CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – COVID-19 never really left, but cases are starting to make a return nationwide, statewide, and locally in Mecklenburg County.

Statewide wastewater monitoring, which has shown to be an indicator of rising and lowering case counts, has seen an increase in COVID-19.

In the past, this indicator would be a cause for alarm. However, as the pandemic has gone on, it is an indicator now of extra vigilance rather than a sign of a change in people’s lives.

“We’re nowhere near, thankfully, where we were in 2020, 2021,” said North Carolina’s state epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore. “We have 97%+ that has some immunity to COVID from vaccine or infection, or from both.”

“It’s becoming more like influenza,” said Dr. Katie Passaretti with Atrium Health. “This is not to say we don’t see severe disease from it.”

The news of rising counts comes as a booster is set to be available soon for the newest variants of COVID-19, which will be available nationwide soon.

Under new guidelines, the new booster shots will not be free but will be covered by most–if not all–insurance companies. Those who are underinsured or uninsured can also have a program available to them to get the vaccine at no cost.

Passaretti said that, given the now-endemic nature of COVID-19, getting booster shots for the virus and the flu will likely become normal.

Doctors stressed the safety of the vaccine, noting that the chances of heart or health issues from getting COVID are higher for those who are unvaccinated.

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There have been additional questions from the public about the possibility of lockdowns, mandates, or restrictions returning. All the health professionals Queen City News spoke with said there is no need or discussion on any 2020-type restrictions.

“Those measures are not critical for our response activities,” said Mecklenburg Co. Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington. “We have vaccines, we have treatment options available, we understand the disease and how it’s transmitted.”