Change in reporting guidelines contributes to NC’s record high in COVID-19 hospitalizations


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A change in the way the state counts its hospitalized COVID-19 patients contributed to a record high in daily hospitalizations.

The state Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,423 coronavirus patients in hospitals across the state Friday, a day after health officials announced a change in reporting requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new guidance calls for those facilities to report COVID-19-related hospitalizations for the entire length of a patient’s stay. Previously, the federal agency only required the reporting of patients during the time they were under isolation precautions — a period of time that usually reached a maximum of 21 days.

“Unfortunately, some patients suffer the effects of COVID-19 for a longer period of time,” NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said.

State officials say those hospitalization numbers will likely remain higher under the new reporting criteria.

The shift came a day after state matched its previous single-day high in hospitalizations Thursday — the last day under the older reporting criteria, with the 1,279 patients in hospitals matching the old high set July 22. 

The state has reported at least 1,000 hospitalized patients every day since Oct. 6. That 39-day streak in quadruple digits surpassed the similar 38-day streak that ended Aug. 13.

But those high numbers aren’t spread out evenly throughout the state.

A data analysis found the state’s hospitals were 63 percent full on Friday, with nearly 16,000 patients overall and roughly one in 11 of those with COVID-19.

DHHS divides the state’s hospitals into eight regions — or, preparedness coalitions — and the Metrolina region which includes the Charlotte metro area is under the most stress with its facilities at 73.4 percent occupancy.

The Triad region — which stretches from Guilford and Rockingham counties west toward Ashe and Watauga counties — has the most total beds (6,070) but also the most COVID patients (398). And of the 3,779 beds that were reported in use Friday, 10.5 percent of those are occupied by COVID patients — the highest percentage of those eight regions.

The people in hospitals continue to trend older — 80 percent of the 1,145 COVID patients admitted between Nov. 4-10 were 50 or over. Less than 5 percent were younger than 30.

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