Raleigh, N.C. — A record 5,637 new coronavirus cases were reported in North Carolina on Thursday, surpassing the previous record by a whopping 25 percent.
Meanwhile, 2,101 people were being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals across the state, marking the sixth straight day a record was set in that metric.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, called the state soaring past the 5,000 mark for new cases “another devastating milestone.”
“This number is alarming,” Cohen said during a briefing on the pandemic.
The previous record for new cases was 4,514 on Nov. 22. Thursday’s record number – it comes exactly nine months after north Carolina reported its first coronavirus case – puts the rolling, seven-day average of new cases at 3,793 per day over the last week.
While the spike might be attributed to the crush of testing done before Thanksgiving as people prepared for holiday gatherings, Cohen also expressed concern over the 11.4 percent rate of positive coronavirus tests.
“I am very worried,” she said.
Gov. Roy Cooper, who was touring a Pittsboro plant that makes protective face shields and packages nasal swabs for virus tests, said he was “deeply concerned” by North Carolina’s troubling trend lines.
“We’re particularly worried about the stress on our hospitals,” Cooper said. “We know that it is critically important that we try to get these numbers back down.”
Both Cooper and Cohen said the state’s pandemic-related restrictions are enough to limit the spread of the virus – provided people abide by them. But they said they will reimpose tougher restrictions if needed.
“There are a lot of people who are doing the right thing and are following the rules, and we are grateful for that. But it’s irresponsible to ignore the rules and create situations where people can become infected,” the governor said. “It is critically important that people follow these orders and that they take personal responsibility.”
“We knew there was just going to be more risk of spread” over the winter holidays, Cohen said. “We know, though, what to do. We know what prevents this. … We can all do things right now to slow the spread of this virus. We have to.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to meet next week to consider an emergency use authorization for a potential vaccine made by Pfizer. Vaccine candidates from Moderna and other companies also are in the pipeline for FDA authorization.
Cohen said that, once a vaccine is approved, North Carolina will get about 85,000 doses initially, which will be routed to the state’s largest hospitals, all of which have the ultra-cold freezers needed to store the Pfizer vaccine.
Rural hospitals and smaller facilities in cities won’t have access to that initial batch, she said, because of the cold storage requirements and the inability to break up the 1,000-dose packages into smaller units. But doses will continue to be shipped to North Carolina through late December and into January that will…