96% of Duke ICU COVID patients are unvaccinated, hospital officials say

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Duke Health hospitals are reporting an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations this past week.

Officials say those who are unvaccinated make up the majority of people hospitalized with COVID-19 there.

Duke Health said those who are unvaccinated account for 86% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, 96% of COVID patients in the ICU and 100% of COVID patients on assisted breathing.

"We were somewhat disappointed to see that in fact, we are seeing the impact of the Thanksgiving holiday in the hospital, starting this week," said Dr. Becky Smith, a Duke Health infectious disease specialist, adding there are concerns about what that will mean for January with the Christmas and New Year holidays approaching, along with more people traveling. "And then when you layer in the impact of Omicron variant and then flu season, which flu season is also beginning. I'm concerned that there will be a strain on healthcare resources, especially in January as all these kind of issues converge."

Dr. Smith has some suggestions if you're planning holiday gatherings, such as wearing masks indoors when with people outside your household and getting a COVID test before.

"I think people can still have fun, safer fun," Dr. Smith said. "Obviously the safest thing to do is to sit at home alone, but that's not mentally safe at this point. So I think you have to balance those things and you can certainly implement the measures that we know that work pretty easily."

Patti Montanarella said she's not worried about the Omicron variant.

"I think it's out of control," Montanarella said. "I think that people need to get back to normal."

Dr. Smith is urging people to wear their masks, get their vaccines and boosters.
Copyright © 2022 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.