By Laura Leslie, WRAL Capitol Bureau chief
Raleigh, N.C. — The declining numbers of COVID-19 patients in North Carolina hospitals is welcome news for exhausted health care workers, but they said Friday that the pandemic is still taking a toll.
State officials reported 2,467 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Friday, the first time the figure has dropped below 2,500 since Aug. 11.
Another 4,078 coronavirus infections also were reported, which was an 18 percent decline from Thursday. The state's average of 3,549 new cases per day over the past week was down 47 percent from a month ago.
Dr. Linda Butler, chief medical officer at UNC Rex Hospital, in Raleigh, said it’s definitely a relief to see the state's trend lines headed downward.
"People really haven't had much of a rest, and we're looking forward to those numbers declining, probably even more than the general population," Butler said.
Still, she said, Rex Hospital is dealing with a lot of very sick patients.
"We are still very full at the hospital because, with this wave of COVID, the patients are staying much longer, and they are much more heavily concentrated in our critical care units," she said.
With the delta variant of the virus, patients are in intensive care for weeks or months, rather than days, Butler said.
"They're staying beyond the 21-day mark where they're no longer considered infectious for COVID, but they are still very ill, requiring a lot of critical care services, and those are the beds that we are most tightly managing," she said.
Twenty-seven percent of the COVID-19 patients in North Carolina hospitals are in ICUs, and 19 percent are on ventilators, according to state data. Eighty-six percent of all ICU beds in the state are occupied.
The number of COVID-19 patients in Duke University Health System Hospitals has dropped below 100 after routinely topping 120 a few weeks ago, spokeswoman Sarah Avery said in an email to WRAL News. Likewise, WakeMed hospitals has seen a recent decline in COVID-19 patients, although they continue to occupy about a third of the system's ICU beds, spokeswoman Kristin Kelly said in an email.
"We are still encouraging anybody who has not yet been vaccinated [to] get vaccinated," Butler said. "That will help if there is another variant that pops up. But we do think the worst for this particular surge is behind us."
UNC Rex is planning to ease its restrictions on elective surgeries starting next week. she said. Many hospitals delayed non-emergency surgeries in recent months to ensure they had enough beds for the surge in COVID-19 patients.
Duke Health and WakeMed hospitals have already resumed normal surgical schedules, Avery and Kelly said.
Source : https://www.wral.com/coronavirus/delta-surge-easing-fewer-in-nc-hospitals-with-covid-19/19916228/481