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Health experts urge vaccinations as hospitalizations increase locally, statewide

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 11:27 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - On Tuesday, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported the largest single day jump in hospital ICU admissions since the start of the pandemic as hospitalizations are on the rise across the state and right here in Southeastern North Carolina.

ICU admissions jumped to 557 yesterday from 502 the day prior as those hospitalized with the virus increased more than 1,000% today compared to just three weeks ago, according to NCDHHS.

New Hanover Regional Medical Center also sees a concerning trajectory of hospitalizations. According to Dr. Paul Kamitsuka, the hospital only had 2 patients hospitalized with the virus just three weeks ago. As of Monday, there were 60 people admitted at NHRMC fighting the virus.

The message remains the same: those who are eligible need to get vaccinated as it continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated. More than 90% of patients in Novant Health hospitals are not vaccinated, according to a spokesperson.

“Especially with the emergency situation we find ourselves with Covid rampant across the United States — we desperately need people to be vaccinated to put a stop to the incredible rise in hospitalizations and deaths due to this virus yet again,” said Dr. Kamitsuka. “Only a tiny percent of people in hospitals in the United States are among the vaccinated.”

Dr. Kamitsuka added that the increase in cases and hospitalizations could be just the beginning now that the Delta variant is rapidly spreading. Even if those who are not vaccinated got vaccinated as soon as possible, it would still take weeks to start seeing results.

“Even if you got, for example, the Pfizer vaccine today — it would take five weeks before you are fully protected against the Covid virus,” he said. “We need people vaccinated ASAP and in the meantime, because the Delta virus is so contagious, we all need to wear masks and distance when we are in any indoor environment.”

The Delta variant is two-to-three times more contagious than last year’s Covid variant, according to Kamitsuka, and the data shows it’s causing more severe illness, including in younger people and children.

The increase in people hospitalized with Covid-19 could impact those who need other surgical procedures done.

In a statement, a Novant Health Spokesperson said, ”As the number of patients with COVID-19 in the hospital increases, New Hanover Regional Medical Center may proactively reduce the number of future non-emergent surgical procedures to ensure staffing, space and resources are available. This allows us greater flexibility to meet patient needs.”

Smaller hospitals like Bladen County Hospital are near capacity, which New Hanover County public health director David Howard says could put strain on the statewide healthcare system.

“Locally, some smaller hospitals are overwhelmed and having — what happens is they have to organize and move patients around, basically, around the entire state and that becomes a burden on the transport system, so it creates a burden across the entire healthcare system and not just the beds in the hospital,” Howard said.

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