Hospitals seeing strain due to increase in COVID-19

By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • Local hospital systems report experiencing an increased number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

The area is seeing a “COVID surge,” FirstHealth of the Carolinas said in a statement last week.

“FirstHealth’s four hospitals are dealing with a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. On Thursday, 100 COVID-positive patients were being treated in hospitals across the FirstHealth system,” FirstHealth officials announced.

FirstHealth Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jenifir Bruno said the hospital system is encouraging patients to only come to the emergency room if they’re experiencing an emergency, and pointed to other services available to care for patients’ non-emergency needs.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in COVID-positive patients, and our hospitals and emergency departments are certainly feeling the strain of that rise,” Bruno said in a statement.

Cape Fear Valley Health Chief Operations Officer Daniel Weatherly said the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Cape Fear Valley facilities is also quickly increasing.

“Our hospitals are seeing tremendous growth in the number of COVID patients, and the numbers are growing at a rapid speed,” Weatherly said in a statement this week.

Statewide hospitalizations for COVID-19 are at the highest levels since February. As of Tuesday, more than 2,600 people with COVID-19 were in hospitals across North Carolina. Just a month ago, that number was below 600.

Data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) showed Hoke with a high number of average daily hospitalizations due to COVID-19. Several of Hoke’s neighboring counties were also showing high hospitalizations.

Almost all of North Carolina’s 100 counties, including Hoke County, are in the red for high levels of virus transmission and high percent of positive COVID-19 tests. Hoke County has seen 339 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the past 14 days, including 156 new cases in the past seven days.

Both FirstHealth of the Carolinas and Cape Fear Valley hospitals are now restricting visitors due to the surge in COVID-19 cases. Weatherly said that further visitor restrictions might be possible, depending on how the situation develops.

“As we continue to experience more of this growth, we may look at stricter visitation policies in the future,” he said in a press release.

The hospital systems continue offering care options for patients besides the emergency room. FirstHealth pointed to its Convenient Care clinics that can treat non-life-threatening illnesses and minor injuries, as well as offering COVID-19 testing. Primary care providers are also continuing to provide care for patients, and some offer virtual visits.

Vaccines available

The Hoke County Health Department and local healthcare providers are offering free vaccines against COVID-19. There are multiple places, days and times available this week for COVID-19 testing and vaccination.

The Health Department is offering the following vaccine sites and hours:

•Hoke County Health Department, 683 East Palmer Road, Tuesday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., walk-ins accepted, see or call (910) 875-3717.

•East Hoke Middle School, 4702 Fayetteville Road, Wednesday, August 18, 9 a.m.-noon, vaccines and testing available, no appointment needed, call (910) 904-1695 or (910) 875-3717. ONSMS mobile unit.

•SandHoke Early College, 1110 East Central Avenue, Thursday, August 19, 9 a.m.-noon, vaccines and testing available, no appointment needed, call (910) 904-1695 or (910) 875-3717. ONSMS mobile unit.

•211 Sports Complex, 3195 Red Springs Road, Saturday, August 21, 9 a.m.-noon, vaccines and testing available, no appointment needed, call (910) 904-1695 or (910) 875-3717. ONSMS mobile unit.

The Bring Back Summer Incentives Program is available for individuals 18 years and older. COVID-19 vaccine recipients will receive $100 for first doses and non-commercial transporters will receive $25 (one per vaccine trip). The Bring Back Summer Incentives Program ends August 31.

The CDC recommends that everyone, even people fully vaccinated, wear a mask indoors if they live in an area with high or substantial levels of COVID-19. Right now that includes almost all of North Carolina, according to state health officials.

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