State health officials say hospitals can now handle the rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina has reported a new high in COVID-19-related hospitalizations for the fourth day in a row.

As of Thursday morning, 812 people are hospitalized across the state with coronavirus, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Despite the rise, health officials say hospitals can handle the increase in capacity for now.

“Over the past week or so we have seen an increase in the numbers of patients arriving and hospitalizations for COVID disease. That’s testing our processes, but we’re still at the point that we have the capacity for our COVID and non-COVID patients,” said UNC Department of Emergency Medicine Dr. Abhi Mehrotra.

Dr. Joseph Rogers, chief medical officer at Duke Health Systems says they saw an increase of hospitalizations until April when the cases dropped.

“About 10 days after phase one reopening of the state we began to see the rates go back up, and today we have the highest number of hospitalizations across the Duke Health system,” said Rogers.

Both Rogers and Mehrotra say their hospitals initially planned for a surge sometime in April.

“We shifted our mindset from this is going to be an immediate surge, like a sprint, to a marathon,” said Mehrotra

Rogers and Mehrotra says the earlier planning is helping them with the current influx of patients.

“We learned a lot from that early experience about how to pivot,” said Rogers. “We’re prepared to make some of those pivots again if we need to try to take action to reduce our hospital capacity.”

DHHS officials says they have worked very closely with the state’s hospitals to develop surge plans, but none of them have had to activate them.

DHHS data shows only 13 percent of ICU beds are available, which the lowest on record since DHHS began releasing that information.

Cody Hand, Senior Vice President of the North Carolina Healthcare Association says part of the increase in demand for ICU beds is because hospitals have resumed care for patients that don’t have COVID-19.

Hand says while hospitals have space to absorb the increase in capacity, he encourages people to remain vigilant about their health as restrictions are lifted.

North Carolina Nurses Association President Dr. Dennis Taylor says the rise in hospitalizations and demand for ICU beds is concerning.

“We are really playing with fire as we begin to loosen some of these regulations. We’re urging everyone to practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash their hands frequently,” Taylor said.

The NCNA represents 160,000 nurses across the state.

Taylor says members are surveyed once a month. Recently about 50 percent reported still experiencing a PPE shortage, especially nurses in long term care facilities and prisons.

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