September already North Carolina’s third deadliest month of pandemic

September is now North Carolina’s third deadliest month of the COVID-19 pandemic, with deaths spiking since a summer surge in cases due to the delta variant.

So far in September, 1,294 people in North Carolina have died due to the virus, according to the latest reporting from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Only January and December — 3,024 and 2,090 deaths respectively — have higher monthly death tolls.

And the increase in deaths over the past several weeks has been stark.

The delta variant is a mutation of the coronavirus that’s more than twice as contagious as the original strain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 97% of sequenced virus in North Carolina is delta, latest CDC data show.

In August, 1,169 people died due to the disease, far outpacing the 379 deaths in June and July combined.

The vaccine remains the best protection against severe COVID-19.

A DHHS analysis in late August found people who are unvaccinated are more than four times as likely to catch COVID-19 and 15 times more likely to die from it, The News & Observer reported.

As of Monday, 53% of all North Carolinians and 62% of those eligible, ages 12 and up, are fully vaccinated. Nationally those rates are 55% and 65% respectively.

Since mid-August, third doses of Pfizer’s vaccine have been available as boosters to those immunocompromised. And the CDC last week recommended boosters for those 65 and older and some essential workers.

The initial run of the Pfizer vaccine was two doses, given a few weeks apart.

As of Monday, 684,884 Americans, including 16,235 North Carolinians have died due to COVID-19.

New cases, hospitalizations continue to drop

DHHS reported 13,488 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend. Over the past week, the state has reported an average of about 5,100 new cases per day.

That rate has dropped from a week ago when it was over 6,100.

Statewide, there are 3,012 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those, 870 are being treated in intensive care. Those numbers have dropped in the last week from 3,453 and 903 respectively.

Among the tests reported Saturday, the latest available data, 9% were positive. That’s above the 5% or lower that the state wants, but it’s dropped from 12.4% reported earlier this month.

COVID-19 metrics reported each day by DHHS are 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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