Triangle hospitals see slight spike in COVID-19 patients, prepare for surge after Thanksgiving

Local News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Hospitals throughout the Triangle have reported seeing a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations in recent weeks and they are preparing for another surge in cases sometime after Thanksgiving.

On Thursday, the state reported there were 1,181 people hospitalized for COVID-19. North Carolina has been above 1,000 hospitalizations for more three weeks.

The increase is taking a toll on hospitals in the Triangle, including Duke University Hospital.

“We’ve had five additional patients just within the last 24 hours,” said Dr. Lisa Pickett, Chief Medical Officer for Duke University Hospital.

Pickett said there are currently 50 COVID-19 patients who are in isolation in Duke Health’s hospital system.

“We also track the number of employees that are COVID-19 positive and we’re also seeing an uptick in that,” Pickett said. “Not from their work in the hospital, but from the spread from coworkers in the community.”

As more children have gone back to school and places start to reopen, health experts say more people have become infected.

But Pickett said they expect the biggest surge in hospitalizations to happen after Thanksgiving.

“We know that families want to be together and they come together to eat, which is, unfortunately, the highest risk activity you can do,” Pickett said.

But she said Duke Health has been preparing for this next surge and they have enough PPE, ventilators, and routine medicine.

Over at UNC REX Hospital in Raleigh, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Linda Butler said systemwide UNC Health has seen a slight rise in hospitalizations.

“We have about 145 COVID-19 patients across the system right now,” Butler said.

Butler said currently at UNC REX they have 17 COVID-19 patients, but predictive models show they could have as many as 60 patients after Thanksgiving. However, she said she is hoping it doesn’t come to that.

“We’ve had lower than our predictive number for many months now and we just won’t know until that happens,” Butler said.

Butler said that UNC REX Hospital is in a good place just in case it does happen. She said they have enough PPE, ventilators, and a staffing plan.

Health officials said they are anticipating flu hospitalizations may be down this season. The reason is that people are already taking flu preventative measures for COVID-19, which include social distancing, wearing masks, washing their hands.

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