COVID-19 hospitalizations dip in NC, but still remain high

COVID-19 metrics are slowly dropping following increases stemming from holiday travel over the past two months.

"We're certainly more than a month past the holidays now, so that helps. We knew that the holidays were a significant risk point for us, and we certainly saw that bear out in the numbers," said Katie Galbraith, the President of Duke Regional Hospital.

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In early January, Galbraith said Duke hospitals had 123 COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalizations. As of Monday, that number had dropped to 100.

"We've definitely seen a slight decline in our numbers but the numbers are still high," Galbraith said.

Fewer patients requiring specialized care can help alleviate staffing and scheduling concerns.

"We want to continue to be able to provide all of the care that our community needs. And that includes care for patients who don't have COVID, care for patients who do have COVID, and vaccinations as we ramp that up," Galbraith said.

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On Monday, Feb. 1, the number of new COVID cases was down about 60% compared to January 1, while the state experienced its sixth straight day of decline in hospitalizations. Despite the progress, the metrics are still above the state's goals.

"There's definitely still staffing shortages. There's definitely still a strain on the staff," said Tatyana Kelly, the Vice President of Planning/Strategy and Member Services with the North Carolina Healthcare Association.

Hospitalizations are a lagging indicator behind new cases and positivity rates, with deaths typically lagging hospitalizations.

"When you see a high number of new cases diagnosed, a couple weeks later, 1-2 weeks later, you'll see a higher number of hospitalizations as a result just as a result of more people being sick," said Kelly.

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Health officials are expressing concern about Super Bowl watch parties this Sunday. They're strongly encouraging people to skip gathering with those outside their household.

"Any opportunity where you're in a closed indoor space with people that you're not currently living with, and you take off your mask to cheer for your team, to share buffalo wings, to spend time breathing each other's air, is a risky choice," said Kelly.

Doctors continue to urge people to follow the 3 W's - wear a mask, wait six feet apart, and wash your hands frequently.
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