Healthcare professionals keeping keen eye on hospitalization rates

State is concerned about growing numbers of hospitalizations from COVID-19
Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 3:38 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The COVID-19 virus isn’t going away anytime soon and the latest variant, Omicron, is highly contagious. North Carolina has seen record-high numbers across the state in the past week alone and those numbers are once again putting a strain on hospitals across the state, including Novant Health.

Doctor David Priest Novant Health’s chief safety, quality, and epidemiology officer offered a look into the state of the hospital system. While the Omicron variant is not causing as severe illness as the Delta variant did, Priest says it’s still filling up beds at hospitals.

“We are over 90% capacity in our in-patient facilities system-wide with some facilities nearing 98 to 99% capacity. We do have the ability to add bed capacity, but with our capacity to add beds comes the need for additional clinical care teams,” he said.

Despite the less severe symptoms of Omicron, Priest said the sheer number of cases still puts strain on hospitals.

“If you have a variant like Omicron that maybe causes less severe disease but causes far more cases, just the sheer volume of cases is going to lead to more hospitalizations. We haven’t reached the hospitalization number peak we did with Delta despite we have exceeded the case county with Delta with Omicron,” he said. “A less severe virus that hits way more people is going to result in higher numbers of hospitalizations.”

And that’s a good thing because Priest says our system simply could not handle the numbers if they were as severe.

“That’s the only saving grace right now — if Omicron put people in the hospital like Delta did, the healthcare system would have collapsed in our country by now,” he said.

Adding more beds is possible as Preist said; however, it isn’t always an option since healthcare workers are facing the same challenges that the rest of the world faces. From a lack of nurses to healthcare professionals catching the virus themselves, the workforce is strained.

Nikki Nissen, Chief Nursing Officer for Novant also weighed in on what she has seen with the new variant, and one important reminder she had for people is to avoid using emergency rooms as a place to secure a COVID-19 test.

“It’s imperative that communities seek the care that they need, when they need it, in the right place. In that same vein, emergency departments are not the right venue to get a COVID-19 test. We ask that anyone seeking a COVID-19 test please, do visit for a list of testing locations,” she said.

You can keep track of daily cases and find more information on COVID-19 at the NCDHHS website and COVID Dashboard.

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