PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) – North Carolina’s State of Emergency is still in place as state health officials made it clear COVID-19 is still a serious concern.
Previously during the pandemic, North Carolina health officials would mainly focus on reported case numbers in each county to determine severity. Now, they’ll keep an eye on several specific metrics.
Instead of just case count, health experts will track the virus’ spread in seven key areas: Wastewater, COVID-19-like illness in emergency rooms, COVID hospital admissions, COVID cases, booster vaccination rates, variant levels, and the availability of hospital beds.
Phillip Tarte, Jones County health director, says he believes Eastern Carolina will focus on case numbers and hospitalizations.
“That is the true indication of individuals that have the illness and those that spread that illness,” Tarte said.
Gov. Cooper said the state has made the best choices up to this point to alleviate the presence of COVID-19.
“We got our children back in school, we kept our economy going, and we saved lives,” Cooper said.
Health departments will follow four core principles with these metrics: Empowering individuals, collaborating with local partners, prioritizing equity, and maintaining health capacity.
“These principles will ensure a fast, fair response, and improve the health and safety of all North Carolinians,” NCDHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley said.
Tarte said this won’t be the last COVID-19 protocol change North Carolinians will see.
“I don’t want North Carolinians to think this is the end of the road for COVID-19 because viruses do change. We’ve seen that with flu for decades,” Tarte said.
Health officials know from experience that things could still, and likely will, change.
“Science is ever-evolving, the virus is ever-evolving… at the same time, we want to make sure we are ahead of that,” Tarte said.
Even still, Tarte is optimistic about the future. “I do believe the COVID situation we’ve seen over the past two years is slowly coming to an end.”
Tarte recommends that everyone continue to wear masks and get vaccinated.
Kinsley said that looking ahead, North Carolina will still see periods of increased spread of the virus, but keeping up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines and other health supplies will decrease people’s chances of contracting the virus.
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