Cape Fear exceeds 10,000 cases of COVID-19

Southeastern North Carolina passes a milestone today

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender, Columbus and Bladen counties cumulatively hit a grim milestone in the fight against the coronavirus Thursday.

The five-county area has seen more than 10,000 cases of the virus in the last seven months. More than 8,300 people have recovered, approximately 1,500 people are classified as active cases and 145 have died.

“We kind of compared it to like a roller coaster that doesn’t seem to want to stop. As soon as we think we’re leveling off to pull into the station, it takes back off and that can be attributed to a number of things,” said assistant health director for New Hanover County Carla Turner.

New Hanover County is the most populous county in the region and accounts for just under half of the area’s cases.

New Hanover County leaders have been tracking demographic information during the process to understand who is getting sick. Until last month, adults 25 to 49 accounted for the most positive cases but that group has been surpassed by college-aged people 18 to 24.

As elementary school students head back to the classroom next week, the department is focusing on young people as well.

“We’re also keeping an eye on the 0 to 17 category, specifically those between five and 17 because those are our kindergarten through 12th grade range and we’re keeping track of that. We haven’t seen any significant fluctuations in that age range as those are our smallest percentage—I think [ages] 5 to 10 is just over 1.5% positive—so we’re keeping a good eye on that," said Turner. "We’ll be working closely with the school system and keeping an eye on those numbers and certainly letting them know if we see any significant fluctuations that would need to be addressed.

The health department says they haven’t exactly seen any spikes connected to specific events over the Labor Day holiday, but contact tracing shows a lot of recent cases over the last month have been tied to gatherings where people are in close contact and aren’t wearing masks.

The latest positivity rates are dropping too, which is encouraging, but the health department says we are nowhere near the finish line yet.

As much as everyone wants to know when the pandemic will be over, no one knows how much longer it will continue to touch our lives.

“We don’t know how much longer it’s going to be there. There are the indications that we may see an increase in the fall and winter because people are inside more congregating, getting together more, because we won’t have all these 84° days," said Turner. “People around the country, based on the weather, are gonna be congregating, getting together more in indoor spaces."

With more opportunities for the virus to spread in the colder months, health leaders say now it’s more important than ever to continue to practice the three W’s of waiting six feet apart, washing your hands and wearing a mask.