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Health Team

As COVID hospitalizations hit new high, NC hospitals ready to pivot away from less-urgent care

Posted June 9, 2020 11:34 p.m. EDT
Updated June 10, 2020 9:18 p.m. EDT

Coronavirus numbers are trending in the wrong direction across our state.

The WRAL Data Trackers show more than 37,300 confirmed cases since the first infection back in March. There have been 1,081 people in our state who have died from the virus. While thousands have recovered, there are 780 from our state currently in the hospital – a record number.

The number of people hospitalized in our state is a new high. And while beds are filling up across the state, experts say they expected this with the state reopening and protests happening and they are prepared for more cases to follow.

"Not only do I see our percent of positive tests go up, our number of hospitalizations go up and it’s telling me more people are becoming seriously ill in North Carolina,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services.

Hospitalization numbers have increased significantly from April to May and May to June.

“It has been rising and that’s a reflection of how seriously these cases are,” said WRAL investigative reporter Tyler Dukes.

“What we’ve seen since the middle of May is a steady increase in the number of patients who were admitted to the hospital with COVID-19," said Dr. Joseph Rogers, chief medical officer for Duke University Health System. "In the middle of May, we had 45 or 46 patients in the hospital, and we’ve seen a near doubling of that as of (Tuesday) morning.”

Duke, WakeMed and UNC Hospitals continue to see new patients. But all three hospitals say they have plenty of capacity

As the state begins to reopen, and in light of the recent protests, all three hospitals expect to see more cases.

“You see people out and about protesting many of them not protecting themselves or others by not wearing a mask we’re likely to see more cases in the coming weeks,” Rogers said.

On Wednesday, fewer than 25% of hospital beds, including those in intensive care, were available across the state. A large factor playing into hospital capacity is elective surgeries.

"We are prepared to pivot if we need to and cut back on our less urgent care to create capacity for patients who need us,” Rogers said.

But at this point in time, with only 84 percent of hospitals reporting, experts said we’re still in good shape should we see a spike.

“We are really far away from seeing these hospitals getting to at capacity levels in terms of beds, icu beds or ventilators," Dukes said.

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