Hospital official: Current trend ‘bodes well’ that post-holiday virus surge is waning, but precautions still critical

Updated: Jan. 22, 2021 at 3:46 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - After weeks of staggering case and hospitalization numbers, health officials believe the worst of the post-holiday surge of coronavirus may be over — but they stress improvements are dependent on continued precautions.

Last week, New Hanover Regional Medical Center was seeing daily averages of nearly 100 patients hospitalized by the virus, but Chief Clinical Officer Dr. West Paul said that number has dropped back into the upper 60s to mid 70s.

“Which is fortunate,” he said. “Not that we couldn’t handle what we were seeing, but it is always nice to have a little bit of a lull.”

Paul said they aren’t dropping their guard — it isn’t clear if there will be an additional “bump” of hospitalizations due to New Year’s celebrations, but he said NHRMC’s numbers are in line with the state’s, and rather than a 20 percent positivity rate across the system, they are back between 12 percent and 13 percent.

“That kind of bodes well,” he said.

He said they are operating under the assumption that the improvements are due to people going back to precautionary measures after taking the risk of visiting with friends and family over the holiday.

“That’s what we think; we haven’t really changed anything else,” he said. “The vaccine certainly couldn’t have taken taken effect this fast.”

While doses started being given to healthcare workers in the first weeks of December, Paul said it will likely be a few months before the vaccine can actually make a dent in virus statistics.

But exactly how long, isn’t clear.

“That’s a million dollar, if not trillion dollar, question,” he said. “I think it’s gonna take some time really.”

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