NCDHHS Requests Federal Assistance As Hospitals Struggle With Record COVID-19 Cases

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is requesting federal assistance as the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 is sending record numbers of people to hospitals, straining capacity in the state.

Health officials say as hospitals nationwide continue to face staff shortages due to the pandemic, the NCDHHS is hoping federal support for the Charlotte region could help relieve some capacity constraints.

“We continue to monitor hospital capacity and staffing needs and have requested resources, including additional nurses from FEMA,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “We appreciate previous federal support and will keep working to make sure that people get the medical care they need.”

North Carolina is acting in partnership with Atrium Health, North Carolina’s largest health provider, with a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response for staffing support.

Atrium Health reports it has tried many ways to stretch its capacity, including redeploying staff from urgent care and outpatient centers, limiting non-urgent procedures, closing speciality centers, and using additional state-provided flexibilities.

Officials say despite these actions, the health system is currently above 95 percent capacity and the vast majority of those hospitalized are unvaccinated.

“The vast majority of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated,” Secretary Kinsley said. “While we will continue to pull every lever we can to safeguard hospital care, each North Carolinian can do their part by staying up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccinations and wearing a well-fitting mask when around other people as we weather this surge.”

Health officials say North Carolina set daily hospitalization records throughout the month of January, reaching another high on Thursday with 4,741 people hospitalized.

Unvaccinated individuals make up 72% of hospitalizations and 83% of COVID-19-related ICU admissions statewide, according to a news release.

Health officials say vaccines and boosters continue to provide the strongest protection against COVID-19 and they recommend everyone 5-years-old and up get vaccinated.

The CDC also recommends that everyone wear a mask, a KN95 or N95, when in public, indoor settings.

The NCDHHS says it is in close contact with federal partners and with hospitals across the state to continue assessing needs as the pandemic continues.

Earlier this month, FEMA provided the state with 25 ambulances. They have been deployed to 11 counties and are currently scheduled to remain in North Carolina until February 3rd.

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