‘We are expecting record numbers of cases’; N.C. leaders urge COVID-19 vaccinations, boosters ahead of the holidays

Governor Cooper, health officials offer clear guidance ahead of expected omicron wave
Governor Cooper, health officials offer clear guidance ahead of expected omicron wave
Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 8:41 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 20, 2021 at 3:43 PM EST
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV/AP) – North Carolina’s leaders are urgently telling all residents to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 as delta and omicron variants are rapidly increasing the number of cases nationwide.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and members of the COVID-19 task force gave an update on the state’s fight against the virus ahead of the Christmas holiday.

“With holiday gatherings, COVID cases beginning to rise and a new highly contagious variant on the way, it’s important everyone takes steps to protect themselves and their families,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “With every vaccine dose, we get closer to turning the tide of sickness and death brought on by this pandemic.”

Gov. Cooper says many people are going to get infected including some who are vaccinated, but the most important difference between the vaccinated and unvaccinated is how sick you get.

“I know people are frustrated and dismayed at the coming wave of infection right here at Christmas. But it’s important to remember how far we’ve come in our fight against this disease,” Gov. Cooper said. “We know what works. Vaccines, boosters, testing and masks when needed. With every dose, we get closer to turning the tide of sickness and death brought on by this pandemic.”

With people getting together to celebrate, there is greater risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. Secretary Mandy Cohen has issued a Secretarial Advisory urging several actions to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death.

“We are expecting record numbers of cases,” Dr. Cohen said Monday about the omicron variant’s impact on North Carolina this winter.

Dr. Cohen says the omicron variant is two to three times as contagious as the Delta variant, making it four to six times as contagious as the original COVID-19 virus.

“This is a moment to act. We can keep people from becoming really sick and make sure there is hospital care for everyone who needs it. Early evidence shows that boosters provide a significant level of protection against Omicron,” Cohen said. “I urge everyone who has been vaccinated to get your booster soon as you are eligible. Getting a booster is particularly critical for people who are 65 and over or with underlying medical conditions.”

Incoming NC DHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley also shared updates on how the state is handling the logistics of an expected wave of Omicron COVID-19 cases.

“Testing before you gather can help slow the spread of Omicron,” Kinsley said. “And if you test positive, quickly seeking out treatment can help reduce the risk of severe disease.”

To date, North Carolina has administered over 14 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 69 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated. 73 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, including 95 percent of North Carolinians 65 and over.

On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s top medical adviser, said the omicron variant is “just raging around the world.”

Related: Fauci says omicron variant is ‘just raging around the world’

At least one case of the omicron variant has been detected at Mecklenburg County after a UNC Charlotte student tested positive for it earlier this month.

Related: N.C. seeing high rate of COVID-19 community transmission, health officials say

Cooper has encouraged all North Carolinians who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster shot to get one ahead of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

The booster shot is authorized for anyone 16 years and older.

VACCINE TEAM: Complete coverage

This adds another layer of protection,” Cooper said. “As new variants emerge and COVID continues to circulate, getting vaccinated and then boosted is the best way to protect yourself and get us out of the pandemic. Vaccines and boosters are widely available. You can make an appointment to give yourself this protection and more peace of mind.”

Information on testing locations, free tests and home tests is available at ncdhhs.gov/gettested. North Carolinians can learn more about the state’s vaccine distribution at myspot.nc.gov (English) or Vacunate.nc.gov (Spanish). Visit NCDHHS’ page Walk-in Family Vaccination Sites to find a family vaccine event. Use NCDHHS’ online tool Find a Vaccine Location to find a nearby vaccination site. The North Carolina Vaccine Help Center at 888-675-4567 can also help you make an appointment. It is open 7 a.m.–7 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m.–4 p.m. on weekends.

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