FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — Several Triad counties are currently defined as having high community levels of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Forsyth, Yadkin, Surry, Davie, and Stokes are all in the high category. The Forsyth County Health Director said they are averaging about 750 cases per week.
"Over the past month we (...) were medium and went to high then we jumped down to low and went back up to high (last week) and we are still there," said Joshua Swift, the Forsyth County Director of Public Health. "So I was really actually surprised that we went down to low but I was not surprised that it’s high."
A major part of the uptick in cases is the BA.5 variant of COVID-19, according to health experts. While they say BA.5 is more transmissible, it is not leading to more severe disease. However, exerts said country is still in a different position than we were in the summer of 2021 when the Delta surge happened. That's because more vaccines are available this time around.
"While (vaccines) are holding up in terms of protecting against severe disease hospitalization and death, they are not so great at protecting against infection itself anymore. But that's okay because what we really need out of these vaccines is to protect us from getting really really ill," Becky DeCamillis, Infectious Disease PA and Epidemiologist with Novant Health said.
Swift said to expect new guidance in late summer and fall from the CDC on vaccinations and boosters, including ones that are tailored to the variants.
Even though Guilford County is still green - meaning, low transmission - the public health department said people should still be COVID-aware.
"We do not want to undo all of the positive progress that we have made, so it is important that community members continue to mask when appropriate, practice distancing when possible, wash their hands, and utilize at-home testing kits after travel or large gatherings," said a spokesperson for the Guilford County Department of Public Health.
The CDC advises that if you live in a county with a high transmission rate, you should wear a mask indoors and take extra precautions if you're at risk of serious illness.
"I tell people to think of COVID (as) almost like smoke," Swift said. "If you have it in your kitchen, you burn something, that smell and that smoke will stay around for a while especially if there's not good ventilation."
Experts say the number-one way to stay healthy right now is to get vaccinated.
Scroll to see how much of the BA.5 variant has popped up in North Carolina: