With hospitalizations surging across Iredell, leaders ask public to do their part to help

Special to Iredell Free News

While much of the nation pushes toward resuming normal operations, local healthcare leaders are joining together to make a plea: This pandemic is not over, and the public’s help is needed in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

Over the last several days, local hospitals have seen a drastic increase in the number of patients being seen for COVID-19.

At Iredell Memorial, hospitalizations have risen 1,200 percent in the past three weeks, with numbers rapidly rising from an average of four hospitalized COVID-19 patients per day to now more than 50. Twelve of those patients were in the ICU as of Tuesday afternoon.

Hospitalizations at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center and Davis Regional Medical Center are following the same trend. As of Tuesday afternoon, Lake Norman Regional Medical Center has 17 COVID-19 inpatients, with eight of those patients in the ICU. Davis Regional Medical Center has 10 inpatients, with four of those patients in the ICU. Those numbers have the potential to worsen at any moment.

And it doesn’t stop there.

In primary care offices and at urgent care centers across Iredell County, providers are seeing more and more patients who either have COVID-19 or fear they’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive, including many who are young and otherwise healthy.

“This is a startling trend, and proves that we are not yet out of the woods with COVID-19,” said John Green, president & CEO of Iredell Health System. “Several months ago we were headed in the right direction. Now, we’re not.”

Practices and hospitals alike are all feeling the strain associated with these significant increases.

At Iredell Memorial, almost all of its acute care beds are filled. Emergency rooms across all three hospitals in the county are seeing record numbers of patients as well.

“It’s easy to think that what you see on the news about hospitals in other states being overwhelmed is just happening elsewhere, but that’s not the case,” Green said. “It’s happening here, in Iredell County, and we need the community’s help to change that.”

What can the community do?

“The 3 W’s still apply – wash your hands, wear a mask, and wait six feet apart. Avoid large crowds. If you have been in contact with someone who is positive for COVID-19, follow the proper isolation guidelines – they aren’t a suggestion, but a necessity,” said Green. “And, get vaccinated.”

Breakthrough cases of COVID-19 infecting vaccinated individuals rarely cause severe complications and hospitalization. In fact, the vast majority of patients who have been or are hospitalized with COVID-19 at all three hospitals in Iredell County — 80 to 90 percent — are not vaccinated against COVID-19.

At Lake Norman Regional, only two of its current 17 inpatients are fully vaccinated, and only two of Davis Regional’s 10 inpatients are fully vaccinated.

“Vaccines remain the best strategy for reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” said Clyde Wood, Network CEO of Lake Norman Regional Medical Center and Davis Regional Medical Center. “We encourage anyone with questions to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) website or speak with your doctor to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines. The power to blunt the impact of the virus rests with all of us.”

“I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the staff at area hospitals who have been on the front lines of our community’s fight against COVID-19 for more than a year,” Wood added.

“They have consistently risen to the challenges presented and continue to work tirelessly to care for our patients, each other and you. Each of them deserves our endless gratitude. This community has an incredible record of coming together and uniting during a time of need. We ask you to consider getting a COVID-19 vaccination to help reduce the spread of this very dangerous disease.”

Piedmont HealthCare CEO Jeff Smith agrees.

“The COVID surge related to the Delta variant is real, and it is stretching our resources like they have never been stretched before,” he said. “Please take the time to learn the facts about the vaccine as you make your decision regarding vaccination. People need to act now to limit the lasting impact this ongoing surge will have on our community.”

Vaccinations take on an added importance as schools resume in-person instruction because they help to protect those who are currently too young to be vaccinated.

“With the Delta variant affecting children more, we are very concerned for our vulnerable pediatric population who do not have access to vaccination yet,” said Dr. Walt Meadors, medical director of Piedmont HealthCare.

Piedmont HealthCare pediatric practices have seen a 50 percent  increase in children diagnosed with COVID-19 in just the last two weeks.

“Please consider that even if you won’t be vaccinated for yourself, do it for your children and grandchildren,” Meadors said.

“We are fighting an uphill battle within our walls every day. Every healthcare provider in our community continues to fight a great fight, but it doesn’t have to be like that,” Green said. “Get vaccinated. Wear a mask. Realize that this is still very real. We fear that without everyone’s combined efforts, it will not improve. We need you to do your part.”

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