COVID-19 in the Carolinas: NC reports record hospitalizations for 5th straight day

COVID-19 in the Carolinas: July 10 update

For the fifth straight day, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported a record-high number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 -- 1,046 patients -- with 92% of hospitals reporting.

The new record comes as the state reports 18 more deaths and 1,982 new COVID-19 cases -- the third-highest increase since the pandemic began.

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This comes a day after the state saw its second-highest increase in cases, with 2,039 new cases reported Thursday.

The NCDHHS reported 22,399 additional tests have been completed, with 10% of tests positive. Though the number of positive tests has remained roughly level between 8 and 10%, DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said Thursday she would like to see this number fall to 5%.

Though hospitalizations have steadily increased since Monday, 22% of inpatient beds and 22% of intensive care unit beds are still available statewide. Cohen said Thursday that increased hospitalizations in certain areas of the state, like Charlotte, are concerning to her and other health leaders.

Note: The numbers we show you every day mean everything in how our community recovers from coronavirus -- both in terms of healthcare and the economy -- but they don’t mean much without the proper context and as much transparency as possible.

New cases vary day by day based on a lot of factors. That can include how long it takes to get results back, so a new case reported today can really be several days old. The 7-day average for cases is about 1,600.

The other big metric we watch is the percent of positive cases. This is data we can only get from the state because it’s not as simple as factoring a percent of new cases each day from the number of tests. That’s because test results take days and come from a variety of places.

WHAT ABOUT CLOSER TO HOME?

As of this morning, there were 13,757 cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) with 163 deaths due to COVID-19 reported among Mecklenburg County residents. Data from Wednesday, July 8th is presented below.

These results only reflect laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among county residents. Many individuals infected by COVID-19 have not been tested because they are asymptomatic. As such, these results are very fluid and only represent a fraction of the true burden of COVID-19 in our community.

Daily case counts provided by MCPH may differ from state and federal counts due to delays in reporting to the various entities. MCPH updates case counts after an initial case review and, where possible, a patient interview is conducted, which includes confirming county residency. Cases reported after 5 p.m. are counted in the following day’s case count.

Highlights about the epidemiology of COVID-19 in Mecklenburg County as of July 8, 2020 include:

  • About 3 in 4 reported cases were adults ages 20 to 59 years old.
  • More than a third of reported cases are Hispanic – most of whom are younger adults. The high number of reported cases among young Hispanics over the last several weeks remains a significant concern. As previously noted, some factors influencing this trend include:
  • Targeted testing occurring in neighborhoods with lower access to care, some of which have larger Hispanic populations;
  • Higher proportions of Hispanics working in essential jobs that make social distancing difficult;
  • Significant household spread among large families; and
  • Preexisting disparities in other social and economic determinants of health, like poverty.

MCPH continues to expand outreach to Hispanic members of our community, including increased dissemination of the outreach toolkit in Spanish for community partners, setting up targeted outreach to Hispanic-owned and -serving businesses, and partnering with local organizations and media outlets to spread key prevention messages.

  • About 1 in 20 reported cases were hospitalized due to their COVID-19 infection. While everyone is at risk for severe COVID-19 complications, reported cases who were older adults (≥ 60 years) were more likely to be hospitalized compared to younger individuals.
  • Nearly half of cases have met CDC criteria to be released from isolation.
  • During the past week, an average of 175 individuals with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infections were hospitalized at acute care facilities in Mecklenburg County. This represents an increase over the last 14 days. These data are based on daily census counts from acute care facilities in Mecklenburg County reporting to MCPH.
  • During the past week, an average of 11.4 percent of individuals who were tested were positive for COVID-19. During the last 14 days, there was a slight decline followed by a slight increase in percent positive. Overall this represents a fairly stable trend over the last 14 days. These data only include tests conducted by Atrium Health, Novant Health, and CVS Health. Reporting of negative results to MCPH is not required or covered by communicable disease reporting laws. MCPH will include results from other providers and laboratories as accurate, consistent and timely reporting mechanisms are established.
  • 163 deaths due to COVID-19 occurred among reported cases.
  • Almost all deaths were among older adults (≥ 60 years), 20 deaths were adults ages 40 to 59.
  • All deaths, except two, occurred among adults with underlying chronic illnesses.
  • More than half were non-Hispanic Whites. The disparity in COVID-19 deaths among non-Hispanic Whites is related to differences in race/ethnicity of residents of long-term care (LTC) facilities actively experiencing an outbreak.
  • Nearly 2 out of 3 deaths were connected to active outbreaks at long-term care (LTC) facilities.
  • Based on publicly available mobility tracking data, social distancing slightly increased then slightly decreased in Mecklenburg County over the last 14 days. Overall, this represents a fairly stable trend over the last 14 days.

