Masks are advised in the majority of North Carolina’s counties, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sixty-two counties are now in the highest risk category of the CDC’s three community levels: green, yellow, and orange. Ten more counties joined the highest-risk classification in the last week, the majority of which were in the southern part of the state.
The CDC calculates these risk categories by compiling data about COVID transmission, hospital admissions and hospital capacity. Each level corresponds with a color and a number of steps individuals and communities are urged to take to mitigate the spread.
Those in the highest risk counties, orange, and who are at high risk of severe disease may consider avoiding nonessential indoor activities and talk to their doctors about treatment plans in case they do test positive. Those with high risk friends or family members should consider rapid testing before seeing them.
In the Triangle, Durham, Orange, Chatham and Harnett counties are all high risk. Wake, Franklin and Johnston counties are still medium risk.
In medium risk counties, the CDC recommends that high risk residents talk to their doctors about whether they should wear a mask indoors and potential treatment options if they test positive.
BA.5 is driving the surge
BA.5, the most contagious COVID-19 variant to date, now comprises nearly 60% of all cases in the state, according to the most recent data from the NC department of health and human services.
No evidence has shown that BA.5 will cause more severe illness than previous omicron subvariants. COVID-related hospital admissions have steadily increased since late June but experts say that doesn’t necessarily indicate a rise in severe illness, as that statistic includes patients who were hospitalized for another ailment and happened to test positive for COVID-19.
It’s still not clear how this subvariant could affect your chances of developing long COVID.
BA.5 is particularly adept at evading immunity from both vaccinations and past infections, even if the infection was recent.
Getting a booster shot is one of the best ways to protect yourself against BA.5. A local coronavirus researcher found that boosters improve immunity against omicron 20-fold.
Even so, a small fraction of eligible adults have received their second COVID-19 booster.
Everyone 5 and older are eligible to get one booster and people older than 50, or who are severely immunocompromised, are eligible for a second booster.
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