CARTERET COUNTY — Local health officials are encouraging people to get vaccinated and tested for COVID-19 as a winter surge of the virus is driving up numbers of new cases and hospitalizations.
On Friday, the Carteret County Health Department reported 349 new cases confirmed since Wednesday, bringing the total number of positive cases since spring 2020 to 9,920. Active cases as of Friday afternoon stood at 365, a sharp increase from the 136 active cases reported Wednesday.
To date, 102 residents have died from complications associated with COVID-19, including four reported this week.
COVID hospitalizations at Carteret Health Care are up, as well. There were 15 hospitalizations at the Morehead City facility as of Friday afternoon, compared to nine on Wednesday. Ten of the patients reportedly are vaccinated.
“Carteret County and our whole region are now at high levels of COVID-19 transmission. This rapid rise in cases is the start of the expected winter surge,” the health department wrote in a Facebook post Thursday. “The Health Department is encouraging everyone over 5 years old to get vaccinated or their booster shot when eligible, wear a mask in public while indoors and get tested if at risk, so that we can all stay safe this winter.”
Due to increased demand for testing, the health department has expanded its free COVID-19 testing initiative to five days per week, according to public information officer Nick Wilson. Appointments are required. Call 252-728-8550, option 3.
Carteret County Health Director Nina Oliver said testing demand started to increase about two weeks ago, in the leadup to Christmas. Before the surge in demand, the drive-through testing site was seeing 10 to 15 people a day; this week it has averaged 40 to 50 people per day.
To keep emergency rooms open, health officials ask people to not visit the hospital for a COVID-19 test unless experiencing severe symptoms requiring urgent medical attention. A list of alternate testing locations in Carteret County can be found at carteretcountync.gov/1035/COVID-19-Testing.
The health department also offers the COVID-19 vaccine, free of charge, to anyone 5 years and up. To make an appointment for the vaccine, call 252-728-8550, option 2.