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N.C. hits record for COVID positivity, hospitalizations remain down from a year ago

In Mecklenburg County, the rate is close 26 percent, which is a jump from about 16 percent a week ago.
In Mecklenburg County, the rate is close 26 percent, which is a jump from about 16 percent a week ago.
Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 6:27 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - On Jan. 3, 2022, NCDHHS reported a 27.4% daily percent positive rate, the highest since the start of the pandemic.

In Mecklenburg County, the rate is close 26 percent, which is a jump from about 16 percent a week ago.

There are about 2,722 patients hospitalized statewide with the virus, but one year ago that number was 3,590.

On Monday, testing sites had to close due to weather, and when StarMed on Tuckaseegee Road reopened, the line quickly turned into a sea of people waiting for several hours.

While the lines can take time, health officials ask that you do not go to an emergency room for a test, and that you also do not call 911 for advice on where or how to get a test.

Not only are people showing up at the ER for a test resulting in longer waiting room times, it’s also slowing down communications between paramedics and hospital staff.

“The longer we stay at a hospital, the less we are available to respond to the next call,” Dr. Jon Studnek, with Mecklenburg EMS Agency, or MEDIC, said. “It’s critical that when we arrive, in a reasonable amount of time we are able to transfer care to hospital staff and then go about our next assignment, so that is a barrier right now.”

MEDIC is dealing with what they are calling a volatile call volume straining them to alarming levels.

Before the holiday they were transporting roughly 4-5 COVID patients to hospitals daily, whereas now that number has jumped to 25-30.

According to Studnek, the department is already about 50 people short, and on top of that, they have 33 employees currently isolated after contracting the virus.

They are having to make adjustments by moving more low-risk patients to a tier with a longer ambulance response time of 60 minutes.

They are also having conversations with low-risk patients about other options like ride shares set up through MEDIC, instead of an ambulance. They are also no longer providing out-of-county transports for discharged patients for the next 30 days.

MEDIC received support in the form of ambulances and personnel from FEMA in the fall. They are now asking the state for the return of those resources.

“We made a request for 25 ambulances with 50 personnel,” Studnek said. “My understanding is that that request has been sent to the state of North Carolina, who has forwarded it to FEMA and that they are processing that request.”

Mecklenburg County is also awaiting a shipment of at-home test kits so they can continue to offer them for free at several locations including public libraries.

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