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Health Team

Triangle hospitals say they are prepared for rise in coronavirus cases

Posted July 13, 2020 12:01 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2020 2:14 p.m. EDT

Doctors and hospital administrators in the Triangle are watching the rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Although the numbers Monday were lower than over the weekend in terms of new cases, hospitalizations and those tested, North Carolina has seen all three metrics on the rise over the past two weeks.

So far, 87,549 people have tested positive for the virus in North Carolina since the outbreak began. Of those, an estimated 67,124 (or about 77%) have recovered. More than 1,000 people remain hospitalized.

On Monday, the state reported 1,818 new cases of coronavirus. Over the past seven days, new cases have averaged about 1,800 per day.

"We thought initially this was going to be somewhat of a surge, similar to what we saw in New York, but what we’re experiencing is more of a long-term increase in workload," said UNC Health’s Dr. Abhi Mehrotra.

As of this weekend, UNC Health was treating about 140 COVID-19 patients across its system, with about 40 in intensive care. Mehrotra said the rise in cases at UNC Health facilities has plateaued in the past few weeks, but administrators are concerned about the prevalence of cases across the state.

Tracking the coronavirus curve in NC

New laboratory confirmed cases and deaths are based on daily reporting from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services via the agency's COVID-19 dashboard. The dashboard started publishing case counts on March 13 and death counts on March 26. Because these case and death numbers can lag slightly based on the time it takes labs to process tests and health officials to confirm cases, we're also calculating a seven-day rolling average to show the curve of cases.

Source: N.C. DHHS
Graphic: Tyler Dukes, WRAL

Mehrotra said supplies of personal protective equipment are sufficient, thanks to the push to procure masks, gowns, gloves and face shields early in the pandemic. He also said hospitals can add beds and space relatively easily, but managing personnel is a challenge.

"People are tired. It takes longer to see a patient who has a requirement for the appropriate PPE," Mehrotra said. "It’s an adjustment of time and having to change our mindset."

He said health care workers and staff at UNC Health are working to make sure they are well rested.

Mehrotra said people should not delay seeking medical care. UNC Health is using a triage tent outside the emergency department to determine how best to treat patients.

WakeMed spokeswoman Kristin Kelly said its hospitals were well prepared to treat more patients, with adequate PPE supplies and beds.

"We have plans in place should we need to surge in terms of care spaces and equipment and flow," she said in a e-mail to WRAL. "At this point in time, less than 40 percent of our COVID-19 patients need ICU care."

WRAL News has reached out to officials at Duke University Medical Center to find out how they are planning to handle increasing numbers of patients.

NC coronavirus cases, deaths by zip code

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The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services began releasing zip code-level data on cases and deaths on May 1. Search by zip code to find the rates of cases and deaths for your area. Aggregate counts are based on where patients live. DHHS has supressed counts for some zip codes with populations of less than 500 and cases less than five due to privacy concerns. Population estimates for each zip code, included in the state's data, were calculated by Esri Inc. through a state contract. Due to differences in zip code geographies used in a new version of the state's dashboard launched May 20, some case and deaths counts here may differ slightly from that new dashboard. To stay consistent, WRAL is using state data originally published May 1 and updated by DHHS daily through its ArcGIS site.

Source: N.C. DHHS // Updated: Aug. 14
Graphic: Tyler Dukes, WRAL // Get the data

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