RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina reported a record one-day number of additional COVID-19 cases on Thursday, a jump that has health officials concerned about hospital capacity and the unvaccinated as the omicron variant spreads.
The state Department of Health and Human Services said 18,571 additional positive tests were reported, smashing the previous record of 11,581 set in January.
The number of people identified by DHHS as hospitalized COVID-19 patients also has more than doubled since early December, reaching over 2,250 on Wednesday, according to DHHS data. That number should grow in coming days, the department said, following the spike in positive tests.
While it appears the omicron variant causes less severe illness for the vaccinated, the unvaccinated and those with underlying health conditions remain at the highest risk to be admitted to the hospital, the department said.
“We are concerned that even a very small proportion of these cases ending up in the hospital could overwhelm our hospital system and increase the loss of lives of those most vulnerable,” Kody Kinsley, the department’s chief deputy secretary, said in a news release. He will become DHHS secretary later this week, succeeding Dr. Mandy Cohen.
Testing also has soared in the state, as more than 71,000 tests were completed on Wednesday, according to the DHHS data. The percentage of positive tests reached 22% one day this week.
The additional cases and worries about being exposed to people with the coronavirus has led to traffic tie-ups around a testing center in Raleigh and strained emergency medical resources in Charlotte.
Some people are going to Mecklenburg County emergency rooms for COVID-19 tests when they don't have any symptoms, Novant Health chief clinical officer Dr. Sid Fletcher told reporters Thursday.
"If you can’t get tested, if you have symptoms — stay home,” Mecklenburg County health director Gibbie Harris told The Charlotte Observer.