“I’m concerned about our younger population,” Cohen says as transmission rate rises

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RALEIGH, NC (WITN) – North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and Dr Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services provided updates on the COVID-19 figures of the State as Tuesday marked a year since the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered.

Cohen said it was “quite the milestone” to have reached one year since the first dose of vaccine was given, but still recognizes that there is a lot of work to be done.

The work Cohen spoke about is particularly about vaccinating people who gather for the holidays. She noted, “I’m still worried about our hospital capacity,” because the Omicron variant is found in North Carolina and is said to be more contagious (although not as severe), COVID-19 survives more easily in the winter, and that’s the flu season.

Cohen also specifically highlighted the low childhood immunization rate as a cause for concern.

“I’m concerned about our younger population,” Cohen said, because only 17% of children aged 5 to 11 in the state have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Forty-six percent of North Carolina residents between the ages of 12 and 17 have been vaccinated.

Cohen showed data indicating that the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests and hospitalizations has been on the rise since mid-October. Due to the increase in numbers, Cohen says the majority of North Carolina is now in the CDC’s red zone, indicating a high level of transmission of the virus. Only a few counties have the level below: “substantial”.

Data presented at the press conference also indicated that 94% of seniors (65 years and older) have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Cooper echoed Cohen’s sentiments to remain diligent in protecting the state’s people from the virus, saying, “What we need to do is trust the science, the data, the experts.”

Cohen has said the pandemic will continue to evolve, but as she prepares to leave her post at DHHS at the end of the month, she has confidence in her replacement Kody Kinsley, current DHHS deputy chief secretary for health and responsible for COVID operations, and the capabilities of the entire department in its stead.

Cooper encourages residents of North Carolina to get vaccinated and receive their boosters.

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