Dr. Ryan Lamb, on duty in the UNC Rex emergency room, told ABC11 that's an indication of anxiety among people planning to visit loved ones for the holiday at a time when statewide deaths passed 5,000 and nearly 1,600 people sickened by the virus recover in hospitals.
"Our biggest concern is as we see the numbers climb, there's a delay in deaths. The death rate tends to be three weeks or longer out. So people usually develop symptoms, once they get exposed, within one to three days. Then after those symptoms start to resolve, the fever, the chills and the muscle aches, it's usually around day 8 to 12 that you start to see the pulmonary symptoms which is when people feel short of breath. So that's when we see hospitalizations," Lamb said.
He says in those cases, they start to admit people by day 14 and rising death rates follow.
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"But the numbers of new positives are still growing so fast, that's gonna be an even longer delay. So on the horizon, doesn't look good for the next few weeks. So certainly it has all us permanent providers and in the emergency department at the hospital worried and concerned. We're definitely not going in the right direction."
Dr. Lamb has this advice for those with travel plans in the week ahead: "If you're going to venture outside the confines of your house and the safety of your house, you're going to be at increased risk. No doubt about it. I think the more people who wear masks, eye protection, wash their hands, get the flu vaccine, and do the basic hygiene, a lo of those activities can be safe. But everybody has to take their part in that."
He says only those with the following symptoms should seek COVID-19 tests.
"The malaise, the fever, aches, the sore throat, cough symptoms and you feel like you're developing a flu-like illness I don't think the test is very effective. So even if you get a negative test is should not give you confidence that you don't have COVID-19," Lamb said.
Those who are willing to wait in line have a smart option, he says, "Spend your time getting in line for the flu vaccine. Wear a mask, as we do, we wear eye protection. Wash your hands frequently, and try to get distanced when we can."