RALEIGH, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE/WAVY) – North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and state health officials held a briefing Thursday afternoon to provide an update on the state’s COVID-19 response, as healthcare workers continue to struggle with the latest virus surge.

As of Thursday, 6,290 new cases were reported in North Carolina, NCDHHS data showed. 3,815 patients were hospitalized. North Carolina has topped 15,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

“Sadly, most all of the COVID deaths that are now occurring are preventable with a safe, easy, free vaccine. I want to thank the millions of North Carolinians who have stepped up to get one. But we need more people to get vaccinated,” Gov. Cooper said. “How many more people have to get sick and die because people don’t get this miraculous, God-given, effective and extraordinarily safe vaccine? How many more people will have to witness the painful, cruel death of a loved one to finally see that vaccines are the way out of this?”

While health care professionals say vaccines are the best protection from COVID-19, effective treatment is also available if you do get infected. If you test positive and have mild to moderate symptoms, Gov. Cooper encouraged residents to talk with their doctor about the treatment of monoclonal antibodies.

“Monoclonal antibodies are shown to be effective at preventing hospitalization once you have COVID. It’s critical to get tested as the treatment must be administered within 10 days from the start of symptoms. Your doctor will make the decision on whether the treatment is right,” Gov. Cooper said.

Last week, Gov. Cooper signed an Executive Order to make it easier to get monoclonal antibody treatment by increasing the number of places folks can get it around the state. North Carolina is also working with FEMA to set up several sites where this treatment will be administered.

The NC Department of Health and Human Services also announced this week that it’s seeing a sharp increase in COVID-19 clusters among school sports teams.

For the period between July 1 and Sept. 2, 2021, clusters among school sports teams accounted for 45% of all clusters in North Carolina middle and high schools, despite most school sports activities not beginning until August as schools began the fall semester.

For the week ending Sept. 4, children age 17 and under made up 31% of the state’s new COVID-19 cases, NCDHHS said. That is the highest percentage since the pandemic began.

“We need everyone, including our student athletes and their coaches, to increase layers of prevention to fight this more contagious Delta variant: Don’t wait to vaccinate and urge others to do the same,” NCDHHS Chief Medical Officer and State Health Director Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, M.D., MPH. “Tested, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are the best tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Student athletes who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine after a close contact with someone with COVID-19.”

62% of the adult population in North Carolina is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, data shows.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, said he believes booster shots will be available for Americans starting Sept. 20, but the shots have yet to be approved by the FDA.

The FDA and CDC said they haven’t gotten enough data from Moderna to authorize a third dose yet, meaning only Pfizer would initially be available.

Local Counties Metrics:

Gates 888 – 14 deaths
Bertie 2,167 – 46 deaths
Camden 851 – 8 deaths
Chowan 1,876 – 37 deaths
Currituck 2,132 – 19 deaths
Dare 3,208 – 10 deaths
Hertford 2,461 – 65 deaths
Pasquotank 4,116 – 92 deaths
Perquimans  1,276 – 11 deaths