people, the hang-up around the COVID vaccine has been mRNA technologies, " he said.

He went on to reiterate that mRNA vaccine technology is not new. While yes, side effects can happen, and already have, the benefits of being vaccinated outweigh those risks in a majority of cases.

Camille hails from Long Island, NY where the exuberance of sports season never ended. She graduated from Boston University with a BS in Journalism and double minors in Classical Civilizations and Philosophy. Chasing stories has been a passion of hers since she was little, channeling itself through her art and writing. Camille’s journey in audio is never ending and she’s served as a podcast producer on multiple shows. When she’s not working she enjoys chatting and gaming with friends, reading, and creating digital art.