Ask Us: How many COVID-19 infections are breakthrough cases?

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 16, 2021

Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to

The number of breakthrough COVID-19 cases — when someone tests positive after being vaccinated — is low compared to total cases since the start of the pandemic.

Readers asked for data about the number of breakthrough cases of COVID-19 in the state. In response to a Post request, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said Aug. 9 it had identified 7,297 cases of potential breakthrough infections among the more than 1 million total COVID-19 cases in the state. There were 383 hospitalizations and 66 deaths among those cases.

NCDHHS doesn’t publish a total number of hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic. However, more than 13,000 people have died because of COVID-19 in North Carolina.

Local data about breakthrough cases isn’t available, but the Rowan County Health Department said it’s working to obtain relevant numbers.

May 6 was the date 50% of adults in the state received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Since then, 92% of infections have been in unvaccinated people and 94% of deaths have been unvaccinated people, according to NCDHHS.

A DHHS spokesperson said the data is consistent with other states that show increases in infections driven “almost entirely” by infections in unvaccinated people. About 48% of the state’s population, including people who are not eligible to be vaccinated, are fully vaccinated. In Rowan County, 42% of people are fully vaccinated.

“People who were vaccinated and do still get COVID-19 are less likely than unvaccinated people to have serious illness or hospitalization,” the spokesperson said.

The ongoing rise of cases has been attributed to the delta variant, which produces higher viral loads in hosts than previous variants of the disease and infects people more easily as a result.

Hospitalizations and new infections in the state have been rising for more than a month. On Friday, there were 6,628 new cases reported and 2,483 people hospitalized due to COVID-19. 

Adjusted for population, Rowan County has the highest new case rate out of all its neighboring counties and is among the worst counties in the state for deaths, with 323.

What entrances are open at Rowan Medical Center?

The main entrance to the hospital as well as the entrances and exits to the Smith Heart and Vascular center are open. The skybridge and Kaiser building have been closed since 2020.

The heart center entrance first reopened this spring.

A Novant Health spokesperson told the Post the facility will assess the need to bring back previous restrictions because of the rise in COVID-19 cases, but none have been implemented yet.

Novant requires everyone in their facilities to wear masks. It screens people entering the hospital.

Novant also has visitor restrictions for patients who have COVID-19 or may have been exposed. Exceptions include end-of-life visits, obstetric patients, minors or adults with mental disabilities, those unable to communicate or make health care decisions, those requiring care givers or special exceptions made by providers.

Visitors will be allowed to see patients who do not have COVID-19 if they pass a screening, are healthy, at least 12 years old and wear a mask.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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