Mecklenburg County is experiencing a surge in summer COVID-19 cases, county health officials say.
While the U.S. COVID-19 public health emergency officially ended on May 11, officials warn that a surge of COVID cases could last into the fall.
According to a Mecklenburg County press release, emergency department visits and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 infection have increased.
From July 14 – July 27, 2023, there were 316 emergency department visits for COVID-19-like illness in Mecklenburg County.
For comparison, last month, from June 18 to June 24, there were 121 emergency department visits for COVID-19-like illness in Mecklenburg County, according to the health department.
Evidence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 illness, in wastewater, has been increasing since early July, according to a Mecklenburg County press release.
A new variant, Omicron XBB, caused cases to increase in January but has not caused the current surge, though it still accounts for most cases in North Carolina.
From July 9 – July 22, Omicron XBB-like variants made up 98% of strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to Mecklenburg County.
Health leaders believe waning immunity, increased travel, and more time indoors due to record-breaking heat are likely causing the surge.
“If it’s been a while since you’ve got a COVID dose or since you’ve had COVID, you’re a little more vulnerable” Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease specialist at Novant Health, said.
People whose immunity may be fading — those who had a vaccine or COVID-19 illness more than five months ago — should avoid indoor crowds.
Officials also recommend washing hands with soap and water more often than usual.
No matter the symptoms, Dr. Priest recommends staying home if you feel sick or unwell.
“Be considerate and stay home,” Dr. Priest told QCity Metro in a press conference.
Dr. Priest also recommends wearing a mask while using public transportation.
According to Dr. Priest, new vaccines targeting the Omicron XBB variant are expected to be available in September, around the same time as the seasonal flu vaccine.
Health experts will likely recommend those vaccines in preparation for the predicted fall surge when schools are back in session and when colder weather moves more people indoors.
To find COVID supplies near you, such as vaccines and at-home test kits, use the county’s interactive map.