NC crushes COVID record with more than 7,500 new cases as Thanksgiving impact arrives

Hospitalization levels in North Carolina have now increased every day in December.

Brian Gordon
Wendy Owenby, the lead clinic nurse at the Madison County Health Department, performs a "patient friendly" COVID-19 test on a Madison County resident seated inside her car at a drive thru testing event June 3 in Madison County.

North Carolina reported 7,540 new COVID-19 cases Dec. 11, a one-day record that exceeded the previous high, set Dec. 9, by more than 1,000 cases. It is the state’s fourth record-high increase in a little over a week.

In a Dec. 11 statement, health secretary Mandy Cohen said the state was now experiencing the ramifications of close-contact gatherings over Thanksgiving.

“Act now,” she said. “Please ask yourself what you can do to help slow the spread of this virus and save lives.”

Buncombe County's numbers hit their second-highest ever for new daily COVID-19 cases reported Dec. 11, with 126, falling nine short of Dec. 8's most-ever 135, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. Cases in the county continue mirroring statewide trends. 

Those numbers bring Buncombe's total cases since the start of the pandemic to 6,622, and 133 deaths. 

In the last seven days, Buncombe has added 688 new cases, an average of more than 98 per day. The last two weeks account for 1,143 cases, more than 17% of all cases in the county since the start of the pandemic.

Over the last two weeks, the county has averaged a 6.5% test positivity rate.

Hospitalizations in Western North Carolina, also continue to climb higher, with the 17-county Mountain Area Health Preparedness Coalition logging its most-ever 134 currently hospitalized COVID-19 patients, according to state data. 

At the six-hospital Mission System, spokeswoman Nancy Lindell reported 90 lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 patients as of 7:30 a.m. Dec. 11, including 72 at Mission Hospital in Asheville. 

Ten of those are at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine, four are at Mission Hospital McDowell in Marion, three at Angel Medical Center in Franklin, and one at Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard. 

Hospitalization levels in North Carolina have increased every day in December, with the state reporting 2,514 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Dec. 10. While there are still more than 1,000 available ventilators, health officials are concerned about staffing shortages and the state’s dwindling number of open intensive care unit beds. State-collected data shows 2,010 ICU beds in use and 405 beds empty and staffed.

New poll shows NC skeptical of COVID vaccine as state details upcoming distribution

Out of more than 55,000 COVID-19 tests administered Dec. 10 in North Carolina, 10.4% were positive. This rate is more than double the 5% threshold state officials said they would prefer to see.

Gov. Roy Cooper's stay-at-home order - applicable from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. - goes into effect Dec. 11.

What restrictions are in place under North Carolina's modified stay-at-home order?

Troubling coronavirus trends come as the state prepares to begin administering the first COVID-19 vaccine as early as next week. On Dec. 10, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee recommended the agency approve the Pfizer vaccine. Once the drug is FDA-approved and recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hospitals will begin administering it to their frontline workers.

Thousands of COVID-19 vaccine doses headed to WNC in first shipment

New poll shows NC skeptical of COVID vaccine as state details upcoming distribution

On Dec. 10, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed to the USA Today Network that 53 facilities across the state would receive vaccine doses in the first week, with 11 facilities with ultra-cold storage space getting advance vaccine shipments. 

Asheville Citizen Times reporter Derek Lacey contributed to this report.

Brian Gordon is a statewide reporter with the USA Today Network in North Carolina. Reach him at or on Twitter @briansamuel92.