Unvaccinated patients dominate COVID-19 hospitalizations at Novant Health

CHARLOTTE — The average age of patients admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 is lower, and almost all COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated, said Dr. David Priest, Novant Health’s chief safety, quality and epidemiology officer.

“This remains a COVID surge of the unvaccinated spilling over onto the vulnerable vaccinated,” Priest said.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Priest provided a detailed look at what his hospital system is currently experiencing. While Novant Health is dealing with an influx of COVID-19 patients, he stressed that people shouldn’t think twice about going for treatment.

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“We do have currently the ability to care for patients,” Priest said. “If you need care, and you should seek it. We don’t want people to have other medical problems not to come to get care if they need it.”

According to Priest, of the 550 to 600 COVID-19 patients Novant Health is treating at any time, 21% are requiring the intensive care unit, and 15% to 18% are on ventilators.

The average age of a hospitalized person is 49 years old. Priest said that unvaccinated people make up 91% of hospitalizations, 92% of ICU patients, and 94% of patients on ventilators.

Atrium Health officials said that across the entire health care system, there are 29% more people on ventilators now than there was last week. Of those 215 people, 207 are unvaccinated.

Like Atrium reiterated last week, Priest said the pandemic is taking an emotional toll on Novant Health staff.

“They’re tired,” he said. “I’m tired. We’re all tired, right?”

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Priest continues to push vaccinations as the best way to tackle the pandemic. The $100 gift card incentive is now over, but he’s hopeful that the personal doctors of the unvaccinated may be able to convince them to get the shot.

“I think patients respond to that more, rather than a talking head like me on the television or on the radio or in the newspaper,” Priest said. “Trusted health care resource is really where we make the most progress with that.”

Novant Health requires that all employees to be vaccinated by Sept. 15. The current rate is 87%. Atrium Health’s deadline is at the end of October.

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