The first week of July, just four North Carolina counties had high COVID-19 community levels, according to data from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the month closes, that number is 50 – half of the counties in the state.

The CDC looks at a combination of three metrics for its “community level” ratings — new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the past 7 days, the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 7 days. New COVID-19 admissions and the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied represent the current potential for strain on the health system, according to the CDC. Data on new cases is used by the CDC as as an early warning indicator of potential increases in health system strain during COVID-19 surges.

Most of the other 50 counties in the state – including Wake – are at a medium level Just five counties – Haywood, Madison, Watauga, Ashe and Caswell – are at “low” community levels, according to the latest data.

Find your own county data and data from across the state and country here.

According to the CDC transmission map, all 100 counties have high COVID-19 transmission rates.

The 7-day average for hospitalizations related to COVID-19 are up again this week, with more than 1,100 hospitalizations statewide. That’s a number not seen since March, when the state was steadily coming down from a January peak of more than 5,000 hospitalizations in one week. The 7-day average for ICU patients hit 125, a level that has also not been since since March.

As North Carolina Policy Watch reported this week, recent surveys have shown Americans are struggling with COVID exhaustion that impacts how they are reacting to the virus despite the number of infections, hospitalizations and even deaths.

In an interview with North Carolina Policy Watch’s Rob Schofield this week, UNC infectious disease expert Dr. David Wohl discussed the decision by many Americans to abandon previous safety measures after living in a state of heightened caution in a pandemic that has lasted more than two years.

“What we’ve seen over the last several months, if not longer, is a disconnect between what may make sense from a public health perspective and what the perspective is of the public,” Wohl said. “Regardless of the way the curves look, whether we’re talking about peaks or valleys, in general, the public has said, ‘We’re going to move on. We’re going to take it on the chin if we’re seeing more cases. We’ll take it on the chin if we see more hospitalizations, maybe even more deaths.’”

This story appears courtesy of our media partner NC Policy Watch.