Craven County had its highest—OK, we’ll say it, its WORST—one-day increase in new COVID-19 cases Wednesday to Thursday.

There were 149 new cases of lab-confirmed COVID-19 during that 24-hour period. The previous 1-day record was 86 cases on Dec. 10.

Craven School Board to hold special meeting to discuss COVID-19 situation. Large number of infected staff making it difficult for district to hold classes. MORE

Craven County has 4,135 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of noon Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, up from 3,986 the previous day.

The number of active cases also jumped, now at 722 cases; 65 people were added to the recovered category in the past day, and no new deaths were reported.

Clearly we have entered a secondary spike following the initial post-Thanksgiving outbreak.

How it is spreading

Out-of-state travelCommunity transmissionDirect contactUnder investigationUnknown
381,0142,626648714
UnchangedUp 101Up 115Down 115Unchanged
Changes Dec. 30-31, 2020

The biggest increase came from those people whose source was a direct contact with a known infection. That’s consistent with a second wave of spread following the Thanksgiving Week spike.

The number of cases attributed to community transmission was fairly light at 7 new cases. Of course, with such a dramatic one-day increase in total numbers, the number of cases being investigated by contact tracers has also skyrocketed — up 81 cases in one day. For more information about sources of spread, see the full graphic in the slideshow at the bottom of this article.

Craven County snapshot

CasesActiveRecoveredDeathsHospitalized
4,1357223,3338020
Source: Craven County Health Department

Today a new chart is being unveiled, one that charts only the deaths in Craven County. While 80 deaths may seem insignificant, it is important to note two things.

First, Craven County’s death number is higher than all eight of its neighboring and nearby counties, including Onslow and Pitt counties, two much larger counties.

Second, is how COVID-19 deaths relate to flu deaths. For some reason it is difficult to find the number of flu deaths in Craven County in the 2019-2020 flu season, so we’ll use national numbers, instead.

The estimated death toll for that flu season was estimated to be 24,000-62,000. The death toll in the U.S. since February from COVID-19 is 308,000 and climbing at an accelerating rate. Let’s just round out that COVID-19 is 10 times more deadly than seasonal flu. That’s a very low estimate, but stay with us.

Based on national trends, then, Craven County would have had in the range of 7-10 flu deaths.

No matter how you slice the numbers, the COVID-19 deaths are significantly higher than seasonal flu.

Unfortunately, graphing it out with total, recovered, and even active cases makes the death numbers seem trivial:

Awhile back, we parsed out active cases, deaths and hospitalizations in order to avoid these relatively low numbers from being overlooked in our graphing. The result isn’t much better:

So deaths now gets its own chart. As you can see, it is a lot easier to see ebb and flow of COVID-19 deaths since the first four Craven County residents died of COVID-19-related reasons back in April:

What is immediately noticeable is that the death rate has been increasing significantly since August.

Four people died in April, sending a shockwave through the community, since the total number of COVID-19 cases was much lower at that time (four deaths out of 40 cases — a 25 percent death rate).

But the number of new deaths simmered down to a trickle in May, June, and July. By the end of July, Craven County had only 8 deaths. But then came August, when 17 people died, more than doubling the county’s death toll.

A new record was set in October with 22 deaths, and fortunately, the number of deaths has dropped in November and so far in December.

That could be attributed to a better understanding of the virus and its effects, better treatments, and better prevention among the most endangered members of the population.

August through October were struck with severe outbreaks at several Craven County nursing homes and assisted living facilities, whose patients are by definition more at risk.

Since that time, cases at residential care facilities have dropped off significantly, and no new outbreaks have been reported in the latest report from the state on Tuesday.

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