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NC COVID-19 cases and wastewater levels flattening after spring wave, hospitalizations still rising

The state's and CDC's COVID-19 update this week showed improvements in some measures, but not all.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Weekly COVID-19 updates show some improvements for North Carolina, as measures like cases and viral particles in the wastewater start to flatten.

The Tar Heel State was seeing a steady rise in several coronavirus metrics through April and May, with infectious disease experts characterizing the trends as a "mini-wave."

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, statewide surveillance of COVID-19 in wastewater found 22 million particles last week. The week before it detected 26 million particles. 

Reported cases are down three weeks in a row, with 23,000 cases reported last week. Health officials caution, however, that case counts could underestimate the true number of infections since many are testing at home and not reporting positive results to the state.

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Only hospitalizations are definitively still rising. NCDHHS reported weekly admissions of coronavirus patients totaled 925 last week, the seventh straight week of admission increases.

In the Charlotte region, a couple of counties saw progress in viral impacts from prior weeks. Iredell and Catawba Counties are back in the "low" community level tier, downgraded from "medium", according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mecklenburg, Union, Stanly, and Cabarrus counties remained under medium impacts.

Credit: CDC

Many of the highest COVID-19 impacts were reported in the northern and eastern parts of the state.

The trends emerge as North Carolina prepares to roll out COVID-19 shots to the last remaining age group unprotected from the virus -- kids younger than 5.

Both Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccines for kids as young as 6 months old just cleared an FDA panel and are awaiting emergency authorization from the agency itself and from the CDC.

An independent CDC panel will discuss the two brands Friday afternoon and is expected to vote Saturday afternoon on whether to recommend them for use for the nation's youngest kids. The CDC director would then give the final federal green light before vaccine providers could start administering the shots.

In a statement earlier this week, NCDHHS said, if all regulatory hurdles are cleared promptly, it was prepared to roll out shots next week.

Contact Vanessa Ruffes at vruffes@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

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