CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In North Carolina, a state with a population above 10 million, coronavirus has so far infected 250,592 people and has killed 4,032.
And now, seven months after the virus first appeared, positive infections are hitting new highs.
“And we're starting to see an uptick in COVID-related ICU and ventilator cases,” said Dr. Passaretti MD, Director of Infection Prevention at Atrium Health.
She said increases in COVID cases vary by county. For example, as of October 21, Montgomery County is peaking at 11.9% positive test rate with Gaston, Richmond and Lincoln counties not far behind.
In Mecklenburg County, the positivity rate is sitting at 5.2%
“We are not seeing big spikes in those numbers and are currently handling those cases well within our existing structures to manage COVID patients,” said Dr. Fletcher MD, an Emergency Medicine doctor at Novant’s Presbyterian Hospital.
Dr. Fletcher said those requiring hospitalization continue to be those over 65 years of age and those who are most vulnerable.
“So those that have underlying lung disease, people that are diabetic, people that have obesity,” he said.
And even though many kids have returned to school, Dr. Passaretti said pediatric cases remain low.
“The rates in the pediatric population continue to be lower than our overall percent positive for all patients coming in,” she said.
So what could be behind the increase? Dr. Fletcher attributes it to several factors including pandemic fatigue, more people being out-and-about as the state moved into phase 3 of reopening, and the weather cooling off.
“As you drive more people indoors and you’re in more connection with other people in that more limited airspace, the risk of infectivity goes up,” he said.
But should Charlotte see a surge, Novant and Atrium say they’re ready, saying they’ve learned a lot over the last 7 months and are prepared to increase quickly increase capacity.
“If you think about PPE, if you think about physical layouts of the building and where we would cohort patients, a lot of those things are already there,” said Dr. Fletcher, “We’re not at our peak now, but we’ve had a fairly long run rate here, and what that has afforded us to do is have the systems, capabilities and resources to know that we’re going to be ready, to be able to manage that.”
Dr, Passaretti said healthcare providers also now have more experience with the virus.
“We’ve gotten better at how to manage it, how to control it, how to treat it when that is appropriate in higher risk individuals,” she said.
Both doctors agree that the best way to continue to keep yourself and your family safe is to avoid indoor gatherings, wear a mask and social distance.
“It’s not time to open yourself up to a party, it’s not time to go indoors with a lot of other individuals,” he said, noting the holidays right around the corner.