Could September become NC’s 2nd deadliest month of the pandemic?

Just two weeks into September, 522 people in North Carolina have died from COVID-19, putting the month on pace to surpass August as the deadliest of the pandemic since February.

In August, 1,107 people died due to the virus, the latest data from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services show.

September is currently on pace for nearly 1,120 deaths. And that number may end up being higher as the rate of deaths per day has increased over the last month in a half.

In the first week of August, an average of 17 people per day died due to COVID-19 in North Carolina. That rate increased to 52 during the first week of September.

The 522 deaths so far in September is 39% more than in all of June and July combined, when 376 died.

Deaths reported from day-to-day are preliminary. The number may increase over a previous time period as more information becomes available.

In a DHHS report from late August, the state concluded that unvaccinated people are more than four times likely to catch COVID-19 and 15 times more likely to die due to the disease compared to those with their shots, The News & Observer reported.

As of Wednesday, 60% of those 12 and up in North Carolina are fully vaccinated. Nationally, the rate is 63%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The spike in deaths is due to a surge in hospitalizations caused by the delta variant, a mutation more than twice as contagious as the original strain of the virus, according to the CDC.

Nearly 98% of sequenced virus in North Carolina is delta, the latest CDC data show.

As of Wednesday, 660,380 Americans, including 15,405 North Carolinians, have died due to COVID-19.

Other metrics plateau but number of ICU patients stays high

DHHS reported 3,630 people hospitalized statewide due to COVID-19 on Wednesday.

That’s down from the 3,802 reported at the beginning of the month.

The state reported 7,277 new cases Wednesday however. Over the last week, DHHS has reported 6,871 new cases per day.

That rate has stayed roughly same over the last two weeks.

But since early July when delta first started to surge, metrics have increased rapidly.

Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 on July 1 were at 396 and over the first week in July, DHHS reported just 368 cases per day.

The number of patients requiring intensive care remains high. As of Wednesday, 946 people with COVID-19 are in ICUs statewide.

The state first reached 900 ICU patients with COVID on Aug. 27, and it’s remained above that mark since.

ICU patients peaked at 955 on Aug. 29 and Tuesday.

Among the tests reported Monday, the latest available data, 11.9% returned positive. Over the last week of available data, an average of 11.4% of tests have returned positive per day.

State health officials have said they want that number at 5% or lower, a standard not met since July 17.

COVID-19 data reported by DHHS is preliminary and subject to change as more information becomes available.

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Ben Sessoms covers housing and COVID-19 in the Triangle for the News & Observer through Report for America. He was raised in Kinston and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2019.

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