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WNC COVID Spike Mirrors Rising Statewide Numbers

Courtesy of NC DHHS
Statewide COVID-19 numbers per 10,000 residents via NC DHHSS.

COVID-19 numbers have spiked across North Carolina in recent days. BPR’s Lilly Knoepp has a look at what’s going on in the far-western counties…

When infections spiked at the beginning of this year, Western North Carolina was a few weeks behind more urban parts of the state in seeing high COVID-19 numbers.  That’s not the case in this newest wave explains Haywood County Health Department spokesperson Allison Richmond.

“I think our spike looks very similar to the state level. I think we are growing at a rate that is very similar to what it was at our peak in December and January,” said Richmond.  

Richmond adds vaccination rates have been pretty stagnant since May in the region. West of Buncombe County vaccination rates range from 31% in Swain County to 47% in Macon County. 

Credit Courtesy of NC DHHS
COVID-19 vaccination rates in western North Carolina.

She thinks the Delta variant could change that.

“What we’re seeing with Delta is it is happening with younger people. So now there is kind of a shift from  ‘I’m not 65 plus maybe I don’t need to get vaccinated’ to ‘Well actually it is happening to people 30 and under, maybe I should reconsider,’” said Richmond.

On Tuesday, Haywood County reinstated masking in government buildings such as the health department and the local library because of spiking numbers.

For Richmond, the most concerning issue is the impending school year as masks will be optional in Haywood County schools.  Only 3 percent of children between the ages of 12 to 17 are vaccinated in the county according to state numbers.

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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