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

COVID will likely surge in NC due to omicron, state health chief says

North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said she expects more than 10,000 new daily infections in the state in January.

North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said Monday she expects the omicron variant to become the dominant variant of COVID-19 in the state by the first or second week in January.

She also said she expects North Carolina to have a record number of COVID cases in the next week or two with more than 10,000 new daily infections. During last winter’s surge, the state’s weekly average peaked at just under 9,000 new cases a day.

Cohen said she doesn’t know how the new variant will impact hospitalizations.

“I do not know yet know what will translate into in terms of hospitalizations,” Cohen said. “What we are seeing with omicron is that it does seem to be less severe. What we don’t know yet is how it is going to behave here in the United States.”

The state said there were 1,630 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state as of Monday. In early November, North Carolina was averaging a little more than 1,000 people hospitalized on a daily basis with the disease.

State health officials are encouraging everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated and also receive a booster shot. They also say people should get a COVID-19 test before gathering for the holidays.

Kody Kinsley, the state’s deputy health secretary, says people can go to ncdhhs/gov/gettested to find where to get tested. The state will also mail people at-home test kits.

“We are continuing to secure more testing resources and will make those available,” Kinsley said. “We know that both in preparation for travel, keeping our schools open and protecting our health care workforce that testing is an important tool and we will continue to work on that.”

Kinsley says the state’s testing labs have enough capacity to handle a surge of new tests. Kinsley will become Health and Human Services secretary in January after Cohen steps down.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.