Because of a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, the death total in Columbus County has risen to 159, according to Health Director Kim Smith.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports 156 deaths, but it takes time for the state to investigate probable COVID-19 related deaths.
In addition, from Saturday to Thursday morning, Columbus County saw 140 COVID-19 positive tests, according to Smith.
All deaths were of unvaccinated individuals, and all but three of the recent positive tests were of unvaccinated individuals.
“The virus has mutated again,” Smith said. “We are in a high transmission mode.”
Smith is referencing the delta variant, which is more transmissible and more deadly than the original strain of the coronavirus. Smith said that people who contract the delta variant are twice as likely to be hospitalized.
Spikes in COVID-19 cases and deaths due to the delta variant are happening across the United States.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a map that showed that Columbus County had a high level of community transmission. In the last seven days, cases increased by almost 295%, and COVID-19 hospital admissions increased by 550%.
In the last week, the percent of tests coming back positive for COVID-19 in the county has been 7.63%, according to the CDC.
For areas of high transmission like Columbus County, the CDC is recommending that everyone, including vaccinated individuals, wear masks indoors.
“We need to put as many layers of mitigation between us and this virus as we can,” Smith said. “If you’re vaccinated, still wear your mask so you’ve got two layers there.”
Smith also encourages people to wear masks in crowded outdoor events. “If you can’t social distance, then at least you’ll have your mask.”
Overall, Smith argues that the best defense against the delta variant is a vaccine. “To get rid of the virus, we need people to get vaccinated,” she said. “Once there’s no one it can jump on, it’ll die out.”