Raleigh, N.C. — The number of coronavirus particles found in North Carolina’s wastewater has increased by 55% in the past week, according to state data released Wednesday.
North Carolina hasn’t seen a weekly jump in COVID-19 wastewater particles this high since April, data from the Department of the Health of Human Services shows.
The number of new coronavirus cases reported to the state is not in line with amount of coronavirus seen in North Carolina’s wastewater. It indicates the state’s data is likely not capturing the full extent of COVID-19 in North Carolina.
Health leaders say that the state’s coronavirus case numbers are not tracking the full extent of COVID-19 in the community due to the number of at-home positive tests that are not required to be reported to the state.
“Earlier, in COVID we did a lot more testing in the office,” said Shawna Guthrie, medical director at Granville Vance Public Health last week. “We’re doing a lot less testing in the office because of the availability of home tests. And unfortunately, those numbers don’t translate over into the state reported data.
“So there’s a lot of people testing positive at home, who aren’t really reported in the metrics that we see.”
New coronavirus cases increased by only 7% this week compared to last week. That’s the most they’ve increased since May 28, but is still not on par with the increase seen in wastewater data.
Emergency room visits related to COVID-19 have remained steady since June. About 6% of all emergency room visits across North Carolina are for people with COVID-19 symptoms, compared to 25% in January of this year.
Some 50% of all coronavirus cases sequenced by DHHS this week were from the coronavirus subvariant BA.5, which doctors say is the most contagious variant yet. Doctors and experts are still unsure if this variant causes more severe illness.
The number of new coronavirus patients admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 may provide key insights as to how rapidly the latest variant is spreading in North Carolina. Over the past month, the number of new patients admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 has increased by 32%, while the number of new cases reported to the state has only increased by 19%.
More than 1,099 people were admitted to North Carolina hospitals this week, the most since the end of February.
Overall, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that North Carolina has a 20% case positivity rate with dozens of the state’s counties under a high risk for community transmission.