The independent news organization of Duke University

NC coronavirus numbers on downward trend as semester begins, but rates remain high

On Tuesday, North Carolina reported 3,978 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest number in the month of January, but virus levels remain high across the state. 

Over the last week, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has reported an average of just over 6,143 new cases per day, slightly higher than the December average of just under 6,000.

According to the state’s county alert system moniker on the NCDHHS website, all but one county—Greene County—is labelled red or orange, indicating critical or substantial community spread respectively, suggesting that the entire state is experiencing worrying levels of community COVID spread. 

On Saturday, North Carolina also identified its first case of the highly infectious B.1.1.7 strain, which was first detected in the United Kingdom. The strain was identified in a sample from an adult in Mecklenburg County, according to an NCDHHS press release. 

In the news release, NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said “while expected, identification of this COVID-19 variant in North Carolina is concerning, especially at the same time as we are already seeing very high numbers of cases.” 

To date, North Carolina has seen 727,423 COVID cases and 8,776 deaths. On Tuesday, the number of hospitalizations in the state climbed to 3,368, still substantially lower than the high of 3,990 hospitalizations reported Jan. 14.

With the return of students to campus for the spring semester, Duke has experienced a relatively high number of COVID cases compared to the fall semester. The University reported 82 positive tests last week, bringing the total number of cases since Jan. 3 to 220, closing in on the total fall case number of 267.

In an email, Duke Student Affairs and the Office of Undergraduate Education urged students to limit their social interactions in order to keep themselves and their peers safe and flatten the curve of infections. The email also reminded students of North Carolina's Phase 3 restrictions, which require wearing a face mask in public at all times and keeping indoor gatherings under 10 people. 

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