However, those increased COVID hospitalization numbers may not tell the full story.
Coronavirus hospitalizations are at their highest point in nearly a year, with patients who tested positive taking up more than 3,800 beds on Monday.
In fact, the WRAL Investigates team learned that 1 in 3 of those patients actually went to the hospital for unrelated issues.
Omicron is spreading so fast that even people showing up to the hospital for unrelated issues are testing positive for COVID-19 once they arrive.
UNC Health is treating 615 COVID patients. However, one third were admitted to the hospital for other reasons, then, they tested positive for the virus. The numbers are even higher at WakeMed, where 60% of COVID patients were admitted for non-COVID illness.
“Some people who fall from ladders or get a heart attack or have to come in because of a gallbladder issue test positive,” said Dr. David Wohl, infectious diseases specialist at UNC Health.
All of the extra COVID cases means hospitals require more staff, more space, more PPE and a longer isolation period.
“If you come in the hospital [because] you break your leg, normally you would just get a surgery and go home. Now, because you have COVID you’ve got to stay in the hospital a lot longer,” said Dr. Adia Ross, chief medical officer at Duke Regional Hospital. “You are still taxing the nursing and providing resources at a time when we are struggling with staffing.”
Based on the NC Department of Health and Human Services’ most recent hospital survey reporting, 82% of inpatient hospital beds are currently in use and 84% of ICU beds are currently in use. “When the people in these beds are COVID-positive, they have to be isolated to certain areas, certain staff, and use certain resources within the hospital, further straining the healthcare system,” said the NCDHHS in a statement.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID on Monday was 3,850, which is about the same as the height of the Delta wave in September. But the number of patients in the ICU with COVID has dropped from 934 to 706, a 24% decrease in ICU admissions. The numbers on Monday looked like this:
Duke Health has 243 COVID patients, of which 47 are in ICU
UNC Health has 615 COVID patients, of which 90 are in ICU
WakeMed has 189 COVID patients, of which 28 are in ICU. Of the 25 ICU patients at WakeMed this weekend, 22 were unvaccinated.
Those are more priceless lives that doctors say could have been saved with a free vaccine. “Omicron is not a wimpy virus. It can still cause a lot of folks to get sick and a lot of people to die and we have seen that,” said Wohl.
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