State News

New NC hospitalization data breaks down COVID-19 spikes by region

Posted July 20, 2020 2:42 p.m. EDT
Updated July 20, 2020 5:12 p.m. EDT

— State health officials over the weekend began releasing new data on COVID-19 hospitalizations that provides more detail on how regions of the state are grappling with the disease's sickest patients.

The changes to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services coronavirus dashboard Saturday now break down hospitalization numbers by "healthcare preparedness coalitions," broad collections of counties centered around a major trauma hospital. The data, which shows about a month of trends, also includes details on patients in intensive care beds with the disease.

Healthcare Preparedness coalitions

Two regions in particular – the Metrolina Healthcare Preparedness Coalition around Charlotte and the Triad Healthcare Preparedness Coalition in the northwestern part of the state – have seen steady increases that have kept their COVID-19 patient counts near the 300 mark.

Together, the two regions make up about half of the state's total hospitalizations from the disease, according to data as of July 20.

The data also shows for the first time how many patients in North Carolina are in hospital intensive care beds – statewide and across the eight regions. As of July 20, 320 patients were in ICUs with COVID-19, less than one-third of the total number of patients hospitalized with the disease.

That means that about 10 percent of the state's more than 3,000 intensive care beds are filled with COVID-19 patients.

The data itself is still sourced from a survey sent to hospitals daily to track bed capacity and other metrics. Hospitalization totals have historically varied day-to-day when the response rate drops.

But state health officials have now moved to a more automated process to administer that survey, the pilot project for which began in mid-April.

A message on the dashboard says "there will be a small shift in hospitalization numbers" because of that switch.

Although formally announced Monday, this isn't the first time DHHS has published more granular hospitalization data. Around April 1, when COVID-19 case totals hovered around 1,500, a version of the dashboard briefly featured data from similar hospital regions across the state.

The agency stopped publishing that version shortly after.

A group of public health experts in June also used regional data from DHHS to examine and forecast hospital capacity. That study found uneven impacts on hospitals, with particular stress on those in the Greenville, Charlotte and Triangle areas.

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