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Virus surges but deaths are fewer

Posted on January 10, 2022

Updated on January 15, 2022

Top newsCOVID-19Local news

sbolejack@johnstoniannews.com | 919-424-1776

Pearson

Pearson

SMITHFIELD — The new year did not arrive as Dr. Marilyn Pearson had hoped.

“We are still in a pandemic,” the head of the Johnston County Public Health Department told County Commissioners on Jan. 3.

The numbers bear her out.

In just two days last week, the number of new COVID-19 cases in Johnston County grew by 1,061, and the number of hospitalizations climbed from 43 on Jan. 4 to 48 on Jan. 6.

But the virus claimed no lives in Johnston over those two days.

“The good news is our deaths have gone down,” Pearson told commissioners. “We had that spike in September during that Delta wave, and the last month or so, those deaths have gone down.”

But nothing about the county’s other COVID numbers is good, Pearson said. “Our case rate has increased significantly,” she said. “We’re at 413 per 100,000” residents.

And roughly 15% of all COVID tests in Johnston are positive.

The hospitalizations have prompted Johnston Health to limit elective surgeries, Pearson said. “They’ve not canceled them,” she said. “They’ve reduced elective surgeries because of the bed capacity issue.”

Most COVID patients are not vaccinated, Pearson said. “When you look at the patients that are in the hospital at this point, those in the ICU and on the vent, 89% are unvaccinated,” she said.

Pearson noted that the Centers for Disease Control had recently eased its quarantine guidelines, an acknowledgment that COVID-19 wasn’t going anywhere soon. “We’re getting to a point where we’re looking at numbers, looking at hospitalizations and deaths, and realizing this is going to be with us for a while,” she said.

But that’s no reason to abandon those measures that help limit spread, Pearson said, referring to vaccinations, masks and social distancing. “We just need to continue to do the things we can do to try to prevent the spread,” she said.

Pearson knows that Johnstonians are tired of COVID and its precautions. “I’m tired too,” she said. “But when I think about being tired, I think about the people I’m trying to protect by doing these things — by wearing my mask and physically distancing and getting vaccinated.”

“We know that there are things we can do to decrease the risk for hospitalization and death,” Pearson added. “Vaccine is the biggest thing.”

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