COVID HOSPITALIZATIONS IN NC ARE CLOSE TO 2,500: With over 6,600 new COVID cases on Friday, North Carolina has averaged 5,182 new cases per day over the past week, the highest rate since early February when the pandemic was just coming down from its winter peak. At the beginning of July, the seven-day average was below 300. As of Friday, 2,483 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, the 34th consecutive day that number has increased. A quarter of those patients, 635, are being treated in intensive care units. A week ago there were 424 adult COVID patients statewide in ICU, a number that has since grown by nearly 50%. Among the tests reported Wednesday, the latest data available, 11.6% returned positive. The rate has been over 10% for 12 straight days.