Mecklenburg County, Atrium Health and Novant Health released the following joint statement on hospitalizations in the county due to COVID-19:

“Charlotte’s hospitals currently have the capacity to care for additional COVID-19 patients. Both Atrium Health and Novant Health have been working diligently on preparedness plans, which includes increasing bed capacity and reinforcing supply chains. We’re confident that because of these efforts, there will not be a need to again postpone non-emergent appointments or elective surgeries at this time. These services are vital to maintain for the health of our communities.

“While today we are not concerned about our capacity or preparedness to manage COVID-19 cases, we do share the state’s concerns about the trends we’re seeing.

“The latest Public Health data release shows that over the last week, an average of 175 patients are hospitalized in Mecklenburg County for COVID-19 treatment. While our ICU cases and ventilations remain steady, we are seeing an increase of cases that require hospitalization particularly among younger patients. Overall, approximately 20% of our hospital beds are open with 80% of our intensive care unit beds available at this time.

“Our hope is that we won’t need to use our added beds and we’ll begin to see a reversal in these trends. It’s critical our communities continue to take COVID-19 seriously and follow recommended safety measures.  Masking, physical distancing and hand washing is as critical as ever and we urge everyone to educate themselves on how to keep themselves – and their neighbors - safe. This not only helps reduce the spread of COVID-19, but helps our hospitals conserve valuable resources like PPE and continue providing care to all who need it.”

‘Last call’ order bans alcohol sales at SC restaurants, bars after 11 p.m.

Faced with rapidly climbing numbers of COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks, South Carolina Gov, Henry McMaster on Friday issued a “last call” executive order banning the sale of alcohol at restaurants and bars after 11 p.m.

The order goes into effect on Saturday.

McMaster said the executive order is aimed at younger people, and hopes it will help in the effort to try to get the state’s skyrocketing coronavirus numbers under control. He said the purpose of his order is to eliminate a lot of the “congregating” of people and close contact.

He again said he will not mandate the wearing of masks statewide.

“We’re concerned about the spread of the virus from the younger generation to older people,” McMaster said. “It’s time for our younger adults to behave like mature adults. Wear your mask.”

The order does not apply to alcohol sold at stores, but rather by-the-drink at bars and restaurants. McMaster said if things don’t get better in the state, “We’ll take other actions.”

The order does not apply to alcohol sold at convenience or grocery stores, wine and liquor stores, or retail business. McMaster warned that the order is a mandate and it will be enforced.

The governor’s order does apply to any holder of the following licenses: on-premises beer and wine permit, winery permit, brewpub beer/wine permit, brewery permit, business liquor by the drink license, nonprofit private club liquor by the drink license, special event permit, or special nonprofit event permit.

Officials with the SCDHEC said 22% of all confirmed cases in the state are in people between the age of 21-30, and that nearly half of the COVID-19 cases in South Carolina have been reported in the past two weeks.

State health leaders urged people to work out at home, take a hike, isolate from others and have picnics -- whatever is possible to social distance.

There are about 8,000 alcohol on-premise licenses in South Carolina that the new order will impact. The Department of Revenue said they’ll work closely with S.L.E.D. to achieve compliance. The agency says warnings will be issued first.

The Dept. of Revenue said it will revoke or suspend a license “if it gets to that point.”

McMaster also addressed schools, saying the plan is for schools to be open. He said it’s important that children are in school.

“We need to get them back in,” he said.

The governor said plans are being made on how to do that.

He also said the state is seeing a shortage of staff at hospitals and that’s something being addressed now.

FRIDAY MORNING STORYLINES

A North Carolina county has set a cutoff for restaurant dining and alcohol sales in hopes of limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Officials in Orange County announced Thursday that restaurants and private clubs will be closed for onsite consumption of food and beverages at 10 p.m. beginning Friday. The county also said restaurants may continue drive-through, delivery, and pick-up services after 10 p.m. as long as there is no onsite consumption of food and beverages.

Gov. Roy Cooper will make an announcement on reopening schools next week. State officials said they are making their reopening decision based on the best ways to protect students, teachers and school staff.

”It’s going to be something that follows the law,” Cooper said. “It’s going to be something that gets our kids back into school safely. I believe that kind of getting back into school is going to require some in-person but also some remote learning.”

Yesterday the state reported a new high in current COVID-19 hospitalizations: 1,034 people. Thursday also saw an increase of more than 2,000 cases in the state.

State officials concerned about COVID-19 hospitalizations in Charlotte area