Amid record-high hospitalizations, Triangle doctors expecting more COVID-19 patients in coming weeks


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Tuesday, North Carolina reached a record high of 1,724 COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals, and doctors expect to see even more COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks.

On the COVID-19 Unit at UNC Rex Hospital, Dr. Sohail Alvi cares for the people the coronavirus attacks.

“This virus doesn’t distinguish between anybody,” he noted. “We are seeing all ages in the COVID unit…. We are seeing healthy people with no underlying medical issues who are getting quite sick.”

“We are trying the best we can to get our folks better and our units are filling up,” added Alvi. “You can send a patient home, and that bed immediately gets taken.”

Hospitals throughout the Triangle are preparing for even more COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks. As of Tuesday, Alvi said UNC REX had 37 COVID-19 patients, including six in critical care.

“We did just open up another unit today in anticipation for the surge coming in,” explained Alvi, adding, “We had just reached pretty much-posted capacity for the current unit.”

Dr. Adia Ross, Chief Medical Officer at Duke Regional Hospital, is also seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients. She says the hospital is prepared to add beds and staffing if needed.

“We do have plans in place, and we’ve been thinking about this for a long time,” said Ross. “How we would increase our ICU capacity, we have plans for that as well as just figuring out how to make sure we have backup plans for both our providers and nurses and all the other support staff that we need.”

As of Tuesday, Duke Regional had 28 COVID-19 patients, according to Duke Health. Duke University Hospital had 52 COVID patients, and Duke Raleigh had eight.

If WakeMed needs more space for patients, the children’s hospital can take on additional patients.

“We’re also prepared to care for young adults and older children, the 21-year-old, 22-year-old, 23-year-old, when necessary to help out when areas of the adult hospital are full,” said Dr. Karen Chilton, Chief Medical Officer for WakeMed Children’s Hospital.

Some doctors worry a spike in patients will follow the Thanksgiving holiday, especially if people travel or gather in groups.

While they are preparing for the worst, they’re also pleading with people to protect themselves and each other.

“What happens in the next couple of weeks is going to be a big determinant as to whether our healthcare systems get overloaded,” said Ross. “The best thing we can do at this point is for people to just continue to follow the guidelines so we don’t get to that point.”

“Everybody wants to be with family, understandably so,” added Alvi. “But nobody wants to spend the holidays in the hospital.”

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