Health Team

Triangle hospitals say they are prepared for rise in coronavirus cases

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

Posted Updated

Brian Shrader
, WRAL reporter

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.

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.


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