Cold weather, business re-openings could spark COVID-19 case increase in N.C.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)- In the week since the move to phase 3, North Carolina has had 7-day rolling average of about 1,500 new COVID-19 cases a day.

“I do worry that we may see continued uptick in the number of cases over the next few weeks,” said Duke pediatric infectious disease expert Dr. Sallie Permar.

Dr. Permar warns COVID-19 spread could worsen with colder weather and businesses drawing people indoors. She said we need to continue mask use, hand washing and social distancing.

“So that we can keep these businesses open and not slide back in the phases because of increased community transmission,” she said. As parents wait to get their kids back in school, she said these actions could help return students to normal schooling.

The data surrounding case counts following re-openings shows cases are increasing as the state re-opens.

Transitioning from a lockdown to Phase 1, the 7-day-average was over 400 new cases a day.
It crept up to more than 700 new cases a day by the end of Phase 1.

The state moved into Phase 2 two weeks later. Moving into Phase 2, the average for new cases was about 600 a day. Two weeks following that, when scientists say we see the full impacts of re-opening, the new average was about 1,100 cases.

In September when leading into Phase 2.5, we had 1500 new cases a day. That dipped to 1,350 as the state moved into Phase 3. While that number fell upon increased re-openings, it was still higher than the 7-day rolling average at the end of Phase 1 and Phase 2.

“Until we really have a vaccine in place that’s going to through generating protective immunity, its very unlikely we’re going to see zero cases,” said Dr. Permar. She noted there would need to be widespread acceptance and use of a vaccine.

Overall, we saw a 76 percent increase in cases following Phase 1 and an 81 percent increase after Phase 2. The Labor Day holiday or increased summer travel may play role in that increase as these phases spanned from May through September. It could also be attributed to school re-openings.

A 13 percent dip after Phase 2.5 could be due to a decrease in summer travel.

Dr. Peramar says we need more data to show the full impacts of Phase 3.

“The openings combined with cold weather, combined with the holidays, it could be a very trying time for us”

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