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Health leaders discuss steps toward endemic phase as omicron shows small signs of letting up in NC

According to data from NCDHHS reported Jan. 31, the COVID-19 case count dropped to 7,327, which is the lowest it has been in more than a month.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina’s latest COVID-19 data released Monday shows signs of improvement, but doctors warn that it’s too soon to say if this will be the last big spike in COVID-19 cases.

According to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) reported on Jan. 31, the COVID-19 case count dropped to 7,327, which is the lowest it has been in more than a month.

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Hospitalizations are also starting to decline, although the data shows there are still more than twice the number of people in the hospital than there were a month ago, according to NCDHHS data.

"Hoping we're turning the corner,” Dr. Katie Passaretti, Atrium Health vice president and enterprise chief epidemiologist, said. “That's what the data suggests and nothing that's adding additional alarm right now."

Passaretti said there are still some steps that need to happen before the pandemic is an endemic.

"Hopefully we are inching closer to that endemic stage and treating it more like a respiratory virus, and there's some ways that we're already edging into that," she said. 

Passaretti said the CDC shortening the recommended isolation and quarantine period is a step forward, but she will be watching the number of hospitalization metrics closely to determine if COVID-19 is moving into an endemic stage.

"As we build up protection in the community, either from vaccines, in some cases prior infection, then, you know, the cases of severe disease, you know, decrease to something manageable,” Passaretti said.

White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said last week in a briefing that eradication of COVID-19 is unreasonable and that the country has to get to a point of tolerating the virus.

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"Where we want to be is that sufficient control…” Fauci said. “A level of control that does not disrupt us in society, does not dominate our lives, does not prevent us to do the things that we generally do under normal existence." 

Fauci said he hopes through a combination of infection, vaccination, and boosting that the country will get to a point where COVID-19 is no longer a major threat.

"Threat to our equanimity, threat to our economy, the threat to allow us to live a normal life,” Fauci said.

Contact Kendall Morris at kmorris2@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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