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North Carolina experiences largest single day jump in ICU admissions

The average age of COVID-19 patients is getting younger, too.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — This week, North Carolina experienced the largest single-day jump in ICU admissions since the beginning of the pandemic. The number of COVID-19 hospital admissions among people ages 20 to 49 is also at an all-time high.

Both Atrium and Novant Health report an increase in the number of people coming into the Emergency Departments and being admitted into the Intensive Care Unit.

Novant Health officials said it is still at a manageable level and about half of what they experienced during the January surge.

Despite the hot and humid weather outside, inside the four hospital walls seems like winter.

“We’re operating right now in the summer at a rate that we would typically see in a busy winter,” Dr. Sid Fletcher with Novant Health said.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising statewide. The more contagious delta variant is leading to a surge in cases overall.

“It does give me some concern,” Fletcher said. “I think what’s most troubling about the whole thing is we feel this is largely preventable."

Fletcher said over 90% of the patients admitted are unvaccinated. Since vaccination rates are highest among people 65 and older, with 87% of the state’s population in that age group fully vaccinated, they're seeing more younger people needing intensive care.

“Early in the pandemic when we had our prior peak, we were at an average of about 61. Our average age current state is around 44,” Fletcher said.

That trend is reflected statewide.

One silver lining: Fletcher said younger people are more resilient and fewer are dying.

Hospitals are not quite at the level they were back in January but they're preparing for the possibility to surge. Front line workers are tired, and many are feeling deja vu.

“It really is the frustration of knowing, for many on our team we feel it is preventable,” Fletcher said. “And we’re really in this race against the variants. It’s imperative we curb the community spread today."

A spokesperson for Atrium Health provided this statement:

“The spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, in addition to other illnesses, is causing a significant increase in the number of patients being admitted to Atrium Health hospitals and others around the region. We’re grateful the State of North Carolina has given hospitals flexibility to increase their bed capacity to handle spikes in admissions. An important way the public can assist our hospitals is by seeking care in a way that best matches their condition. Care for minor illnesses or injuries can be provided via a virtual visit or a visit to their primary care physician or an urgent care center. This will allow emergency departments to focus care on those facing life-threatening medical conditions. As we continue to address the Delta variant, vaccination is the best defense for people to protect themselves and those around them. Over 95% of COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths are people who are unvaccinated. Atrium Health suggests that vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear masks in public in-door settings to reduce the spread of the virus, including to those with compromised immune systems and young children who are not yet cleared to be vaccinated. Continued hand-washing and social distancing is also recommended.”

Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.  

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