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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

What To Know About The Latest COVID Surge In NC, Mecklenburg County

Tori Martin, clinical nurse educator, administers Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccines to physicians, nurses and leadership at the Novant Health Prince William Medical Center in December 2020.
John Boal/John Boal Photography
Courtesy Novant Health
Tori Martin, clinical nurse educator, administers Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccines to physicians, nurses and leadership at the Novant Health Prince William Medical Center in December 2020.

The number of younger people hospitalized with COVID-19 in North Carolina is increasing. The delta variant is spreading rapidly and unvaccinated people are most at risk. Meanwhile, some government agencies and businesses are mandating vaccines or masks. Here’s what to know about the latest surge of the coronavirus.

How Crowded Are Charlotte's Hospitals?

There were 191 people in the hospital with COVID-19 in Mecklenburg County on Aug. 4, according to the latest available county data. That’s well below the winter surge — when the county reported as many as 565 daily hospitalizations — but it’s around four times the number of patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19 on any single day between mid-June and mid-July.

“In May and June, the COVID rates largely dropped off,” Dr. David Callaway, an emergency medicine physician at Atrium Health’s Carolinas Medical Center, told reporters last week. “In July, we’ve seen a dramatic increase. There’s not a shift that goes by where I’m not seeing — and admitting — you know, three, four, five patients with COVID who are pretty sick.”

Who Is Going To The Hospital?

Mostly unvaccinated people and an increasing number of younger patients, according to state and local health officials. Callaway said the vast majority of people he has seen in the emergency room at Atrium who are “really sick” with COVID have not gotten the vaccine. The situation is nearly identical across Novant’s network of hospitals, said spokesperson Megan Rivers.

“More than 90% of COVID-19 patients in our hospitals today are not vaccinated, and the average age of admitted patients is the lowest it has been since the pandemic started,” Rivers said in an emailed statement.

From Aug. 3 through Aug. 9, 547 people ages 20 to 49 were admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 across North Carolina, the state Department of Health and Human Services reported.

“When we had our prior peak, we were at an average age of around 61. Our average age (currently) is around 44,” said Dr. Sid Fletcher, senior vice president and chief clinical officer at Novant’s Presbyterian Medical Center.

According to Fletcher, the age drop is because more older people have been vaccinated. North Carolina’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy prioritized people 65 and older, and 84% of that age group in the state are fully vaccinated according to the latest data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

“In that older population that was most at risk ... many, many more of those folks took advantage of getting vaccinated,” Fletcher said.

What About The Death Rate?

Right now, the number of deaths is not keeping pace with the number of hospitalizations in North Carolina. The death rate appears to be lower. That could be because there is an increased number of younger patients, Fletcher said.

“When you see that age drop, that’s helpful, just in terms of the mortality,” he said. "Patients that are younger tend to be more resilient. They have more reserve. And so those patients tend to do better.”

Plus, Fletcher added, doctors have become comfortable with using various helpful treatments for COVID-19.

Do Any Charlotte Businesses Require Customers To Be Vaccinated?

Not that WFAE has heard of.

Kelly O’Brien, chief advocacy and strategy officer with the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, said on Tuesday afternoon that she had not heard of any city plans to urge businesses to mandate vaccines for customers.

“I have not been a part of any calls with the city in regard to any kind of closures or requirements for vaccinations for restaurants,” O’Brien said. “There (have) not been those communications at this point with the business community that I’m aware of.”

Some workplaces have begun requiring their employees to get vaccinated, like Atrium, Novant, OrthoCarolina and Tryon Medical Partners. Certain state and Mecklenburg County agencies will start checking employees’ vaccination status and then require any unvaccinated employees to take regular COVID-19 tests and wear masks at work at all times.

Which Charlotte Businesses Are Requiring Masks?

Companies such as Publix and Home Depot recently announced that employees will once again be required to wear masks in their stores. A handful of businesses are requiring masks for customers, like The Evening Muse and Discovery Place.

Most businesses strongly encourage masks for customers — particularly unvaccinated customers — but don’t mandate them.

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Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. Reach her at cdonnelly@wfae.org or on Twitter @donnellyclairee.
Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.