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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-19 cases in North Carolina will increase in the ‘next few weeks,’ Novant doctor says

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COVID-19 cases in North Carolina will likely tick up in the coming weeks, Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease physician with Novant Health said Tuesday.

Priest said while the statewide coronavirus trends are still low, North Carolina lags about three weeks behind locations like the United Kingdom, where cases are once again rising, NPR reported.

“We’re anticipating in the next few weeks, we’re going to see some increase in the number of cases we have," Priest told reporters on Tuesday. "We don’t think it’s going to threaten hospital capacity at this point.”

He added: “All the things we’ve learned for two years, all of the levers we’ve had to pull around hospital capacity and staffing and vaccination and testing — all of those things have to be tools that are on the table that we continue to utilize as we need them.”

Priest said the next wave of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina will be “hopefully nothing like what we saw in January” but encouraged people to stay up to date on vaccines and booster doses.

In North Carolina, metrics like cases and hospitalizations have remained low for roughly the past month. On April 1, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,144 cases — much lower than the peak of the omicron surge in January when case counts reached nearly 45,000.

Some health experts have expressed concern that without a higher global vaccination rate, new and possibly more transmissible strains of the virus could emerge in other parts of the world. Priest echoed that sentiment Tuesday.

“The concern is that a variant would be created that would have what we call ‘immune escape.’ So it’s not one that our current immune response … would protect us from,” Priest said.

He said that hasn’t yet been seen anywhere in the world but “it’s always a possibility that we have to think through.”

Congressional negotiators announced a deal Monday for $10 billion in additional funding for the U.S. coronavirus response, The Washington Post reported, but it includes no money for the global response.

Vaccinating the world is “critical to our ability to protect against new variants,” President Biden said in a speech last week. “There’s no wall that you can build high enough to keep out a virus.”

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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.