DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- What a difference a year makes in the pandemic.
"It's much different but it's better than last year," said Julia, who didn't want to share her last name.
She works in healthcare and was preparing for Thanksgiving at the Harris Teeter in west Raleigh on Tuesday night.
"I think it's going well," she said. "Everybody will be vaccinated and everything will be fine. We have to be optimistic."
Doctors at Duke and UNC Health agree, and you just have to look at the numbers now.
Duke said there are 47 COVID-19 patients across its three hospitals Tuesday. In early September, that number was more than 140.
UNC said it had 470 patients across its entire system on Aug. 31. Now it has only 90.
"Just be thankful that you're going to be spending time with family," said Dr. Linda Butler, chief medical officer at UNC Rex Hospital in Raleigh. "We're in a better place than we were last Thanksgiving."
Butler said they still have very sick patients, but they're not seeing hospitalizations in the same way they did mainly because of vaccinations.
Both Duke and UNC have changed the way they use COVID units. There are rooms for people to be isolated--especially, for example, in something like labor and delivery -- but they do have non-COVID patients mixed with those who do have the virus now.
"Above all it's taught us that we miss being together and we value that and so we're all looking forward to this holiday," said Dr. Lisa Pickett, assistant professor of surgery and chief medical officer at Duke University Hospital. "It is a wonderful time to be optimistic and a perfect time to be thankful for Thanksgiving that we've seen the numbers come down with people being vaccinated. So we're seeing this turn the corner."
ABC11 also reached out to WakeMed but has not yet heard back.