New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people living in areas with high or substantial COVID-19 spread to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status. 

Eighty-six percent of North Carolina's counties fall into that category, according to data from the agency presented this week by state health officials. Forsyth and Guilford counties are among them. 

Cases have sharply increased statewide over the past two weeks and the average percent positive rate has nearly quadrupled since July 1. Hospitalizations are on the rise too. 

“We've now surpassed 1,100 people in the hospital with COVID," said State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen. "This number has more than doubled in just two weeks, and has been the fastest increase we've seen since the pandemic started.”

Cohen says nearly all those hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. And she says since May, 92% of North Carolinians infected with the virus were not fully vaccinated.  

The state's vaccination numbers did tick up last week, with nearly 20,000 more people getting their first dose than the week prior. 

Overall, about 47% of eligible North Carolinians are fully vaccinated, about 2 percentage points lower than the national average.

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