The Hunter's COVID-19 fight took a turn for the worse on Wednesday as the region recorded more than twice as many new infections as any other NSW health district.
The case count of 83 in the 24 hours to 8pm Tuesday was the fifth highest daily Hunter tally since the pandemic began in March last year.
The number of active cases in the Hunter New England Health district has climbed again this week to 1010 after falling from a mid-October peak of nearly 1200.
Carrington Public School, in a suburb which recorded seven new cases on Wednesday, became the eighth school in three days to close for cleaning and contact tracing. Five Hunter primary schools closed last week.
The HNEH district accounted for just over a quarter of the state's 304 new cases announced on Wednesday.
Murrumbidgee health district had the next highest count with 38, followed by 36 in South Western Sydney, 22 from Mid North Coast, 22 in Sydney health district, 18 each in South Eastern Sydney and Western Sydney and 15 in Illawarra Shoalhaven.
Central Coast Local Health District reported only three new cases.
For the Hunter, it is a far cry from mid-August, when then deputy premier John Barilaro was praising the region's public health response as a model for others after cases dropped back to zero.
The HNEH cases included 24 in Newcastle local government area, 20 in Cessnock, 11 in Port Stephens, seven in Lake Macquarie, six in Maitland and Tamworth, five in MidCoast, three in Dungog and one in Armidale.
Of the new cases in Cessnock LGA, 12 were in Kurri Kurri. Raymond Terrace accounted for 10 of the new infections in Port Stephens, and Mayfield had six.
Hunter hospitals are treating 23 COVID-19 patients, including five in intensive care.
HNEH is now offering a third COVID-19 vaccination for people 12 and over who are severely immunocompromised. To receive the booster, people must have received their last dose at least two months before.
NSW Health said on Wednesday that data from August to October showed unvaccinated people aged 16 and over were 24 times more likely to be admitted to hospital with COVID-19.
The department published a graph showing about 600 unvaccinated people per million had been admitted to hospital compared with about 25 fully vaccinated people per million.
NSW Health announced that three more people had died with the virus in Sydney.
Two were over the age of 70 and unvaccinated. The third, a man in his 30s, had received one dose shortly before testing positive.
The virus has claimed 506 lives in NSW since June 16.
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