RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The numbers of new COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions keep climbing. That raises a critical question — when will they finally peak?

One University of North Carolina doctor predicts that won’t happen here for another few months at least.

“Under the current circumstances, unless there was a dramatic change, we’re talking about a peak in late October, early November,” said Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at the UNC School of Medicine.

That’s not a haphazard guess. He says it’s based on their model’s simulations of the current measures of cases and hospitalizations.

“I think it’s important for people to know that it’s not just us watching the skies for a change in the weather,” Wohl said. “We can predict pretty reasonably what might happen based on what we’ve seen before and the data we have available that shows us how the virus is spreading.”

Wohl says he expects the numbers to “start approaching what we saw during the winter.”

State Department of Health and Human Services data showed the seven-day average number of new cases peaked on Jan. 12 at 8,654 new cases per day. That average has exceeded 5,000 on each of the past five days, and was at 5,152 on Tuesday.

“I hope we don’t get inured to the kind of data we’re seeing now,” Wohl said.

The CDC combines 25 of the most reliable forecasts into a composite that projects new cases in our state to climb 70 percent by late September, to more than 40,000 per week. 

(Source: CDC.)

“People are getting the sense now that things are different, that things are different than they were during the lull between the last surge and this surge,” Wohl said.

This peak could look different than the one in the winter.

Mainly because the vaccines are having an effect, with those who have gotten both shots largely spared the most severe outcomes of more severe symptoms, being admitted into hospitals or dying.

And the delta variant spreads faster than previous strains of the virus, which has led to steeper spikes in the numbers of new cases and hospital admissions in recent weeks.

“We’re seeing fewer and fewer people who are elderly and seeing more people who are younger, who are not vaccinated and who are coming in sicker than we saw younger people coming in last time,” Wohl said. “It’s happening quicker, and the people are coming in sicker and younger.”