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'That is one of the reasons we're seeing the surge coming back' | Doctors urging vaccination as COVID cases rise

The longer people put off getting the shots, the more opportunity the virus has to mutate and become resistant to vaccines.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After months of leveling off, some of the COVID-19 metrics are inching back up again. As the Delta variant continues to spread in the country and in the Carolinas, the number of cases and hospitalizations are going up.

Health experts in the state say it is not at the same point it was at the beginning of the year, but hospitalizations are rising, and most people admitted with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated.

For some doctors, it is frustrating because, at this point, they say COVID-19 is a preventable disease.

“We are nowhere near the kind of danger territory we were in the beginning of the year but certainly concerning trends,” Dr. Katie Passaretti with Atrium Health said.

After almost a year and a half of battling the pandemic, healthcare workers are feeling the strain as Intensive Care Units start to get busier and 15% of COVID-19 patients need to be put on a ventilator.

“It's absolutely frustrating and exhausting for healthcare teams, particularly when you're taking care of very sick people who you know if they were vaccinated this wouldn't have happened,” Dr. David Priest with Novant Health said.

Vaccines aren't perfect and there still are some breakthrough cases. But the shots keep people out of the hospital and doctors are urging those who have resisted reconsidering.

“I never dreamed that here we would be in July of 2021 with 90 million people in the United States still saying I don’t think that vaccine is for me and haven't rolled up their sleeves yet,” Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institute of Health told WCNC. “And that is one of the reasons we're seeing the surge coming back up again.”

It's a continuous cycle. COVID-19 will spread in communities with lower vaccination rates, giving the virus more opportunity to mutate. The latest Lambda variant is not believed to be in North Carolina yet, but health experts are hoping the cycle can be broken before it spirals out of control.

“If I could wave a magic wand and make everyone in the community have antibodies through vaccination, the pandemic would end. That's essentially where we are but we're letting it smolder,” Dr. Priest said.

The CDC has not listed Lambda as a variant of interest at this point and doctors say it doesn't appear to be much different from Delta.

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Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.