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What's happening now and what's next for COVID-19 in North Carolina

Infectious disease doctor, Jeff Hatcher, has a clear message: get a vaccine.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Once again, COVID-19 case numbers are rising in North Carolina. So what does this mean for people who are vaccinated, those who aren't, and mask wearing in the future?

Dr. Jeff Hatcher - an infectious disease physician at Cone Health - met up virtually with WFMY News 2's Maddie Gardner to talk more about the spread of the virus.

He said the more contagious Delta variant is not the dominant strand in our area yet but that doesn't mean it isn't a problem for people who are unvaccinated.

"This variant is so contagious that it's a breaking through in the population of people who are unvaccinated. So if you were unvaccinated before, your chance of getting sick or getting this was a little bit less because the virus was a little bit less contagious, now, if you're unvaccinated, you are really at risk for getting this," Dr. Hatcher said.

His message is clear, vaccines are safe, effective and will help protect you from getting sick. But what about bringing back another piece of protection, masks?

"I'm not sure were there yet but will we get there? Still not sure," Dr. Hatcher said. "I think we've come far enough that I don't think we have enough numbers in the community right now to start doing it again. I think that people have become so used to not having masks and that there is such hesitancy about wearing masks now, I think it's going to be really hard to get people to put them back on."

Dr. Hatcher said if our vaccination numbers remain steady, we won't reach the 70-80% experts said we needed for herd immunity. That, once again, puts unvaccinated people at risk.

"I think that we will probably still see some of the chronic sub-epidemics or mini epidemics that go on in the unvaccinated communities," he said.

Dr. Hatcher added that most of the hospitalizations, new cases and transmission of the virus is happening among people who have not been vaccinated. 

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