Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — As key COVID-19 metrics increase in North Carolina and the U.S. due to the BA.5 variant, Gov. Roy Cooper is reminding North Carolinians to stay prepared by being up to date on vaccines and boosters, having a supply of tests and seeking treatment if they test positive.
Consistent with trends seen in data from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, BA.5 is now the most common variant, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled 41 of North Carolina’s counties as high COVID-19 Community levels. This variant is causing repeat infections, even in those who have recent past infections from other variants, and infections in people who are vaccinated. Vaccines remain highly effective in preventing severe outcomes, including hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
“While Covid variants continue to infect people, we have the tools to protect ourselves from the most serious effects of this virus,” Cooper said. “Get vaccinated and boosted, wear a mask indoors in crowds if you believe you need better protection and if you become infected, talk with a health professional quickly about effective treatments like Paxlovid. Cases are on the rise with this latest BA.5 variant so I encourage all North Carolinians to know their risk and take steps to protect themselves.”
While COVID-19 metrics will continue to rise and fall, it remains important to prepare and protect yourself. Getting vaccinated and boosted — including a second booster if you are eligible — is still the most effective tool to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19, as well as long COVID.
Get prepared by:
♦ Having a supply of at-home tests on hand. Stop the spread by testing more often and taking precautions if you are positive. Free at-home tests are available from the federal government and community sites and your insurance will cover eight free at-home tests per person per month. Find other testing locations and ways to receive at home tests at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/FindTests (Spanish).
♦ Adding a layer of protection by wearing a mask in crowded indoor settings or if you are at high risk for serious COVID-19 complications.
Increasing the ventilation of indoor spaces by opening windows.
♦ NCDHHS has made access to at-home tests more convenient by establishing Community Access Points in all counties, where people can pick up free at-home tests. Current information on how and where to find tests, including CAPs, in North Carolina is available at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/FindTests.
If you do test positive for COVID-19, treatment is available, especially for high-risk people who are likely to get very sick. Antiviral pills like Paxlovid and Molnupiravir should be taken within five days of symptoms beginning. The monoclonal antibody bebtelovimab is less effective against this variant, and the supply is limited. These treatments must be prescribed by a medical professional. More information on treatment, including Test to Treat locations, is available on the NCDHHS website.
“North Carolinians know how to batten down the hatches and get prepared when hurricanes approach. When COVID-19 case counts are rising, it’s especially important to protect yourself,” said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “We know what to do now. It’s time to make sure you are boosted, make sure you have tests on-hand at home and make sure you know where treatment options are near your home.”
For more information on COVID-19 trends in the state, visit covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard