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Masks are advised in the majority of North Carolina counties, according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sixty-two counties are now in the highest risk category of the CDC’s three community tiers: green, yellow and orange. Ten more counties joined the highest-risk classification last week, the majority of which were in the southern part of the state.

The CDC calculates these risk categories by compiling data on COVID transmission, hospital admissions, and hospital capacity. Each level corresponds to a color and a number of actions that individuals and communities are asked to take to mitigate the spread.

Those in higher-risk, orange counties who are at high risk for severe illness can consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities and speak to their doctor about treatment plans in the event they test positive. Those with high-risk friends or family members should consider a quick test before seeing them.

Within the Triangle, counties Durham, Orange, Chatham and Harnett are all high risk. Wake, Franklin and Johnston counties are still at medium risk.

In medium-risk counties, the CDC recommends high-risk residents ask their doctor if they should wear a mask indoors and potential treatment options if they test positive.

BA.5 is the origin of the wave

BA.5, the most contagious COVID-19 variant to date, now comprises nearly 60% of all cases in the state, according to the most recent data from the Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. North.

No evidence has shown that BA.5 will cause more severe disease than previous omicron subvariants. COVID-related hospital admissions have risen steadily since late June, but experts say this does not necessarily indicate an increase in serious illnesses, as this statistic includes patients who have been hospitalized for another illness and who have tested positive for COVID-19.

It’s still unclear how this subvariant might affect your chances of developing long COVID.

BA.5 is particularly adept at evading immunity against past vaccinations and infections, even if the infection was recent.

Getting a booster shot is one of the best ways to protect against BA.5. A local coronavirus researcher found that boosters improved immunity against omicron by 20 times.

Even so, a small fraction of eligible adults received their second COVID-19 booster.

Anyone aged 5 and over can get a booster, and people over 50 or severely immunocompromised can get a second booster.