Doctors urge North Carolinians to remain vigilant in limiting holiday gatherings as hospitalizations steadily increase amid COVID-19 pandemic

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Doctors are urging people to limit their gatherings throughout the holiday season. This way, it will be easier to get back to the intimate human interaction we're all used to next year.

"We all crave personal interaction," said Dr. Chuck Harr, chief medical officer at WakeMed Health and Hospitals. "We all crave the solace of talking to one another. We just have to be smart about how we're doing it so we can keep doing it for a long time."

WakeMed doesn't release the number of COVID-19 patients it has in its hospitals but Dr. Harr said their hospitals are more full with other patients--those in for heart attacks and strokes.

Dr. Harr said he doesn't know whether people put off care earlier in the year or if the cases coming in are related to financial hardships or election stress.

While he wouldn't discuss COVID-19 numbers, he said they have fewer COVID-19 patients in their hospitals than they did in July.

He also said they're far better at treating patients with COVID-19 now more than ever.

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"Our confidence has gotten better but our fatigue for caring for patients over the long haul has increased," Dr. Harr said.

Duke Health has 89 COVID-19 patients across its three hospitals. UNC Health has 231.

UNC said while it's difficult to compare this to a regular year, it's one of the busiest times for their hospitals "ever."

WATCH: Q&A: Dr. Chuck Harr, WakeMed chief medical officer discusses 'steady' increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations
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Dr. Harr, of WakeMed, said hospitals are becoming more full with heart attack, stroke and cancer patients but everyone should continue to distance as COVID-19 hospitalizations increase.



"Listen to the experts," said Dr. Abhi Mehrotra, assistant medical director in the emergency department at UNC Hospitals. "Listen to the folks who have been looking at the public health picture. If you can, try and delay any travel so you're not exposing yourself to folks not in your immediate household. If you already have plans, be masked as much as you can. Don't eat in the same space."

Dr. Harr said the intimate, close times will come back.

"We have to keep our family members and friends safe though so that next year when we have a vaccine that's working and when we've gotten smarter about everything we do around the pandemic, we can enjoy one another's company," Harr said.

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