UNC Rex hospital has 439 beds but 520 patients and the ICU is full, Chief Medical Officer says

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina, like many other states across the country, is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

6:01 p.m.

The Durham County Department of Public Health will open its vaccination clinic Thursday morning from 9 a.m. to noon to provide walk-in Pfizer and Moderna booster vaccinations for moderately to severely immunocompromised individuals only.

During these hours, the clinic will not offer first or second doses or provide vaccinations for people who are not moderately to severely immunocompromised.

Those eligible during these hours include those who have:
  • been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
  • received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response


All people arriving to receive third doses should provide their vaccination cards indicating that they received both doses of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccination at least 28 days before their third dose.

The vaccination clinic will close Thursday at noon and reopen for its regular schedule at 9 a.m. on Monday.

1:30 p.m.
With new data in hand, Pfizer is now asking the FDA for full approval for a booster dose.

In a press release, the company says its Phase 3 data shows people who got a third booster dose between five to eight months after their second shot saw antibody levels elevated three times higher than the level seen after a second dose.

The CDC's independent advisory panel is planning to meet Aug. 30 to discuss mRNA booster doses, indicating regulators are getting closer to making a formal recommendation on booster doses.

Because the Pfizer shots are fully FDA approved, Pfizer is now asking the FDA to consider a "supplemental" application for a booster dose for people ages 16 and older. This is a "rolling submission," with Pfizer intending to complete the submission by the end of the week.

The Biden administration has previously set a goal that boosters will be available starting September 20, and likely to be recommended eight months after the 2nd shot of Pfizer or Moderna.

12:42 p.m.
6,130 new COVID-19 cases were reported in North Carolina on Wednesday.

The percent of positive tests is 13.5%.

3,503 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. That's up significantly from 3,342 on Tuesday.

That number has been climbing since the beginning of July.

There are 856 adult ICU COVID-19 patients in North Carolina right now.

416 confirmed COVID-19 patients have been admitted in the last 24 hours.

11 a.m.
During a Wednesday news conference, doctors from multiple Wake County hospitals discussed the impact of the latest COVID surge on hospital capacity, mental health and staffing issues.

Dr. Timothy Plonk, Emergency Department Medical Director of Duke Raleigh Hospital, explained that wait times are higher than they have ever been, lobbies are full and there are more people to care for due to the Triangle being a fast-growing region.

Many of the doctors encouraged anyone with illnesses to find the best care for themselves early and to explore options like their primary care provider or an urgent care facility before heading to an emergency department, if possible.

"Our patients are a little sicker, oftentimes very sick. And our staff is working harder. And our lobbies are full. Our wait times are higher than they've ever been at Duke Raleigh," Dr. Plonk said.

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Dr. Timothy Plonk, Emergency Department Medical Director at Duke Raleigh Hospital, said lobbies there are full.



Dr. Plonk noted that COVID is not the only thing crowding hospitals. He said people who have chronic conditions who have not been able to care for themselves like they had been pre-pandemic are also part of the admitted patients.

People have lost jobs and family members or have had changes in primary care in the past 18 months. According to Dr. Plonk, these gaps in resources have been created by the pandemic that would otherwise keep them healthy.

Dr. Micah Krempasky, of WakeMed, said there has been a 40% increase in people experiencing depression and anxiety compared to pre-pandemic numbers.

Krempasky said some cases are so severe and cannot manage themselves in the community, leading to them requiring emergency care. There is currently a shortage of in-person psychiatric beds, leading to people waiting in the emergency department.

UNC REX's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Linda Butler said the hospital is caring for more patients with less staff.

As of Wednesday, she said, the hospital had over 500 patients. It's a 439-bed hospital but she said there were 520 patients. She added that the ICU beds are also full.

FULL VIDEO: Wake hospitals explain filled ICUs, staff shortages amid COVID surge
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FULL VIDEO: Wake hospitals give update on filled ICUs, staffing shortages amid COVID surge



10 a.m.
Doctors from Duke Health, UNC Health, WakeMed and Wake County discussed capacity strains due to COVID-19 and the steps needed to be taken to alleviate more hospital surges Wednesday morning.

It will include Dr. Timothy Plonk, Emergency Department Medical Director at Duke Raleigh Hospital, Dr. Linda Butler, Chief Medical Officer at UNC REX Healthcare, Dr. Seth Brody, Chief Physician Executive at WakeMed Health & Hospitals, Dr. Micah Krempasky, Chief Medical Officer at WakeMed Behavioral Health and Dr. Jose Cabañas, Chief Medical Officer of Wake County.

6:45 a.m.
Johnson & Johnson announced data shows its booster shot six months after initial vaccination increases antibody levels nine-fold.

"We have established that a single shot of our COVID-19 vaccine generates strong and robust immune responses that are durable and persistent through eight months. With these new data, we also see that a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine further increases antibody responses among study participants who had previously received our vaccine," said Mathai Mammen, M.D., Ph.D., Global Head, Janssen Research & Development, Johnson & Johnson. "We look forward to discussing with public health officials a potential strategy for our Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, boosting eight months or longer after the primary single-dose vaccination."

MORNING HEADLINES
Doctors from Duke Health, UNC Health, WakeMed and Wake County will discuss capacity strains due to COVID-19 and the steps needed to be taken to alleviate more hospital surges Wednesday morning.

The news conference will happen at 10 a.m. and include Dr. Timothy Plonk, Emergency Department Medical Director at Duke Raleigh Hospital, Dr. Linda Butler, Chief Medical Officer at UNC REX Healthcare, Dr. Seth Brody, Chief Physician Executive at WakeMed Health & Hospitals, Dr. Micah Krempasky, Chief Medical Officer at WakeMed Behavioral Health and Dr. Jose Cabañas, Chief Medical Officer of Wake County.
In Fayetteville, Cape Fear Valley Health will also have a special community update on the COVID-19 situation at the hospital. At noon, a special broadcast with Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Michael Zappa will detail the current situation. It will be broadcast on the hospital's Facebook page.
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