RALEIGH, N.C. — Just as people started dropping their masks, federal health officials are recommending you keep it on.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its mask guidance on Tuesday, saying even if you're vaccinated, but live in an area where COVID-19 cases are surging, you should still wear a mask.
That's just about everywhere in the U.S., including North Carolina.
NORTH CAROLINA'S LATEST COVID-19 METRICS
DAILY CASES: On Wednesday, labs confirmed more than 2,600 new cases - almost double the count from the previous day.
PERCENT POSITIVE: Those new cases make up 10.8% of all COVID-19 tests. That's the second day we've been back-to-back in double digits, which we hadn't hit since April (10.8%).
HOSPITALIZATIONS: Nearly 2,000 people are in North Carolina hospitals with COVID-19, our 18th straight increase. They include 32 people at Cone Health - the most in two months.
Here's a look at our hospitalization trend since January 1, when we started seeing the post-Christmas surge.
Throughout spring and summer, we saw far fewer patients in hospitals as vaccines rolled out and more people got outside.
But for the last two-and-a-half weeks, we've seen increases every day, and more patients are getting seriously ill with COVID-19.
The state health department reports one-fourth of current COVID-19 hospital patients are in intensive care units, and 11% are on ventilators.
North Carolina is seeing all the major metrics rise, except vaccine rates. That's why health leaders for the state and counties are urging folks to wear a mask or get vaccinated.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR NORTH CAROLINA?
Gov. Roy Cooper will give an update with the COVID-19 task force on Thursday. He said he will review the CDC's latest recommendations on masks.
Currently, North Carolina's remaining mask mandate is set to fully expire at 5 p.m. Friday. The mandate includes the state requirement for mask-wearing in schools, health care settings and public transportation. Remember, the mandate for most of us ended on June 11, but not for higher-risk settings.
We don't know if Cooper will take action in light of the CDC's latest guidelines, but it's worth noting his decision-making has been centered around the council of state health officials and what the CDC has been advising.
HOW IS NORTH CAROLINA DOING ON VACCINES?
Right now, 58% of eligible North Carolinians have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
That means 42% of people 12 and older still aren't immunized.
While most mass vaccine sites are closed, many places are offering the shots in the Triad.
Guilford County Health Department is bringing doses to the community with its new mobile vaccine unit.
Pharmacies, clinics, private doctors' offices, and more are also offering the shot. All you have to do is call and ask for it.
To find out where you can get a COVID-19 shot, call the state's helpline at 888-892-1162 or dial 211.